15 August, 2017

#LoveList - Stuff I Love (& actual use!) - BEAUTY

1. Bare Minerals @bareMinerals
I have been a loyal bareMinerals user for the better part of 15 years! I have tried alternatives, been taken up by the fancy of an alternative system, accepted samples and the used what makeup artists at work told me to use, but? BareMinerals will always be my first and my truest love. Like my high school boyfriend. Like that pair of pajamas bottoms I still wear from the 90s. No cheesy or nuanced metaphor could ever describe our love affair accurately.

Not only do I love the creamy, skin-defecting, breathable, and made from natural AF stuff formula, I also love what the company stands for—
“We're from San Francisco, surrounded by artists and innovators who inspire us to think differently, follow our gut instincts and to pour our heart and soul into everything we do.
We create products like no other brand, and we connect with women in ways that no other brand would dare. For over 35 years, we've built a community of strong, passionate women who have become customers—but more importantly—lifelong friends. We create innovative products that are powered by nourishing, skin-loving minerals. We formulate our products with purity in mind, so you can feel good about everything we make. We connect with women in deep meaningful ways because we've never been content with just making them look pretty, we want to make them feel beautiful. WE EXIST TO MAKE A POSITIVE DIFFERENCE IN WOMEN'S LIVES.”
Whatever. Weeping. It's fine.

Whether it be their original powder formula, their mineral veil, blush, warmth, or their new BBc creams and liquid foundations— I can’t get enough. If I ever met the founder, I’d probably have an Lansbury-like moment of explosive and tear-filled gratitude.



2. Clinique Black Honey lipstick - @clinique
Transparent pigment merges with the unique, natural tone of your lips to create something wonderful and yours alone. Sheer, glossy. Emollient-rich and very lightweight.

I would have never bought this product if it weren't for the initial buzz (and I never listen to buzz. In fact: I’m one of those contrarians that didn’t read Harry Potter til 2001 and refuses to watch Game of Thrones, etc.). The color looks extremely dark in the tube which is a little scary, but it is truly a lipstick like no other, something I just…had to try.

I ordered the darker color (there is also a light one called Pink Honey), slid it on and ANGELS SANG.

One coat. Build able. Sheer in an “I just ate a cherry popsicle” way. Soft and creamy. The color is PERFECT. (Incidentally, this was Tzeitl’s lip color of choice for her wedding day—so Clinque had some serious Broadway air time).

Way to go Clinique.




3. Mario Basescu Facial Spray -  @MarioBadescu

The Mario Badescu line of skincare is extensive and generally A+
“Mario Badescu had a vision to bring to New York City his European-style facials—and it was in 1967, out of his two-room Manhattan apartment, when the world-renowned salon and product line were born. News of his unique philosophy and loyal following (which included a star-studded roster of in-the-know New Yorkers) quickly spread and Badescu’s home-turned-studio flourished. Fifty years later, Mario Badescu is the name that continues to transcend generations and span the entire life-cycle of skin: from powerful acne solutions to potent anti-aging treatments, we customize regimens for every skin type and concern imaginable.”
All of that said, my favorite of their products is an absolute must-have, complete with my addicted-as-if-to-meth-like need to be facially spritzed by their Facial Spray with Aloe, Herbs and Rosewater. Cult-favorite. Makeup artist must-have. Revitalizes with dewy radiance.

Boosts moisture and glow. Smells like a freaking rose garden has exploded on your face. It's a rejuvenating mist infused with herbal and botanical extracts (like Aloe Vera, Gardenia, Rose, Bladderwrack and Thyme) that help soothe and re-energize skin—giving it a healthy, radiant glow.
I like to give my skin and makeup a fresh and dewy finish, so I spritz my favorite brush or sponge with this before blending in foundation or concealer. Then I mist my face as a final step to add radiance. I keep this in the fridge so it is nice and cool, and in the middle of the day (especially in summer!) I spray a super-refreshing, cooling boost.



4.  TIGI S FACTOR Tamer  and De-frizzer - @sfactorbytigi

As a life-long multi-textured hair diva, this has been the only product (and I. Have. Tried. Them. ALL) that consistently delivers my unruly hairs the sublime smoothness and a silky touch whilst Sir-Lancelot-level of defense against the Evil Sorcerer Humidity. This defrizzer and tamer fights humidity and moisturizes, and also serves as a heat protectant and frizz fighter by sealing the hair cuticle.
“Scientifically blended ingredients make this the perfect product for sleek, smooth, silky hair,
softening roughness and fighting humidity. Great for blow-drying smooth styles, Smoothing Lusterizer tames fly-aways and smooth’s the hair surface for a perfect finish.”
It also smells like Johnny Depp is french kissing you with a mouth full of Oreos. Or Scotch. Or whatever floats your fancy.


5. The BEAUTYBLENDER

Think all makeup sponges are created equal. Think again. The BeautyBlender is the ONLY makeup sponge out there that is worth the time of day.
“what makes the original beautyblender® so different?

the exclusive material
Super plush, moisture loving. Ensures makeup sits on the surface of sponge for smoother, more uniform blending.

the unique design
The original egg shape guarantees effortless blending in both small and large surface areas.

the look of perfect skin
360º of edgless, flawless application eliminates lines and streaks that other sponges & imitators leave behind.

minimum water retention
Open-cell structure only holds what is absolutely necessary for prime application performance.”

It’s design and material is utterly unique and the absolute perfect consistently to create a totally flawless finish, and in my opinion is peerless. I have every size and shape their products come in, and use them on stage and off.



6. NARS Velvet Matte Lip Pencil - @NARS
The result of a lipstick combined with the kindergarten-level convenience of a pencil in a jumbo crayon design.

The NARS Velvet Pencil ensures that lips are instantly saturated with rich, vivid pigments and a velvety matte finish.
"I wanted to create a modern way to wear a very classic matte lip. The creaminess of the texture makes them very easy to wear."—François Nars, Founder and Creative Director of NARS Cosmetics

The pigment is so rich and the color instantly saturates in a super-velvety matte finish. It is long lasting, non-drying, is enriched with magical unicorn tears or something to deliver the creamiest texture ever. You can use it for lining, all-over color, or pairing with another lip product.

The Countess exclusively used this product in Cruella (which appears to be discontinued— sad!). It’s my lipstick go-to.



14 August, 2017

Friends I Went to Summer Camp With: A List

CAMP.
Interlochen Arts Camp is located between two freshwater lakes in northern Michigan, and was the magical location of the majority of the lasting relationships I still cherish as an adult. 

Not everyone I met and be-friended is still in the arts, but most of them are kicking major butt, and all of them became the wonderful human beings they promised to become as children.

Summer arts camp is a funny thing—there you are, eleven years old an a total weirdo back home, and you get to spend 8 weeks with a handful of other weirdos just as passionate, talented, freakishly informed about a single art-form  as you are.

Three of those weirdos for me were:

THEN.
Alex Michaels, known today as Alexis Michelle of RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 9 fame. (SHE IS FEROCIOUS and go see her werk). Little baby Alex and I met the summer we were ten and eleven. He had braces. I had glasses.

The day we met, we were auditioning for the Intermediate summer operetta, and, had to audition in front of the entire group of fellow middle schoolers vying for a role. What I remember best was that Alex and I BOTH sang excerpts from Show Boat, geeked OUT over one another’s talent and a shared obsession with Rebecca Luker, and never looked back. He was my first “best gay” and I was his first “best gal.” (Incidentally, we were both cast in that operetta as the comedy sidekicks…)

Last month, we reunited on stage at 54 Below, singing together once again, celebrating 20 years of friendship that all began in the Northern woods.
NOW.


Then.
Santino Fontana was my first ever scene partner! We met the summer of 1999 in ADVANCED ACTING TECHNIQUE (faaancy), and what I recall above all else is that
     1. The scene was a John Patrick Shanley classic that I only now realize as probably mildly inappropriate for teenagers
     2. We were REALLY into it and dare I say it, kind of good, and
     3. We performed our scene n what, at the time, was a very advanced form of communication called THE INTERNET. That’s right, we performed our scene and got feedback VIA SATELLITE for, of all people, Matthew Broderick.

I followed Santino to college (even though I had to leave the program to grieve the loss of my Dad) and he’s been one of my friends and artistic allies ever since. We’ve been there through epic highs and lows throughout all of adolescence and life. From the

Santino is not only (to quote his wife Jessica) "a unicorn" of talent, to his family and friends, he is the absolute loyalest man I know—unflinchingly, with all of his heart. When we made our Carnegie Hall debuts together in 2013, it had been a roller-coaster couple of years for both of us, and what a triumph. We'd "practiced." And above all, it was pretty special to realize that we’ll always just be those kids from Advanced Acting Tech.
At our shared Carnegie Hall debuts in 2013



THEN. ...Holy Moly.
Michael Arden and I met the same summer, and he was also in that Advanced Acting Technique class (that class was… obviously… fairly promising…). We instantly bonded, singing together at every opportunity, joined at the hip as budding artists and humans. The inside-jokes are countless.

Michael and I met at camp, but our friendship deepened and was made permanent when we went to the yearlong academy— we literally did almost every show opposite one another (he was the Charlie Brown to my Lucy, the Georg to my Amalia, etc).

Michael and I have both been through our share of tough stuff early on in life, and our families became very close as we grew up. His grandfather, Jim, wrote me a letter he handed me at high-school graduation. This deeply feeling, but very quiet Texan wrote that seeing Michael and I together on stage were "the happiest moments of my life" and that "it is the dream of my life to see you together on Broadway someday."

Well.

I was there for Michael's Broadway debut, he was there for mine. And last year, when we were both in the same season on Broadway, I was one of his guests at the opening night of Spring Awakening, and he was one of mine at Fiddler on the Roof.

Jim's dream came true. If only he, his wife Pat, and my father could have been there to witness it. That said, they were. They are a part of everything Michael and I are, and do; and because they gave us the gift of Interlochen, they gave us the gift of one another.

For Michael is, without exception, the artist with whom I credit with forming my capacity early on. Like a chess or tennis player who had the world’s best opponent to make their skills all the sharper, acting opposite Michael constantly made me better, and I owe everything I am today to that start. 

2016, Opening Night of Fiddler: a shared Broadway Season. Dream come true.

Camp. Magical.



07 August, 2017

from 'on optimism and despair', by zadie smith

"If novelists know anything it's that individual citizens are internally plural: they have within them the full range of behavioral possibilities. they are like complex musical scores from which certain melodies can be teased out and others ignored or suppressed, depending, at least in part, on who is doing the conducting. at this moment, all over the world-- and most recently in america-- the conductors standing in front of this human orchestra have only the meanest and most banal melodies in mind. here in germany you will remember these martial songs; they are not a very distant memory. but there is no place on earth where they have not been played at one time or another. those of us who remember, too, a finer music must try now to play it, and encourage others, if we can, to sing along."

-Zadie Smith, from 'On Optimism and Despair'

 A beautiful, brilliant piece I implore you to read.


01 August, 2017

Stage-door-ing: A Guide

Dear Al,

Any tips or things to keep in mind when a fan wants to meet a performer they admire at the stage door? I've heard both wonderful and horrible stories and I want to be the best kind of "fan" I can be! 

Thank you,

Jessica

*

What a FAN-TASTIC question! So thoughtful and something very few people every discuss at length. I am so happy to provide a little insight into what it feels like on both sides of the stage door experience!

When you are a professional actor, singer, artist, speaker, performer, noted person of any kind, you often meet strangers that have been influenced and affected by your work. There are many kinds of “stage door” experiences, some beyond beautiful, some verging on the inappropriate, and some downright upsetting.

It should be noted that most are wonderful, but just in case you are ever in fear of crossing a line, it might be helpful to lay out some helpful hints about what it feels like to be on the other side of the exchange, and hopefully encourage more positive and meaningful encounters, and lessen the chance of a cringe-able moment for all. :)


I want to begin with a recognition: it is, without a doubt, a privilege beyond imagining to be any kind of human "of note." If a fellow human feels the desire for an autograph, a photograph, or any moment of time with me, I continue to be honored, and, frankly, slightly in shock. Why? Because I don't feel particularly remarkable. Especially when I sit at home pretending that "putting on my bathrobe" is "getting dressed," watching crime drama with my cat, on my sofa in Queens. But hey: I recognize and respect that being a public performer comes with certain visibility, perceptions, honors, and also, sacrifices. It is all part of the gig.

Ruthie Henshall, West End star and creme-de-la-creme of singing actors, taught me at the very beginning of my career that being generous with people at stage door is "Act 3" of our job—and I believe that. That, if a fan is brave enough to come up and thank you for your work (and perhaps even express what you mean to them); that, despite a long day of life-giving, energy-draining performance, those audience members have earned that extra 5-10 minutes post-show. Everyone has earned it. It is courteous, generous and rewarding from, and for, both parties.


Some of my most beautiful encounters in the theatre have been experienced after a performance with extraordinarily generous people, sometimes young hopefuls that remind me of my younger self, and others simply filled with emotion, gratitude and lifelong memories.

When I was a young theatre-goer, I came to see my first Broadway shows at 14—it was the 1998 Broadway season and my eyes were full of stars and my ears full of show-tunes. Audra MacDonald, Rebecca Luker, Douglas Sills, Judy Kaye, Donna Murphy, Patti Cohenour, Marin Mazzie— they were my idols and role models and dare I even say it? In a certain way, my saviors. I was spending every single day with "them" as their voices and vulnerabilities blazed through my stereo system in metro-Detroit.

I respected, adored, and felt grateful to them, but I was also quite shy, and could never in a million years have built up the courage to thank them in person for the gifts they had given me. I would have melted down in a puddle of “I-don’t-deserve-to-breathe-the-same-oxygen-as-this-human” incomprehensibility; rendered incapable of articulating what they meant to me, what they had given me, let alone kept it vaguely together long enough to avoid asphyxiating on my own tongue.

All of this is to say: I think about 14-year-old Al whenever I meet someone at stage door, because they could be feeling just like I did.

Perhaps you, dearest readers, can’t entirely imagine how ordinary I feel when I come out of a stage door. Often times I'm thinking “Did I fully remove my makeup / I have to find some food / check on my cat’s Instagram / call my pharmacist / I wonder if my mother made her connecting flight in Atlanta yadda yadda yadda” …BUT I DO. I’m an "all-grown up" version of that 14-year-old girl  who might never be able to believe this is her life.

So I recognize now, that Rebecca Luker likely felt the same way about herself. (Just, ya know, without wondering about her cat’s Instagram...) All of my idols were (and still are) just people: normal, talented people going to work; and when they had the wherewithal, they were happy to greet fans at stage door because they couldn’t believe this was their life…

I don’t know when we become like our role models, but oh dear reader, we do. I still can't believe people even vaguely know who I am. In fact, this week at Yankee Stadium while supporting my Detroit Tigers (we won), a sweet fan and her Dad came up to me and said Hi, we got a picture, and I followed up by asking her how the heck she knew who I was. (I'm clearly... a total Pro...). 

Hopefully, as we grow, we can open ourselves to the realization that none of us are gods; that even our idols are people, and that we can respect the fact that authenticity is all that is required to make a meaningful connection with a person you admire.

I have had stage door experiences that have been touching, meaningful, and moving—I will hold them in my heart for the rest of my life. And, I've also had some stage door experiences that have been really challenging.

Know this: what lies within the confines of our inner-most selves is not only where an artist's best and most authentic work comes from, but it is also ours, to both defend and share at our own pace, and at a level of comfort that feels appropriate for us. We also have the right to change our minds, to retreat if we sense danger, to be discerning. And, we have the right to not engage for any reasons we deem fit, particularly if the work on stage is at risk (such as in terms of rest, energy, germs, rest, etc). You have purchased a ticket to the performance, and that price tag does not include meeting the cast outside stage door. It is not a requirement, and should not be perceived of negatively if the actors wish to decline their participation.

We have rights—just like everyone else on earth, for again, we are also human beings trying to figure it all out too. I truly mean this: no matter how remarkable you may deem someone to be, at essence we are all souls striving to grow, to heal, learn, and be better versions of who we are every moment.

Social media (and the media at large) has in many ways warped our sense of what it means to "share." Even the words "friend" and "follower" have become warped by this phenomenon. In my own, introverted and very privately held life, I define a friend as: one who has borne witness to, and held, my inner life. I will not allow that definition to be exploded by Facebook. But it would be irresponsible to ignore the very blurry lines surrounding the word "friend" in our society. A “follower” on the other hand, feels slightly clearer—I do not follow your comings and goings, but you choose to follow mine. That feels appropriate, and like the boundaries are clear. Above all, remember this: never confuse friendLY, for freindSHIP.

Still. Confusing.


Dearest theatre goers, television watchers and fans of all kinds: those you admire are human beings too. We have limitations, emotions, off-days and downright bad days. We have previously arranged appointments, we have beloved family and friends visiting. We get sick. Sometimes very sick, and have to disappoint people, which is, believe me, heart-wrenching.


But above all, we too have very real vulnerabilities and basic rights to any privacy we deem to be appropriate for ourselves. Those boundaries are self-set and deeply personal; and everyone, no matter who they are or what they do, has a right to maintain those boundaries and be respected for it.


SOME TIPS:
     - Come prepared!
     - Bring a pen!(Preferably a Sharpie or other permanent marker)
     - Have the playbill/ poster/CD/autograph book facing the performer, not facing you. It will expedite the process. 
     - Have the camera open, prepped, and the photographer ready-to-go.
     - Have a special request? Just ask! But also be prepared for a “no” if the performer  is unable or unwilling to accommodate your request, and be gracious about it.
     -  Keep your comments authentic, but be brief. Remember that there are other patrons, and that we have to get home (to our famous cats
     -  Remember that friendLY is not friendSHIP: these performers are strangers, and not your actual friends (however friendLY they may be!)
     -  Meeting the cast at stage door post show is not included in the price of admission. Be compassionate and gracious if performers decline to engage.


The last thing I want to do is frighten anyone away from sharing their joy, from expressing their gratitude and laughter, getting a fun photo or above all, those sacred, deeply felt moments that can only be shared in a theatre.

I simply urge you to be discerning, and recognize what you are asking of strangers. Above all, to remember that performers are people too.

The first stage door I walked through as a working actor: London's Palace Theatre

31 July, 2017

'Nihilist Password Security Questions' by Soheil Rezayazdi

What is the name of your least favorite child?

In what year did you abandon your dreams?

What is the maiden name of your father’s mistress?

At what age did your childhood pet run away?

What was the name of your favorite unpaid internship?

In what city did you first experience ennui?

What is your ex-wife’s newest last name?

What sports team did you fetishize to avoid meaningful discussion with others?

What is the name of your favorite canceled TV show?

What was the middle name of your first rebound?

On what street did you lose your childlike sense of wonder?

When did you stop trying?

©Nihilist Bunnies

13 July, 2017

#LoveList - Stuff I Love (& actually use!) - HEALTH

1. OIL OF OLBAS
I discovered Oil of Olbas within my first few days of drama school— my Voice teacher (spoken Voice teacher extraordinaire, Jean Moore) casually mentioned Oil of Olbas like it was as ordinary as cabbage and… I had never heard of it. What was this magical oil? Where did it come from? What was it used for? Jean Moore’s voice was so hypnotizing and her RP so immaculate and and and and “Oiiiil of Ollllbaaaas” whatever. I needed it.

I promptly reported to the CHEMIST, and purchased my first beautiful glass vial of the product that would thereafter be the product (before it was widely available in the USA) that I would beg my British friends to buy and bring to me in bulk, perpetuating our own personal Oil of Olbas drug cartel. What? No shame.

This product is that trans-formative. Okay okay so what the heck is it?
“This 100% pure essential oil formula has been a European household favorite for almost 100 years. Applied to the body, Olbas Oil naturally increases circulation at the surface of the skin, opening up the pores and providing a warm feeling of relief in muscles and joints. But Olbas is also an inhalant; it readily diffuses into the air, providing extraordinary relief and sensory benefits to nasal and bronchial areas, cooling and invigorating dry, inflamed nasal passages due to colds, allergies, sinusitis, and hay fever.
Benefits of Olbas Oil. Inhalation: Olbas Oil is a completely natural essential oil formula that delivers invigorating and soothing sensations to the nasal and bronchial areas. Massage: Applied to the body, Olbas Oil tends to stimulate circulation at the surface of the skin.

    •    Instant Relief from colds, Sinus & Allergies
    •    Massage on Aches & Pains for a Warm Feeling of Relief
    •    Powerful Olbas Formula contains only Pure Essential Oils and?
    •    Cruelty-Free”
I am prone to sinus infections (partially my auto-immune disease, partially my small skull—years ago I would say I used to get one infection per month!) and only Oil of Olbas could relieve immediate symptoms before I had to turn to medicine. I have subsequently gotten he whole sinusitis thing under control, don’t you worry, reader. It appears to be “pricey” for the size of the bottle, but a little goes a long way and it is well worth the investment for the preventative and almost miraculous healing properties.

I use it in every single bath I run (I add a few drops to the bath water and mix with epsom salts for the ultimate detox/relaxation before bed), then if I am feeling “stuffy,” I rub a few dots into my temples, on my nostrils (if needed), on my chest and throat (my sinus infections always give me swollen glands), and sometimes if I’m really feeling frisky, I’ll dabble a few drops on my pillow to just be totally surrounded in European herbal voodoo. (CAUTION! KEEP AWAY FROM YOUR EYES! YOU WILL INSTANTLY REGRET IT AND WANT TO GO BACK IN TIME!)

It is also the only thing I will ever use to muscular pain. I mix several drops in with lotion to help with absorption, and within 10-15 minutes the blood is circulating, your muscles are relaxing and the pain has markedly diminished.

I am also a huge fan of the Olbas PASTILLES, which I exclusively use while singing, if I am making singing sounds, you can guarantee there is literally, always one in my cheek.

Last year, I got Samantha Massell (my Hodel on Broadway, and roomie of @dressingroom51, duh!) HOOKED on the stuff, and we got so enthusiastic Olbas got in touch with Samantha (because she’s just one of those people who gets lots of free stuff? You know those people?) and they sent us a GIANT box of goodies from the Olbas line I had NEVER even heard of!  Inhalers! Diffusers! Tea! Cough syrup?!  Who knew?

I am so happy they are in the USA now, and so are my generous criminal British drug cartel pals who no longer have to smuggle the stuff into the Land of the Free for their crazy friend.

Olbas? ....Will you MARRY ME?


2. The NUTRIBULLET 
Despite the fact that the founder /inventor/guru guy of NutriBullet is a little MUCH, wears a lot of crystals and has an intensity that sort of scares me: THE GUY INVENTED A MACHINE OF PURE GENIUS. Sorry

Okay okay I get it.  “A blender is a blender” right? Wrong.
This little guy is compact, simple to assemble and clean, and does not merely “mush up” the food you put in, but has one-of-a-kind technology that extracts the nutrient ingredients on a cellular level, so you get the absolute most out of every single scrap of food you put into your body— every vitamin, booster and delicious taste.
“The Creators of Nutrient Extraction
What truly sets NutriBullet apart from the rest is its incredible extraction abilities. The NutriBullet is the original nutrient extractor, transforming ordinary foods into extraordinary nutrition. With its exclusive Bullet cyclonic action, specialized blades and powerful motor, the NutriBullet converts whole vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, and other superfoods into exceptional liquid fuel for your body. To get the most out of your life, you need to get the most out of your food.”
That makes it the ideal tool for health-conscious people (like myself) who are looking to efficiently fuel our busy and energetic lives.

Also, as a Paleolithic eater (briefly: meaning I eat a LOT of organic fruits and vegetables), the NutriBullet is the most incredible way to fuel myself in the morning. My day begins with my cup of tea ritual (in my adorable and perfect tea pot given to me by Lara Pulver thankyouverymuch), followed by a NutriBullet delight with a base of green veggies. My auto-immune disease means I am almost always fighting anemia, so starting my day with “nutrient extracted” leafy greens is ideal.

Power through the weirdo infomercial and buy it, or, just save yourself the creep-fest and go to their website and buy it today.

PS. Oh yeah. Also? Dear Nutri-bullet, Sorry but you reeeallllly need a new infomercial and I’ll totally do it for you if you want.



3. ALKOLOL

GAME CHANGER ALERT! I had been using a Net Pot for years, and enjoying the slightly squeemy but totally refreshing sinus-cleaning system from days of yore. But when Alkolol was introduced to the regime? KAPOW. It was a new dawn. The natural formula made entirely of herbal magic stuff, takes the level of cleansing and clearing up to the next level. Breathe free EVERMORE!
“Alkalol is a unique blend of natural ingredients developed over 100 years ago as a nasal wash and mucus solvent. Today it still provides drug-free relief from nasal congestion and irritation caused by sinusitis, allergies, colds and post-nasal drip. And it helps dissolve mucus and clear blocked nasal passages. During nasal irrigation and while using the Alkalol Nasal Wash Cup, the Alkalol mixture flows through your sinuses clearing irritants such as dust and pollen. It also helps improve overall nasal hygiene by preventing mucus from gathering in your sinuses where it can become the breeding ground for bacteria.”
According to the Journal of Family Practice, “Daily hypertonic saline nasal irrigation improves quality of life, decreases symptoms and decreases medication use in patients with frequent sinusitis.”

It is formulated to be used as often as needed (I use a small amount in my Neti Pot daily as a preventative measure and to maintain sinus hygiene, but even more when I feel a cold coming on.) If you have chronic sinusitis or are an allergy sufferer who is increasingly looking to over-the-counter and prescription drugs, Alkalol should be added to your health regime. In fact, buy it in bulk.



4. ACZONE
So secret: I do not have perfect skin.
Oh WAIT? You too? Whaddya know. No-one really does. It's okay.

My skin-perfections have come in the form of what is called cystic acne (acne that never really comes to a head, but lingers under the skin in large and painful cysts—ouch!) and it was totally the pits until I found ACZONE.
And then?
OH. MAH. GAH.
Clear skin. Full Hearts. Can’t Lose.

Aczone cleared my skin in about 10 days and I’ve never gone back. I should do their commercial. I want to. I want to make a YouTube video and explain in depth how painful and isolating acne can be even as an adult, and how our faces is what we all present to world, what is perceived of by others, not just performers! This product is the only thing that ever brought me consistent results, and it more than cleared my skin, it cleared my psychology regarding my Self. That’s powerful stuff, and it is can’t be purchased in a bottle.

Aczone actually has a new formula that you only have to use once a day (whereas previously you used it twice), so is even more convenient than before.  It is very affordable (there are also a lot of fantastic coupons available online if you are paying out of pocket), it lasts forever, is fragrance free, smooth-as-silk and basically perfect.

This is of course, a prescription medication that you can only be prescribed by a doctor, but if your skin plagues YOU, ask your doctor and I wish you the best with your skin journey. We only get one skin! It is invaluable to care for it with love.


Happy health you all!

10 July, 2017

Adult-ing - Part 6

Dorothy girl: delegate!
1.  Delegate.
When it comes to tackling big projects, you can try to do everything yourself and have an aneurysm or…not! Why not? Because you can also choose to reach out and find the right people to help you— sometimes people that are (gasp) even better at certain tasks than you are. The former will raise your blood pressure; the second choice will raise your effectiveness.

Someone else always knows how to help.  Find and engage them.

Example: remember that episode of Golden Girls where the ladies want a fancy new toilet, and decide that the best way forward is to read a giant book on plumbing, then install the toilet themselves? Yeeeeah. Through a series of (hilarious) mishaps, they ultimately end up calling a professional plumber, who has to charge them even more than he would have in the first place, to not only install the toilet, but to clean up their DIY plumbing mess. …This is obviously a fictional example, but, you all know how I love a show about senior citizens, and also, it is an apt metaphor.

I am not a bad business woman, but I’m certainly a better singer than I am at talking about money. That’s… why I have agents and mangers. I delegate the business talk to them so I can do the stuff I am best at! Additionally, if your website is suddenly having glitches with a new web browser, why read a giant book on web design? Delegate. Hire a professional web designer. Just do it. Don't hem and haw, don't worry about the cost. Think of the Golden Girls and their giant plumbing bill.

See every stressful problem as an opportunity to delegate. You’ll get great results, and you won’t grow a tumor. Life is trying to teach you that most long-term, worthy endeavors are team efforts, and if you think about it, so much more palatable when shared with others.  Every unexpected tension in life is a lesson in disguise, especially solvable with the right team of people.


2.  Know your “Myths.” 
There is a popular phrase in contemporary psychology: “TELLING YOURSELF A STORY” or “WRITING A STORY.” What does that mean, exactly? I am not a psychologist, but I personally define this phrase thus: that it is not necessarily what factually happens to us, but how we choose to interpret and psychologically take on what happens to us, that defines our experience of life. “Writing stories” is a term that gives a name to why and how some people with terrible childhoods live forever in victim-hood, and others overcome the mindset and can even end up experiencing extraordinary gratitude for their adversities, if they even view them as adversities at all! It is not the facts, it is the manner in which we approach, interpret, internalize and identify with those facts.

I like this term, but in my own life, and in my teaching, I use an alternative: “Know Your Myths.” Why do I alter this? Firstly, the word myth insinuates instantly that the story is in some way not to be entirely trusted as fact, but is allegorical, and absolutely up for interpretation, like the mythic tales of yore. Second, I like that the term “myth” insinuates something ancient and older-than-humanity— something of great significance to be addressed and not ignored. If you were bullied as a youth, outright ignoring that adversity is not evolved— addressing, processing, and truly moving forward from the adversity, IS.

In her brilliant book Rising Strong, Dr Brené Brown says whole-hearted lives have the goal to “rise from our falls, overcome our mistakes , and face hurt in a way that brings more wisdom and wholeheartedness into our lives.” I shall regurgitate her wisdom here, but only because it is peerless and can’t be bettered so why try? (Now do yourself a favor and go binge-watch her videos and buy her books.)

Brené Brown’s process includes 3 elements:
    •    The Reckoning.  Recognize emotion, and get curious about our feelings and how they connect with the way we think and behave.
    •    The Rumble.  Get honest about the stories we’re making up about our struggle, then challenge these confabulations and assumptions to determine what’s truth, what’s self-protection, and what needs to change if we want to lead more wholehearted lives.
    •    The Revolution.  Write a new ending to our story based on the key learnings from our rumble and use this new, braver story to change how we engage with the world and to ultimately transform the way we live, love, parent and lead.
But knowing your myths is an not only an important part of being a healthy human being, it is an important part of self-identity. In my own personal narrative, for example, I know that my father passing away when I was 18 is a fact, I have long moved into the acceptance phase of the grieving process, but? My myth is that I shall, no matter what, always in some way be an 18-year-old whose father has died. I will always be a fatherless daughter interpreting the world through that specific lens. Okay, that is the truth: I can't change it. Thus, knowing that, without getting all in a wah wah waaaahhhh tizzy victim-mode about it, owning that myth and making space for it is a responsible part of being in the world.

Haven’t you ever walked into a film or play or started reading a book, only to discover that the subject matter was WAY too close to your own life for personal comfort? If you’d known your myths going in, you might approach engaging with that piece differently, all of which can have a positive effect.

Everyone has myths. They must be incorporated in to who we become, not extracted, dissolved, or ignored, Knowing your myths means you can plan around and benefit from them—the way one would with anything else. If you know you are an introvert that prefers quiet holidays to jam-packed adventurous ones, you book a peaceful event-less retreat in the country, not a trip to Tokyo Disney. If you broke your ankle as a kid, and it still gives you a little trouble, you know going in to a day walking around the city to bring your walking shoes. We must know, and work with our myths just like anything and everything else. 


3.  See the world.
There are plenty of things one can gain from exploring different places. When you start exploring new places, you get a better understanding of the people living there including their culture, history and background, but you also get to know yourself— how you specifically fit into a pluralistic worldview, and it can both alter and strengthen your beliefs and values.


Further, studies show that traveling can improve your overall health and enhance your creativity. Therefore, it is recommended that you need to take time out from your daily tasks, office responsibilities, hectic schedule and everyday pressures at least once in a year. You don’t have to actually travel a geographic distance— there are plenty of cultural opportunities in our own backyards— sometimes just across town! Plan a tour with an open schedule and let life present you with the numerous opportunities that are waiting for you.

Travel improves social and communication skills, helps you get original and creative thoughts, boosts up your confidence, provides you with a real-life education, enhances your tolerance for uncertainty, and broadens your horizons.

You’ll realize how little you actually knew about the world, you’ll make new friends,  you’ll appreciate your home more, realize your “home” is much more than the place you grew up, and you might even find a new purpose, and create lifelong memories.


4.  Kindness is the supreme intelligence.
Kindness is one thing we all have the ability to share. It’s free, it feels great, and it’s within our control. Yet it asks a lot of us— it requires us to suspend our own selfishness, our primal instinct to survive over another species, it requires discipline, empathy, compassion, and above all, it requires us to suspend our sociological apathy. Thus, it is precisely this sacrifice of our laziness and judgements that proves kindness is the supreme intelligence. When you are kind, and engage with Kindness as a daily practice (like any other kind of practice from yoga to meditation to baseball), you not only feel the world as a more beautiful place, but you are provided with evidence that it is. Kindness breeds kindness in return. So says Jesus, Martin Luther King, The Buddha, Karma and ya know, PHYSICS. So dig a little deeper, suspend your jerk mode, put away your middle finger and be nice. Give it a try. It certainly can’t hurt.

Countless scientific studies, newspaper articles, religious texts, and self-help books have tried to help us become kinder people, but how often do we really put that advice into actual practice? We've all heard popular sayings like, “Do unto others” and “Do not judge another until you have walked a mile in their shoes.” Here are some actionable tips to take these tropes and sentiments, and literally apply them to our daily lives.

- Open your eyes - notice where Kindness is in need!

- Offer help. Once you’ve kept your eyes open for people in need (or even is not especially for people who are just being jerks because they are frustrated) and say “Can I Help You?” It is amazing what can come from interactions like this. (In fact, the other day I guided a lovely blind man from the D to the E train at the labyrinth that is West 4th Street station, and it made MY day!)

- Smile. So easy.

- Walk a mile in their shoes. There are always people who bother us and situations we try to avoid due to our selfishness. What if we had to do their job? Could we be kinder to them in the future?

- Don’t beat yourself up. Self-kindness is, ya know, also  thing.

- Confront yourself. Um...are you a jerk face? Do you have pedestrian or road rage or react rather than respond? If so, and you don’t like the effect this negativity has on your life— deal with it! What ever you need to do from getting a mantra to getting some rage therapy. Commit to Kindness!

- Kill 'em with kindness. As a woman who has recently dealt with some SERIOUS hospital rigamarole: Let. Me. Tell. You. You throw honey at the poor receptionists who are being yelled at all day? They’ll do anything for you. Even though I was frustrated as hell with the situation, I never lost my temper, and I made certain the people helping me felt appreciated when they finally did help me. Ever since I took that little bit of extra energy to make the hospital staff feel seen and appreciated, they gave me the same back in spades.

- Be kind to Auntie Em - Why do we always seem to neglect the people who we are closest to? Select one special person in your life who you might constantly neglect and do something especially kind for them.

- Pay it forward. “Paying” doesn’t necessarily mean financially, but energetically! That said, if you do have a little cash to spare, is just so easy to add an extra dollar to that tip when the service really is great, or to buy a stranger a coffee. But energetically, it is absolutely free to pay it forward with your heart: to take 3 minutes to speak meaningfully with the homeless man who just wants to talk, or to hold a door, help someone with a heavy suitcase on a stairwell, take a photo for a family of tourists (so they whole family can be in it!), or to compliment an outfit to a stranger on the street. I try to consciously do one of these at least once a day. It has changed my life.

Give these a try. I’d love to know how they go.


5.  Ladies always curtsy.
Trevor Nunn taught me that, so it must be true. I recall so vividly the first time we staged the curtain call of The Woman in White, and I instinctively curtsyed, and he shouted “GOOD GIRL!” from the back of the house. Then, explained later, that ladies always curtsy, and that he was pleased to know I was a natural lady.


6.  Nothing stays in Vegas.
Trust. This is coming from a woman who dated a cirque clown. …Trusssst.


Read More:

Adult-ing - Part 1
Adult-ing - Part 2
Adult-ing - Part 3
Adult-ing - Part 4
Adult-ing - Part 5

Yay Adult-ing!




02 July, 2017

NPR: All Things Considered



July 1, 2017, 5:34 PM ET
Heard on All Things Considered
Michel Martin

If you know any musicals at all, then you probably know the beloved Fiddler on the Roof. It tells the story of the dairy man Tevye and his family, and it's set in the town of Anatevka in czarist Russia. 

In the musical, and second eldest daughter, Hodel, makes the bold decision to leave her family and everything she knows to find her fiancé, who has been sent to a labor camp in Siberia. As she boards the train, Hodel says to her father, "God alone knows when we shall see each other again." 

That's how Hodel's story ended — until now. Actress and author Alexandra Silber has written a sequel to Fiddler on the Roof called After Anatevka. Silber played Hodel in a West End production of Fiddler on the Roof, and she also played Hodel's sister Tzeitel on Broadway. She says, "My journey with Fiddler began as a sophomore in high school when I gave the world my Golde, who was the mother of the family. So I've always, always loved this story." 

Silber is also Jewish and a descendant of people from the Pale of Settlement, the only part of czarist Russia where Jews were allowed to live. She says Fiddler on the Roof has "always been a very personal story, but also a very universal one." 
With unending thanks to Matthew Schwartz.

30 June, 2017

“The New Colossus” by Emma Lazarus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”


27 June, 2017

"She Enters The Room" from After Anatevka in Concert

Ryan Silverman
"She Enters the Room" from AFTER ANATEVKA in CONCERT

based on the novel AFTER ANATEVKA read and written by Alexandra Silber

Music by Joe Thalken
Lyrics by Joseph Amodio

Performed by Ryan Silverman (Dmitri)


*
Chapter 44: The Book of Dmitri

    Dmitri Pavlovich Petrovsky had been born with twines of music lodged tight about his heart.  Like a rusted barbed-wire, it clutched at him and the harder he struggled, the deeper the barbs would cut.  The wounds festered, encased in the pus of his dead imagination. 

    Coming from a family of folk musicians in a city as bright as Petersburg made no difference whatsoever to a boy so innately fraught by the simultaneous demands and admonitions of a world in which he felt he did not belong. Depression blanketed the boy from the time he could remember, though his family was quick to dismiss it all as “family flair” or “histrionics.”
    “Mityushka!” They cried, “Nyezh-naya Mitya!” They did not, they could not, know what to do with him. Nor did he know what to do with himself.

    Dmitri’s personage had always been a shroud of mystery—broad shoulders hunched over a lanky body as if to protect the heart that ached within. His face beautiful, but tender and surrounded by a mop of dark, messy curls. Large expressive hands with long fingers worked up into fists plunged deep within his pockets, or else wringing, itching to be used to play his cello. His small but ferociously intelligent eyes held all the world at arms length, shielded further by the spectacles he’d worn since childhood. 

    If the truth of a man lies within him, then it stands to reason one might then be able to simply open him up and grasp at that truth the way one carves into a carcass to extract the tenderest cuts of meat.
    But there are certain men whose inner truths are far too delicate, and whose constitutions far too strong to penetrate. In such a case, one must simply wait for the truth within to creep out of its own accord, like a creature that may break apart if pressure is put upon it. Perhaps it was so with Dmitri.
    But how could the shackled heart, and the poetry that mocked within him; how could the stench of fear,  the cacophonous clamor of uncertainty, and the darkened depths of spirit; how could any of it ever be expressed?

    It was the cello, in the end, that set him free. That gave him peace. Inside the chords and notes and arches of melody, he found an expanse of space where all of what he longed to be could fit— that unnameable, unknowable self.
    He tagged along, of course, to play in the city venues with his family— folk songs soared and crowds cheered as his father lead with accordion, his mother on balalaika and sisters on violins.
He was grateful to his family for the instrument itself (handed down from his grandfather), and for the ability to play it. But his family, however musical, could not hear his music at all.

*

    Once in Nerchinsk, no cold, no labor, no punishing treatment, no single thing could mar him more than the love that raged within his breast for her. The love he felt but could not utter, which he knew with every scrap of his being to belong not to him, but to the only man he admired, the man he respected above all others. If only he could say what everyone already knew to be true.

    Everyone, that is, but her.

    He felt that ancient barbed twine unravel itself and come between them, it lodged itself into Hodel without her knowledge, and once enmeshed it yanked and ripped at his already riled heart, and made it throb in agony. One moment he would revel in her scent, the next he could weep with guilt.

    When together, the three of them were such a happy triangle. But Dmitri recognized he was the  hypotenuse in a shape perfectly right without him—an attachment, not at all unlike a third wheel on a cart— excessive, unnecessary for it to function, but somehow with its presence the entire structure had better balance. Countless times he nearly spoke, nearly moved to kiss her; Tell her! His mind bawled, Take her in the arms you know were designed to enfold her within them! But every time, he thought of what would happen if he did. Crippled by loneliness, fear penetrated his love—the alchemical result was aloofness. Or often, viciousness.

    He knew that he could never be alone with her without wanting desperately to touch her. Could not touch her without wanting to posses her, to make her his own. So he barely spoke to her at all. He would waste his life away beholding a painting upon the wall of a locked house he would never be allowed to enter…

There was nothing to be done.
Nothing he could do but play, of course.
Every strand of aching music, every forlorn concerto, for her. 

*


20 June, 2017

ASK AL: Best Acting Books

Dear Al,

What are some standard acting books everyone should read?

David S. ‏


*

Dear David,

Wonderful question!

Of course acting books, like all books, are very subjective. Sometimes one can read a certain book and get very little out of it, whilst someone else can read the exact same book and have their perspective changed forever.

The lesson – you have to peruse them all.

Often, the exact same person can return to a text at a different place in their life, and have a mind-explosion they could not have had when they first picked a text up. Life is like that—I’ve had books be “blah” in college that changed my life in adulthood, or sometimes even just understood completely new things I was not privy to internally in the previous version of my self that resonates more distinctly in my present.

Because The Art of Acting is created from the only clay we have—ourselves—we must continually re-visit the craft, look inward, and tune up where our skills are matched with our new personal growth. The more we fully marry and utilize our personal growth with an ever-sharpening skill set, the better actor and human being you will continue to grow to become.

While some of these are practically biblical, some classics and others contemporary classics, each offer differing ideas and approaches to acting; from the practical, to the more theoretical, to the gosh darn spiritual. As you have probably experienced with acting, sometimes one small insight can completely shift the way you think about your art, and how you practically approach it.

I’d like to recommend these All-Star must-haves for students, aspiring and professionally working actors alike.

*

 
1. An Actor Prepares by Constantin Stanislavski
The be-all godfather of contemporary Naturalism-based acting techniques, and without a doubt THE most famous acting teacher in the world, An Actor Prepares is the Bible of acting books, and thus not only must be included in this list, but deserves to be Number 1.

In this very readable handbook, Russian-God-of-Actor-Training Constantin Stanislavski explains general acting exercises, and and illuminates what acting actually IS, which thus serves as foundation to every actor’s further training, and creation of roles.


The book is beautifully-translated and is an enjoyable read for any actor with a passion for the craft, as wellas for the history of actor training.

Humorous at times, this book takes the actor through Stanislavsky’s self-developed system which helps the actor to master his craft as well as stimulate creativity and imagination. The book includes a variety of exercises and some brilliant autobiographical experiences that focus on relaxation, concentration, and techniques that will help get the actor into character.

Titanic acting pillars such Emotional Memory and the “Magic If” are taught and explored in this book, all of which lay the groundwork for the majority of the great acting we bear witness to today.
I have lived a long life, was rich, got poor; seen a lot of the world, had a wonderful family, children, that life has scattered all over the world. I have longed for fame, found it – been honored young and now I am getting old. I know my time on earth is running out. Now ask me wherein we find happiness? It is in knowledge and understanding art and the labor of cognizing it. While learning about oneself, one can learn nature and the meaning of life – We can cognize the soul. There is no happiness above all this.” – Constantin Stanislavski


2. Respect for Acting by Uta Hagen (with Haskel Frankel)
This book is the heart and soul of my own personal technique as both an actress and a teacher. It is the backbone of my classes, and could not be more practical and straightforward. It also, incidentally, comes in audio format which I love to listen to from time to time!

Straightforward as it gets, Uta Hagen’s p r o f o u n d book has helped multiple generations of actors hone their craft. (I will quote my student Alphonse who, multiple times in his journal wrote in all caps "YAAAAAS UTAAAAA" and just... leave it at that... Great actors do not perform effortlessly, or merely through learning the appropriate tricks and cheats to manipulate an audience.

Her theory is simple and true: dancers have the barre, singers have scales, but waht do actors have to "practice" their craft? Here, she answers that. Uta introduces series of Step-by-Step exercises to help the actor re-familiarize themselves with their humanity; to connect to the moment, fellow actors, and the audience.
     “Who am I?”
     “What do I want?” and
     “What is my relationship?”
are three of the nine questions explored to define a specific character’s role, and Hagen also adds in some invaluable sage-like wisdom about nerves, how to stay fresh in a long run, and priceless anecdotes from her own career.




3. Acting, The First 6 Lessons by Richard Boleslavsky
I will admit that this was my first ever acting book, given to me by my first ever acting mentors Lucy and Jimbob Stephenson. It arrived one day in a beautfiful care package as I was about to perform in Our Town (a play, incidentally, Jimbob performed for wounded veterans alongside Thornton Wilder himself), and came with a beautiful book inscription I shall treasure always. For this, and many reasons, it is my favorite. 


Richard Boleslavsky's knowledge of the theater was based on an impressive depth and breadth of experience. A member of the Moscow Art Theater and director of its First Studio, he worked in Russia, Germany, and America as an actor, director and teacher. He was a leading Hollywood director in addition to producing plays and musical comedies on Broadway.

In his beloved classic, master acting teacher Richard Boleslavsky presents his acting theory and technique in a lively and accessible dramatic form (meaning, he literally writes it as a play, starring himself and his student known as The Creature). Boleslavsky's slim volume has long helped all artists better understand the craft of acting, but above all,  what is truly required to to grow as a lifelong artist.



4. The Art of Acting by Stella Adler (with Howard Kissel)
"Life beats down and crushes the soul and art reminds you that you have one." - Stella Adler
Of course Stella Adler, uber-quotable diva extraordinaire, one of the first membrs of The Group, who is one of the most important teachers of acting.

In 1931, Adler was a founding member of the revolutionary Group Theatre, which took Broadway by storm with a series of naturalistic productions of socially relevant plays, such as Clifford Odets' "Awake and Sing" and "Paradise Lost." In 1934, unsatisfied with Group Theatre co-founder Lee Strasberg's teaching of Konstantin Stanislavsky's techniques, the determined Adler traveled to Paris and studied with Stanislavsky himself. She returned to the Group with her own understanding of his work and offered acting classes to other members, including Sanford Meisner, Elia Kazan, and Robert Lewis.

In this book editor Howard Kissel has taken tapes, transcriptions, notebooks and other sources to reconstruct Stella Adler's acting course in 22 lessons, which turned into one of the best ever books on acting techniques.



5. Strasberg’s Method
 by S. Loraine Hull
Arguably the most comprehensive book for anyone interesting in Method Acting, Hull very clearly lays out all the ideas of Lee Strasberg’s innovative and deeply culturally misunderstood teachings.

It’s also a very easy read, with understandable exercises that should benefit greatly every actor Method or not, who never had a chance to train with the man himself.

If Stanislavski is the Bible of Acting books, consider Strasberg's Method the New Testament, and this a really terrific prayer book, it contains everything you ever wanted to know about this approach.
Acting is the most personal of our crafts. The make-up of a human being – his physical, mental and emotional habits – influence his acting to a much greater extent than commonly recognized.” – Lee Strasberg


6. Sanford Meisner on Acting
 by Sanford Meisner (with Dennis Longwell
)
Meisner or Strassberg's The Method? Well, it is not truly an either/or, as both teachers were at the heart of the new American acting movement, and their approaches are not siblings, but rather, cousins. It’s often insightful to be familiar with both.

In this beautiful gem of a book, Meisner gives it to you straight on how not to act, but to live; to live truthfully, in the moment, under imaginary circumstances. KAPOW.

I will also add that this of all books gives one a real sense of being in the actual classroom with "Sandy" as he is called, and you feel a level of personal relationship with him as a both a luminary titan, and as a human being that seems to be speaking directly to you. 

Your library is not complete without this one.
"An ounce of behavior is worth a pound of words." - Sanford Meisner


7. To The Actor: on the Technique of Acting by Michael Chekhov
Nephew to the greatest-of-the-great-Russian-playwrights Anton Chekhov,  and a student of Stanislavski, Michael Chekhov left Russia and Stanislavski behind, forming the first in a strong "anti-movement" of theatrical actor training. He went on to pursue a career as an actor, teacher, and director in Europe and America.

While he was an early advocate of Stanislavski, Chekhov differed from the great teacher in several key aspects: particularly in his insistence preference of physical creation and activation versus the psychological, and on the use of imagination as opposed to memory in creating a role. (In a famous anecdote, Chekhov once performed a “sense memory” exercise in which he broke down over the tragic death of his aunt. When complimented on the truthfulness of his emotion, he admitted that his “aunt” was entirely imaginary.) Both of these schools of thoughts were the burgeoning theories behind American Method Acting in the 1940s and 50s.


One of Chekhov’s innovations of technique is one of my favorites, and something I teach my first year acting students in our second semester: the “Psychological Gesture,” in which a repeated external action leads to an internal revelation. Due to his insistence on the importance of the physical rather than the simply intellectual, Chekhov’s book is as focused on following its series of exercises as it is in study; acting, he would remind us, is always fundamentally a verb. For actors who feel “hemmed in” by an over-insistence on “feeling” a part or in drawing from their own experiences to feed a role, Chekhov’s focus on the primal and limitless nature of imagination and physical experience is beyond liberating, and I believe an essential tool in every actor's toolkit.



8. Audition by Michael Shurtleff  

I consider this book to be the contemporary classic for aspiring actors. (Re: If Stanislavski is the Bible, this is East of Eden / Atlas Shrugged / Invisible Man).

If you are just beginning your acting adventure, this is a really excellent place to start, as it covers everything from craft to practically "getting the role." Shurteff’s 12 (now famous) Guideposts have influenced my own work, my teaching, direction, all with the aim to help actors learn how to empower, direct and guide themselves.

From relationships, to actions, objectives, opposites, to finding the love and humor in any scene, Shurtelff’s Guideposts will help you focus in on the kernel of the scene or audition material every time.


HONORABLE MENTIONS: 

ACTING
The Actor’s Art and Craft
 by William Esper (comprehensive guide to Meisner's techniques)
Michael Cain: Acting in Film
The Intent to Live by Larry Moss
A Dream of Passion: The Development of The Method by Lee Strassberg

SHAKESPEARE
Translating Shakespeare by Dr. David Montee (my personal mentor! There's a photo of me as Rosalind)
A Shakespearan Actor Prepares by Michael York 
Playing Shakespeare by John Barton

VOICE
The Actor Speaks by Patsy Rodenburg
The Second Circle by Patsy Rodenburg
The Actor and The Text by Cicely Berry

Freeing the Natural Voice by Kristin Linklater
Speak with Distinction by Edith Skinner 

BODY
The Lucid Body by
The Moving Body by Jaques LeCoq

DIRECTION
The Viewpoints Book by Anne Bogart
The Empty Space by Peter Brooke



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