Saturday, January 30, 2010

craftbar and the Craft and Keep Crackin'

Have you ever had pig's head before? Well, now I can I say I have. The pig's head terrine, served with caviar, orange marmalade, and crostini, was just one of the many selections on craftbar's generous Restaurant Week menu. I could have gone for the fried oysters or perhaps the shaved fennel salad or the ever-popular risotto balls - the choices were endless in number and variety! For entree, I decided to go with the polenta with wild mushrooms - super rich - though the salmon and root vegetables was a close second. My dining companion opted for the anchovy bruschetta and the orchiette bolognese. When it came time for dessert, I opted for the cheese plate (parmesan, manchego, and bleu served with raisin bread - how bad can that be?), while he went for the Meyer lemon panna cotta (smooth and creamy and light), served with fresh slices of orange, grapefruit, lemon, and blood orange. My glass of white Verdejo was the perfect accompaniment to my meal. Our meal was part of "Restaurant Week" sponsored by nycgo, meant to give customers opportunities to check out some of New York's best restaurants at amazing prices. I was in heaven the entire meal, my food euphoria lasting well into the afternoon. This was a nice treat as I step back into my old (new) life, returning to work, auditions, subway trains, and walking. I took the plunge and attended my first auditions of the new year this week, no call backs, but then it was the going and getting through them that was truly important. Ironically, these were the last auditions featuring my old headshots, as I picked up my new ones later that day. I have been stapling and clipping away, in anticipation of sending these oh-so-important advertisements to casting directors aplenty. I have been emailing my shots everywhere, in hopes of auditions and getting that next 'big break.' Since I've been back, I have pushed myself to go to the piano bar twice, able to practice material and performing in front of an audience. Not to mention those super cold martinis which I am finding increasingly important. In fact, January has seen me donning the cocktail shaker instead of the corkscrew, partly out of preference and partly out of economical and dietary means (portion control - right?). As I continue on this journey in the city, I feel so lucky to be here and want to take every advantage of my newfound metropolitan home. In the wake of my first show, not to mention what has been going on in my personal life, I am more than ever invigorated to explore my craft, to chase my dreams, and to even be a little brave. I don't know where this theatre track will take me, and perhaps I don't care, whether enjoying the ride and trusting good things will come my way. These past few weeks I have been so surrounded by love and support and well wishes, that I have no choice but to go deeper, push myself harder, and dare to follow my dreams. While I am sure part of me wants to do it for Jessica, for my family, for all the people in my life that believe, at the end of the day, I am doing it for me, for my own sanity and purpose. Like Momma Rose says at the end of Gypsy, "Well Louise, I guess I did it for me after all." And ultimately, it's me that I have to go home to at night, me that I have to wake up with every morning. So what if I'm doing it for me? I'd rather be a first-rate version of myself than a second-rate version of anybody else. And besides, I'm having a blast along the way.

Friday, January 22, 2010

A Visitor! A Show! A Weekend!

For my first weekend back in New York, I was lucky to have some special out of town visitors and the closing of my first NYC theatre-go. Though not something I can come to expect every weekend, this was a nice ease back into the city, back on track, back to the life I left Indiana for in order to pursue my dreams. Aunt Nancy (she and Mom are tied at two visits a piece) and her friend Liz (a.k.a. Mrs. Shauver, my high school geometry teacher) paid a visit to the Big Apple to see my little musical revue and take a well-deserved break from New Castle. We had a really nice time together, and I think it was just as good for her to make this trip as it was for me to have her here. Shortly after arriving, I met them at their Soho hotel for a night of East Village theatre and dining. We hustled out the door of the Hampton Inn and were able to sneak a bite to eat at The Smith, a new favorite restaurant of mine. I dined on a delicious pot of steamed mussels accompanied by crispy roasted Brussels sprouts and a carafe of velvety Cote du Rhone. Aunt Nancy had the salmon, Liz the cod, seafood and fun all around. After the show (which went much better than Thursday for me), I tucked the weary travelers into bed in preparation for another big day in the city. The next morning, we met up on 47th street in search of more good theatre. We most definitely found it at the Walter Kerr Theater on 48th street, current home of the new revival of Stephen Sondheim's masterpiece A Little Night Music, starring Catherine Zeta-Jones and Angela Lansbury. Before the show, we hopped on the train for a little chocolate and breakfast at Max Brenner's, my place of choice for visitors. Buzzed with chocolate, we returned to the Theatre District and settled in for an afternoon's show. Seated right in the middle of the action, center orchestra in the first and second rows, aka the spit section, we braced ourselves for the forthcoming show. This slimmed-down production of the Sondheim classic was phenomenal. The direction, the music, the movement & choreography, costumes, and lights all flowed together marvelously, telling this story in a truthful, clever manner. I think this show's success is not only due to the director and talented cast (more on them later), but most importantly to Sondheim's (and Hugh Wheeler's) brilliant material. This musical is truly about music, words, and action, relying on the story and the way it is told rather than lush theatrics or exhausting choreography. It no doubt ranks as one of my favorite musicals, second only to Gypsy (my favorite) and possibly a couple others (don't ask me which!). It is clever, smart, ironic, sexy, and sophisticated. Ms. Zeta-Jones was quite stunning in her Broadway debut, and she is really is that beautiful. Though her performance certainly read a little Velma-ish (Chicago), I think she succeeded in this most sought after role, Desiree, the fading and fraternizing stage beauty. Unlike others of similar Hollywood caliber, her acting works onstage, her presence is big enough to fill the house (though not big enough to trump Ms. Lansbury's god-like persona), she can sing well enough for the part (she's not supposed to have that great of pipes), and moves gracefully across the stage. Though she did seem a bit out of her element in a few of the musical numbers, her book scenes were real zingers, hitting the beats on the dot, holding the audience in her hand. Her sly, sexy smiles helped to play Desiree's clever humor, attempting to manipulate all those around her, but took away from the sincerity and vulnerability necessary to the role, as if this whole episode was just another well-acted scene. Angela Lansbury, first lady of the theatre, did not disappoint as the crotchety, vain, at times forgetful Madame Armfield, Desiree's mother. Her comedic timing and mastery of the stage still rings true and easily devours the younger actors around her, gladly spitting them out with that world-weary, bothered sneer she wore for most of the show, showing just the slightest bit of gest. Her "Liasions" was completely her own, different from the original I have listened to so many times, acting the piece brilliantly, taking us with her as she visits each juicy affair (and its spoils) in her mind. The most remarkable aspect of her performance was her ability to equally play the comedy of the first act and half as well as the sentimentality and truth of her final scenes. More of a caricature than the other characters in the play, Lansbury still found Madame Armfield's inner humanity, guarded as it is in sass and disagreeability. I also highly enjoyed the performances of the Count and Countess, he the pea-brained stud (think Gaston), she the bitter, sharp-tongued snow queen. Following the show, we ventured into once-dangerous Alphabet City for some yummy Italian food at Gnocco Cucina, another great find from the weekend. To start, we enjoyed a nice cheese plate with pears and honey, accompanied by a spicy Pinot Nero. My main event was a pumpkin filled ravioli, creamy and rich and sage-y, very comforting and warm, just what I needed before another big show. We successfully closed "If This Ain't It," playing some nice houses despite less than stellar reviews. I am so glad to have been able to close this show out, transitioning me back into my New York world, finding an outlet for the millions of emotions running through my veins. This weeks bodes a trip back to Locale, back to the grind, to perusing Backstage, and hunting my next big project. I am excited and ready to dive back into my work, chasing the dreams that brought me to this wonderful city.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Journey Back to Me

After what seems like an eternity, a nightmare, a dream, I find myself woozy and once again in the city. The grey (or is it gray?) lady welcomed me back this morning with open arms, sunshine, clear skies, and a cabby that even spoke English. Due to a sparsely attended flight, we all were able to sit up front in business class, though I opted for the free chance to snooze instead of booze this time. I hope and pray New York will be enough to mend my broken heart, to take me into its immensity and buzzing life and return me a new person, stronger, finding some kind of peace, once again moving and doing and dreaming. As I have said before, these past two weeks have been so strange, and I find myself without precedent as I attempt to cope with the new dimensions of my life. I have been so completely surrounded in prayer and the precious company of family and friends; I cannot thank everyone enough for their support. But after the flowers, the casseroles, and the days of no school or work end, how do we go on? Do we just pick up where we left off and keep on truckin'? How can I continue to live my life and follow my dreams, while still acknowledging this cruel reality? Is it possible to wear memories of my sister on my heart without the hurt overcoming me? These are among the many questions that linger and await me down the road.
Speaking of prayer, I have done more praying and churching and Bible reading than I have done in a long time. While I never lost my faith or stopped letting God's principles serve as the basis for my morals, He has not been the focus of my life as He once was, left on the shelf while I pursued other interests and goals. It has only been through prayer and the work of His people that I am here today. Revisiting the Broad Meadow, my home church, and an old way of life, I feel reunited with my lord and re-ignited in my spiritual journey. I am so completely impressed with the new minister at our church (he began only a week before the accident) and am sure of the marvelous things he and God will do in that church in the near future. Upon returning to the city, it is my attention to find a new church family - wish me luck. In this city of brunchers and boozers and busses, can I walk the line between the politically liberal and the fervently faithful? Can I invite God in without compromising the person I have become?
In cinematic news, I had the opportunity to see It's Complicated, the new Nancy Meyers film starring Meryl Streep and Alec Baldwin, with one of my very good friends, Miss Amy Hert. The movie was funny and mostly light, exactly what I needed, and the company was second to none. Later, we were joined by two of my other dear friends, Lawrence and Ben, for mischief and martinis at the Cheesecake Factory (but sadly no cheesecake!). Although the movie follows a typical plot for Ms. Meyers, Streep and Baldwin (and don't forget Steve Martin!) give remarkable, commanding performances that made the film something worth watching. When I see Meryl Streep on the screen, I so often see her character, not Ms. Streep herself, and though I am on to her to typical ticks and patterns, each performance is fresh, different, inspiring. And how can fat, old Alec Baldwin still come across so sexy? How can he steal scenes from both those more youthful (the pathetic actors picked to play their children) and masterful (the many time nominated Meryl) with such a shameless ease. Shameless is exactly what Baldwin or at least his character is, and I couldn't have loved it more! No statues are probably not headed toward their complicated way, but certainly this film is worth giving a glance, if not just for the gorgeous scenery and mise-en-scéne. Little reprieves like this are most necessary for getting through my own complicated little life.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Awe and Wonder

These past few days have been some of the strangest in my life. Quickly rushed from my sound, singular world in New York, I have been plummeted into the center an all too real family tragedy. I have been so touched by the tremendous amount of support my family and I have received. In the past few days, it seems I have seen or spoken to nearly everyone from my whole life: teachers, friends, relations, and our church family. What happened to Jessica is simply horrific, and I am still reeling in a mix of shock and denial. The pain and tears come and go; I switch from peace to numbness to outrage to sorrow. I am in awe of the amount of love and support we have received and know I would not be here today without it (we have also been very well fed). I have been caught in a strange stupor, ignoring time or day, places and people blurred. Unlike my recent Christmas trip to Indiana, this trip has found me surrounded by all that is New Castle and the small town I hail from. While there have been moments of commotion and confusion, the hospital, the huge calling, the airport; this trip has mostly been cloaked in stillness and silence, reverence and prayer. Instead of finding my sister warm, breathing, and laughing, the cemetery and the crash site only give me a shadow of the young woman who was, only serve to remind me of what is not there. How can I imagine a Christmas without her? A family portrait for four, a single sibling? Anger floods me as I mourn her unfulfilled dreams, the fact I will never see her get married or have children, that she won't be there to watch me do those things myself. Her sudden exit stirs up emotions and longings in my heart; it quakes the very essence of my soul. Just as the preacher said at her funeral, we must each begin a new life following this tragedy, must move on and adapt and attempt to find meaning in the tragedy. As I sit here in Indiana, I feel stagnant and lost, without purpose. The journey back to New York will be a hard one, leaving my family once again to pursue my dreams and make my life. Putting pen to paper, feet to pavement, I start this new chapter of my life, attempting to move on, promising never to forget.

Friday, January 15, 2010

I Remember My Sister

I feel there are no words for this occasion, nothing appropriate to say or do. I want to thank you all for being here and for the tremendous support we have received. During our time of grieving, my dad made the comment that it’s hard to separate friends and family, and that’s really been true. Your prayers and thoughts have certainly been deeply felt by all of us and have given us a strange sense of peace through this entire process. Like the old hymn says, it has enabled me to say “It is Well,” though this certainly is not what I would like to be doing today. So, let us gather together now, as a family, and remember the beautiful person that was my sister. I am reminded of an old Noël Coward song called “I Went to a Marvelous Party.” In the song, Coward tells about this wonderful party he’s been to, the scandals and shenanigans, and how he relished every second of it. My sister’s life was a long, wonderful party, as her Facebook status says she was “luvin life” until the very end. Let us celebrate that life now.

My sister was such a special person and will always be such a huge part of my life, it’s impossible to imagine it without her. My sister was a clever, smart, beautiful girl, a class act. She was strong and spontaneous and sassy, a free spirit, an individual. Like her granny and her aunt Debbie, she was a quiet, at times shy person – that is until you knew her. She liked back corners, secrets, being out of the way, never the center of attention. She never wanted to be the star or have a lot of people around her – she usually left that to me. Well Jessica, sorry to tell you but I think you’re a big hit today. More of an introvert than extravert, she was the person you wanted to stand next to in the back of the room or sit next to at big dinners. She had such a wealth of wonderful qualities: her inquisitive mind, her love of science, her dry wit and sense of humor, her staunch beliefs, spitfire attitude, and go-getter spirit. She was our Annie Oakley, Marie Curie, Dorothy Parker, Amelia Earheart. Never one to worry or get all boo-hooey, she loved to laugh when I broke down. One time when we were quite young, Mom and Jessica ran over my cat in the driveway on their way to pick me up. As they were driving, Mom told Jessica, “Now, we’re just not going to tell Bradley right away, we have to be gentle.” Upon seeing me, Jessica blurted out, “Well Bradley, you’re cat’s dead, just dead, just flat in the road.” Needless to say, I fell to pieces. I can remember but only a few times when my sister was ever afraid, ever backed down, ever was anyone but herself. I can think of the long line of people that got in her way, made her stamp her foot, the trails she blazed, how she could certainly give ‘em hell. My sister was a fighter her entire life, whether it was me or Christopher, Mom and Dad, her teachers, her friends, boys, animals, she was no shrinking violet. Speaking of giving them hell, one day while she and our parents were out, I was at home watching Christopher. Laying on the couch with a fever, I assumed Christopher was quietly playing in his room. What he was actually doing was giving her favorite stuffed seal a very short hair cut. The fire that exploded from her eyes when she got home. “CHRISTOPHER!!!” He was not allowed on the blue carpet in her room for another 5 years.

She had a love for life, was fascinated by it on the deepest levels. The magic of science enthralled her, she gravitated towards exploring, knowledge, and the intricacies of life. I remember my Mom telling me about a young scientist day at Purdue where Jessica got to put her hand in a cow’s stomach – she loved it. Gross. Her love for animals, as well as people, I can think of no one more humane than my sister. The decision to donate her organs was a very difficult one for my family, but one I am so glad we made. Jessica was indignant about being a donor. On account of a low iron count, Jessica as not able to give blood until very recently – and boy did it make her mad when she couldn’t. She would call up Mom, “Can you believe it?” mad as a hornet’s nest. While recently at school, she called my Mom, ecstatic that she was able to finally give. I know she would be delighted and fascinated by the organ operation itself, the intricacies and delicacies of those inner, essential parts of life. My sister was no weeping willow, but she had a heart of gold and a mind to help, to give, to love. Her message was always one of actions, very seldom of words.

I started a blog this fall called Bradley from the Broad Meadow, mostly about me, my family, and my recent move to New York City. While I may be from the Broad Meadow (it’s what my name means), she was emphatically of the broad meadow, a country girl if I ever saw one. She liked to play in the dirt, to touch and feed the animals, go fishing, get messy, and run free. One time she even swallowed a worm. When asked why she did this, she said she was kissing it. My sister liked fire and knives and scissors; she liked danger. While at the hospital, someone told me that I was her hero, but in reality, in so many ways she was mine. Jessica was never scared of anything, was never worried about making others happy or what they’d think, but rather was always true to herself. And boy, did she love every second of her time here on Earth.

For a lot of my life, Jessica followed me around, from one thing to another. Whether wondering around the house or from activity to activity, she was there. At times, she followed me onto the stage. In one of my first musicals, Jessica played the daughter of a wealthy woman, played a brat. I was so ticked that she had a bigger part than me, I would say to Mom, “She’s not even acting!” She followed me into the kitchen, famous for her many pies, especially the pumpkin ones made with a real pumpkin. One time when I was attempting a big dinner, Jessica came into the kitchen wanting to help or participate, and I told her to, “get out of my kitchen!” I know it’s hard to imagine me pulling any diva moves like that, but please try. She followed me onto the bus, into the Focus program, marching band, and to the Indiana Academy. There, we both learned so much about ourselves and allowed our dreams to set sail. Throughout all those things, I know she cringed when someone said, “Oh, you’re Bradley’s sister,” always eager to make her own way and prove herself. The important thing is that our parents never pushed into any of these things, never forced us to do, or not do anything. They allowed us to dream, to explore, to fly free. Now, Jessica flies free forever.

Jessica, I love you so much. If there is anyone I ever took for granted, it is you and I am so sorry. Sorry that I couldn’t be there for you, sorry that this happened to you, sorry that I will never see your mischievous face again or hear your little giggle, sorry that I won’t have anyone to gossip with in those secret back corners. My sister, my secret keeper, my confidant, my friend. Sister Jessica, I love you

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Brrrr! It's Cold!

The winter winds continue to plague us here in New York, begging us not to go outdoors, making it all the more difficult to get out of bed. How many more layers can I muster up? I'm afraid we all soon being to resemble Joey on the episode of Friends where he spitefully puts on all of Chandler's clothes. A bit excessive perhaps! We continue to battle on at rehearsals, barreling through our still mess of a show. Cuts have been made, things have been simplified. The New Year's Baby has been cut, thank the lord. No one wants to see a Post-Holidays Bradley shivering in a diaper onstage. Pour on the McDonald's and the martinis (just kidding, I resisted both tonight!). A rehearsal tomorrow and a rehearsal before the opening, we shall see what we have to offer Thursday at 8. Pray for health and sanity for all involved. One thing I do know is that I am learning a lot through this experience and one way or another, I will have a Theater for the New City credit on my resumé, not a bad start to my NYC theatre-go's. This production has re-ignited my desire to work in the theatre, my love of the stage, and served as a good kick in the pants to do better. It has also heightened my levels of patience and what it means to be or not to be professional. I am enjoying heading into Manhattan every day, tiring as that can be, sucking in the city's energy and the especially hip and historic air in the East Village. My Metrocard is getting a better workout than it has in months. My Mom and Dad are headed here this weekend, let's hope we have something to show them. I'm sure there'll be plenty to see of one kind or another. I am excited to show them around the city; I think this is the first time my dad has been here since the early 80's - a lot has changed! For example, the hotel they are staying at in the Lower East Side would have been a mess of junkies and homelessness, considered dangerous at night. Nowadays, LES (as it is affectionately called) is home to boutiques, coffee shops, and weekend brunches. We have no set plans, beside seeing my show of course, and I am sure they are looking forward to a little getaway before Mom is swallowed up by tax season (you think I'm kidding? my little brother knew what April 15 meant even in Kindergarten). It is highly likely they will also hit Locale for Saturday brunch while I am working. After months' absence, I got to have lunch with my dear friend Aly yesterday We ate yummy pasta and endured horrible service, glad we had nowhere to be in a hurry. Hell's Kitchen proved a tasty dining spot once again, as I made the familiar trek from the 49th street station to 9th avenue. Of late, I have been going vegetarian, or at least considering it. Yesterday it was minestrone soup and cappellini primavera. This arises not out of any moral dilemma or spiritual practice, but mostly out of a desire to healthier, to eat vegetables, and to save money. Now, if someone waves a nice steak, piece of crispy fried chicken, or a shrimp skewer in my face I'm not going to turn them down. However, I find myself craving things like broccoli rabe, sautéed spinach, or sweet potato fries, instead of a burger. When I hit one of the ubiquitous pizza joints (I love, love, love pizza), I always steer towards white pizza, spinach, or mushrooms, never anywhere close to pepperoni or sausage. What has happened to this cornfed boy from the broad meadow? Next thing you know I'll be eating tofu and seitan (a cause for serious worry). My diet recently has consisted of quick bites in the East Village on our breaks. So far, our favorite is a Mexican to go place called Paquitos. ¡Taco Paco ven aquí! Besides rehearsal, my day consists of finally picking a headshot, reading some more of Arthur Laurents's memoirs (quite good so far), and attempting a trip to the gym. Let's go on with the show!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Another Opening, Another Show

New Year's has passed and with it brings many goings on and tech week and for my first big show in New York. Well, big I wouldn't use as much, but show it most definitely will be. The cabaret-improv piece opens this Thursday at Theater for the New City. It feels good to once again flex my show muscles, the stage lights pumping new blood in my veins. There is something delightfully familiar about sitting in dark corners backstage, waiting for my turn to take the stage. Cliché as it is, the song "What I Did for Love" continues to come back to me, celebrating the sacrifice we make to have a life on the (wicked) stage. This show has helped me remember who I am, why I came here, and what's really important to me. Perhaps given either the show's content or pieced-together quality, I am constantly reminded of Fucking A and my two "Sex/Death" ventures in Bloomington. It's a time of new beginnings for me here in New York, of rebirth and redetermination and maybe even rescue. Going home really helped to center me, to give me time to reevaluate some things in my life, and even motivate me to do better. Surely my one trip to the New Castle Super Wal-Mart served as a necessary kick-in-the-pants telling me to get the hell out of Indiana. As I continue to reflect on Granny's passing, I know she would want me to follow my dreams and live my own life (as I think she always lived her own life), even if it is in that wicked city. This show would probably affirm all of my great-grandmother's fears.
I have also been especially thankful of the new friends I have made here in the city, especially my little family at Locale. They got to see me at my finest on New Year's: after an especially busy night, I took to drinking, dancing, screaming, and eventually passing out in my plate of gyros. Speaking of a motley crue, a band of Locale-ites, led by brunch's Katrina, laid siege to the restaurant's bar last night. I was surprised to see that giddy bunch still there when I stopped by to get my money from brunch. Somehow they convinced me to join their fold and have a drink. Giggles and gossip ensued. Stefano's expression read, "Shame. Shame. Shame." I couldn't have been prouder. Things have been going fairly well there; since I have been back, I've enjoyed everyone's company, even his. I hope they are able to survive while I am away with my show. The winds have been blowing hard and cold here, I've taken to wearing long underwear and layers and scarves a plenty. But hopefully these are winds of change, bringing good and exciting things into my life.