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 ZĂșniga. 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.

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