art

Why aren’t you listening to this?

earSometimes we need to hear something at the right time for it to click. Here are two things I listened to recently that I had to share with you and I hope it falls on your ears at the right time as well.

In this brief, one-minute illustration, Ira Glass speaks of the difficult growth processes of creativity. What he says is so obvious and true but I never thought of it that way.

Are you done watching it? Great! What did you think about it?

Next up, is a podcast my friend, Tricia recommended. A Tiny Sense of Accomplishment is by Sherman Alexie and Jess Walter, two accomplished and incredible authors. I loved hearing their candid view of the creative struggle and their vulnerability in sharing works in progress. The episodes are about an hour long, but well worth it.

I’ve been slow to jump on the podcast bandwagon but I’m starting to appreciate them. (In case you’re not familiar with the term, a podcast is simply a recording online. They’re usually free to listen to or you can pay to download them).

Do you have any podcasts you’d recommend? What do you like about them?

Serious Entertainment

secret theatreOne of the things that I love about New York City is that it attracts some of the funniest, most talented people in the world. It seems like on every corner, you can stumble into a bar and watch a performance that is funnier than anything you’d see on SNL. The Magic Jukebox, presented by The Serious Theatre Collective, is no exception. This is the third Serious Theatre production I’ve seen and I’m a big fan of their low-brow meets high-brow humor, and their efforts to make high-quality, original theater affordable.

The Magic Jukebox is a zany combination of sketch comedy and musical theater. Make sure you go to the bathroom before the show starts because you’ll be peeing in your pants. The collaborative writing style has led to some hilarious sketch ideas: a gospel choir that offers support during a first date, singing tele-spam, and homicidal dolphins just to name a few.

Some of the performance highlights include Ricardo Delgado’s R. Kelly inspired cameo, any time Sam Durant Hunter’s on stage, and Abby Goldfarb’s comedic timing. It was especially fun to come early and sing along with the impromptu karaoke that sparked up from the house band’s catchy set. At $18 a ticket, you can’t afford to miss this show! Make sure to follow the collective on facebook to hear about future shows.

Playing at Cannon’s Walk at The South Street Seaport (206 Front Street, NY, NY)

All Shows: 7:30pm door, 8pm curtain
Thursday 11/6
Friday 11/7
Saturday 11/8
Thursday 11/13
Friday 11/14
Saturday 11/15
Thursday: 11/20
Friday 11/21
Saturday 11/22

Why you should get bedbugs

What the heck is this new musical, Bedbugs!!!, everyone is talking about? I got to see it a few nights ago and I was blown away.

After losing her mother in a tragic bedbug accident, Carly becomes an exterminator determined to rid the world of bedbugs and avenge her mother’s death. Despite warnings from her lab assistant, Burt, she creates a deadly concoction to kill the bugs, but it winds up mutating them instead. Meanwhile, Canadian pop-singer, Dionne Salon, tries to resuscitate her career, but these  mutated, hyper-sexualized bedbugs threaten to kill off all of her fans. At Dionne’s concert, Carly must decide between the bedbugs who have embraced her as their creator, and mankind who blames her for the apocalypse. In the end, it is the power of love that saves them all.

The show was hilarious, but even more fun was watching the audience crack up. I’ve never seen people laughing and enjoying themselves so much. Fred Sauter has written an amazing and unique show. Paul Leschen wrote music that is so catchy and fun you’ll beg to buy a cd.

Everyone on the team (on stage and off) is so talented, but the three leads will blow you away:

Grace McLean’s sultry voice adds depth to her rock ballads. The last notes of Silent Spring will send shivers down your spine. Her transformation on stage will make your jaw drop. There are few actresses that can play nerdy, sexy, angry, rocker babe, but Grace plays it all to the extreme.

If you haven’t heard of Brian Charles Rooney yet, you’ll never forget him after this performance as Dionne Salon. His comedic timing is only matched by his incredible vocal range. He owns the stage.

Chris Hall’s performance as Cimex, king of the bedbugs, belongs in the leagues of Tim Curry in Rocky Horror Picture Show and Neil Patrick Harris in Hedwig. His voice doesn’t even seem possible. You won’t be able to take your eyes off of him. I don’t know what’s cuter, his over the top facial expressions, or his latex-clad tush. His performance is made even better by the incredible custom designs of Philip Heckman.

I know this show wouldn’t be where it is today without the enthusiasm and perseverance of my mom, Dale Joan Young, as the lead producer. Three years ago she saw a production of Bedbugs!!! at a bar and even though all of us loved it we didn’t see the potential she saw. She has lost her voice, broke her leg, and invested her savings all in the journey of bringing this show to you.

I hope you run out and see Bedbugs!!! You can buy tickets here and use the code HesoBitten for a huge discount. It’s playing at the Arclight Theater in NYC until October 26.

Portrait of a Young Writer as a Young Woman

Writing is  a lot like drawing. As I learn the craft of creative writing, I find that I’m going through the same learning curve I went through with drawing.

Here’s a visual demonstration of what I’m talking about:

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This is how I used to start a drawing before I learned the proper technique. Yes, it’s a pretty eye but it exists in a vacuum. I tend to start my writing the same way: I have an idea for a scene and I develop that scene without thinking about the whole story.

I

As I continue drawing and shading it becomes obvious that the features are disproportionate. Like in my writing, I mistakenly thought if I kept working hard, it would come together eventually; however, if the basic structure isn’t working, all the shading and detail in the world won’t make it better.

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Coming close to the end, the eyes are asymmetrical, the proportions are all wrong and there’s no life in the face. Besides for it being quirky, it doesn’t say anything. This is the point where I start to get fed up with my writing because I’ve been working so hard but it’s not coming together.

Now here’s a second drawing using better technique:

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First I mapped out the general structure of the face just like creating an outline for a story. It’s much easier to make changes at this stage because it’s just simple lines.

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Then I started mapping out the highlights and shadows just like mapping out the tension and turning points in a story.

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I started adding the features, but realized that the eyes were too small. Since I hadn’t spent much time on the shape it was easy to erase them and make them bigger. In my old approach toward writing, it was hard to delete scenes that weren’t working because I spent so much time on them, but if I had mapped out the scenes first, I would have known right away what was working and what needed to be deleted.

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I took an eraser and focused on the highlights. In writing this would be similar to the editing process; figuring out what’s significant and taking out the parts that cloud the plot.

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In the end, notice how the second technique has much more depth, style, and nuance. It’ not perfect but it’s interesting and has a lot more life than the drawing on the right. I used to resist outlining, but now I realize that it allows for more creativity and style. ALSO, the second drawing took only a quarter of the time the first drawing took.

Editing the Image of an Artist

One of my greatest pet peeves is the way artists are portrayed in movies. I’m not even talking about the consistent characterization of artists as bitter, emotionally distant, often abusive alcoholics. I’m talking about the way art is made in movies. In a spark of creative passion, the artist character, always with mad eyes and frizzy hair, stays up all night and completes a novel, painting or song.

I almost walked out of the theater during this scene of The Words when the character stays up all night writing his novel. One pack of cigarettes later, he comes up with a masterpiece that takes the literary world by storm and he never even picked up a bottle of White Out. Come on!

What these movies seem to forget is that art is work. Sometimes there is a spark of inspiration, but it is followed by long hours, weeks, months or years of hard work and self-doubt. Yes, there was one time I had a brilliant idea and stayed up all night writing it down, but that was two years ago, and since then I’ve written four versions of it and I’ve done countless edits (see the picture below). This part of the process would be too boring for a movie.

A random sample of the edits I make on a draft.

A random sample of the edits I made on that draft.

These movies do art a disservice. They marginalize the effort it takes to make great work. I wish just once, a movie would show an artist as someone who stares at her computer for hours on end, someone who takes classes to improve his craft, someone who reads over a sentence twenty times and then ends up deleting it. I know it wouldn’t be as interesting to watch, but I know a lot of artists who would enjoy it.

So now I leave you with a scene that helped me realize how ridiculous art scenes are in movies:

Professor Von Awesome’s Ghost Hunting Safari

the whole cast

The cast of Ghost Hunting Safari

On Friday night, I had the pleasure of seeing The Serious Theatre Collective’s presentation of Professor Von Awesome’s Ghost Hunting Safari. This show was billed as “an evening of music, puppetry, burlesque and necromancy,” and it delivered.

In the back of a quintessential Lower East Side bar, the mood is spooky with a live band playing haunting music and the room lit with candles. The menu offers unique, custom libations such as “The Asphyxiatin’ Vixen” and “The skirt Chaser.” I recommend “The Possessed Exorcist.”

As soon as Professor Von Awesome, played by Mike Drummey, graces the stage you know you’re in for a fun, campy night. Mike is over the top hilarious and holds the show well as he explains how he stole the book of the dead, and how he will use it to bring back his beloved.

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Mike Drummey as Professor Von Awesome, and Jacob Callie Moore as Boobury, the somewhat gay henchman.

The only thing that overshadowed the humor was the raw talent. The team of writers (Lizz Leiser, Becca Worthington, Ricardo Delgado, Mike Drummey, Ari Kessler, Nick Masercola, and Jacob Callie Moore) understand humor and plot construction, and put together a tight production. I was blown away by Norman and Ursula Stuby’s creative props, especially the Indonesian puppet show and the ghost x-ray machine. Sam Durant, who plays Renaldo, can make the audience laugh with just a lift of his eyebrow. Annalisa Derr gives a sensual and hilarious strip tease as a burlesque dancer possessed by an old prude. This is a wonderful theater collective and I suggest you check them out now while tickets are just $15.

This show is like Monty Python and Young Frankenstein meets Halloween. If you like camp, music, and all things gholish, you’ll love it. The original score takes cues from hip hop, cabaret, and blues. The song that stood out for me was the Brian McNight-style explanation of ghosts. I was also blown away by Kirsten Rani Almeida’s range in the song “When Have I Ever Let You Astray?”

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Kirsten Rani Almeida as the stubborn gypsy.

Make sure to arrive early, as the noise from the bar can be distracting if you sit towards the back of the room. Remember that this is experimental theater so don’t go expecting Broadway-style production.

I love to support creative people who are working hard for their dreams, and I know you do too! They only have four more shows in NYC so click here for tickets, or if you’re going to be in Philadelphia towards the end of October, you can click here for details.

(Photographs by Morgan Shortell)

 

Should I advertise?

Main building at the Maryland Institute Colleg...

Main building at the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I studied art at Maryland Institute College of Art, the biggest insult you could say about an artist was that s/he was “too commercial.” The thought of someone actually getting paid for their handwork and creativity seemed to contradict the very nature of art. We were all supposed to starve and wallow in obscurity for the next fifty years. The only acceptable way to become famous was postmortem.

Seven years out of college (oy has it really been that long!), I’m amazed by my friends who have found work that involves some sort of creativity. It doesn’t matter that they’re making art for commercial sake, in fact, it seems even more incredible that they are making good money expressing themselves.  My classmates are making jewelry, designing video games, and photographing models for national magazines. I look back on our snobby, self-righteous younger-selves and wonder how we could ever be so judgmental of people who love art but don’t want to be homeless.

Recently I’ve been approached by a few companies who want to advertise on my blog. When I originally started the HeSoProject, I was so ignorant about the entire blogging process that I figured I would write a few posts, and then live off the advertisement money. Ha! If these companies had approached me back then I would have said yes in a heartbeat. Now, two years into it, I’m slightly hesitant. The HeSoProject is my baby, and I don’t want to dilute it with distracting, false messages. (Currently WordPress puts up ads at the bottom of some posts, but that doesn’t really bother me because it’s part of the free service.)

My inner-college student is yelling “don’t sell out,” but my dwindling bank account is a little louder. Do you, my awesome reader, have any thoughts on the matter?

Crafty Wedding Favors

Mike and I were racking our brains trying to come up with party favors for our wedding guests. I didn’t want to waste money on a little tchotchke that everyone would throw out, but I also didn’t want to break the bank on a more significant gift. While I love the idea of making a donation to charity in honor of my guests, I also wanted to give my guests something sentimental that they can hold onto.

At four in the morning I woke up with this idea:

Name cards that were actually books which included lyrics from our first song, the recipes for the cookies we served, and pictures of us.

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Mike said I was crazy and that it would take too much time. He was right, but it was totally worth it. I loved making this books, and I love seeing them in my friend’s bookcases when I visit their homes 🙂 Mission accomplished!

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There were really simple to make but super tedious. I suggest enlisting a team of friends to help you. First I printed, cut and hole punched each of the booklets.

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I used thicker mason board for the covers. You can get this at most craft or office supply store. I used block stamps to mark everyone’s name on each cover. I kind of liked all the little imperfections.

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Then I just used twine to tie them all together. I originally wanted to Japanese Bind the books, but that would have taken way too much time and sanity.2013-02-20 20.02.36Marla was a huge help to me.

2013-02-07 14.01.13The whole project ended up costing about $3.50 a person (including ink, paper, and a special paper-cutter).

A break for Peter and the Starcatcher

Peter and the Starcatcher @ Brooks Atkinson Th...

Peter and the Starcatcher @ Brooks Atkinson Theatre on Broadway (Photo credit: Broadway Tour)

I’m going to take a break from the dinner party series, because I was so blown away by the performance I watched last night that I wanted to write about it while it was still fresh. I had been meaning to go to Peter and the Starcatcher for months, especially after all the rave reviews, but it wasn’t until I saw that it was ending it’s run on Jan. 20th that I rushed to get tickets.

If you don’t know anything about the show, here’s a quick synopsis: it’s the prequel to Peter Pan; we learn how Peter and the lost boys end up on Neverland, and why they can’t grow up. We learn where Tinkerbell comes from and how Captain Hook loses his hand. The show was hilarious.  I couldn’t help but feel like I was a kid playing in a fort the whole time; it was so fun and childlike.The mix of high-brow and low-brow humor was perfection.

PETER AND THE STARCATCHER Kevin Del Aguila and Christian Borle

One of the reasons why I love live theater is because you get to be a part of the show. When the audience is really into it the performers get into it even more and suddenly the whole show is elevated. There were scenes when the audience could not contain its laughter and the actors were just lapping it up, taking the jokes even further. You could tell they were having the time of their lives.

When the show ended the audience gave the entire ensemble a standing ovation (normally that’s reserved for the leads). And then the moment that struck me the most. Before the bows were over the Playwrite, Rick Elice, ran on stage and asked us to stay for a moment. He told us that for the first time ever the four understudies, who had been with the show since its inception, were all performing together that night. He went on to explain what a huge deal this was, how these people come to rehearsal every day, memorize all the lines for every part in the show, and attend every performance on the chance that they will be needed last minute. All this without the gratification of ever performing in front of an audience. The show cannot function without great understudies and yet they are so under-appreciated  He asked us to give them the applause that they have earned for over a year of hard work.

Then he said that the man who was playing Black Stash, the role that almost had me peeing in my pants, John Sanders, was playing the role for the first time ever and that his whole family was there, including his grandmother who flew in just to see him perform. The entire theater rumbled with the intense applause. Sometimes Broadway can feel so polished and distant, but I was blown away be how heartfelt and warm this impromptu reception was. Rick even read a poem that he wrote honoring the hard work of the understudies. There was a lot of HeSo that night!

On a side note: This play is moving to Off-Broadway, so if you haven’t seen it yet there will still be a chance in the future!