Thursday, March 29, 2012

She Stoops to Conquer Auditions - There's Still Time!

If you are interested in auditioning for GTP's She Stoops to Conquer, don't let the "'till the end of the month" bit discourage you. While that would be ideal and some roles will be cast with the 'early birds' that get in before this coming monday, many auditions have been scheduled for Saturday and I think a few for Sunday. We've got a lot of people who have auditioned and more that are auditioning that have us very excited, but there's a sizable number of roles to fill in total, from meaty leads to walk-ons, allowing for a cast of mixed experience from veterans to newcomers. So if you're interested, swing by the main site and send an email or leave a message.

Monday, March 26, 2012

First Wave of Stoops Auditions - a success!

Auditions for She Stoops To Conquer are going quite nicely so far with some familiar faces and a few new ones. This being Gorilla's first show to cast adults, Anna and I are getting very excited at the prospects of so much new blood joining the mix, along with old friends returning to work with us again. The first wave of readings was thoroughly invigorating!

While the new direction of the show is still gestating and will only take its true, full form once a cast is completely selected, I can say thus far that it's going to be a very character driven show. I think what turned me off to the play initially (it had the unfortunate fate of being read shortly after discovering Congreve's The Way of The World) was the portrayal of the characters as caricatures to facilitate the laughs. However, returning to the text Anna and I've continued to not only find depth in many of the roles worth taking seriously, but something we all-together never anticipated: a familiarity with these characters that could allow this to become a fairly personal project.

There was always the historical context to be juxtaposed to our current economic climate, but beyond that I anticipated, from the sidelines, that it would prove somewhat a challenge to convey the context of such a comedy that's jokes are very rooted in another place and time from our own. (Imagine remaking Juno with the same script... only a couple hundred years later, and expecting people to laugh at "Oh my blog!") This I suspect is the sentiment that leaves it seldom put on the way shows like The Importance of Being Ernest and School for Scandal are. Yet, what we found in rereading the text and working with the first wave of auditioning actors was that the relationships and family dynamics in Stoops have aged surprisingly well, and for a couple born and raised in Albemarle and Buckingham, these British characters of almost 300 years ago--even with their servants and class systems--read with a curiously Virginian flavor to them at times. What will come of these observations, you'll just have to wait and see! What Anna and I are certain of for now is that the show is funny, and we believe that through making our audience care about the characters, we can make it hilarious.

Auditions are continuing to the end of the month. If you're interested in participating, there are still rolls to be filled! Please go to Gorilla's auditions page for more information.


Saturday, March 24, 2012

A Long Day: Filming and the Status of SHE STOOPS

Saturday was indeed a long day.


As previously mentioned, Anna and I helped work on a short film. "The Doctor: We All Have Our Demons," co-written and directed by our protege Gabriel Komisar and featuring a few familiar faces from Gorilla's theater circle and others we hope to work with more in the future. Anna and I provided sets and assistant directed. Anna appears in the film as a mysterious woman who will give the protagonist a towel and some sound advice (thus winning the Douglas Adams Fan seal of approval!) before tossing said protagonist out a door and taking on some demons. I was the cameraman and cinematographer. I will also be editing the film.

I think the shoot was above all an educational experience for everyone involved, and looking over the footage now uploaded, I can happily say a success. Working with high school students is tough. Not because of intelligence or maturity so much as the simple reality that they are often quite busy in ways that make it challenging to get all in one place for rehearsals and blocking and all the preparation that goes into a smooth shooting schedule. In this case, we had to knock out the majority of the film in one day starting at 9:00AM and ending at 3:15PM. Everyone walked away exhausted, and I'm sure wondering not if we nailed every shot, but if we nailed any shot. Ultimately, we didn't them all. Some things could have used another take. I found some technical hang-ups with sound and a few shots, but as a whole, we didn't shoot a broken film, and some scenes came out genuinely great. The rests our the griefs of perfectionists still learning (myself included).

I need to talk more with the writer/director duo about what more I can share from or about the film. It really was a blast, and for Anna and I, the project was also a proof of concept for grander ideas. I'm sitting on a script for a full-length film, and after today, I feel very confident that with the proper resources, we will definitely be able to handle shooting it. More on that later.

Status of She Stoops To Conquer

With the evening came less happy tasks. After much discussion and reluctance, Gorilla Theater Productions has decided to terminate Tim Hulsey's involvement with She Stoops to Conquer. It is neither my nor Anna's desire to dwell on the particulars for why she came to this decision, nor do we wish ill will towards Tim or his future pursuits. Some clarification is due however. Tim is gone, but we are still doing Stoops.

Tim presented the idea for She Stoops to Conquer to us, and adapted the script for the production. Tim takes that adaptation with him, and we fully expect he will direct his interpretation (which I do not mean to imply was anything so radical - just that it was simply his) of the classic sometime in the near future, perhaps even the very near future - independently or as soon as he can find the backing of another company. This is my presumption though. Tim is no longer involved with GTP, nor we with him, and so neither can speak for the other. If he does pursue it, then whether he accepts it or not, he does have our blessing on the task. Tim came to Gorilla with enthusiasm and praise for Antigone, indicating that he believed in what we were doing. If that sentiment has changed, we nonetheless appreciate it for what it was at the time. We genuinely do wish him the best of luck.

GTP is a small company, based largely out of our home (stage flats still rest in the hallway between the living room and my office). The success of each show literally funds the next, allowing Gorilla to survive. It is essentially a non-profit without the 501c3 to make it official. Our reputation is still growing in this town, and it can't afford the hits that, for example, canceling space rentals (potentially convincing key venues that we are unreliable) can cause. We've committed to the location, spent money on fliers, and devoted many, many hours to this project ourselves (especially Anna). A large part of the changes to the summer programming were due to devoting more time to this production, the first production to mostly feature an adult cast, showing that Gorilla is not just a youth theater company. So, yeah, no pressure.

It really was a hard call for Anna to make, but we move forward with at least one conciliation - that our production will truly not take Tim's show away from him, even if he opens his own version on the same week. I find that the older a play is, the more malleable it is to re-interpretation. She Stoops to Conquer is 239 years old. Whatever vision Anna is coming up with for it, it will be pointedly not like that conceived by Tim.

As the use of "we" and "our" throughout should suggest, I will be much more involved with this project. Besides promotions, my role has been fairly vague, but I have a feeling I might find myself wearing more than a couple hats as we solider on.


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Secret Garden Photography

Just thought I'd share some pictures I took last weekend with Anna. We wandered the UVA area trying to capture images for the rear projected backgrounds to be used in Gorilla Theater Productions' late April youth production of The Secret Garden. At this point I can't say which of the dozens of photos taken will be used but I'm pretty sure it will include at least some of the following:

There's some photo shopping to be done, but that's Anna's department. Like I said, who knows what will be cut, and this isn't all of them. Photo's that are too angled, too closeup, or otherwise fail to establish a level background and scale with the stage may be used in transitional montages. Or she might go expressionistic. We shall see!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

A Productive Day

Not too much to report. Just thought I'd share the general happenings of the day.

Spent a fair chunk of the afternoon with Anna collecting footage and images of Spring for Secret Garden's backdrops. As I understand it, the plan is to rear-project the images onto the background of the stage. Not sure how much of it could be used in the trailer at this point as that's still being discussed. The music arrangements are also coming along pretty smoothly. The weather is really getting us in the spirit for it all.

The previously mentioned film project also met with some wonderful news as it looks like we may be a-go for shooting on location at a local establishment. That they might legitimately say no has been a fear throughout pre-production, as the scene was somewhat key and most conceivable alternatives would have really taken away from what the writers were going for. The details are still to be worked out, so I'll hold off from names, but the initial response to our inquiry was enthusiastically positive. Yay!

That's about it for today. Had a few fun prospects for jobs (as in, employment). I'm looking into becoming an electrician as a long-term career goal, but for now with the economy as it is I'm just seeking something to fund my more ambitious projects, electrician classes, and help pay the bills. I suppose it's relevant news to this blog in that it's the key thing holding me back from pursuing a few bigger projects that are currently resting on the back burner. More on those when there closer to the... um, fore burner. Yeah. Fingers crossed!


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Antigone: Part 2 - The Trailer

If I take nothing else away from Antigone, I take one very valuable lesson: when shooting a trailer for a play, set aside an actual day where you will shoot said trailer. This may seem obvious enough, but when working on a project as mean and lean as Antigone proved to be, taking a day to shoot a trailer is actually a luxury difficult to afford. Instead, I began to film the actors in rehearsals. Cobbling together footage from three nights, I found myself sifting through several hours to make the finished result.

The majority of the rehearsals used an upstairs space in the library downtown, which was great because of the Jeffersonian interior design. But actors were not positioning themselves for me to shoot, they were positioning themselves to their blocking. The tripod often had to be set aside to unobtrusively get shots, and after the first hour each night the shaky cam would get pretty bad.

After the first night though I decided that I could use this partially to my advantage, opting for a grainy high-contrast black and white look, inspired (though not replicating) the Italian Neo-Realism style of Rome, Open City. Anouilh having wrote and staged his adaptation of Antigone in Nazi occupied France, it seemed natural to draw from films and news reels of the time (though the final result flirts more with Sadie Benning). It was only really unfortunate in that it was a very similar look to the last trailer I had done for one of Anna's plays, cementing me to this grainy black and white style which I must now prove is not all I can do.

(To make matters worse, I want to use this look in a future film project of mine and have been asked to use it in a short film for a friend. At this rate I'm going to have to shoot something in technicolor just to prove I'm not colorblind!)

I was having some trouble trying to distill something from all the material, a synopsis that would be engaging and draw people in. Then one night the actor playing Haemon brought a soldier's helmet from WWII, wondering if it could be used in the show. At the end of rehearsal he had a few minutes to spare and agreed to pose as Antigone's dead brother. This really gave the trailer a shape. It allowed me to show in a simple image of what was at stake and let all the drama be framed around it.

Again though, I had to work with what I had, which brings me to the often asked question, 'why the line about the fruit?' Well... one it alluded to some moments of comedy in this otherwise very dark and serious play, and two, it was a moment of the lovers together quarreling. I was trying to get the trailer out early enough to generate buzz, so I couldn't film them at a dress rehearsal. As a result I was focusing on head-shots to avoid drawing attention to the actors' street clothes, which, again, really limited the pickings. So, I admit the 'fruit line' was not the best choice, but it was certainly one of the best of what I had.

All said and done, I'm very pleased with the trailer. It got roughly 2oo individual hits before the second show, which sold out, and with about 200 tickets sold in total (not bad for a debut show that only played three nights) I think the advertising campaign was a success.

To end on a fun note. Look very closely at the moment in the trailer where Antigone is smiling and stroking Haemon's hair... around the 1:17 mark. It looks like such a tender moment, but that was actually a moment where the actor made a joke and got slapped upside the head. I slowed it down and caught the smile then cut away just in time (I might have also played the shot in reverse). It's my favorite thing about the trailer.


Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Current Projects 03/13/2012

I've got three big projects coming up:


I'm currently arranging the score for Gorilla Theater Production's (GTP) youth production of The Secret Garden. This production features a largely original score by Beverly Seng with a few traditional hymns. The score was sent to me in Garageband files with the melodies mostly written for piano or guitar with flute accompaniment (some having more instrumentation then others though).

The arrangements were largely modeled for the kids to learn the rhythms and melodies of the songs clearly and with ease. My task is to spice these homework tracks up for the stage, both with soundscapes and ambiance as well as additional instrumentation and mixing. This will be my first project where I'm working with music by someone else. It's a fun score crafted by someone with a lot of knowledge about folk and classical music. I expect to learn a lot from the experience, especially about arranging music with lyrics - something I'm hoping to do more of in the future.

I'm also planing to shoot a trailer for this production in the coming weeks.


Later this month I will start shooting as the cinematographer on a friend of mine's short film. The film will feature my wife, Anna, in the cast and as an assistant director. There have been some scheduling conflicts but we're hell bent to make it happen. It has a very David Lynchian vibe to it. I expect the project to be lots of fun. More info as it develops!


Last night I met with Anna and Timothy Hulsey to discuss GTP's follow up production to Secret Garden, Oliver Goldsmith's She Stoops to Conquer. We looked over the script and talked logistics. At this point, my involvement looks to be as a production assistant, helping with sets and whatnot. I do plan to shoot a trailer for that show as well, more on that as it develops.

Check GTP's site for audition info for She Stoops.
They will be looking for adult and teen actors.


Antigone: Part 1 - The Score

Antigone was the first production of my wife Anna Lien's new independent theater company, Gorilla Theater Productions. I got wear a lot of different hats on this one, from production assistant, composer of house music, assistant director, documentarian, and promotional assistant/trailer director. For now let's talk about the score.

Anna and I are big fans of using minimalist set designs that rely on the marriage of sparse structures and props with lighting and ambient sound. The goal was to make a series of mood tracks to fill the space between the play opening, intermission, and closing.

Opening score: Track 1 "Digging"

Anna requested that the score be primarily drum pieces having originally desired to have a live percussion group present. I did a little bit or research and found that most Greek drums, were similar to Native American Earth Drums, I set out initially to have spacy high bass drums booming which contradicted the more African drum sound that a percussion group would have produced. As the production evolved and I saw that Anna was going more for a timeless place out of time aesthetic similar many modern productions of Shakespeare I opted for less concern about anachronism and ran wild with what felt appropriate for the world of the play.

"Digging" could as easily have been called "Sneaking" as it's about Antigone going out in the night before the play opens. Of the tracks I put together and particularly pleased with this one on an arrangement level.

Transition into Intermission: Track 2 "For The First Time..."

This song became the theme of the project and was one of the earliest composed. The title comes from a line the Chorus says before Antigone's confrontation with her uncle. For the first time, facing her fate, Antigone can truly be herself.

Intermission: Track 3 "Searchlights on the Beach"

There were two waves which the Antigone Score was produced in. The first produced tracks 1, 2, 4 and 6, with 4 being the closing track. When asked to make music to stretch out across intermission (giving a more distinct cue that intermission was over), the second wave produced tracks 3, 5, and 7. Tracks 3 and 5 were drew more from themes in the play. Track 3 is named after the oft mentioned beach from Antigone's childhood memories with her brothers, and the idea that it is now oppressed by her her uncle's regime. The tune is very ambient as they are to be played while people stretch, use the restrooms and buy concessions.

Intermission: Track 4 "Sacrificial"

Originally the closing track this was moved to the intermission when the alternative closing track was made.

Intermission: Track 5 "Immurement"

Foreshadowing the fate of Antigone in the cave and the dungeon scene prior to it I made this tune very subterranean in tone. Along with Track 3 this tune has a very emotional association for me. They were both composed while my mother was in surgery. The procedure would take several hours, and as opposed to sitting in the waiting room feeling powerless, I decided to go home and be productive, more to stay sane than anything else. The state of mind however made this a particularly gloomy piece. I though of omitting it, but Anna encouraged me to include it, so I did.

Transition out of Intermission: Track 6 "Fate"

Somewhat the 'other theme song of the play', I was very inspired by how soldiers would bang their shields and armor against one another pumping up for battle. I think the turn was very effective in giving the actors a sense of urgency to the drama and was really happy with how it played out in the trailer (more on that later).

Closer: Track 7 "Blind Mice Dance"

When we were painting the set, at Random Row, someone was playing the Soundtrack to the remake of Girl with The Dragon Tattoo. The cover of Led Zeppelin's Immigrant Song really stuck with me and was frequently hummed all through the later quarter of production. I think the influence is pretty present in the beat here. Also, one of the things I was doing as assistant director on the production was helping the Guard characters with their marching routine. Between the two influences and the play ending on the Guards playing cards, I came up with this track which I felt ended the show on a more militaristic tone, as well as a little swagger.

That's about it.

More on the trailer coming up!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Ambient: Music for Babies

Three months ago I became an uncle. Yay!

As I was trying to think of something to give my sister for Christmas, ideally something I could make, I found out that they discovered the sleep inducing power of white noise for my nephew. Simply Noise is a great site that I discovered awhile back. I find it great for focusing, especially while writing, and was thrilled they were using it. White noise is essentially a perpetual "shhh" sound, letting the baby know everything is okay.

There was one problem, though. The sound put my sister on edge, much like a television set left on after the cable box is switched off. So, I decided to set out and make something more melodic than the same monotonous sound for her to try. I started making tunes that utilized white noise and other distortion and delay based sounds, along with some binaural beats. It sorta snowballed into an album, which I now call Ambient: Music for Babies. Now that they're trying to move past the noise approach, I figure why not share it with everyone?

"December Windows"

The footage is from the first snow storm of the year, and shows the environment I was putting this together in rather nicely. Eno's Ambient 1: Music for Airports was a major influence.

"Sleet Pulse"

"Late Evening Haze"

This tune was admittedly not quite baby friendly, at least not very likely to be. I was also influenced to do a few tracks that reflected the sleep deprivation of those first weeks (into months) of having a kid. Namely this track and "Midnight Tap Water" below.

"Gray Meditation"

"Linen Curtains (Tidal Wash Mix)"

The "Tidal Wash Mix" here is a reworking of the original session version. It turns out that trying to compose an album of any kind of music in under two weeks is not very easy. So, for Christmas I gave them a demo CD with a promise that several tracks would be reworked. The original version of this was much more piano oriented and cheery, really cheery, but it mixed wrong and didn't gel with the overall murky ambiance I was going for. I was like a patch in the sky of blinding bright sunlight on an otherwise cozy, cloudy day. As a result I added the more oceanic soundscape making the piano sound like something being listened to from underwater.

"Waiting in Airports"

A spiritual nod to Eno. I think the F@*k Buttons (NSFW only because of the band's name) were another influence on this piece.

"Midnight Tap Water"

"Beneath the Ballroom"

I had a very clear image for this tune, one of being underwater in darkness beneath a hazy surface of ice over which a ballroom dance is being carried out. It's a sort of manatee tune, very dreamlike in nature, the sort of thing my earliest dreams tended to form. I'd credit LIMBO as an inspiration, but I hadn't gotten to the game's climax when I composed it and I feel like those last moments are where it was most like the song and vice versa. It's an odd piece to include I suppose, but the idea of music in other rooms and of sounds out of sight - that those were things my sister and brother-in-law were encouraging their son not to be scared of, inspired the tune. It's a strange mix of darkness and uncertainty but also grandeur and wonder. At least, that's what I aimed for.

"Mumbled Lullaby"

And here is the infamous tune I linked to before while discussing "Into the City, It Cometh at Night," that my friend filled the comment board for with madness. It's a quaint little closing tune, but I'm not entirely pleased with the video. It just didn't come out right and were I ever to present this in some public exhibition, it would likely be drastically redone.

I haven't really discussed the videos much. They were all done on the fly from various footage on my hard drive, mostly assembled from the first winter snow we had. The footage was largely collected to experiment with for a film project I'm working on. Here I choose mostly to modify the footage into black and white as babies like high contrast. Of course, halfway through assembling them (not in order) I realized it would be a terrible idea to actually show any of these to my nephew as showing new born babies videos can lead to all sorts of developmental problems. So I just cobbled imagery that complimented the music to give them something more that a white on black title as they played on YouTube. There isn't much more to them than that. Aesthetically pleasing visual stimulus to accompany the music.


I feel I should close this with some form of disclaimer. While I know a couple of these tracks were just as effective as the white noise, my sister and her husband were already starting to move away from this approach around the time the final version of the album was finished. I have no idea what the long-term effects of my music would be be on a child and am not recommending the music actually be played to babies for long periods of time. So... don't cry to me if you slap headphones on your one-month old and blare this in their ears until their deaf... only to discover it makes them deaf, or into F@*k Buttons, or both. The title of the album is based on what I set out to do, not the final product.


Saturday, March 10, 2012

Recent Music

While I'm going to be posting a lot of older material soon, I thought I'd kick things off with three recent tracks I put together in Garageband.

First off "Courting the Fire Dancer"

One of the major elements of iMovie I've been playing around with a lot lately is the green screen function, I'm slowly getting the hang of it but in older videos you'll see I used to be a lot more clumsy. Still I'm interested more in using it in ways it wasn't really intended to be used, creating digital collages. At this point there still isn't a great deal of method to the madness, just aesthetic experiments with color and texture.

Then there is the footage... yeah, I made a little tinfoil man and sat him in my bathtub, soaked him in 90% rubbing alcohol, and then lit him on fire. What about it?

Ahem. As for the tune itself, it has a somewhat grunge flavor too it. I had been been repainting my mother's bedroom listening to the Boys for Pele album by Tori Amos not long before I arrange this. The piece feels very gender conflicted, full of bad boys and fiery girls, and a little bit jazzy despite itself.

Next up: "Into the City, It Cometh at Night"

This is a much more industrial piece with an amusing story behind its conception. You see, in a future post I plan to share an ambient album I put together as a Christmas gift. I posted the whole album on YouTube, and a friend of mine decided he wanted to act completely insane, posting a rather lengthy series of comments, chronicling his downward spiral into insanity.

We have a... peculiar friendship.

Anyway, among the ramblings he mentioned a screamo-ish screaming album he wanted to record, so, being amused at his bit of mad digital performance art, I thought I'd make him an album of screaming. Sadly, life is full of demands, and this is as far as I got, a layered series of vocals with some bass and recorded keyboard loops. I'm quite happy with the piece, but it's not really want I set out to create.

The video follows a motif I've been slowly developing of abstracting footage into basic simple forms and textures, and is highly reminiscent of the footage I cobbled together, experimenting for the ambient album (which I'll get to next post!).

Finally, "Passage Among Glaciers"

I think this is one of the best pieces of music I've created up to this point and more than any other has made me start to take all this farting around seriously. It was composed without any template loops, which is to say, I didn't start by taking loops from the Garageband's library, and then moved the notes around until I made something totally different and new. All the notes are hand-dragged into place. It was a pretty massively layer piece, and yet it came together rather effortlessly.

The footage is largely thrown together from this last winter, and consists of a lot of the same footage from the aforementioned ambient album. It was one of the first things I did following that project.

Well that's all for now. I'll try and follow up soon with tracks from the ambient album and some side stuff I've been doing.



Greetings and welcome to my brand spanking new blog! It's been awhile since I've blogged and much has changed since I started. I expect it's going to take me a little while to get used to everything again so please be patient with me as I fumble about.

The purpose of this blog is primarily to build off of my YouTube page, where for the last few months I have been publishing experimental videos and music that I've created using Garage Band. I may occasionally post Vlogs here as well, and the rare article, but primarily the purpose of this blog will be to promote and share my art as well as my contributions to past and future theater collaborations with my wife Anna Lien and Gorilla Theater Productions, and anyone else along the way.

I.e., welcome to my portfolio!