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Theater

Feb. 27 Performance to Benefit the LLS

Photo by Mark Leialoha

On Monday, Feb. 27, I’ll be performing my comic monologue Ben Franklin: Unplugged at the Ashby Stage in Berkeley — with all proceeds going to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.  (The LLS runs Team In Training, the wonderful organization that is whipping me into shape to bike the Solvang Century next month.)

As far as I know, Ben Franklin wasn’t a major cyclist — but, contrary to his paunchy image, he was an athlete: he’s the only Founding Father honored at the International Swimming Hall of Fame.  My guess is that, if he were alive today, he’d ride a nifty folding bike to the printshop — and would blog about the benefits of physical activity.

Tix & info for this benefit performance can be found here.

Un-Solo Performance: Notes on My Off-Day

What I do on stage is called “solo performance,” and people sometimes ask me (with real sympathy), “Isn’t it lonely up there?”

And I tell them, emphatically, No, it isn’t!

There’s my crew — up in a booth (possibly knitting during the long stretches between cues).  There are all the characters in my monologues — often people who are very dear to me, some of them no longer alive but very much in my thoughts and my heart as I (imperfectly) portray them.  There’s my producer, whose love of and respect for the theater I have the honor and duty to represent.  There’s my director and collaborator: these stories we create are, in a deep way, a chronicle of our evolving friendship.  There are the designers and the composer, whose beautiful worlds I inhabit.  There are my family and friends, whose encouragements and loving corrections continually run through my mind.  There’s the theater staff — working in a field that offers strictly limited remuneration but unlimited epiphanies.  There’s my own staff — my colleagues who (among other things) arrange for my travel (and that of my set and costumes) and absorb my freak-outs.  There are my investors, and those who choose to donate to the theater.  And, of course, there is the audience: changing in personality from show to show, sometimes rapt, usually adventurous, occasionally sleeping peacefully (dreaming, perhaps, of an actual drama, with multiple actors) — always granting me the enormous gift of their cumulative genius.

So no, it’s not lonely at all on stage.  As for this hotel room, however — well, that’s another story.

Video: Bollywood Dance Styles Through the Decades

This was really fun!  I was conducting a storytelling workshop with a group of theater students in Bangalore — in the lobby of the magnificent Ranga Shankara theater, where I had performed Citizen Josh the night before — and one of the students mentioned that she’d had to give a presentation on the evolution of Bollywood dance styles.  I asked her to demonstrate, and after expressing a bit of shy reluctance she did so — and was eventually joined by many of the others (with all the students singing a musical accompaniment).

Video: Mix Mix, Eat Eat!

Here’s a little video from a workshop I conducted with theater students at a public university in the southern Indian state of Kerala.  They had first served lunch to me and my stage manager, Bob, and had laughed a lot over my inability to pick up their style of eating.  You mix the rice, at the center, with all the different sauces and other foods along the perimeter.  And you only use your right hand, for the important reason I mentioned in a previous blog entry.  In my effort to improve my technique, I’d started muttering “Mix mix, eat eat!” as I smooshed the food.  This became a popular chant among the students.  At the end of the workshop, as I departed, they all called out, “Mix mix, eat eat!”

Video: Riding with Ratna

Here’s a tiny video teaser from Chennai, the first stop in my current tour of India with Citizen Josh.  (Right now I’m in my third city, Bangalore, and about to set off for Mumbai.)  My guide is the charming Ratna Mukherjee, of the very hip U.S. Consulate in Chennai, which is the capital of the state of Tamil Nadu in the southern part of the country.  She is talking about how theater and politics are very much intertwined in these parts.