Friday, October 30, 2009

I Am The Master Of My Fate, I Am The Captain Of My Soul...

Alongside Martin McDonagh's The Pillowman and David Mamet's Glengarry Glen Ross, Arthur Miller's brilliant A View from the Bridge is my favorite play. Unfortunately, I've never acted in any of the aforementioned plays, although I have consistently used monologues from each of them for audition material throughout high school. I first read A View from the Bridge as required summer reading for Mr. Billy Dragoo's Theatre II class the summer before my sophomore year of high school. As soon as I read the play, I picked out a particular monologue by the antihero Eddie Carbone, which I would use early on during my sophomore year for an audition for The Lovesong of J. Robert Oppenheimer. Last fall, I performed the same monologue at the 2008 Texas Thespian Festival in Fort Worth, and advanced to the Nationals competition in Solo Acting.

I mention A View from the Bridge because the extraordinary play, more than ever, is appearing everywhere around me. First and foremost, I am using Miller's work as my narrative text for my latest critical essay, which is an assignment for my class Writing the Essay: Art and the World. Secondly, it was announced only a few days ago that a revival of A View from the Bridge will open on Broadway beginning December 28th, starring Liev Schreiber as Eddie Carbone and Scarlett Johansson as his niece Catherine. Even if these two terrific actors weren't attached to the production, I'd still be first in line to see the play (as I've yet to see a professional production of this particular Miller work, nor have I seen Sidney Lumet's 1962 film adaptation). Schreiber is an actor I admire tremendously both onstage and on-camera - he won a Tony Award in 2006 for his performance as Richard Roma in a revival of Mamet's Glengarry Glen Ross, and so naturally I can't wait to see what he does with Eddie Carbone.

This past Thursday evening, I once again used Eddie Carbone's signature monologue from A View from the Bridge - this time, to a large crowd at Third Avenue North. My performance was one of seventeen acts competing in Third North's Ultra Violet Live (UVL) talent competition, a talent show featuring musical acts, spoken word poetry, original songs, interpretive dancing, stand-up comedy, and my solo acting performance. I performed two contrasting monologues - one dramatic piece, from Miller's A View from the Bridge as Eddie Carbone, and one comedic piece, from Alan Ayckbourn's A Small Family Business as Jack. After the judges deliberated, I was thrilled to be named the Third North UVL Runner Up, coming in second place behind a musical act performed by freshman Phoebe Ryan. As it turns out, Phoebe and I both advanced to the English Speaking Union's National Shakespeare Competition back in April 2008, performing at Lincoln Center as two contestants out of sixty selected from the entire nation. I wish her the best of luck at the NYU-wide UVL competition in spring 2010; if for some reason she is unable to perform, I will take her spot. As it stands, I received a twenty-dollar iTunes gift certificate from the judges, so I'm just thrilled with my new music purchases.

Here's a random fact - only five years ago, in October 2004, freshman Stephani Gabriella Germanotta competed in Third North's Ultra Violet Live (UVL) talent competition, and placed first with a ballad from the musical Wicked. The following spring at the NYU-wide competition, she ended up placing second. Today she is known as musical artist Lady GaGa. I won't pretend to know much about Lady GaGa and her music, but I'm aware she's a popular artist.

Today, I pitched my original idea for a Radio Drama to my Sound Image class, where our final end-of-year projects are audio dramas under ten minutes in length. I was very lucky to have my Radio Drama idea selected for production, which is already underway. The script I presented for the Radio Drama is a piece of rewritten history involving the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, specifically a "what if" scenario imagining if Mrs. Jacqueline Kennedy, not JFK, was killed in Dallas by Lee Harvey Oswald. I'm working with a terrific four-person group on this project, including my good friend Morgan Block serving as Producer/Casting/Talent Coordinator, Andrew Griego as Lead Production Editor/Mixer, and Shaun Kim as Sound Engineer and SFX/Foley Coordinator. As the writer of the Radio Drama, I am serving as the Writer/Director/Co-Editor.

In the meantime, I am excitedly anticipating the upcoming Sunday performance of my original one-act play, The Certifiable, by Tisch New Theatre. Directed by Mark Galinovsky, the performance begins at 5:00 PM in the Tisch Common Room at 721 Broadway. Having attended a rehearsal this past Tuesday evening (and planning on watching another rehearsal tomorrow afternoon), I am really impressed with the acting and staging of the play.

In the spirit of Halloween, I ventured to the IFC Center with some other film students tonight to see Lars Von Trier's incredibly disturbing new film Antichrist, starring Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg as a married couple grieving the loss of a child. Von Trier, no stranger to disturbing subject matter and emotionally and physically exhausting his audience, has made an extremely controversial and effectively despairing film. At its core, Antichrist is an arthouse movie from start to finish. It's almost impossible to critique critically, because although the movie is brilliantly made and features incredible performances from Dafoe and Gainsbourg, there are scenes in this film that are as downright disturbing and shocking as anything I've ever seen. And, more importantly, it's rather unclear what Von Trier is even trying to say with this movie.

I admire Antichrist a great deal from a filmmaking perspective, but its not meant to be entertainment. Roger Ebert notes that the film must be applauded for so effectively evoking a sense of despair, and although I agree with him, I can't help but think that Antichrist is so intent on unsettling the audience that, ultimately, the movie doesn't come anywhere close to the emotional power of Von Trier's Breaking the Waves (1996). I think Von Trier is brilliant, and in its own very twisted way, Antichrist is brilliant, too. But I'll never watch it again.

Reading the October 19th issue of The New Yorker, I'm thrilled to find that John Lahr writes fondly of Michael Grandage's production of Hamlet, starring Jude Law. Later in the issue, David Denby writes on Lone Scherfig's An Education and, specifically, Peter Sarsgaard's great performance. I'll act as Mr. Sarsgaard's publicist briefly, providing a really great quote from Denby:

"It's been apparent for some time that Peter Sarsgaard is an actor of major talent waiting for a major role, and he almost gets one in An Education...I have a feeling Sarsgaard could have stretched the role a lot further if the script had allowed him to, but, still, what he does is surprising...Sarsgaard makes it seem as if David, out of need, desire, and strength - and weakness, too - were experiencing everything for the first time."

I'll close this entry with a poem, inspired by the recently released trailer of Clint Eastwood's Invictus, starring Morgan Freeman as South African President Nelson Mandela and Matt Damon as the South African rugby star vying for the World Cup. The film doesn't open until December, but upon seeing the trailer, I was excited to hear the words of William Ernest Henley's poem Invictus, which very well embodies Mandela's unconquerable soul in the face of imprisonment. The poem is one of several vocal warmups Mr. Billy Dragoo regularly asked The Red Dragon Players to recite before performing onstage, and so the words hold a special place in my heart. Here is Invictus.

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

William Ernest Henley

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