Saturday, August 23, 2008

New tag line

Just came up with a new tag line for myself, to be added to the bottom of my trademark soda, dolls & video games:

"Sierra Rein - providing the public with quality 11 O'Clock Numbers since 1988."

1988 being the year I sang "Brother Can You Spare a Dime?" for a school play and decided I wanted to bring my love of singing into the rest of my life.

Whaddya think?

Friday, August 22, 2008

Video of "Say it Isn't So"/"Down in the Depths" - 1930's Idol

Please forgive the digital camera audio - but you get the picture

Thursday, August 21, 2008

1930's Idol - A Night to Remember

I woke up this morning with the biggest, curliest head of hair in my life. I had clunked into bed at 2am with my curls still bouncing from the 1930's hairstyle I put together for the 1930's Idol night. Couldn't run a comb through it, but it looks fantastic.

The night at the Broadway Baby Bistro club was great - lots of fabulous singers, great humor, some butterflies, wonderful costumes and just an overall positive appreciation and celebration of Dorothy Parker and her era of music. I heard old standards which rang familiar to me, but was also introduced to some songs I had never heard of (which I will probably steal for my own use in the future). Reminds me, I have to look into Noel Coward - his work has eluded me all these years.

Hostess Jennifer Wren, who sported more than one fabulous outfit change during the evening, modeled hats from The Village Scandal and kept the evening flowing from one song to the next. Bill Zeffiro was at the piano, and introduced the birthday celebration with an original song in honor of Dorothy Parker. Then, jazz great Daryl Sherman took the piano for two numbers.

The first round was a lightning-fast rotation through 20 contestants. There was such a lovely variety of voices, styles, comedy, pathos, high notes, belts, guys and's hard to imagine judges Adam Feldman (writer, singer, president of the New York Drama Critics' Circle) and Kevin C. Fitzpatrick (writer, founder of the Dorothy Parker Society) honing them down to a final 5. There was also a lottery and an audience poll for the audience favorite prize.

The contestants were (in the order they sang in): 1 Misty Coy 2 Mark Brignone 3 Sarah Rice 4 Janice Hall 5 Johanna Weller‐Fahy 6 Jen Morris 7 Gabrielle Enriquez 8 Sigali Hamberger 9 Nancy Evans 10 Elizabeth Ulmer 11 Emily Edwards 12 Danielle Grabianowski 13 Courtney Walton 14 Aja Nisenson 15 Jaye Maynard 16 Eric Hoffman 17 Nick Melillo 18 Natalie Wilson 19 Sierra Rein and 20 Sharon Taylor. For the first round, I sang a medley of "Say it Isn't So" into "Down in the Depths." There was a moment of deliberation, and I was announced as one of the 5 final contestants! Yay! The final five turned out to be Sarah Rice, Janice Hall, Sigali Hamberger, Danielle Grabianowski and I. We had 4-5 minutes to sing a song and have a little bit of an interview with the judges to talk about ourselves and answer some questions. I sang my medley combo of "Stompin' at the Savoy" and "The Joint is Really Jumpin' in Carnegie Hall."

Then the winners were announced. All of these recieved gift certificate prizes to shopping locations, show and cabaret tickets, and restaurant meals for two. Audience favorite went to Danielle Grabianowski, first runner-up went to Sigali Hamberger and the ultimate winner of the night went....back to Danielle, so the audience and judges were in complete agreement. (Pete and I concurred as well - Danielle has a wonderfully unique vocal sound and a strong, sexy, playful and powerful presence.) A few final songs from Jennifer & Bill and a hearty "Happy Birthday" to Dorothy Parker rounded out the evening. Pete & I went home tired, but thoroughly entertained. I took a moment to have Pete take some pictures of me in full 20's regalia on the subway platform and train. Took my pincurls out, laughed at the boing-boing curles at my forehead, and took more pictures. On the train, we traded some conversation regarding Star Trek movies and the debate whether any 4th movie in a franchise is any good with some other obvious Star Trek/movie geeks. Then, we went home.

Today, I am going to visit the Algonquin Salon open mic again; hopefully, some of the winners and singers of last night will attend to either recreate last night's songs or bring new ones to the table. I think I might go in with "Where or When" or the fabulous rock song "I Feel The Earth Move." Or both!

With runner-up Sigali Hamberger

With hostess (rowr!) Jennifer Wren

Talking with winner Danielle Grabianowski

With Music Director/Writer/Pianist Bill Zeffiro

The winners circle: Sigali, Kevin, Jennifer, Adam, Danielle, & Bill. Lots of red up there!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Musical Weekend spilleth over into Monday

Continuation...and please understand that I'm as enthusiastic about plugging my talented peers in the business as much as I am writing about my own exploits!

Monday, Monday...was filled with music towards the end of it. During the day, I shook off the concept of doing any temp work (hadn't gotten a call) and puttered around the apartment for a bit. Hung my handmade jewelry rack on the wall, so I was finally able to hang and display my earrings and necklaces for easy reach. A girl's got priorities! We still have so many more things to hang, and I still need a desk (thinking of this one from Bed, Bath and Beyond, but haven't decided). Need a hamper, too...and a wardrobe...

Ich! But I! Music!!! That afternoon, I met up with my friend Brian Hobbs, who asked me to rehearse with him for an audition for BMI, the Broadcast Music, Inc. I'm not exactly sure what the outcome will be if it goes well, but it is simply great to discover him as a composer and work with him and his work. We went through 3 songs which I will memorize and re-work with him closer to when the audition time draws near.

I traveled directly from the Ripley-Grier studios where we were rehearsing (holy crap! Cheap rehearsal places for singers/dancers/pianists!) to The Duplex at 61 Christopher Street off the 1 train. This was to see the Monday Nights New Voices showcase, a monthly celebration and discovery showcase of new singers and new composers produced by Scott Alan (an upcoming composer himself with Broadway knocking on his own door). The structure is thus: a single composer with a solid starting repertoire is chosen for the month, along with 5 or 6 singers from the New York area who are up and coming themselves (ie have not yet made it to Broadway fame, but have the talent and drive to deserve to be heard - hmmm, sound familiar? :) ). The show starts off with each singer performing a song of their choosing. The piano is then turned over to the composer of the night. He or she talks about his or her work and each singer takes turns performing the songs. It's a great format - singers get to show different sides to their abilities, and composers have a chance to get good, solid singers to perform their pieces.

This night was particularly fun and engaging. I knew no one in the room, had to put my best fot forward. Met David Simpatico, writer of the stage version of High School Musical who sat at my table and talked to me of New York. Met Derek, who is now in a NY Fringe Festival show called "The Johnny" (concept: "The Johnny musical answers the question: What happened to the bullying blonde jock in all those beloved '80s movies AFTER he lost to the scrappy young underdog? Drawing on inspirations such as The Karate Kid and Back to School, The Johnny musical tells a completely new story that begins just as those nerd-defeats-bully stories are ending.") I correctly surmised from Derek's bleach-blonde hair that he was playing the bully himself.

This night was also special because the composer of the evening was Georgia Stitt, someone I had heard of in Los Angeles. My voice teacher, Calvin, had played "This Ordinary Thursday" to me on the piano, and I was struck by her ability to capture simple human imagery in just a few short lyrics. She is also known for being married to Jason Robert Brown, a musical theater composer who is incredibly popular amongst singers and musical theater-philes. Jason was there himself in the audience, probably quite proud of his wife's continuing rise in acclaim. Between the two of them, quite a talented household.

The singers of the night were Kelly Caufild, Tom Lucca, Michael Lowney, Onyie Nwachukwu, Andrea St. Clair, Lizzie Weiss. Musical Director was Barbara Anselmi, and Donna Lynne Champlin was a hilarious hostess for the evening (check out Donna's website for some great 80's hair-shots of her past). Everyone on the staged proved that there is indeed a plethora of talent to pick from in New York. Great voices and stage presence, humor, acting, connection with the audience - everything was exemplified that night.

I'm emailing my submission to Scott Alan to take part in a future MNNV showcase, so keep your eyes peeled for a possible post entitled "Sierra Rein in 'Monday Nights New Voices' Next Month!" Or, something catchier.

Next post - I let you know how 1930's Idol goes! And I plan on revisiting the Algonquin Salon on Thursday.


Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Fleas Are Addictive...


Saturday afternoon, I met up with a friend of a friend, musical theater composer/writer Mark Garcia. Mark had moved from New York a number of years ago from Los Angeles, and had seen the show "bare" nine times while I was in it at the Hudson Theater (including one of the times I went on as Nadia). We both have Bally Total Fitness memberships, love cats, and are musical theater geeks, so I thought that inviting him to meet up was a no-brainer.

We met and ate really good Thai peanut jicama/veggie salads, talked about our projects (his musicals and new book, my new adventures in open mic & cabaret land). His musicals center around unique ideas, some inspired from news events or found books, and his own book is inspired by his past experience in the theater. I won't go into them for fear of saying too much, but Mark gave me the first chapter of his book, which I will read.

We then visited the Hell's Kitchen Flea Market on 38th street between 9th and 10th Aves. I instantly regretted it - there was SOOO much stuff I would have bought and taken home, a horrific challenge to my budget. Racks and racks of old clothes, hats, purses, tables spread with antique jewelry, knick-knacks, military outfits & accessories, old books (Playboys!), frames and framed pictures, furniture, furs...oh the list goes on. I bought a long strand of chain & crystal beads plus a pair of old crystal clip-on earrings to wear for the 1930's Idol show on Wednesday. We also went through a box of old photos - wedding pictures, baby pictures, souvenir photos from restaurants in the New York and New Jersey area. Memories caught for a family but forgotten, only for strangers to pick up and ruminate on.

This box, and indeed all the stuff found at this great flea market, reminded me that the East Coast is incredibly old to the eyes of a Californian, where most buildings are less than 100 years young. Here in New York, families have stayed and passed down their heirlooms for more than 200 years. It also made me a bit puzzled to think about the thinks I will pass down to the next generation - plastic Star Wars toys and digital pictures? And what about furniture? The furniture of the past was made of beautiful wood, hand-carved pieces meant to last for many, many years. What do I have - Ikea :/ furniture, which is bound to be sold used on Craigslist or tossed on the curb if a part of the particle board gets too worn down or has a hole in it. Sigh. Then again, someone in the future may find interest in my Munny figures or MST3K DVD collection....maybe.

That afternoon with Mark & the flea market was a lot of fun. I'll definitely have to meet up with Mark again (maybe catch a show or go to Bally Fitness together), and the flea market is calling me to it again for this weekend. I'll try some restraint on the latter...

More to come...

There's music New York!

It's Tuesday, and I have to blog about a weekend (plus) of music and discovery. I'll try to be quick, or I might (probably) break it into a few blog posts. I fear in the future it will be literally impossible to blog on every musical adventure I have in this city - the place is literally crowded and packed with countless theaters, cabarets, music halls and other venues to see music.

Thursday, the 19th, I finished work for the day and took the train/walked through the pouring rain to the famous Algonquin Hotel on West 44th St. Each Thursday, Mark Janas hosts an open mic called the "Algonquin Salon" in the Oak Room. This Thurs, the room was filled to the brim with singers, people coming off the street, and regulars. Raissa Bennett had taken over for a vacationing Mark, and David Caldwell was at the piano.

Each Algonquin Salon has a theme for the week which singers can gain inspiration from or use as an excuse to sing a song they've always wanted but never had the opportunity to sing. However, one is also able to sing anything, bring instruments, read lyric sheets, sit and play the piano themselves, even read poetry or content from books if wished. This week's theme (garnered from the weekly email mailing list) was "Gender Benders," meaning women could sing songs originally meant for men to sing, and vice-versa.

I was excited and appreciative of all the talent up there. Composers got up and sang new material, cabaret artists sat on stools to recreate pieces they've done before, an author read a shatteringly funny piece from a book of his about his early life in New York, people who just loved to sing and obviously wanted to share that with people, everything was there. I had two songs to sing at the ready, although I had printed out lyric sheets: "The Impossible Dream" from Man of La Mancha and "Go Home With Bonnie Jean" from Brigadoon. I was able to sing "The Impossible Dream," and it felt so good to sing full-out without any expectation or pressure.

I was also able that night to meet up with Jennifer Wren, who is hosting the 1930's Idol singing night on Weds the 20th. She is an enthusiastic singer and overall positive person. I was also able to briefly meet Bill Zeffiro, our music director for the night as well. In addition, there were a couple of singers who are going to be sharing the stage with me that night, so I introduced myself. Later, I even met & petted the hotel cat, Matilda.

That night, I left extremely positive and looking forward to the future. It's such a wonderful feeling to know that there is a huge group of enthusiastic people out there, just wishing to sit around and enjoy each others talents and passion for the same love of music.

Friday, after work, I met up with my cousin Stephen, his niece Mary, and his boyfriend David for dinner at a cute little Italian restaurant called Apizz, which I later learned was an American-Italian slang term for "pizza". I had a great slake fish dish, but we all ate off each other plates like a proper family. Had my first vodka Gimlet and shared a few desserts all around.

Afterwards, we walked a few blocks through the wet asphalt to the Rockwood Music Hall on the recommendation of one of Stephen's friends. There, we caught the solo guitar/vocalizing of Emily King and the band of Richard Julian (whose song "Syndicated" particularly hit my ears with its witty lyrics about America's spread around the world). The Rockwood Music Hall, while small, is a good venue for solo or small bands and is cozy with good drinks. There's also a second, smaller room off to the side to stand and talk without disrupting the musicians, and it as a video feed from the hall itself if you want to keep in touch with the music.

We all had an adventurous time taking a cab back towards David's neck of the woods (Hells Kitchen). I hadn't taken a cab this entire time in New York, and I had forgotten how much of a rollercoaster ride it is. Things went by in a blur!

Stephen (left), me, and David (right)

Next post: New friend, new audition project, and Monday Nights New Voices.

Friday, August 15, 2008

A beautiful post by my husband

Go here to read a wonderful, sweet post by my husband, Pete. I was thankfully alone in the room at work when I read it, so no one noticed when I started tearing up.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Old Movie Reviews & Recommendations

Just thought I'd post a link to an ooooold blogspot page which I wrote between Feb, 2003 and Jan, 2004 on the subject of theatrical releases I saw. I laugh at the hyperbole and vitriolic language I use on the less-than-good movies I saw. Enjoy!

and here's another blog I did on things I recommended at the time (movies, theater, etc):

Rush Limbaugh's Billboard -- Needs Work

In Times Square, right above Toys 'R Us, is a huge, faded, beat up billboard for Rush Limbaugh's television show. I found its appearance to the public quite fitting. Plus, I'm very much relieved that his face wasn't blown up and plastered for all of the tourists to see - that might have turned them off to spend their money elsewhere. Would have certainly scared the kiddies away...

Sunday, August 10, 2008

My Neighborhood

I live now in Washington Heights, near Fort Tryon in the upper Manhattan island area. It's informally called Little Dominican Republic (the Tony-award-winning musical "In the Heights" is based on this area of the island). I feel like a white girl, but know that there are a lot of other artists who choose this area to make their home. The rent is cheap(er) than normal, there are parks, I'm right near both the A and 1 train lines, and there's a great community/family feel. I wish I was a little closer to Midtown, but all in all it only takes me 40 minutes to an hour to walk/ride the train downtown. Not too much different from anything I was doing in Los Angeles via car. Plus, the Fort Tryon Park and Cloisters area is absolutely gorgeous, full of walking/running trails, a view of the Hudson River, the Cloisters Museum, Fort Tryon itself (full of history) and I must visit the Cafe that's up there too (I think they have free wifi!). These pictures are taken on the walk from the A train station entrance - the entrance to my building is not so covered in greenery.

The green, rocky hill near our apartment; we emerge from the 190th street A train station through a tunnel dug into this hill.

Big rock I pass on the way to/from the train station. Kind of reminds me of the rock the castle in Edinburgh sits on...only smaller. But this area makes me relax as soon as I get out and see it. Can't wait to see what this place looks like in the Fall...then the Winter.

Editing a Vocal Demo

Experimenting with a vocal demo - comment away! I want to know about bad notes, redundancy, and length. I put this together with audio previously recorded from other projects. Eventually, I want to go into a studio and really RECORD a vocal demo - but I need something in the meantime to send to people as a suggestion of my vocal range, prowess and personal energy. It's currently 3'44'' but I'd like to get it down to 2'30'' or less.


E.B. White - "Here is New York"

Quote from E.B. White I've noticed several times on the billboards within the subway trains:

"There are roughly three New Yorks. There is, first, the New York of the man or woman who was born there, who takes the city for granted and accepts its size, its turbulence as natural and inevitable. Second, there is the New York of the commuter--the city that is devoured by locusts each day and spat out each night. Third, there is New York of the person who was born somewhere else and came to New York in quest of something. Of these trembling cities the greatest is the last--the city of final destination, the city that is a goal. It is this third city that accounts for New York’s high strung disposition, its poetical deportment, its dedication to the arts, and its incomparable achievements. Commuters give the city its tidal restlessness, natives give it solidity and continuity, but the settlers give it passion."
- from "Here is New York," 1948

Damn straight!

Saturday, August 9, 2008

NYC Sound Tracks - A Talent Competition for Subway Musicians

My mom emailed me after I wrote an entry about finding a lot of talent under the streets of New York, within the subway system's many train stations. She noted that the MSG Network was hosting a talent competition, trying to find the city's most talented Subway musicians. As they put it on their website: "Five Boroughs, 16 Musicians, One Superstar. We're looking for the best sounds from the underground — and you will be the judge. Join the search for New York City's greatest subway musicians, Sundays at 8PM on MSG and" Round 1 starts August 10th Sundays at 8PM on MSG. Or you can watch 'em online. I will check it out - thanks, Mom!!!

Anniversary Date

Most of our anniversary was spent apart, it being a work day. Pete was able to record this clip, unfortunately I couldn't hear the audio at work, but I got the loving point. We met at The Hummus Place a little after 7:00 (Pete found me reading a printout of the second draft of "PSW," his space adventure novel). I had gone to the Jack's 99cent store and bought a small vase and bag of marbles, then got a $2 rose...placed them on the table for him to see when he arrived. We had hummus and pita bread, and I introduced him to falafel (although I couldn't really tell him what was in it, only that it was good). After dinner, we walked up and down Amsterdam Ave, then over to Barnes and Noble, which was open until midnight. Went up and down the aisles, looking at sooooo many books as yet unread. Lots and lots of books to read. Lots of money to be spent. Laughed outright at the Stephen Colbert Barnes & Noble tote bag, replete with the familiarly-rendered sketch of his smiling face. I want one.

Then we took the 1 train home. I hadn't been through the 191st street tunnel in a while, but Pete informed me that the mural that was going to beautify the entrance had already been started. And indeed, it was. It's going to be beautiful, bright colors and humor and New York themes. I literally laughed out loud reading what was written on the "train track" : "Hum along to the song we all know...Stand clear of the closing doors please." I truly hope the mural is respected and not covered over by any tagging or graffiti. It would be horrible to see a piece of communal art destroyed or at least damaged by ignorant people. Enjoy these shots of the mural in the beginning phase of creation:

Friday, August 8, 2008


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Audition Psych 101 by Michael Kostroff

This is me and Michael Kostroff, who is an actor/singer with many credits under his belt (both on stage and screen). However, he stresses that he is not any more talented than anyone else - he attributes his career to the psychology he applies to his auditioning process. Yesterday, I went to a free seminar he held at Actor's Equity (the first one he's done in New York, although he originated his career in New York and has been in Los Angeles for 18 years). This is/was a great seminar - he opens with the fact that he is incredibly qualified to talk about auditioning because he himself was the worst audition-er ever in the history of auditioning, and merely improved upon this to get work over the years. It also helps that he's charming and funny, but that's beyond the point.

I won't go into everything he said (although email me if you want copies of the mp3's of the seminar and a word doc of my notes if you want to read them - he did this seminar for free because he loves his fellow actors and would only want his advice to be seeded into the world.) However, for the family, friends and co-workers/acting peers in my life, I'm going to state the following regarding my new attitude about acting/auditioning, as well as a change that will be made in the content of my blog:
  1. Being talented or having great auditions does not mean an actor will necessarily be cast for a role. Plus, when it comes to the odds of getting a job, the math SUUUUCKS. Don't ask me "Oh why aren't you getting any work? You're so talented!" There are too many factors for anyone to pinpoint why someone gets hired over another. Just support me and say "I hope you are having fun at your auditions." Because that's the only thing I have control of - having fun at auditions. Don't ask me "whatever happened to the callback you had for such-and-such show? Didn't they like you?" I'm liable to hang up on you or find an excuse to leave the room. Just wish me well...that's it.
  2. Thus, I'll tell you when I book something. If I don't say anything, just assume all is going well for me and that I'm enjoying the process. If anything, encourage me to continue auditioning and growing creatively.
  3. Don't describe me to your friends and co-workers as a "starving" or "struggling" actress in New York. I'm not starving. I'm not struggling at all in this biz - in fact, I'm relishing in the fact that I'm able to audition and meet talented, creative people here. I'm having fun! No struggle! (I'm claiming my dignity, here, if you haven't noticed already...)
  4. I will discontinue describing "how things went" in auditions in my blog. And please don't ask me about them, either. First of all, each experience is open to interpretation. So, a Casting Director who looks bored might actually be incredibly entranced in me, or vice-versa. I have no right to "write his story" through my own judgment, since I might be completely wrong on the matter. Secondly, who knows who reads this blog - I might give someone the wrong impression of me or worse, insult someone who might be a potential creative collaborator. I don't want to do that; I'd rather insult them later, once I've made them into a friend :)
  5. I don't want anyone to tell me or tell anyone else "your life as an actor must be sooooo difficult, what a hard life you have." It's difficult when I treat it as such or accept your statement as remotely true. An acting career is wonderful and fulfilling if I treat it like the wonderful, wild, crazy journey of discovery that it is.
  6. To reiterate, I'm not going to an audition to get a job (since that is completely out of my hands). I'm going to auditions for (as Tyne Daly put it) "the chance to act on a Tuesday," the wonderful chance to play a role or sing a song (with a free accompanist!) for a room full of strangers - my own private audience - for 3 minutes at a time. The ultimate choice of going into an audition to have fun is the only option I have and frankly I enjoy the fact that the rest is up to the producing team.
If I seem as though I'm laying down a few rules/a few laws...ya got it! This is not to chastise anyone who might have said some things in the past, but to inform readers that there is a way to communicate with me about my craft in a way that does not insult it. Try it, and maybe apply it to aspects of your own life - it may work!

A few closing quotes that Michael was cool enough to give us:

"I think that the most important thing for an actor is dignity--that an actor has a sense of dignity. And by dignity, I don't mean pride, I don't mean false hope. I don't mean hostility. I mean a sense of the fact that he is of the most highly-thought-of professions in the history of man.

Perhaps one has difficulty getting a credit card--but that's not that kind of dignity that I'm talking about.

Each and every person that has ever attending any theatrical or movie adventure...has gotten some kind of information that they've been able to apply to their lives...And the actor is the source of that.

And therefore, when an actor goes on an interview, he doesn't have to be a beggar...saying "I've got to have this," no matter how broke he is. He must be willing to be himself at that interview: Not to fake, not to pretend, and not to try to sell a big thing, but to be himself, and to come with a certain dignity, and not to be talked out of that dignity...

...If the actor handles himself with dignity, and with presence...he cannot lose, because if it's not this thing, then it will be something else...You have got to win -- you cannot lose if you come that way."

-Milton Katselas

"There is a vitality, a life force, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique.

If you block it, it will never exist through any other medium, and be lost. The world will not have it.

It is not your business to determine how good it is; nor how valuable it is; not how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours, clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep open and aware directly to the urges that motivate you.

Keep the channel open. No artist is ever pleased. There is no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer, divine dissatisfaction; a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others."

- Martha Graham (in a letter to Agnes DeMille)

" ...There is such a common level of abuse given to people who are being interviewed. It's necessary - it's so important - to turn around to the person who is interviewing you and tell them to go to hell...You have to let a creep know when he's being a creep.

What happens to actors is that they are treated as talking pieces of meat, with have no other privilege than to act...And the fact of the matter is that the overwhelming majority of actors are smarter than the overwhelming majority of the people who are interviewing.

So what happens is, after a while, you're being talked to as if you're not there. You're just the body sitting in the chair. you have to say, "Excuse me. I'd rather not do this job if this is what I have to go through.'

And there's a very specific reason why you do that. It's not just because you want to be a bad guy or a rebel. But very simply: An actor's instrument is himself. And the more you give away...the less you have as an actor. Because your soul, your body, is your instrument.

So you have to always take the risk...You are not giving yourself away, you are not letting yourself be abused, and you are protecting what you have...

...It doesn't make sense to be humble and to be begging and pleading, because that means you are hurting your own work. And eventually, if you do get the are not going to have enough resources to play the role."

-Richard Dreyfuss

And finally, a plug for Michael's book - "Letters From Backstage" - written while he was on tour with 2 Broadway tours -" The Producers" and "Les Miserables."

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

New York puts calories in your face

An interesting new law in New York is quite suddenly apparent now: food chains, restaurants, even coffee houses are now required by law to include the calorie content of all menu items. My hubby and I first came to this realization when we went to TGI Friday's for a splurge dinner very early on in our residence here. We suddenly had to come to the realization that one meal here would constitute the equivalent calories of an entire day's worth. I opted for the lean steak and vegetables on the side, but didn't hesitate to help myself to some of Pete's mashed potatoes.

It is quite amazing what happens when the calorie count of a Starbucks iced chai tea latte is revealed right next to the caloric count of a simple iced coffee. The mind does a backflip and instantly regrets all those iced chai tea latte's of the past. The plans of the day become an important, essential I get the high calorie item now and shirk on things later in the day or reverse that? Or just ask for an iced tea and be done with it?

Thank you, New York, for putting in plain English exactly what we are offered in a simple, gastrointelligent way. I'm sure with this, and all the walking I'm going to be doing, my weight will gradually slim down. I'm still going to go to the gym, but now that "whole grain sesame seed muffin" won't get me to taste its 400-calorie being anytime soon.

Yes, I'll have some of that, please

One sees the oddest things in New York subways. Like this group of strapping, young, fit, uh...let's just say easy-on-the-eyes men walking around in a group, dressed only in boxers, robes, and footwear (and the odd hat & sunglasses, as you can see). Pete was talking to me (we had just went to Trader Joe's) and my mind suddenly went blank as I saw these gentlemen come into view over Pete's shoulder. "Sorry, I've suddenly become very distracted" I told Pete, who then began to noticed the be-robed adonises (adoni?) walking by. He took this picture with his iPhone and has blogged about it himself - he thinks it's "Some sort of marketing campaign for a bathroom-related product. I think I saw the phrase "Shave Anywhere" in fairly small print on their backs as they entered the train." Well, it got my attention! But they took the C train while we were waiting for the A. Pity, it would have been fun to try to sqeeze into that little area left over in the doorway, there. :) you honey!!!!

JRB Karaoke Contest - help my friend!

Anyone who's reading this: a favor - email with the subject MELISSA LYONS :) I'm helping a friend win a contest:

No spam, I swear.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

1930's Idol - August 20th at the Broadway Baby Bistro

I just signed up for the fun concept of a night of 1930's music...American Idol style. A fun party made in honor of Dorothy Parker's 115th birthday will be on August 20th at the Broadway Baby Bistro & Piano Lounge 318 WEST 53RD STREET • NYC (Between 8th & 9th Avenues) 212 - 757 - 5808. 20 contestants (including me) will be singing period songs and American Songbook pieces and have general fun together - regardless to who makes it to the winning 1st prize spot. But they do give out the Audience prize for most votes from the crowd,so your presence is much appreciated, as well as your family and friends who need to get out of the house HINT HINT BE THERE HINT HINT.

More information can be found here: and here:
Facebook group for Big Night Out

But mark your calendars NOW for the late night of August 20th, starting at 10pm. Don't be late, or you might miss seeing me!



A good day

Today was really fun. Didn't have temp job to drain my brain of creative force. I had two auditions in the same audition location (right at the Equity office on 46th Street) for two different companies - one in New York, the other in Florida. Got my hair out of its curlers (looking very much like my mom looks when she perms her hair - hi mom!) and got to the audition location around 8 am (an hour and a half before the audition(s) were going to begin). Dern - there were a lot of people there! I stood in line for one call and got an 11:30 am time, then stood in the other line and got...#40 on the alternate list (an alt. list is a formal list of people who don't get there early enough to sign up for a proper "time" but are pulled into auditions when people don't show up for their own time). What made it a bit troubling was that I had misplaced my Equity card, so after signing up, I had to go up to the office and get a new one, then go back down and prove to the monitors that I could keep my time(s). That wasn't a huge deal, but distracted me a bit from the matter at hand.

I went into the 11:30 slot on time, singing two contrasting pieces (the company was doing a number of different shows). Started out with "When Will Someone Hear?" and finished with "The Finer Things." Felt good. No huge response, but they were friendly. Then sat back down, ready to wait it out for enough people to give way for me to get inserted into the list of auditioners. I met Chris, an opera singer who (judging from his rendition of "Stars" I heard through the wall) has a gorgeous voice. I also met a singer/composer who has an upcoming baby girl on the way. Coincidentally, I had seen him in the chorus of a production of "Les Miserables" which made its way through Los Angeles at the Pantages Theater a number of years ago, and knew my friend Melissa (who played Eponine). Then, in yet another coincidence, I saw an internet friend, Mark Baratelli, at the audition location. He was on his way to an entirely separate audition, but it was great to finally shake his hand and say hello in person. I also saw Jackson, who I had met at the NYMF audition the previous Friday. He remembered me, too.

About 12:50, literally 10 minutes before the production crew was scheduled to break for lunch, my number and name was called. YAY! That meant I did not need to wait until after the lunch break was finished to be seen. I went in and saw about 5 guys sitting at a table. Using the humor that the situation afforded, I said "Ok, guys, you'll go to lunch soon, I swear it's coming up!" and they laughed. Before I began singing, one guy pointed to my skirt (an Anthropologie piece I was given by my friend Leah) and said "I love your skirt! It's the best one I've seen all day. Can you twirl?" I obliged and did so, exclaiming "I get the skirt prize!" The guys laughed. I then sang "Children of the Wind," this time able to sing a slightly longer version than I had been able to sing before.

After singing (the song starts with a good group of alto belted notes, then ends in a series of long, high soprano notes). One gentleman said "That was great! Do you have anything more..." "What, legit?" interrupted another man increduously. I laughed, and the first gentleman said "oh, yeah that's OK, we've heard plenty. Thanks!" As I picked up my music, yet a 3rd man reiterated "Yeah, love that skirt." I felt I was in a room full of fashion police! I thanked them and left.

I had a bit of time left before I knew I had to meet up Pete to go shopping at Trader Joe's, so I asked Jackson if he wanted to go to lunch. We went two doors down to a Havana-themed club. I grabbed a chicken sandwhich & fries while Jackson had a white sangria (he had already eaten). We gabbed and gabbed for an hour about our lives and new experiences here in New York (he's only been here 3 weeks). We both bemoaned our first electrical bill and compared casting considerations. He used to be a music history/voice professor and laughed when I told him I wanted to take sight singing lessons (he couldn't imagine wanting to be put through that hell).

Finishing up with Jackson, I left him to prepare for his auditions and then got a call from Michael Kostroff. Michael is a former New York actor, now lives in Los Angeles. He's performed as the cover for Max Bialystok in the national tour of "The Producers" and has a successful career in TV and Film. I saw him in MTG's production of "The Mystery of Edwin Drood" as the Reverend Chrisparkle. I saw in the Equity office that he was doing an Audition Psych 101 seminar for free on Thursday, and emailed him earlier to see if he wanted to grab coffee. His schedule synched perfectly with mine, and we met each other and walked to a local bar which was kind enough to serve us coffee (the cheapest thing on the menu). We chatted a while about theater in general, casting, Michael's reasons for offering free seminars on auditioning hangups (answer = he wants to help and not ream actor's pocketbooks), and why he loves New York and considers it home. It was good to have another familiar face here in New York, although he is leaving soon to go back to Los Angeles.

I left Michael to meet Pete at Trader Joe's to get us some much-needed groceries and fell prey to the pretty beauty of a small pot of a $5 lavendar rose bush. Took it home, and it's now on our coffee table as we watch MythBusters and re-arrange our DVD collection.

All in a day's fun.

Oh, and one side note: while waiting for Pete outside Trader Joe's (14th Street and 3rd Ave), I watched a young black gentlemen with a backpack on his back climbing the building on the other side of the street. It's a climbable building (I think a bank), covered with vertical and horizontal ridges. He made it about 15 feet up, then over a bit so he stood above a doorway, then onto a farther section. Then he stopped, dropped suddenly to the ground (making quite a graceful roll on the cement), then sprinted off down the street. His antics had grabbed the attention of some people around me, so I turned to a few of them and said "well, that was anti-climatic." I then saw a uniformed gentleman come into view - I guess the building-climber didn't want to get into trouble so early on in his climb!

Monday, August 4, 2008

See my friend...Naked!

Season 2, Episode 2 of "How to Look Good Naked" on the Lifetime Channel is special - it's not any woman, but my friend Grae who gets surprised by Carson and asked to do a Tango. Now, everyone who knows Grae was puzzled by the fact that she wanted to be on this show, seeing as how she's such a positive, supportive and creatively awesome woman. I mean, she ran the Los Angeles Marathon and took on the name Hellcat for it. But, we women have doubts and fears and issues with our body, so woman-to-woman I can see where she might want to get past some body-image problems.

So, if you have the time to see my woman Grae make her outside as gorgeous as her inside (with the help of a gay man to help her shop for clothes and someone to do her celebrity hair & makeup - wouldn't we all want those at our side?), go to and watch all the segments online, or find her episode on iTunes.

And in the meantime, check out her movie-obsessed podcast called Popcorn Mafia, which she does with her good friend Gariana. And they have an awesomely designed website, too. Huh, funny that! Oh, and just found them on Their running commentary on last week's ComiCon is priceless.

Way to go, Grae & Gariana!

Update, auditions and documentaries

Thursday, I went in for an audition for a North Carolinian production of "Phantom." That's "Phantom," the other version of "The Phantom of the Opera" not written by Lloyd Webber. Had the morning to get ready, nice and easy, got there 1/2 hour before the official sign up time started, and there was already a decent line. But got a 3:10 appointment. Hung out, utilized the women's green room (had never seen that in an audition room it!), read a bit, listened to podcast. Finally went in and sang "This Place is Mine" and felt good about it. Probably a bit too young to play Carlotta, but what the heck. I'm her type, at least.

On my way out, I dropped off a HS/resume to another audition which was just closing up (and all the audition slots were taken up). It was for a New York Musical Theater Festival show based on the lives of Mary Shelley, Percey Shelley, and all those within that writing salon. Sounded cool. By Equity law, if an actor is not seen at an audition due to time restraints, the monitor is to collect all headshots from actors still interested in the production and turn them into the casting staff. So I figured, why not?

When I got home, Pete & I went for a walk in the forested hills surrounding this Fort Tryon area. Up with the Cloisters and all. It was gorgeous. Full tree-lined paths criss-cross this modest rocky hill. We could hear cicaedas chirping in the trees and when we got towards the top, a great view of the Hudson River. Families and boys on bikes, walking couples like us passed us as we traveled up the hill, and an actress(?) dressed in a wedding gown searched with her photographer for a certain spot down by the riverbank. We walked up to the top, passed the cafe (they got wifi!) and the cloister museum itself, then went back home via the 190th street A station's elevator.

That night, got a call to come in and sing for the NYMF show at 12:10pm. Come in with classical/legit-leaning song and a classical (Shakespearean or otherwise) monologue. Cheeeerist, I haven't had to come in to an audition with a monologue in aaaaaages. Ugh. I had temp work during the day, but luckily the audition place was only 20 blocks away and during my lunch hour.

So, packed up and dressed under for work. Managed to get there with 10 mins to spare, but as usual the audition schedule was slow. Met Jackson, a tenor from Texas who had me beat as a "newbie" in New York by a month and a half - he'd been here only 3 weeks! I went in and sang "The Finer Things," a song I've known for many a year, but lost a lyric and had to find it again in a split second, causing the pianist to lose his place. So I sang a cappella for a little bit and waited for him to find me again. At least we finished on time. Then, at the director's behest, I sang a bit of my Verdi aria "Vienni t'affretta" which I know very very very well. Whew, got through that one.

Thennnnn the monologue. I had pulled Hermione's "Sir, Spare your threats" monologue from "The Winter's Tale" out from it's dusty place in my mind. I had used that monologue to get through the UCLA Theater auditions, and I don't think I've really worked on it since! I had it printed out as a cheat sheet, just in case. I did about 3/4 of it and then the director asked me to start over and do it again, only this time pleading with my husband rather than so angry. Ha. I usually go to the firey part of a character before anything else. It's my "go to" when I feel unprepared with something. But I know that I take direction well, so I made the switch and re-did the first 1/4 of the monologue with his adjustment. Not great, but not bad either. Made mental note to take an afternoon and get some monologues together, or take a class in the matter to get me up to speed!

The director then turned to the pianist, who happened to be the music director, and asked "well, which is she better suited for vocally?" meaning, which character am I more suited for. Since I had shown off my high trilly voice in "The Finer Things," and my warm dramatic voice in "Vienni t'affretta" the music director hemmed and hawed and said "both really." They gave me a side for Mary Shelley - oh shit I'm going to be late getting back to work - and let me sit outside to go through the material. Went back in, did the scene once sitting, then did it again with an adjustment from the director. Then left. Luckily, no one cared that I was 20 minutes late back to work and didn't even adjust my timesheet to reflect it.

Finished up work, then Pete & I went to the opening night of "Stealing America: Vote by Vote," a documentary on the past and future dangers threatening our voting system, which Pete and my sister actually helped out on. They provided footage and have their own credit at the end (one right after the other!). The director, Dorothy, and Greg Palast were there, as well as a few people interviewed in the movie itself. It was enjoyable, although it's so annoying to get re-angered by what's going on with our government system.

Next week, 2 auditions and some re-examining of goals. Cheers.