Tuesday, October 28, 2008

thinking about friendship

Friendship is one of the basic kinds of relationships we deal with in scene work in the class. I listened to this podcast last night with leading philosopher Alexander Nehamas, in which he talks about friendship and its importance.

Nehamas on Friendship

Give it a listen.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

sacrifice? not so much.

(This post is from the blog of the Mother of Invention Acting School in Los Angeles and San Francisco (www.utteracting.com): an acting class in Los Angeles San Francisco for serious, motivated students.)

"The sane would not think it was worth dying for anybody's sentences, including their own. Instead of being profoundly moved by the idea of sacrifice, they are profoundly suspicious of it; indeed, if their skepticism is for anything, it is for all the ways we have been educated and seduced and cajoled into believing that our capacity for sacrifice, whether of self and/or others, is one of the best things about us."--Adam Phillips, Going Sane

Friday, October 24, 2008

shoot with Roman

(This post is from the blog of the Mother of Invention Acting School in Los Angeles and San Francisco (www.utteracting.com): an acting class in Los Angeles San Francisco for serious, motivated students.)

I posted one of my Killer Instinct flyers in a downtown Los Angeles coffe house called Lost Souls a few weeks ago. I got an email from a guy named Roman Wyden who saw the flyer. Roman is a filmmaker, but he pays the bills sometimes through headshot photography. He has a website for his headshot business, and is attempting to aggregate useful information for actors on his site in a blog format, as a way of promoting his stuff. He hit me up to internview me about my class, which I of course I was happy to do.

We did the interview in his loft which is in the same building is Lost Souls. It should be out in a couple of weeks. In the meantime, take a look at Roman's site. Seems to me he would be a great guy to shoot headshots with, since he brings a filmmaker's eye to the process of producing headshots.


So check it out!


Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Financial Crisis and Me, or Through the Looking Glass

Originally posted as a Diary on Daily Kos.

This isn't a hard luck story. Yet. But it could easily become one.

I have a (very) small business teaching acting in San Francisco and, recently, in Los Angeles. I live in SF and just started flying down to LA once a week on a cheap Southwest flight to teach there. More of a market, lots of serious students, plus I like SoCal and warm weather and have some great friends down there.

The main expenses for the LA class are the rent of the blackbox theater where I teach, the flight, and a rental car. I couchsurf with friends for lodgings.

There were some very bizarre developments on the rental car front recently.

andrewj54's diary :: ::
My decision to starting teaching in the Southlands was in part predicated on the fact that rental cars in SoCal could be obtained cheaply through sites like hotwire.com, where companies try to find renters for cars they have sitting around the lot. They advertise that they have cars for $7.00/ day. I spoke to someone who got a rental car in Burbank for $12/day. Of course with taxes and a Loss/Damage waiver, it becomes more expensive, but not prohibitively so.

This summer, when I was coming down to LA to shake the trees and promote the class, I got prices on cars that were in that ballpark. But recently, I noticed that the prices were starting to go up. Suddenly it became hard, to find cars for less than $40/day, though with a bit more searching it was still possible to find deals like $25/day.

This week, hotwire and carrentals were offering prices like $80/day for economy cars. I did still manage to find a cheaper one, but it took some doing.

I got into Burbank on my last trip and the dude from the Hertz office I sometimes rent from picked me up. This office is not the one in the airport, but it's in Burbank nearby. Their rates are much cheaper.

I had reserved an economy car at a $25/day base rate. He showed up to pick me up in a flashy SUV that is more fitting for a studio executive than a humble acting teacher. He told me that this was the car I would be driving, at the rate I had reserved. It was the only car they had left. It usually rents for about $90/day.

He said that the Hertz office at the airport was facing something unprecedented that day: they had 90 cars on the lot and 1,000 reservations. That's right, 1,000. So they had rented all the cars from the other local Hertz offices and local small business renters to try to meet the rental car tsunami.

Why, you ask? Why this surge in demand for rental cars at the airport, in the midst of what is being called the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression?

In two words, opportunistic pilgrimage. Tourism.

Because of the sorry financial situation in the US, it is a RIDICULOUSLY cheap vacation destination. And so they are flocking: Japanese, Koreans, Europeans of every stripe, Brazilians. You can find them all at the corner of Hollywood and Highland, looking at handprints of dead Hollywood celebrities in the concrete sidewalk.

One of the things I like about my LA sojourns is actually the driving. I don't have a car in SF, and on the whole, that works just fine. I get the occasional zipcar when I need to go to Trader Joe's or zip down to Stanford to see me dissertation advisor, and otherwise, I enjoy my green lifestyle and my panoramic city. But in LA, I have wheels and I feel 17 again. I love navigating the city, weighing freeways vs. surface streets, snaking through canyons, taking in the great cauldron of humanity that is the City of Angels.

And one of the great pleasures of this is listening to the radio. They actually have a commercial radio station here dedicated to indie rock, which I love. But with the election coming up, I am always listening to NPR.

I heard a story that seemed to recapitulate my experience at the rental car office: in someplace called Johnson County (I don't know where that is, unfortunately), it was being reported, as typical of a national trend, that food pantries, places you go to get a hot meal on the dole, are drying up, because no one is donating. The cavalry is riding to the rescue, though, not the government, but local thrift stores, which are in boom times like they have never seen. They were donating to the soup kitchens. In other words, people who usually donate food are hording it, and going to the thrift store to buy clothes, because they can't afford to shop at the Gap. The gigantic ebbs and flows in the free dinner and thrift store markets seemed to echo the surge in demand for tourist-mobiles in the rental car market I had heard about this morning in kind of an eerie way.

Oh, and the dude from the rental car company (cropped dark hair, stocky, sporting a tie but no jacket in the SoCal heat, wraparound shades reading a book about anthropology of religion) told me how the rental car companies would respond to the crisis. Would they respond by adding to the fleet of available cars? No, they would keep demand high by limiting supply, so they could continue to charge through the nose.

I hope we find our way out of this. But I think we better prepare the fan for the shit, all the same.

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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Howard Korder in New York

(This post is from the blog of the Mother of Invention Acting School in Los Angeles and San Francisco (www.utteracting.com): an acting class in Los Angeles San Francisco for serious, motivated students.)

In class, we do scenes from three plays each cycle. One writer whom we have worked on quite abit and who I like a lot is Howard Korder. The plays of his that we have worked on in the class are Search and Destroy, Sea of Tranquility, and Boys' Life.

This morning, I was enjoying my new jet-set lifestyle on glamorous Southwest airlines, on the way to the Southlands to teach my Wednesday evening class there, and I came across this review of a revival of Boys' Life at Second Stage in New York. (By the way, Second Stage is where Mark Brokaw, who is one of the creators of the approach I teach in the class cut his teeth in New York, before Yale and after, I believe).


While searching for the web version, I came across Frank Rich's review of the original review:

Original review

I think I prefer Frank Rich at his current occupation, political commentator, to him as a theater critic, but still, an interesting comparison.

The play was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize when it appeared. I think its a little too potent for hte Pulitzer crowd though.

I love Howard Korder. He has all of the verbal talents of David Mamet, but he's got more going on. His plays are less suffused with testosterone than Mamet's, although alpha swagger is a part of his palette. There is more room for thoughtfulness in his plays, less relentlessness. And he seems to have a penchant for loopiness or wackiness that Mamet lacks, to my mind. He leaves me wanting more, always.

Thanks Howard! Keep em coming!

Monday, October 20, 2008

video testimonials

(This post is from the blog of the Mother of Invention Acting School in Los Angeles and San Francisco (www.utteracting.com): an acting class in Los Angeles San Francisco for serious, motivated students.)

I have added a new feature to the Mother of Invention Acting School website:  video testimonials.

I continue to be incredibly happy with the type of students I attract.  I do want to attract more of them.  So it occured to me that it would be great to provide a way for my students to talk about the class and show them off at the same time.

Have a look:


I'll be adduing new ones on the regular.



Saturday, October 11, 2008


"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a

Iraq looks to theater for life

The LA Times published this piece about a play that audiences in Baghdad are braving the terrors of war to see:
the crowds keep coming, braving the city's frequent explosions and horizon of curling smoke.
It's a parody of Iraq's struggling political landscape called "Bring the King, Bring Him!"
"This is the boldest play in Iraq," he says. "It will make the politicians sensitive. You know, the role of the actor is no less important than the politician. My actors, literally, break through barricades to make life. That's honorable."
The company feels a great sense of urgency about helping to find a direction for the new nation:
"There is hope," he says. "But we Iraqis are passing through a critical point. There's patriotism, but a lot of chaos. . . . We need this change, yes, but the question is where will this situation take us? We don't want people saying, 'God bless the old days.' They were the worst days and we don't want Iraqis imagining that they were better than today. This can't happen."
We may be needing the theater in the way the Iraqis do one day soon.  

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