a.k.a. "The Oscar Messenger"

Posts tagged ‘NYU Grad Acting’

NYU Grad Acting Class of 2015 in Building Next to Blast

East Village 3East Village FireI’ve enjoyed heartily the annual trek I make to the East Village’s Second Avenue, to see the graduating class of NYU Grad Acting perform their “Actors Presentations” or “Leagues” or scene nights. This year was a little more complicated in getting there because of the bomb blasted setting and building collapse, which occured literally NEXT door to the NYU building. Pictured above on the left, it’s the white building.

And yes, it almost went, too. “The building shook” I was told by Brian Bock, one of the talented graduating actors. Before the evening’s presentation, Chair of the Acting Dept. Mark Wing-Davey introduced it by describing it this way. “This class is very special to me because we were all in this building getting ready to open our production of ‘The Three Sisters’ and the explosion happened.”

He told me later that they didn’t know if the Actors Presentations(as spectacular and electrifying as ever) were going to take place in that building on Second Avenue and he referred me to an article in the New Yorker, which vividly details what went on.

http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/04/13/show-goes-on

I applaud all involved.

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Tiffany Baker IS Cleopatra!!!

Tiffany Baker IS Cleopatra!!!

I’ve never felt like I’ve ever REALLY seen Shakespeare’s Cleopatra performed right, that is until tonight when the young and beautiful actress Tiffany Baker just blew the roof off of the tiny Main Stage of the Workshop Theater on 312 West 36th Street.

I’m mentioning the name and address of the theater. It’s between 8th & 9th Avenue on the 4th floor. It’s a little tricky to find, but I found it. And I’m mentioning all this info first because, unfortunately, you are going to just have to drop all your plans for this weekend and RUN to see it quick, because there are only three performances left. Sat at 2pm and 7:30 and again on Sunday at 2pm.

Tickets are at http://www.guerillashakespeare.org And the name of the play is “And to the Republic”

Time is running out to miss the birth of a star, and that star is Tiffany Baker. And Tiffany Baker IS Cleopatra!

I can’t say enough wonderful things about Tiffany Baker’s performance. Firstly, that NO ONE I’ve ever seen essay this difficult part, this legendary woman of infinite variety has done it justice. Until now.

And Tiffany Baker is playing her in this kind of cobbled together mash-up of “Coriolanus”, “Julius Ceasar” and “Anthony and Cleopatra” which the neo-phyte Guerrilla Shakespeare Project is calling “And to the Republic:The Roman Plays of Shakespeare Reconstructed.”

I’m not really sure what all this reconstructing was adding up to, except it puts Cleopatra front and center of all these plays(it’s only 90 mins.) and gives the scintillating young Ms. Baker the role of the career. Or her first outstanding role, in what I hope will be an equally outstanding career. She so good as Cleopatra you’ll never be able to get her out of your head, nor will you want to.

She deserves to be Cleopatra in a full-on production of Shakespeare’s “Anthony and Cleopatra.” And Shaw’s “Shakespeare and Cleopatra.” Why not?

I got the feeling after seeing Tiffany Baker’s ASTOUNDING turn as the Queen of the Nile that she could play ANYthing.

I’ve always felt Shakespeare wrote some of the world’s greatest roles for women. He just didn’t do it very much, and featured the male parts much more than he did the women. Because in those days, women weren’t allowed to be actresses, and so astonishingly the role of Cleopatra, one of the most difficult ones in the Shakespearean Canon, was originally played by a boy!

After you see Tiffany Baker, you’ll think not only could no one else play Cleopatra, but that no one else SHOULD. She’s THAT good!

Director Geordie Broadwater made the magical choice of giving Cleopatra the “Friends, Romans and Countrymen” speech here.(Also Caesar is an off-stage character. His assassination is never seen, nor is he.) That’s the famous speech that is usually intoned by Mark Anthony. But it is an electrifying moment that I’ll never forget when Ms. Baker takes the podium and profoundly DOES it.

Caesar was after all her lover. Or one of them.

She is at turns, sultry, seductive, intelligent, powerful, passionate, defiant, fierce, funny, all the adjectives that you think Cleopatra should be. With a whiskey voice that suggests Tullalah Bankhead crossed with Jacqueline Kennedy, she is royalty personified.

And this is a modern dress production. And costumer designer Lea Reeves has gone to town and given Ms. Baker the sharpest and chic-est tailored outfits to wear, as well as a red satin sheet. She looks equally ravishing in red as in black.

In the most minimal of minimalist settings(by Brooklyn Praxis), the struggling young company is well, struggling to do something new with Shakespeare, and what they’ve done this time is to afford Tiffany Baker an incredible star vehicle and I’m so glad they did!

I got to share a few stolen moments with the actress herself, who told me she was born in Detroit, but then at six moved to Jacksonville, Florida, so there is a touch of the Southern Belle in her. I see many Tennessee Williams plays ahead.

And having just graduated from NYU’s prestigious Grad Acting program with the rising star Dave Quay in her class, I really feel Tiffany Baker is in a class by herself. She totally credits her training at NYU for giving her the power, majesty and control to speak all of Cleopatra’s lines so perfectly and so memorably.

In someone so young, it is an astounding combination of artistry and technical prowess.

I can’t wait to see the next thing she’ll do! And don’t worry dear readers, dear cineastes, dear lovers of theater, I’ll keep you posted!

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A Jewel Glows in Brooklyn! “Until Next Time” Clown show = Brilliant!

I almost never venture out of Manhattan to see theater, especially to parts of Brooklyn I’ve never been to, trendy though they now may be. Such is Billyburg, or Williamsburg. I went there to see of all things a Clown Show. In a Clown Festival, at the tiny Brick Theater at 579 Metropolitan Avenue. A bright red door led you into a tiny, black-box theater, with yes, the requisite exposed brick walls.

And there I saw one of the best, most moving pieces of theater I have seen in a long, long time. “Until Next Time” was the multi-talented David Quay’s completely wordless story of a young man(Quay himself, who also sharply directed) suffering the loss of his beloved (Tiffany Baker) in a car crash.

Completely pantomimed with a lush musical score underneath, Quay acted out the heart-break, love and loss, he felt about the comatose pretty girl in the hospital bed. We all know she may never recover, but Quay refuses to let her go. And his memories come to vivid life as the Sleeping Beauty (Baker) arises from the bed and re-enacts their life together.

The hospital setting is bleak as any, as Quay sees all the medical personal as his adversaries and at one point he even battles the doctor and nurse, who come to symbolize death itself. And we all want him to win this tug of war and bring the beautiful Baker back to life.

Quay’s masterful, incredibly skillful clowning recalls all the great mimes, Marcel Marceau, Chaplin, Buster Keaton and reminds you of how sad the world of wordless clowns can be, and how heart-breaking.

There are no words when you are fighting with your feelings of the death of a loved one.

I must’ve cried three times.

The final images are shattering.

I wish “Until the Next Time” were playing longer, but alas, its’ run at the Brick Theater is done, but such a superb, original work surely will be seen again.

That’s the way we all feel when someone we love passes. Until Next Time.

What’s going to happen on Breakjng Bad tonight? My Guess.

This is just informed speculation, mind you, but with the beginning of the final season of “Breaking Bad’ only eight of them, the options like Walter White’s himself’s are growing more and more limited.

We left off with Dean Norris, who marvelously plays DEA agent & Walt’s brother-in-law Hank, suddenly having his “A Ha!” moment on the john as he reads a dedication to Walt’s in a paperback copy of Walt Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass” that Walt has carelessly left in the guest bathroom.

In that now-famous copy of that probably more -read-than-ever book of Civil War-Era poetry, Hank sees a dedication that looks like it’s in Gael Bedeckker’s handwriting. Gael was the mild-mannered(read Gay) meth lab assistant that Jesse( the super-nova two-time Emmy winner Aaron Paul) shot in the face a couple of seasons back.

Gael’s presence has emanated down the series, haunting it as it were, and I have to take a minute to rave about the superb New York actor David Costabile who played it so memorably, whose work I first became aware of at NYU Grad Acting in the Class of 1995.

But I do have to say that David’s work then as now with Gael and also in “Lincoln” this year, was always excellent. He also wrote a three person clown show called “The New Bozeena” Bozeena I think was a favorite Polish waitress at a local café on Second Ave. right next to one of NYU’s main building. It was so good it eventually went off-Broadway. He wrote it with Kevin Isola, a fellow classmate and performer, and another NYU chum, and all three I think made it into some group crowd scenes in Jim Carrey’s movie “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas.” Needless to say, with Gael Bedeckker, David stepped into television history with “Breaking Bad.” As have all the leading actors. There’s no small parts, only small actors. And David Costabile is a HUGE talent.

But it’s the writing that stays so excellent, consistently, season after season that is what makes “Breaking Bad” the phenomenon it has been for the past five years.

So you have to ask yourself, what would these writers do with the end in sight? Well, I think we’re facing a blood-bath of most of the leading characters. So something like it.

We know that Bob Odenkirk’s hilariously low-life lawyer, survives because creator extraordinare Vince Gilligan has said in many forums that he hopes that there is going to be a spin-off series of “Better Call Saul.” In the works, as they say.

I think we pretty much can figure that this news of Walt’s knowing Gael and Hank’s “hunch” will profoundly freak out Hank and send him back to reviewing ALLLLL the information he’s obsessively accumulated about the mysterious “Heisenberg” Walt’s Meth Lord Alter Ego. I would say it launches him into a wild tail-spin of emotions. Does he tell his wife? Blabbermouth Marie? Seeing as how these astute writing team of “Breaking Bad” like to prolong things as long as possible, I would say that “No. He doesn’t tell Marie.” At least not in this first new episode.

Hank excellent DEA agent that he is would proceed cautiously. But proceed he will. Will he confront Walt this first episode? That might be one sharp way of ending it. Then we’re left with “What will Walt do?”

We know from the first episode teaser of Season Five. it’s a year later and Walt has grown all his hair back, changed his name, is living in another state and carrying a sub-machine gun in his trunk. An AK 47.

We also know, since I do listen to all the writers and Gilligan, talking on the Special Features that the new corporate gal from Madrigal, played by Scottish actress, Laura Fraser, is going to have a love interest, but it’s not Walt or Jesse. And we probably see a lot more of her excellent work(you could never tell that her frazzled exec was being played by a Scottish actress!) in Episode One Season Five A as I think they’re calling it.

And Skyler? Who has now gotten the children over to Hank and Marie’s is slowly unraveling. I bet she gets worse. Also the kids being at Hank and Marie’s would be another reason for Hank to keep his mouth shut around Marie…

And RJ Mitte. who is so touching as the cerebral palsied son Walt, Jr. has let it slip that “Hank Jr. faces a decision. He has to choose between his uncle and his father.” So he eventually finds out, too.

So who comes out of this alive? We see Saul, has survived, but everybody else is dubious. It’s a matter of life and death FOR ALL OF THEM!STAY TUNED!

2011 in review- 13,000 Thanks!

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Syndey Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 13,000 times in 2011. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 5 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

“Gun Hill Road” terrific new transexual indie!

I predict that the critics will be throwing their collective hats into the collective air above them in hailing the arrival of “Gun Hill Road,” a terrific new Indie about of all things, a Bronx teenage transsexual! And that one of those hats may just land squarely on the very pretty Hispanic head of Harmony Santana, the Latino/Latina actor/actress who gives one of the greatest debut performances I’ve ever seen. Is Oscar listening?

Harmony reminds you a LOT of Jaye Davidson of “The Crying Game” who ended up with a Best Supporting Actor nomination in 1992 for playing a tranny who was passing who hooks up with the IRA. He lost to Gene Hackman in “The Unforgiven” but that startling nomination is there forever. I thought in one of the first years I was predicting the Oscars on my TV show that he would win. Scott Siegel(yes, he’s been on my show THAT long) said it was gonna be Hackman. I should’ve listened.

The New York Times is hailing Harmony, too, in a full-blown, star-is-born feature article pointing the way to a future career for Harmony and also to PERHAPS major awards kudos at the end of the year. If Jaye Davidson can pull of this Oscar hat trick, Harmony Santana can, too!

And yes, as the New York Times so delicately points out, she IS a transsexual playing a transsexual which is a rarity indeed in features.

Out of Sundance via NYU Film School, it is, believe it or not, the “Thesis Films” of its’ VERY talented young director/writer, Rashaad Ernesto Green, who I knew as a wonderful young African-American acting student at NYU’s famed Grad Acting Dept. He was a memorable, sexy, wounded Brick in a production there of Tennessee Williams’ classsic “Cat on a Hat Tin Roof.” And his classmate Corey Stall played Big Daddy. And Corey is lighting up the screen this year in Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris”  and he may be Oscar nomination bound, too! I’ve now seen “Midnight in Paris” SEVEN TIMES! An all time record for me!

But back to Rashaad Ernest Green and his wonderful new film “Gun Hill Road”!

Upon graduation, Rashaad had to face the “pounding the pavements” reality of an actors’ life in New York City and this drove him quick smart back to the haloed halls of NYU Film School, this time, to get yet ANOTHER Master’s Degree this time in film.

And boy has he struck pay dirt with “Gun Hill Road”! It’s gone from Sundance to major distribution where it is going to be opening at the Angelika as well as the AMC 42nd St.  this Friday!

If you can’t wait, you can see me interviewing him and Harmony and soon Esai Morales, too, as the jail-house dad, on my You Tube Channel here ~ at www.youtube.com/StephenHoltShow

They’re all going to be famous tomorrow. Or thereabouts.

Woody Allen’s Masterpiece “Midnight in Paris” Sublime! Sublime! Sublime!

I cannot remember dear cineastes, dear readers, dear theater lovers of literature, when I have been so completely, so  madly, so deliciously transported by a new film. And that film is the much hyped Cannes opener “Midnight in Paris” by Woody Allen, 77 and now at the absolute height of his immense creative powers. “Midnight in Paris” left me gasping with delight. It’s his latest masterpiece and may simply be the best film he’s ever made.

It’s so delicious, so delightful, so funny, so superbly acted, and brilliantly written and directed. It’s the first film that I’ve seen since “The King’s Speech” that transports you to an absolute height of cinematic euphoria. And Oscar’s gonna go there, too.

I am so sure that the little Golden Guy is going to be happily boarding that magic carpet ride in the form of a 1920’s roadster that whisks our hapless hero, a frustrated screenwriter and Woody stand-in(natch), Owen Wilson, who turns out to be at the height of HIS career as an actor,  in this film, too. Oscar will clamour aboard that flying flivver and happily take it right to the Kodak Pavillion next February, which is where this film is surely going to end up.

With nominations galore. A comedy winning anything from the Academy is always going to be a fight.

However, the Academy has always loved Woody and they’re going to REALLLLY love “Midnight in Paris”. Woody is such Oscar catnip, it’s almost ridiculous.Oscar considers Woody in a class by himself, so many of his films have been nominated and won! Well, no, that’s not true. I think the only time he won Best Picture was for “Annie Hall” decades ago.

But his actors have continued to wrack up Oscar after Oscar, most notably and most recently Penelope Cruz, in “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” which this film resembles. “Midnight in Paris” is shot entirely and beautifully in Paris in the daytime and at night, and France and specifically Paris has seemed to have had the same wondrous effect on Allen’s creativity that Barcelona and Spain did with “Vicky Cristina”

“Midnight in Paris” is just suffused with the golden glow of romance that is true love  (in this case, the love of France and all things French) that is so palpable, it seems like it was shot through a lens covered with honey. And written in a Proustian fever dream. But a reverie only of all things light and sweet.

It’s such a charming  love poem to the City of Lights, it’s irresistible. It sends you into a Rapture.

And what a cast! And How many Oscar winners are there in this one film! ? It’s like the word went out and Allen got the dream cast of his career!

Oscar winner Marion Cotillard has never been lovelier or sexier or more captivating. She plays the love object, the muse of Picasso, Modigliani and nearly every other artist of the past two hundred years, and Mlle. Cotillard, so so sensual and intriguing,completely vulnerable, effortlessly enchanting, but so mysterious, you can see that, yes, she could easily have inspired all these great artists that the film claims she has.

Her incredible character named Adriana is one of Allen’s greatest creations. And in writing a love poem to Paris, he’s embodied that romance in one woman, Adrianna, and Cotillard is so delightful, and endearing and sublime, you just can’t wait til her character comes back onscreen and into the story once again.

It’s one of the most challenging roles that Allen has ever written for a woman and the most complex, and Cotillard meets every challenge stupendously. She has to, for the romance of the film to work. She is Paris. Paris is love. So therefore the glowing Cotillard is Paris personified.

She is WOMAN. All the women who have inspired the greatest of artists, and Cotillard shows you quite simply and quite beautifully that yes, she is all that. She’s certainly inspired Allen to heights he’s never really hit before. A great film maker meets the great screen actress in the best role he’s ever written for a woman. Will Oscar take note? I think so. I hope so.

You come out of the film raving about Cotillard as if she were the essence of all the best in French art and culture, and in this film, she is!

Her only petite problem is that she’s won so recently for “La Vie En Rose” playing an indelible Edith Piaf.

Acting in her own language, it seemed impossible that she, an unknown French actress, would win the Oscar for Best Actress. But I predicted she would. Could her Adriana do the magic hat trick of another win? Depends upon whom she’s up against, but I would be shocked if she wasn’t in the running, dismissed as simply a great beauty playing a great beauty.

Wilson, too.

Owen Wilson is so good in this film that you can’t believe it’s Owen Wilson.

But he is and he’s just terrific, and perfectly cast as a WASP neurotic from Pasadena. Wilson’s West Coast-ness takes away any of the memories of the many previous iterations Allen has wrung upon the character of the hung-up writer. This time a dissatisfied, but commercially successful screenwriter, with an even blonder fiancee, who’s a bit of an hysterical bitch, played by of all people, Rachel MacAdams, also at the top of HER game. She, too, is a revelation.

Oh, and did I forget to mention how funny all these characters are? And yes, they are. Very, very funny. You’ll be quoting the laugh lines for the rest of the season.

Academy Award Winner Adrian Brody does this best work since “The Pianist” as of all people Salvatore Dali! In a very brief cameo, he keeps repeating. “Dali! I’m Dali!” and when Wilson’s Gil explains his time-traveling problems, Brody as Dali quips, “It’s perfectly normal. You are from another century, yet you live in this century.” And Luis Bunuel, who’s sitting with them, mais oui, says to Dali, “Of course you think it’s normal, you’re a Surrealist!”

And Marion’s Adrianna is restless, perpetually bored with Paris in the 1920’s. “There are too many Americans here!” or exasperated with Pablo, “Picasso is impossible! He will never have a successful relationship with a woman!”

Hallucinating Wilson keeps having his big blue eyes popping out of his head, like some great silent screen comedian, as he channels, Chaplin, Oliver Hardy, Harold Lloyd…amazingly…yes, it’s the VERY unlikely Owen Wilson, making us laugh and moving us so magically. He’s playing straight man as it were to Cotillard’s muse, MacAdams’ bitchy fiancee and a supporting cast of unparalleled splendor.

Main among them, as I’ve noted in a previous post, newcomer Corey Stoll as Ernest Hemingway, who just about walks off with the film, and probably an Oscar nomination. And so to may Kathy Bates as a marvelously sensible, warm-hearted Gertrude Stein. “Our house is open to every artist! All are welcome here!” she intones with such bonhommie, you want to move right in to 23 Rue de Fleurus and never leave, which clearly Allen wants to do.

Who but Woody Allen would make Gertrude Stein the most reasonable and warm center of a filmic masterpiece. Which is what “Midnight in Paris” is.

I see Nominations for Best Picture. In a field of ten, a sure bet. Best Director, possibly, for Allen. FOR SURE a Best Original Screenplay and this is it’s almost sure WIN. Yes, I’m saying it now.

They’ll nominate the living daylights out of this magnificent cinematic achievement. Starting with Darius Khondji’s marvelously seductive, luminous cinemtography of the City of Lights, the stunning production design by Annie Seibel that is literally out of this world (and several others) and the sumptuous costumes by Sonia Grande, who makes Mlle. Cotillard comme il faut tous le temps, but it’s the hilarious, moving, beautifully written screenplay that really does leave you gasping with astonishment and delight. Woody Allen redeems himself mightily in “Midnight in Paris” and the many, many Oscars it will get nominated for, this astoundingly simple, but complicated and FUNNY screenplay is the most likely place it will be rewarded.

Also both Owen Wilson and Marion Cotillard might be nominated for Best Actor and Actress. It depends on who they are up against. And if they are not dismissed ~ for being in a comedy.

And as I said previously the one with the most buzz out of  the Cannes Film Festival, which it opened, was Corey Stall as Hemingway. That would be in Supporting. And previous Oscar winner Kathy Bates could score ANOTHER Supp. Actress nomination for her lovable lesbian Gertrude Stein.

Gertrude Stein, lovable? Only in Woody Allen’s wild world!

Mesdames and monsieurs, les envelopes, s’il vous plait!

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