Categories
Acting

And in other News

If you’ll take a look at the Video page you’ll see an interview with me by Margaret Ledford who helmed the Engage@GableStage project, which has commissioned a series of projects. The short 15 minute film we’re talking about will be premiered exclusively at GableStage.org on Friday September 18th.

So… the focus of this blog… was acting and allied subjects… hmm… the issue, as I’m sure you understand, is that live theatre depends upon lots of paying customers in close proximity to each other and within breathing space of the stage…

No sign of that returning just yet.

In which case what shall we talk about? While you’re here please sign up for the blog so as to find out!

 

 

 

 

Categories
Acting

The Bard Off-Planet

I will be guest speaker on Tuesday June 30th 2:30 pm Eastern USA/7:30 pm UK at:

Aquarius Rising: West of Scotland Astrological Association

My topic is:

Shakespeare was an astrologer

(Or if he wasn’t, he knew people who were)

Courtesy of The Birmingham Museums Trust, UK

Here is the blurb:

This talk is an astrological exploration looking at the chart of the Bard and his work. For example, it’s well known that the seven ages of man speech in As You Like It takes us from the Moon through to Saturn in order of orbital period. But did you know that there is a Jupiter signature in The Tempest, or a Saturn one in Romeo and Juliet, or that Sonnet 15 echoes the Duke’s speech at the top of act 3 in Measure for Measure? Mars figures in all the history plays, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream is as lunar as it gets. Shakespeare was at home in the solar system and he wrote the plays to prove it! 

If you’d like to attend as a guest (no need to join the group although you are welcome if astrology is an interest), here is the zoom link and the date again is, June 30th 2:30 pm Eastern USA/7:30 pm UK https://us02web.zoom.us/j/82665096141

They do ask for a donation of five quid!

See you there!

Categories
Acting

Just On The Off-Chance…

It’s May 1st 2020. The first day of spring in the northern hemisphere, and the Celtic festival of Beltane. Sadly there won’t be much dancing around the maypole this year.

Meanwhile what is to be done during this indoor time?

I have turned to the unread books on my shelves, attempting to turn them into books that have actually been read. Stop me if I’ve quoted this before but it is á propos:

“The sight of a lot of books fills me with the desire to read them, which sometimes turns into the belief that I already have.” Kenneth Clarke

One such volume is a collection of interviews with writers from Dorothy Parker to Earnest Hemingway, all first published in the Paris Review, under the cunning title The Paris Review Interviews. It includes an encounter with Kurt Vonnegut. The transcript was collated and edited by Vonnegut himself from four separate interviews conducted over a decade. It is actually Vonnegut interviewing Vonnegut.

No one has approached me for an interview at this point and I’m not expecting anyone to do so. But in these changing times maybe it would be a good idea to prepare something … just on the off-chance?

So I have decided to follow Vonnegut’s example. He is a writer I admire very  much. His story, Report on the Barnhouse Effect (published in his collection, Welcome to the Monkey House) is a thrilling anti-war piece. And Who Am I This Time?, gives the inside scoop on the psychology of actors.

Here is a brief excerpt of the auto-interrogative to which I refer any hacks who may be desperate for content:

INTERVIEWER

Colin McPhillamy welcome and thank you for taking to us today.

McPHILLAMY

That’s my great pleasure.

INTERVIEWER

What are you doing with yourself at the moment? Take us through a day.

McPHILLAMY

Ah! The easy questions first eh? … Well it’s hard to say.

INTERVIEWER

Please try. There may well be as many as one or two people (give or take) out there waiting for an answer that makes sense.

McPHILLAMY

Sense!?! At a time like this? Good luck with that.

INTERVIEWER

Talking of time, those of us under lockdown have more of it on our hands than usual at the moment.

McPHILLAMY

Yes, but it’s always NOW. You’ve read your Ram Dass*, right?

INTERVIEWER

Indeed. What would we do without the eternal verities? But, let me ask, have you, for example, considered starting a podcast?

McPHILLAMY

Oh yes, definitely. My constant thought.

INTERVIEWER

I see. Commendable.

McPHILLAMY

Along with learning Tibetan, re-reading Quantum Physics for Dummies (I only got to page four last time), and starting a community composting initiative. Haven’t actually… you know…

INTERVIEWER

But it’s on the list?

MCPHILLAMY

Well … the truth is … that might be pitching it a bit strong.

INTERVIEWER (changing tack)

Do you watch the news?

McPHILLAMY

I ration my intake … the trouble is…  if I watch more than three minutes at any one time I start to develop psycho-somatic symptoms.

INTERVIEWER

But it’s important to keep up with what our leaders are saying and doing, don’t you agree?

McPHILLAMY

I plead the fifth …

INTERVIEWER

That’s the sort of answer a right merchant banker** might make… isn’t it?

(N pages deleted here: editor)

INTERVIEWER

It’s been a lot of fun talking to you.

McPHILLAMY

Speak for yourself.

Ram Dass*: the late spiritual teacher, known in some circles as a cross between Gurdjieff and Woody Allen. Born Richard Alpert, sometime colleague and psychedelic experimenter with Timothy Leary. Wrote the 1970s best-seller Be Here Now.

Merchant banker**: obscure reference to cockney rhyming slang.

Categories
Acting

Actor to Offstage Prompter: “Line…!?!”

It’s a calendar month since they closed down Broadway, and I have been thinking about Death. If that’s too morbid for your taste, you may want to skip this one.

The great sorrow in the present crisis is that the terminally ill are dying alone without comfort of friends or loved ones. So amidst all this terrible tragedy, appalling inconvenience, and ongoing uncertainty, I have wondered lately, occasionally, about a good last line, albeit that if one were about to cross the rainbow bridge, there’s every chance that no one would hear anything you might say…

Nevertheless, as an actor it would simply be embarrassing to arrive at the final moment and have to ask for a prompt. And with the current global challenge, including the prospect of death – the possibility at least, should you happen to inhale the wrong person’s sneeze – doing what Doctor Johnson back in the 18th century said said it did (focus the mind) – what an opportunity to get something down on paper.

Coming up with words that might endure in anyone’s memory more than an hour or two is a tricky proposition though. A sample of some very witty utterances already made includes:

“It’s been a long time since I had champagne.” Anton Checkov – Russian playwright

“This is where the fun begins.” Ben Travers – British playwright

“On the contrary.” Henrik Ibsen – Norwegian playwright

Last words can be very telling in terms of the speaker’s character. A person of high moral probity might say, along with Socrates, “Crito, I owe a cock to Asclepius, will you remember to pay the debt?”

With an eye to a laugh, “This is no way to live.” Groucho Marx

Somewhat dissatisfied with the set, “I knew it! I knew it! Born in a hotel room and, goddamn it, dying in a hotel room.” Eugene O’ Neill – American playwright.

Do you agree with me that Death is the great taboo these days? Where once no one dared mention sex in polite society, or in some cases money, these days to talk about death at a dinner party is to be struck off future invitations.

And that can be no surprise when the prevailing culture, in America at least, takes the view that death is optional, and that with a reverse-mortgage and the right medication (notwithstanding those side-effects given in husky voice-over against bucolic scenes of happy family barbecues in television commercials). This is madness, the idea that the inevitable appointment with the “fell sergeant” can be indefinitely postponed, defies all logic, experience and evidence.

But we seldom talk about the universal leveler with each other, let along how best to go about it. Many of us find it deeply upsetting even to think about it. But how is it sensible to go fearful or ignorant to that which awaits us all?

If one were looking for advice, albeit of a markedly sombre tone, there’s the Duke’s speech to Claudio Act 3, scene 1 of Measure For Measure which begins, “Be absolute for death, and either death or life shall thereby be the sweeter…”

Or there’s Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’s book, On Death and Dying

Or there are Dr Peter Fenwick’s youtube videos.

And although I certainly have no empirical proof, apart from the vivid memories of loved ones who’ve gone before, I tend to agree with His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s assessment, “Change of clothes.” One hopes.

Talking of metaphysicians who flirt with the intangible: there’s at least one of Nostradamus’s prophesies that was correct in every detail. On his deathbed he said, “Tomorrow, at sunrise, I shall no longer be here.”

And for an epitaph what could be better than Spike Milligan’s“I told you I was ill.” engraved on his tombstone.

Returning to the problem of the last line. If one were minded to die with one eye on publication, I offer a few generic options here, mainly for actors:

“The Great Stage Manager in the sky is calling places (beginners/UK)”

“If I’d had just one more rehearsal, I’d be playing this differently.”

“How about a round (of applause) on this exit?”

Categories
Acting

Since the World Changed…

They closed the Golden Theatre on West 45th Street on Thursday 12th March, most of Broadway and off-Broadway following within a few hours. On Friday March 20th Hangmen was closed officially.

All that seems like a whole different long-time-ago time now. But then that’s what two weeks (today) of self-isolation can do for you.

Actors are no strangers to being chucked out of work and sometimes suddenly too. But even the most seasoned of us has never been through this. Well that’s not quite true. As I mentioned in my previous post they closed the theatres down at the end of the 16th and in the early 17th centuries due to outbreaks of plague. And stories abound of touring companies being abandoned in far-flung parts because the manager absconded with the takings. That was in the bad old days before there was Equity, the actors’ union.

That’s me and Pete Bradbury up there in the top right. Below is a picture of me ready to step in to the role of Harry Wade, one of the Hangmen of the title. Posted here by kind permission of the production ‘cos sadly, although the chances were slim of you actually seeing me in the part, now the chances are zero.

We were getting into top gear, both working on Broadway shows, my wife Trish in the acclaimed To Kill a Mockingbird – which had recently played to 18,000 high school kids in a sensational free performance at Madison Square Garden – and me in one that on paper at least had all the hit ingredients. This virus thing is more than inconvenient. Just saying.

That’s Patricia Conolly with a dressing room selfie of Mrs Dubose.

So what’s to be done in this in-between moment? Well you can always read a great novel (or write one). The only Tolstoy novel I’ve read is Resurrection, so yes, maybe I will have a go at War and Peace… Or Moby Dick… or one of the longer Dickens…  The watercolors, the jig-saws, that coverlet you’ve always meant to crochet…

Talking of literature, P G Wodehouse can always be relied on for an amusing turn of phrase. Earlier today I came across this for example, “He uttered a sharp exclamation and gave a bound which, had he been a Russian dancer, would probably have caused the management to raise his salary.”

It may not look like much out of context and perhaps you had to be there, but it caused a lot of mirth in the Conolly/McPhillamy household to the extent that tense shoulders began to loosen and worry lines gave way to the creases of laughing smiles.

It does seem though that whatever you do, it really, really, REALLY is better not to go outside (except when deploying the newly minted social distancing for those essential journeys). So much so that this amusing little ballad – stop me if you’ve heard it before – seems now to be the summation of all wisdom currently available. (some vulgar language; viewer discretion advised).

I expect by now you’ve heard this one. But I’ll tell you again anyway…

Tweet: When Shakespeare was quarantined because of the plague he wrote King Lear.

Answering Tweet: I don’t need that kind of pressure.

Tweet: And he did it without toilet paper.

Talking of Nostradamus. It seems unlikely that I’ll be doing any acting anytime soon, so now’s the time to focus on my side hustle – yes, that right ASTROLOGY. You can see my astrological two cents worth here, or check out the rest of the site at www.GalacticFragment.com, and if you’re interested, and I fully acknowledge that astro is not to everyone’s liking – sidebar here: at one time I was on a quest to have a sensible conversation with a scientist about why astrology works. I didn’t pursue this very far because the few scientists I met would start edging towards the door as soon as I mentioned the art of celestial interpretation. I never even got as far as asking them about the implications of the recently discovered sub-atomic particle, the neutrino.

Be that as it might, for the duration of the lock-down I’m offering a chart reading at the deeply discounted price of… pay-what-you-wish. If you’re interested email me at Colin@galacticfragment.com. Something different perhaps? After all, there’s only so much Netflix you can watch…

I hope you’re ok and that you have good supplies of rice, beans, and tinned fish – oh and loo roll!

Even this shall pass away!