Saturday, December 30, 2006

back in the saddle 2

(This post is from the blog of the Mother of Invention Acting School in San Francisco ( an acting class in San Francisco for serious, motivated students.)

I am very excited to announce that I will be appearing in a world premiere at the Magic Theater in February. The play carries the piquant title Pleasure and Pain, and was written by Chantal Bilodeau. It tells the story of one Peggy, a straight-laced woman with fantasies involving a cage, hot wax, and other various and sundry accoutrements. I will play "The Man", her fantasy guy, who is constantly goading her to take it further. The play opens February 10. More information on the Magic Theater website. Looking forward to girding my, uh, loins and heading into the breach!

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

sweet land

(This post is from the blog of the Mother of Invention Acting School in San Francisco ( an acting class in San Francisco for serious, motivated students.)

An independent film built around a very simple story, beautifully acted and executed. One of the founders of Steppenwolf, Lois Smith, appears in the frame at the beginning and the end of the movie. The story concerns a mail-order bride from Norway immediately after WWI, played by the stunning Elizabeth Reaser. She is lucky enough to find the dashing and smoldering Olaf, played by Tim Guinnee, to be her husband, but bureacracy and xenophobia intervene to prevent them from marrying and, uh, consummating the love that grows between them. It is seldom that you see a film where the acting is as good as it is here all around.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

smiths karaoke

(This post is from the blog of the Mother of Invention Acting School in San Francisco ( an acting class in San Francisco for serious, motivated students.)

I was at the MOMA this weekend and saw a great installation called Smiths Karaoke, by an artist named Phil Collins (no relation to the singer that I know of.) The artist advertised for Smiths enthusiasts in Istanbul, and took videos of those who answered crooning along to the music of a song by the band. Most of the participants are Turkish, who have more command of English than anyone I know has of Turkish, but still, the songs are challenging for them to perform. The effect is often endearingly comical. However, some of the participants acquit themselves very well. The guy who does "Sing Me to Sleep" is astonishing. A friend of mine once said she thought that acting was about making one's self completely transparent, and this guy does exactly that. He seems to be doing nothing but singing the song, but it breaks over you like a tidal wave. Not sure how long the installation is going to be there, so don't wait!----

get in with the Emperor

(This post is from the blog of the Mother of Invention Acting School in San Francisco ( an acting class in San Francisco for serious, motivated students.)

Hi all,

The acclaimed original musical The Emperor Norton, which featured Mother of Invention alum Nancy Bower, is being remounted, and Nancy will be joining the production for this second incarnation. The company is still looking to cast a couple of roles for the remounting. Information below:

Emperor Norton, the Musical
dir. David Stein
1 male (30-60) - some singing required -- NEED IMMEDIATELY
1 Asian male (30-60- some singing required -- NEED IMMEDIATELY
Prepare song and short monologue
1 male (30-60) - NEED IMMEDIATELY
Prepare monologue
Perf. dates: Jan 5-April 1, 2007
Shelton Theater (off Union Square), San Francisco
To set up audition, contact David Stein @ (415) 320-2627 or

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Jay gets cast as lead in Shepherd play

(This post is from the blog of the Mother of Invention Acting School in San Francisco ( an acting class in San Francisco for serious, motivated students.)

Jay Kiecolt-Wahl went out on his first audition in the two years he has been studying at Mother of Invention, and landed one of two leading roles in the Actor's Ensemble of Berkeley's production of Sam Shepherd's True West. Right on, Jay! Looking forward to seeing the show!--

Friday, October 27, 2006

Miklos' ongoing success

(This post is from the blog of the Mother of Invention Acting School in San Francisco ( an acting class in San Francisco for serious, motivated students.)

Former Mother of Inventioner Miklos Phillips' film The Enfolding, after enjoying screenings at festivals internationally, is going to air on an NBC digital station:

"I wanted to let everyone know that THE ENFOLDING has not only screened last night in New York City in the East Village on the big screen, but I received news today that it has been accepted into NBC Universal’s “Independent Producer Showcase” and will be airing on NBC’s Digital TV channel in the Tri-State Area very soon (New York, New Jersey, Connecticut).

More info here about it:

The Independent Producer Showcase is a program block, dedicated to presenting the efforts of independent producers, and is broadcast on WNBC's Newest Digital Television channel 4.4 and carried on cable systems throughout the tristate area."

Congrats Miklos! --

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Mark Wahlberg...

(This post is from the blog of the Mother of Invention Acting School in San Francisco ( an acting class in San Francisco for serious, motivated students.) on fire in The Departed.--

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Mother of Inventioners at work

(This post is from the blog of the Mother of Invention Acting School in San Francisco ( an acting class in San Francisco for serious, motivated students.)

Hi all,

Dawn Scott is rehearsing for a production of After the Fall, Arthur Miller's memoir of Marilyn Monroe et al, with the Alternative Theatre Ensemble and Jessica Heidt, an artistic associate at the Magic theater. The dates are October 27th—November 12th. Full information at

And Heidi Hogan has this to report:

"I got another role in a movie here in SF called "Support." I'm "Faye" a woman who ironically enough is chasing the father of her child to get him to pay her support along with the mothers of his 12 other children born in the same 4 year period....Ha! A comedy!! I love it."

Everyone, please send your best thoughts and wishes to Heidi and Dawn on their respective projects. I will be, and I look forward to seeing both of them.

Friday, September 29, 2006

what I got

(This post is from the blog of the Mother of Invention Acting School in San Francisco ( an acting class in San Francisco for serious, motivated students.)

Hi everyone,

I don't allow prospective students to come and watch my classes, as I go to great lengths to attain consistency in attendance in the class and to establish a safe environment for serious work and risk-taking, and I feel that having people drop in to watch would potentially undermine this. I take a hit for this, as there are a lot of students who are curious about the class but don't want to try it out without coming to see it first.

Well, now you have your chance. You still can't come to a class, but you can come and see a production I have directed. My colleague from the Yale School of Drama, David Koppel, asked me to direct him and another actor in a production of Edward Albee's first play, The Zoo Story. The show opens in three weeks (October 19). I am cautiously optimistic that it is going to be a strong show. Full information below. Please come and take a look!

September 19, 2006

Following its popular and critically acclaimed production of Shakespeare's As You Like It, Arclight Repertory Theatre will present Edward Albee's suspenseful tale of isolation and complacency: The Zoo Story . The play runs from Oct. 19th – 28th at the Off Market Theatre Stage 250 in San Francisco. Performances are Thursday through Saturday evenings at 8pm. On Thursday, October 19 th , Arclight Repertory will participate in Theatre Bay Area's "Free Night of Theater" program.

Performances continue Nov 2nd – 18th at the Exit Stage on Taylor Street in San Francisco. Performances are Thursdays through Saturdays at 8pm. Tickets are $20 general admission and $15 for students and seniors (62+). Tickets may be reserved by calling: Brown Paper Tickets (800) 838. 3006. Additional information is available online at .

First performed in New York in 1960, The Zoo Story was Edward Albee's first play, and constitutued a radical departure from the realism dominant in America at the time. In the spirit of European surrealism and the plays of Eugene Ionesco, Albee forged a new kind of drama out of the pain and disorientation inherent in the urban experience in America at mid-century. The play has inspired writers as different from each other as David Mamet and Maria Irene Fornes.

The Zoo Story takes place in New York's Central Park, and presents a gripping encounter between Peter, a well-off, well-intentioned family man leading a life of quiet desperation, and Jerry, a rootless drifter seething with resentment in the face of what Albert Camus has called "the infinite silence of the world." With savage, hard-bitten humor, the play makes plain the costs of complacency and compromise on the one hand, and of an unyielding commitment to the naked truth on the other. As a play which raises questions about the price of head-in-the-sand complacency, it is more timely than ever given world events since the millennium.

The production is directed by Andrew Utter, founder of San Francisco's Mother of Invention Acting School and graduate of the Yale School of Drama's MFA directing program. Andrew has directed professionally for Syracuse Stage in Syracuse, New York, and at universities such as Fordham, Fairfield and Clark. He is the recipient of fellowships from the Fox and Benenson Foundations.

Arclight Repertory founder and artistic director David Koppel, and managing director Ted Barker, will play Peter and Jerry respectively. Dana Ashby, the artistic coordinator, will be acting as stage manager on the production.

Ian Marsh of Marin Shakespeare Theatre serves as set/lighting designer and technical director of the production. Norman Kern is the production's sound designer.

Arclight Repertory Theatre is a professional, nonprofit theatre company based in Alameda, California. Arclight's mission is to use the medium of live performance to pose challenging questions about the complexities of shared, human experience. Arclight strives to produce provocative, engaging, and imaginative plays; to develop new voices for the stage; to adapt challenging, literary material for live performance; and to present previously produced plays in innovative and illuminating ways; and to provide theatrical "outreach" to local middle and high schools which have suffered significant cutbacks in funding for performing arts programs.

About Our Name

Arc lights provided the first electric lighting for theatrical productions and movie sets in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, replacing older, much dimmer gas lamps. Light was produced when electricity jumped or 'arced' across the gap between two charged electrodes Arc lighting is very bright and very powerful--essentially, it is illumination through the production of controlled lightning.

For additional information on Arclight Repertory Theatre or The Zoo Story,contact David Koppel at 510-825-2993 or by email at . You may also visit our website at .

Sunday, September 03, 2006

the ghost of john casssavetes

Went to see a movie last night called Half Nelson I want to put the word out about. It stars Ryan Gosling, who made another movie called the The Believer that I never saw, but which was supposed to be quite remarkable, about a Jewish neo-Nazi. Gosling is an incredibly charismatic actor, so charismatic, so HOT, I sometimes wonder if I am being duped, but this movie is definitely worth a look. He plays an (idealistic) junior high school history teacher who powders his nose almost nightly, sometimes with cocaine, sometimes with crack. The awe-inspiring Chareeka Eps plays one of his students who takes it upon herself to watch over him. The film unfolds carefully and slowly, and the actors' rhythms set the pace. There are a lot of scenes which can only have arisen as a result of improvisation. If you know the movies of the late great John Cassavetes, you know what I'm talkin' about. For those of you who read my post about Little Miss Sunshine, the same droves and droves of hipsters who were lining up to see that film were waiting patiently on line at the Embarcadero for this one, so if you don't want to be out in the cold at your next artsy-swanky social occasion, give this one a looksee.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Miklos' film goes international, and another film rec...

Hi all,

Mother of Invention alum Miklos Philips' short film The Enfolding has been accepted into two more festivals, one the NewFilmMakers NY festival in October, and a festival in Tricase, Italy. Congrats Miklos! Best of luck at both! This makes six festivals for this film!

Also, I saw a movie last weekend called Quinceañera that I wanted to pass the word about. "Quinceañera" is the Spanish word for a kind of religiously-tinted debut that a young girl makes on her fifteenth birthday. It's a a big family event, and, well, let's say that the girl in this movie gets some upsetting news just prior to hers. She leaves home to live with a benevolent great-grandfather, who is also sheltering a gay Latino hood cast out from his home. It's a simple story about the double-edged sword that is tradition, that is carefully and patiently developed. It takes place in Echo Park in L.A., and the camera work beautifully captures the life of that neighborhood. Some fine acting. Won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance, I believe I read somewhere. Worth catching.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

the movie everybody wants to have seen

On Saturday night, I went with a friend to see a new indie flick called Little Miss Sunshine, which seems to have generated some buzz at Sundance this year. Well, I guess everybody had heard the buzz, because when I got to the theatre at Stonestown mall on Saturday night to see the movie, it had sold out, and a long line of hipsters were just turning away in dejection. So my friend and I hurtled across town on 280 to try to catch the next show at the Metreon, which was also sold out. So we shot some pool at Jillian's (that's another story: billiard hall, restaurant, and night club all in one!) until the NEXT show.

And we saw what all the fuss was about.

The premise is that the 11-year old daughter in a (very) dysfunctional Arizona family has been named a finalist in a national pageant called Little Miss Sunshine. So the family : mom, pop, a heroin snorting grandad, a recently suicidal uncle, and the brother pile into the VW bus to drive from Arizona to Redondo Beach, where the pageant is to be held. The script is savagely funny, in a way that is a little reminiscent of Howard Korder's plays, which we sometimes work on in the class. There is some first-rate acting as well. The story is not without some flaws and misfires, but the piece as a whole has great heart and inventiveness, and an anarchic streak a mile wide. My vote: not to be missed!

Sunday, July 09, 2006

As You Like It A Lot!!!

Hi all,

Last night, I saw something I couldn't wait to come home and spread the word about. And how! It was a production of As You Like It produced by a new company called the ARClight Theater Company. The show is running at the Altarena Playhouse in Alameda. Where to begin! The piece was inventively staged, the acting was very good and some of it was stupendous, the company was extremely well-spoken, so the verse was a pleasure to listen to, and the cast had a real sense of ownership of the production. The strength of the direction is visible in the assurance and ease with which the whole thing comes off. And the theater itself is a gem: built in 1938, at the tail end of the Little Theater movement in this country, it stirringly evokes the idealism of that period. Hop on the BART and go there now!!!

More info at

PS I posted the audtions for this show in this blog in an entry entitled "Get Your Shakespeare On" a while back. This is a company to get involved with on the ground floor. They are doing work with a freshness and vitality that is the rarest of commodities. So stay tuned!

Monday, June 19, 2006

film actors take note, part two

(This post is from the blog of the Mother of Invention Acting School in San Francisco ( an acting class in San Francisco for serious, motivated students.)

Hi all,

I went to see a movie at Frameline, the Gay and Lesbian Film Festival here ins San Francisco, this weekend. The movie was called Boy Culture, and was directed by the same director who had made a film thst I saw last year, called Eating Out. Eating Out was uneven, but had some marvelously funny dialogue, not to mention some very strong acting. The leading woman in it, Emily Brook Hands, was particularly strong. She was also in this movie, Boy Culture, albeit in a much smaller role, but nevertheless probably the most memorable performance. But she was there in person, and appeared in a talkback afterwards. After the talkback, I approached her, eager to enthuse about her work and ask her where she had trained. She responded that she had grown up in Kansas, and had done musical theater all her life as a kid. Then she took some classes at the University of Kansas, and then after that, she had moved to L.A.. She mentioned the names of a couple of people she had studied with there, who weren't familiar to me, so I asked her what kind of stuff they taught in their classes. She said that they did a lot of clown work, very physical in approach. She said she also did a lot of "scene work" as well. I thought it was so interesting that she emphasized the importance of her clown work in her training, and that she had stood out so strongly. For those of you who read my earlier post, "film actors take note", you remember that the jist of it was that another actor had stood out to me in a movie, and when I looked into his background a little bit, I discovered that he had done a lot of very intensive physical training as well.

All of this to say: actors of all stripes, GET SOME PHYSICAL TRAINING! There are lots of ways to go: yoga, T'ai-Chi, capoeira (see the resources page of to read about this one), Pilates, Alexander, Feldenkrais, modern dance whatever. But it's so important to do something. I teach an approach that begins with from things like "internal" stuff, for lack of a better word, but the goal is to articulate a way of looking at our characters and scenes that activates us viscerally, at the cellular level, as a teacher of mine used to say. Everybody associates "emotion" with acting, and of course it is somehow important, but what is fundamental is that in the end acting is a mind-body trick. Think Black Mamba's mountaintop training regimen from Kill Bill. It is this kind of training in focus and responsiveness that really makes somebody stand out as an actor. We've all lived and suffered, we all have those emotional wellsprings to draw on but what we need is turn-on-a-dime kind of alertness, agility and strength. There is nothing like rigrous physical training to develop this.



Monday, June 12, 2006

casting call for indie feature

Hi all,

This casting notice came my way, wanted to pass it along.



New actors welcome! Great opportunity to build your resumé

Interested? Send us an e-mail at: with following information and we will contact you with the casting date.

-Name, gender, ethnicity, languages spoken, phone number

-resumé if available


-let us know if you have a specific talent

The setting of the story is South America. Action feature.

Rate: no pay. Low budget project. Film reel available upon request. Tentative shoot starts August 7th.

Role 1

-Tristanne, Main female character, Natural beauty, slim build, (ability to drive motorcycle, sing and play guitar is helpful but not required).

Description: female, Latino Age: 20’s language: English, Spanish

Shoot Days : 20

Role 2

-Montana, South America’s Mafia Boss, tough-looking,

Description: Male, Latino Age: 40 to 60 Language: English, Spanish

Shoot Days : 10

Role 3

-Montana’s man 1, Diego

Description: Male, Latino Age: 30 to 40 Language: English, Spanish

Shoot Days : 9

Role 4

-Boucher, big guy, Mafia guy

Description: Male, Caucasian Age: 35 to 50 Language: English

Shoot Days : 8

Role 5

-Tribe Chief, a regard show experience in life,

Description: Male, Latino Age: 50 to 70 Language: English, Spanish

Shoot Days : 8

Role 6

-Montana’s man 2

Description: Male, Latino Age: 30 to 40 Language: English, Spanish

Shoot Days : 8

Role 7

-Carlos, Taxi driver, funny guy,

Description: Male, Latino Age: 40 to 50 Language: English, Spanish

Shoot Days : 6

Role 8

- Army guys

Description: Male Latino Age: 20 to 45 Language: English, Spanish

Shoot Days : 5

Role 9

- Natives people and extra

Gender: Male/ female Age: All Language: no matter

Shoot Days : 5

Role 10

-Paramilitary chief

Description: Male, Latino Age: 40 to 45 Language: English, Spanish

Shoot Days : 4

Role 11

-Guard 3

Description: Male, Latino Age: 30 to 40 Language: Spanish

Shoot Days : 4

Role 12

-Guard 4

Description: Male, Latino Age: 30 to 40 Language: Spanish

Shoot Days : 3

Role 13

-3 Prostitutes

Description: Female, Latino Age: 25 to 30 Language: Spanish

Shoot Days : 3

Role 14

-Lise, Pretty, slim build

Gender: female, Ethnicity: all Age:20 to 28 Language: English

Shoot Days : 2

Role 15

-Wife’s tribe chief,

Description: Female, Latino Age: 50 to 60 Language: Spanish

Shoot Days : 2

Role 16

-John, prisoner,

Description: Male, Caucasian Age:28 to 32 Language: English

Shoot Days : 2

Role 17

-Door man, huge man

Gender: Male Age: 40 to 50 Ethnicity: all Language: English

Shoot Days : 1

Role 18


Gender: female Age: 25 to 40 Ethnicity: all Language: English

Shoot Days : 1

Role 19

-5 Kids playing soccer,

gender: Male/ female Age: 10 to 15 Ethnicity: Latino

Shoot Days : 1

Role 20

-Emile, Canadian Mafia boss

Description: Male, Caucasian Age:55 to 65 Language: English

Shoot Days : 1

Role 21

-2 Body guard,

Description: Male, Latino Age: 35 to 45 Language: English

Shoot Days : 1

Role 22

-Bank male attendant,

Description: Male, Latino Age: 40 to 45 Language: English

Shoot Days : 1

Role 23

-office’s man

Description: Male, Latino Age: 40 to 45 Language: English

Shoot Days : 1

Role 24

- airline attendant

Gender: Female Ethnicity: all Age: 25 to 35 Language: English

Shoot Days : 1

Role 25

- Cab driver

Gender: Male Ethnicity: all Age: 30 to 45 Language: no matter

Shoot Days : 1

Sunday, June 11, 2006

gettin puffy with it

Hi all,

I saw an indie film last night called The Puffy Chair that I wanted to pass the word about. It's a low budget offbeat road movie. Couple goes on road with guy's brother to buy a gift for father's b-day (a copy of the purple recliner they had in the house as kids). Hijinks ensue, tensions simmer and boil over, hip talk happens, all the stuff we look for in an indie comedy. The acting is pretty decent. Definitely worth a look. Playing at Landmark's Opera Plaza.



Sunday, June 04, 2006

audition announcement

Cassie Powell passed this audition announcement on to me. The company in question is the Thunderbirds. MoI alum Sang Kim is part of the inner, inner circle of this company, which makes it a good bet already, and other folks who have worked with them have only good things to say, so I would say give it a shot!

The Thunderbirds are a wonderfully talented group of folks who believe theatre should be fun! They are right. I worked with them on Lusty Booty in 2004, and it was fabulous because: the cast and crew were Magnifique!, we had amazing supportive audiences that belly laughed from beginning to end of the play and the run of the show, the whole experience was about joy and entertainment. They are holding auditions next week fo Release the Kraken!
Thunderbird Theatre Company Auditions for "Release the Kraken"
Original comedy from the company that brought you "Lusty Booty" and "Las Vega-Nauts"

Audition Date: Sunday, June 11th, 2006 (hour-long auditions 9am – 5pm)
Location: Westin St. Francis Hotel, Union Square, San Francisco
Needed: 12 actors for roughly 6 male roles and 6 female roles.

Show Dates: August 10th - August 26th, 2006
Audition Details:
-or- (415) 289-6766

Show Synopsis: Zeus, Aphrodite, Athena and the other Greek Gods on Mount Olympus challenge our hero Perseus to slay the Kraken, the last of the Titan monsters! but wait? Perseus works in a strip mall?
A comedic modern retelling of the Perseus Myth where the good must overcome challenges as the mighty Medusa, the creepy Three Stygian Witches, two-headed dogs, and overwhelming desires to play XBox or Ultimate Frisbee.
Can our hero Perseus meet the trials given him by the Gods, or will he lose all that a minimum wage clerk holds dear in life?

Audition Details: -or- (415) 289-6766

P.S. Please help spread the word and forward this to other actors will earn karma points.


got laughing squid?

I was clicking around the web yesterday and I came across this site called It is a site that offers web hosting to artists, but is also an "SF Station"-style what's-going-on-in-SF kind of site, except that it looks a bit edgier, a bit more underground, in short, a bit more Mother of Invention, so I thought I would pass the word. They have something called the Squid List, which is a message board for announcing events, and there is also the Tentacle List, which is a place to post calls for artists, actors, and performers of various kinds. You can subscribe to any and all by email (daily digest available), or RSS feed. Or just bookmark the pages that interest you and check back from time to time. Decisions!


Sunday, May 21, 2006

music lovers take note

This post pertains to the Mother of Invention Acting School: acting classes in San Francisco led by Yale MFA director Andrew Utter.

"Without music, life would be a mistake" --Friedrich Nietzsche

A friend recently turned me on to a site called Here you can create your own radio station by choosing a couple of bands or songs that you like. When the station plays, it will sometimes play the music you chose, but will also play songs that are akin to the music you have mentioned, so you can discover new music to explore. You can indicate whether you like a song that the station plays, or that you don't, and based on this, pandora will continue to refine its sense of your taste. You can maintain a list of favorites and go back to them and play clips to recall what they sound like and decide if you might want to buy the CD. I have already found a singer/songwriter named David Poe I think I am going to like a lot. Anyway, I know several people who have tried it and are hooked, so I thought I would pass the word.

Lest this post seem to be "off topic", I'll just point out that rhythm and musicality are features of many of the great plays that actors confront. Al Pacino is said to have rehearsed for Glengarry Glen Ross with a metronome. Beyond that, having music that you love and feel inspired by is a great way to feed and nurture your muse, and keep your desire to stay in it alive.

Nuff said.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Diane hired as AD on film

Diane Karagienakos has been hired as the AD on the feature film "Stephanie's Image"
(, starring Melissa
Leo ("21 Grams") as Stephanie.

Diane, you are a right-on sister! Congratulations! Have a great time with that.

Friday, May 05, 2006

why we need to act

BOY:: What am I to tell Mr. Godot, Sir?

VLADIMIR:: Tell him . . . (he hesitates) . . . tell him you saw us.

Waiting for Godot, Samuel Beckett

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

a glimpse into the inner sanctum

This post pertains to acting class at the Mother of Invention Acting School in San Francisco (

I don't allow auditing of the class, for reasons discussed on the FAQ page of the website. There are, however, lots of ways to find out about the class. I thought I would supplement those ways by publishing here a post I wrote recently to the Yahoo Group that I use to conduct the course. It should provide a sense of my priorities as a teacher and the ways I encourage students to approach their work.

Here goes:

Hi all,

Here are some other things to consider as you approach your role:

Uta Hagen does a great job of talking about transference, so I am
just going to say a little bit about it here. A transference is an
equivalence between something in the circumstances of the character
and something from your life. You need to find transferences for all elements of
the character's experience that are not immediately familiar to you.
Uta suggests you formulate them with an equals sign, such as
Stella=my sister Elizabeth. However, she also points out that this is the end
of the story. The transferences gain traction if you bring them to
mind before you rehearse, so they are there to inform your behavior.
Then they begin to be a part of your lived experience, and deepen
through repetition. (Note: you do not think about the transference
while acting. Transference is a part of your preparation. It's a
good idea to run through your list of transference with yourself
before you rehearse and after you rehearse, and once a day when you
are not rehearsing. But while you are rehearsing, you are in the
moment, playing action towards an objective!)

Also, the best transferences are the ones that give you a moment of
"A-ha!", that actually TEACH you something about the character's
relationships or circumstances. They cause you to grasp some aspect of
the character's world in a way that you hadn't yet. Look for
transferences that make you go "Oh, now I get it!". They are the ones
that are going to take you somewhere.

Uta Hagen talks about finding transferences for people and places,
but it is also important to find them for important events in the life of
the character. In particulay, there is the type of event which I call
the gash. A gash is an event that is extremely damaging to you, and
robs of you of a big chunk of underlying objectivve. So for Blanche,
major gashes would be Allan Grey's death, having to take up at the
Flamingo, getting kicked out of the Flamingo, losing Belle Reve, etc.
She has sustained a lot of them. It's important that I find
gashes I have sustained in my own life that are somehow akin to the gashes in the text
that give me a sense of what I as Blanche lost in that moment. This is crucial for heating
up the need. Note that these transferences might have nothing to do with the
ones I am using for other people who were involved in these episodes.
So I might use my friend Ramzi as a transference for Allan Grey, but
I never drove him to suicide, so I'll find something else to use for
that, that may have nothing to do with Ramzi.

Also, gashes are a way of helping you hunt for the UO. If you
identify a gash and then ask yourself, what did I lose a chunk of
when this happened, or what did I start to bleed when this happened, the
asnwer to that question may be a UO, or at least may take you a bit
closer to articulating it.

Similarly, there are the tumors. Whereas gashes happen at discrete
moments in time, tumors are something that we live with over time. If
I am playing Stanley, I probably want to think a lot about what it
was like to grow up Polish and the kind of contempt I faced for that.
They may be specific episodes of it that count as gashes, but there
is also the lifelong attitudes I encountered in school and the
workplace that have taken their toll. I want to find a transference
for that.

Also, extremely important are the trophy moments. These are moments
or periods in the past when things I worked, I was getting my UO in spades: "the days
when we saw everything the same way and nothing was impossible and we loved each
other." If you were playing Walter, you would want to make up specific moments where
that happened, flesh them out with as much detail as you can, and then find a
transference from your ownlife that played a similar role. Trophy moments are extremely
powerful pointsof reference that we can access and try to bring our partners back to.

A note about gashes, tumors, and trophy moments: it is important not to stop at the step
of labelling a gash, tumor, or trophy moment as such. It is tempting to do so, as we then
feel like we have dealt with the circumstance somehow and gotten it off of our desks.
However, merely identifying these episodes is only sufficient in rare cases, where the
circumstacnes are so close to something you have experienced that you readily enter into
them in a total way. Most of the time, you will need to take the time to actually imagine
these events, and to find transferences for them, so that they exist for you as living parts
of your past to draw on in the scene, and not mere facts. Doing so is what I call the lonely
work of the actor, as no one can help you do it, and it can feel kind of silly or childish to
sit around and use your imagination. It's easy to feel childish and unproductive. maybe
it's easier to do while doing something else that doesn't require your full attention, like
bikeriding or knitting. But in any case, activating your imagination and getting in touch
with a child-like belief in your ability to transform and play without inhibition is what we're
after right? So take a trip to the land of make-believe. It might be a bit uncomfortable at
first, but it will get easier with time.

I mean it, really! Don't just read these suggestions, overcome your inertia and doubt and
explore the experience of the character. You may or may not reap the benefits
immediately, but that doesn't really matter. The important thing is to establish a practice
of doing this, and sooner or later it will start to work in your favor. The great critic Francis
Fergusson, in an essay on what the novelist Henry James learned from his forays into
writing drama, had the following to say:

"The actors are not there only to illustrate for us the facts of the
story, but through their make-believe to create an imagined world
for the eye of the mind to dwell upon. Good dramatic writing, like
good acting, owes much of its quality to the establishment of these
imagined perspectives behind and beyond the little figures on the

He speaks elsewhere of "great spaces of life and experience" which
exist in the characters in any good dramatic writing. Creating and
making palpable these great spaces of life is the goal of all of the
preparatory work we have been discussing. All of the who-am-I work
we have been talking about, the techniques of personalization,
particularization, and transference, are towards the end offering a sense of life, as
opposed to an empty imitation of it. We don't just want the mechanics of the story
reenacted for us; we want to feel that the people we are watching
are truly alive. That's what it's all about.

Enjoy your work!



Friday, April 28, 2006

Diane's latest venture

Dom & Bella really are going to Hollywood! Though not to star in a TV sitcom. This time, they'll be performing their stage show, for one night only. This historic event takes place Friday, May 5 @ 7:30pm at the IO West Theatre, 6366 Hollywood Blvd. Tickets are $10 at the door, or available at or

To learn more about Dom & Bella, and the pending legal case surrounding the biopic made about them (“...we may never get our innocence back after this”, Dom Casual & Bella Hagen), please visit or

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Cassie Powell gets rave in SF Chronicle

Cassie Powell got this review for her performance in Shove, Custom Made Theater's current production. Congratulations Cassie! We at Mother of Invention salute you!

Shove me tender

"The alleged subway murderer is pretty creepy in Ross Pasquale's unsettlingly disturbed performance, but Cassie Powell is even scarier as the relentlessly upbeat, obsessed jury forewoman who feels empowered after having convinced her peers to acquit him. An intriguingly conceived and brightly portrayed Genette ( Powell) is the pulsing heart of Mark Eisman's "Shove," a recent Los Angeles hit receiving its second staging in a Custom Made Theatre production that opened Friday at Custom's Off-Market Theaters home.

It's an intriguing play that could profit from a more tightly paced outing than it receives at the hands of director Christopher Jenkins. Set in subway stations and other locations in New York (a striking, compact set by Bruce Walters with dynamic lighting and sound effects by Ted Crimy), "Shove" explores the fatal intersection of four lonely lives with an edgy wit and quirky originality.

Genette is a runaway who was taken in by the kindly, maternal newspaper vendor (a slow, steady A.J. Davenport) for whom she works. Played by Powell on a continual, preternatural high, she's still walking on air from having saved the accused man's life, having had to turn around eight other jurors to do it. One of those jurors, Selden (a shy, immature loner turn by Todd Brotze), has fallen in love with her -- an obsession she encourages and frustrates with breezy lack of concern as she pursues her conviction that the jurors and defendant should bond in post-trial harmony.

Powell strikes the right note as the cheerfully obsessed, idealistic stalker who won't let Pasquale's anguished Lowell retreat into his shell. Eisman develops the relationships between Genette, Selden and Lowell with engaging skill, though in a few too many short, choppy scenes. Jenkins calls too much attention to the structural problems with slack pacing and by punctuating the scenes too repetitively with subway effects. An intriguing effort loses momentum as it moves toward what should be its relentless climax."

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

the man with the magic hands

Part of the way that I have been working on promoting greater
mind/body integration in myself is through myofascial massage, a type
of deep-tissue massage related to and derived from Rolfing and Feldenkrais, two other
deep-tissue massage techniquse. Both Rolfing and Feldenkrais have been
used at the Julliard School as ways of developing actors' physical
potential. Myofascial is quite intense, bordering on (but not ultimately) painful, but the
potential rewards are great. We have all kinds of knots and
maladjustments that have developed over the years, and this form of
massage seeks to release them. Sometimes it can release emotional
energies that have been stuck somewhere, so the effect can be quite potent.
However, as these energies get released and reabsorbed (I really don't
sound like I grew up on the East Coast, do I?), it is possible to find a new physical and emotional freedom.

I like the practitioner I have been working with, Stephen Tynan, a lot. He is well-versed in acupressure and Chinese medicine as well, so his insights have a breadth to them that I really appreciate. He is also very reasonably-priced, as these things go. His email is




Tuesday, April 18, 2006

the word from New York

I've been sounding off recently in class and in the blog about the importance of physical training for actors. One of our number, Jay Kiecolt-Wahl, just visited New York, where there is a remarkable exhibition about the human body, featuring actual cadavers that have been opened up to provide us with unprecedented visual access to the systems that make us go. For more information:

PS Notice that the graphics involve ball-throwing!


I rented Steven Soderbergh's latest effort Bubble last night, about a triangle between three empyoees in a doll factory in an American small town. The actors were "regular people" (i.e. non-actors) that Soderbergh found. The woman who plays Martha gives an excellent performance. The film is good enough, certainly not great, but I enjoyed it for the perfomance I mentioned (the detective is quite good as well), and for the way that they showed what this kind of world really looks like. It is familiar to all of us, yet because it is not at all glamorous, it is relatively rare that it is treated with this kind of candor on screen.

Another interesting point is that I read somewhere that Soderbergh released the film in the cinemas, on DVD, and through cable TV all at the same time, attempting a kind of marketing coup. Not sure how much of a tremor he really made, but it could be shades of things to come.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

of interest to film actors

In my last post, I wrote about a film called Friends with Money. I mentioned a few of the performances that stood out, and one was that of an actor named Simon McBurney. He was magnetic, real, precise, funny, physically animated, emotionally full. In short, everything you could look for in an actor. The performance was one of the best I have seen in a long while. There was something familiar about his name to me, and I checked IMDB, and then remembered where I had see his name. He is the founder of an internationally acclaimed theater company in London called Theatre de Complicite. I saw their work at the Lincolcn Center Festival perhaps eight years ago. The production was transformational, meaning the set was minimal, and the actors' bodies accomplished much of the constant scenic transformation. We've all seen this kind of thing, but this company managed to do it so inventively that it seemed totally new. The actors were clearly all highly trained movement specialists, who had remarkable powers of articulation throughout their entire bodies. If I remember rightly, they studied a rigorous form of movement training called Le Coq. the actor in the movie, Simon McBurney, had directed the production I had seen, and had choreographed it. Anyway, I found it significant that this actor who had stood out so strongly in the film had had such a strong background in theater and in theatrical movement specifically. It supports my ongoing claim that the differences between acting for theater and film get way too much play, that the important things is learning to be engaged with others in a truthful,compelling way. It also underscores the fact that getting a solid, thorough movement background is an enormous asset to all actors, regardless of their professional goals.

friends with money

This is the title of a new offbeat indie comedy, my very favorite kind of movie. It is ensemble picture. There are some very fine perofrmances: Simon McBurney, Frances McDormand, Jason Isaacs, among others. Good laughs. I'd say take it in.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Miklos on a roll!

Miklos's (Spring '05) film, The Enfolding, has been accepted to the Boston International Film Festival. This is his third Festival for this film. Congratulations!

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Acting and introspection

Recently, in class, an actor asked me about how I was able to ferret out a particular point in the text that was of crucial importance for understanding what was going down in a particular scene. She said she had read the play carefully several times and not understood this point. I had to reply that it just takes practice to learn to read for the hot, critical, lifemaking details and features of a script. We work on that skill in the class all the time. However, a little more than that needs to be said. As much as I feel that there are particular ways in which an actor needs to learn to approach a script, it is also true that an actor needs to be a sensitive reader and a nuanced observer of life's rich pageant in general. And this means a degree of introversion. Rilke enjoined his young poet to "find his solitude." The same could be said for actors. Often, we tend to associate a kind of extroversion with actors: actors are gregarious people who like to be in the spotlight, to receive attention. There is nothing wrong with these qualities. An actor does need a desire to be seen, to share himself or herself and his or her experience. However, I think what is often forgotten is that an actor needs an introverted side as well: he or she needs to have a keen sense of the landscape of his or her own thoughts and feelings, in order to have something truly rich to share with an audience. In my experience, one of the best ways to develop this is through reading. Reading is usually a solitary activity, and reading fiction or plays involves entering another world, and coming to terms with the complicated realms of life depicted therein. If one reads reasonably good literature, there is usually richness and complexity aplenty. It is through this activity that one can develop one's eagle-eye for the critical factors in texts. One learns about the world, and one also becomes more intimately acquainted with how texts work: what are the points they hinge on, what are their centers of gravity. So the bottom line is: I advise actors to read. Read stuff you enjoy, but also stuff that challenges you (in other words: read some good literature). The benefits will be large if you can cultivate reading as a habitual way of meditating on yourself and the world and spending time with yourself, getting to know your own soul.

That acting has both an introverted and an extroverted dimension is one othe things that makes it distinctive as an art, and also one of the things that makes it so fascinating

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

"The aspects of things..."

"The aspects of things that are most important to use are hidden from us because of their simplicity and familiarity. We fail to be struck by that which, once seen, is most striking and powerful." --Ludwig Wittgenstein

There's a lot in this quote for actors. When looking at a scene, we have powerful urge to say to ourselves that we have dealt with this or that aspect of a scene, even before we have identified it to ourselves. We want to get it off our desks, as it were. I often think succeeding as an actor amounts to the ability to resist this urge.

Suppose you are playing a scene in which you are welcoming a sister who has been away back home. You talk about what has changed on both ends, eventually some grievances are aired, etc. But the most basic fact here is that you are SISTERS. This means a set of expectations, and a whole history of those expectations being met or not, confidences, rivalries, etc. All of this is bound to be of paramount importance in any scene between two sisters, and yet the question "what is it to have sister? " is precisely the kind of question that does not get asked BECAUSE it seems to be such a familiar relationship as to render the question unnecessary. But it is precisely these seemingly unnecessary questions that yield up the greatest fruit for actors.

Your character is a doctor. Why? Because of the money? It's prestigious? What's prestigious about it? Why does it have the prestige that it does? Why a doctor and not a venture capitalist, or some other highly lucrative or prestigious profession? These are the questions that must be pursued, relentlessly. But before they can be pursued, they have to be identified. To identify them, we have to learn to STOP ourselves in the act of shunting them aside, of getting them off of our desk, just as in the Alexander technique, you stop yourself from constricting your neck before speaking or moving. We have to own them. And then, when we appear in our scene, we will own something, and therefore have something to give.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

daily kos

Hi all,

Those of you who know me know that I am not a politically-minded guy, I don't tend to hold forth about politics or Bush or Iraq or whatever the topic of the moment is, but like most people in the arts, I do harbor a belief, no, scratch that, I know for a fact that the left is way better than the right, and that I would love to see Democrats in charge in 2008. Today in the Chronicle there was an article about a Blog out of Berkeley by liberal politico Markos Moulitsas Zúniga. His blog is apparently now the most popular liberal blog on the web. The story was interesting because he seems to be keeping it real and fending off donations from party muckety mucks that would put him in their pockets. His story of growing up a dweeby teen who hid out in the library during lunch in highschool and who tried a lot of things before finally finding his voice resonated with me. Anyway, I have subscribed to his blog, and it seemed like it would be a good thing to pass on to people of conscience like all you folks out there at home.

Good night, and good luck.

get your Shakespeare on

Hi all,

A colleague of mine from the Drama School, David Koppel, has started a company and they will be doing a production of As You Like It this summer in Alameda. David is a great guy, and a very talented actor. He is currently appearing in Death of a Salesman at the Altarena Playhouse.

Here is the information on the auditions:

ARClight Repertory Theatre
A new Bay Area production company dedicated to the creation of dynamic, imaginative and entertaining theatre is holding AEA/Non-AEA auditions for its inaugural summer production of Shakespeare's AS YOU LIKE IT at Alameda's Altarena Playhouse.

Artistic Director David Koppel, will direct this production set in 1789 France prior to the revolution.

Performance Dates: July 7 - 23 / Fridays/Saturdays at 8pm & Sundays at 2pm.

Rehearsals: Mon-Thurs (evenings) & Saturdays (early afternoons)

Auditions: Mon. 4/24, Tues. 4/25, Wed. 4/26 from 7:30pm - 10:30pm

Callbacks: Tues. 5/2, Wed. 5/3 from 7:30pm- 10:30pm

All Auditions/Performances will be at the Altarena Playhouse
(1409 High St. Alameda/

Prepare: 2-3 minute monologue from Shakespeare's As You Like It or another appropriate Shakespearean comedy. / Cold Read scenes from play provided at auditions. / Be prepared to sing a folk song a capella.

Questions/Confirm Date of Attendance:
Email David Koppel (

Monday, April 03, 2006

Diane going like gangbusters

Four-time Mother of Invention veteran Diane Karagienakos was recently cast in a key role in the feature film Little Bruno (, she appeared on an episode of "The World's Most Astonishing News", a Japanese TV show, and the award-winning stage show that she co-created, Come Fly With Me Nude, will be debuting in Los Angeles on May 5, with her in one of the two leading roles.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

SF Bay area actors' resources

I have just updated the resources page on my site. There is now a comprehensive list of digital resources for actors, including audition announcement lists. Click the link above and enjoy!

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Jennifer on the History Channel

Jennifer Jajeh will be featured in speaking roles in 3 upcoming episodes of the History Channel series,
"Man, Moment, Machine". The show "explores the history-making intersection
between a dynamic leader, a significant moment in time and an important
technology". Congratulations, Jennifer!

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Alexander technique class starting

Looking for a way to get some Alexander technique training without breaking the bank? Practitioner Constance Clare is offering a class starting tomorrow night at the Asian American Theater Company. Students of mine have spoken very highly of her, and I think Alexander Technique training is one of the best things an actor can give himself or herself (along with my class :)) Click the link below for more information.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

worth listening to

Some of you know I harbor a special fondness for the Scottish indie pop band Belle and Sebastian. I used to mention it more in the class than I have of late, but I actually have a B&S logo tattoed on my left shoulder. They have been important to me for a long time. I am looking forward to seeing them in concert her in SF March 21.

Recently NPR did an interview with the leader of the band, Stuart Murdoch. There is a link above to a screen (actually the title of this entry is the link: "worth listening to"") where you can click to hear the interview or read a trancscript. Murdoch is an incredibly thoughtful guy, and a great artist. I would say there is something Chekhovian about his way of seeing and rendering things. He talks about how he started the band as he pulled out of a prolonged struggle with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and he also talks about how he is becoming increasingly open in his music about his spirituality and his religious feeling. In session 1 of the Monday night class, I always make sure that Stanislavsky's characterization of acting as the birth of the soul through art gets mentioned. The more I work with the technique, the more I see how fitting this characterization of acting is, so I was very moved to hear Murdoch talking in this way. Belle and Sebastian were very important to me in the years before I moved out to CA and kind of pulled out of a rut myself, so it was really interesting to hear him talk about this. So you might want to give it a listen.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Josh Lenn on SpikeTV

I got this message from Josh today:

If you are looking for some entertainment tonight check me out on the premier episode of Pros vs. Joes.

I go head to head with some weak old pros like Jerry Rice, Dennis Rodman, Matt Williams, Jim McMahon, and the beast Bill Goldberg.

More info on

It should be fun!

Take care,

More props for Miklos!

Miklos' film "The Enfolding" has been selected to play at the Oxford International Festival of Films in competition – May 2006. This is an international competitive festival with simultaneous screenings in Oxford and London! (


PS Miklos designed the utteracting site, so if you're ever looking for a website, he's your guy.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Neal Bell does it again

Hi all,

For those of you who have been in a cycle while we worked on Cold Sweat, and for anyone else: Neal Bell's play On the Bum is running now at Studio ACT, the producing entity for the conservatory. The play is a comedy about doing government-sponsored theater in the sticks during the Depression. But as always with Neal, it packs a bit more of a wallop than your average comedy. Anyway, the production is beautifully conceived and staged. The acting is a bit uneven but there are a few fine performances. I would recommend it highly. In the end it is actually quite moving. And for those of you who know the play Cold Sweat intimately, you will be in for a couple of surprises with this play.



Friday, March 03, 2006

Diane acting in short

Diane Karagienakos is acting in a short. She describes the project as follows:

The director is Eric Escobar, who teaches film at SFSU. The short (which played
Sundance in 2004 and starred Renee O'Connor of "Zena
Warrior Princess" fame) is titled "One Weekend A
Month". He's developing it into a feature and is
shooting this scene as part of the development
process. The feature is yet untitled. You can watch
the short at

Miklos' film "The Enfolding" appearing in Sonoma Valley Film Festival

Miklos' film "The Enfolding" (on which I served as an acting coach) will be shown in the Sonoma Valley Film Festival (April 5-9). Congratulations!

See Tristram Shandy

Hi all,

I saw the movie Tristram Shandy this weekend. It is a delightful British comedy about the madcap world of independent filmmaking. Not to be missed! Showing at the Clay.

Anna to play lead in film project

Anna McConnell will be playing a leading role in a film entitled A Wilderness in Your Heart, by Robin Dunn. I read the script and it is a very exciting project. Congratulations!

Cassie to appear in SHOVE

Cassie Powell will be performing Mark Eisner's comedy SHOVE with the Custom Made Theater Company, opening in April. Congratulations!

Nancy and Josh will be doing Shaw!

Nancy Bower and Josh Lenn will be appearing in the Shaw play The Devil's Disciple with the Actor's Ensemble of Berkeley. Congratulations!

Cassie Powell in Love's Labors Lost

Cassie is appearing in the NO NUDE MEN production of Shakespeare's play Love's Labors Lost. Show information is as follows:

The show opens March 10, and plays March 11, 17, 18, 24, 25, 31, April 1, 7, 8. All shows are at 8 PM, at the Exit Theater, on Eddy between Mason & Taylor. Reservations can be made by emailing the company at

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