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Ice Ice Baby

Stop, collaborate and listen, because even though I’m still feeling sucky, I made an amazing new discovery today. Well, it’s probably not new, but new to me.

I was making my morning up of iced coffee. First, I made the coffee in the Keurig, and then I put ice in a glass. For some reason, my fingers happened to be wet (I think I had just washed my hands; I hope I did) and while I was reaching for the edge of the ice cube to pry it out, my fingertips grazed over the top of the ice cube tray, and like magic, my wet fingers created a suction force that picked the ice right out of the tray.

I’ve got the magic, in me…

 

I don’t know how it works, but the grip of my one finger was strong enough to get the piece of ice to the glass, and then another, and then another. I don’t know why that brought me so much joy, but I guess you have to celebrate the little things in life.

It’s probably the same reason why that kid’s tongue got stuck to the flagpole in A Christmas Story (a moment which still scares the heck out of me) and this, from Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron.

Obviously, this horse did not watch A Christmas Story.

MAGIC.

SCIENCE.

SCMAGIC.

 

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Late Night with Jacob Letterbrienfallonmeyers-Winfrey, Your Dramaturg

I’ve always had interest in the theatre and thought I wanted to be an actor, but performing can be stressful and I suck at memorizing lines. Because I love pretty much all sides of theatre, from costumes to sets to writing to acting, I became a dramaturg.

Most people think that dramaturgs are the ones that hide behind books and paperwork, and only peek into the daylight to give a short rehearsal presentation or sneak in a lobby display, but dramaturgs are so much more than that. One of the great things about being a dramaturg is that you really get to be your own dramaturg. If sitting in the back of the theatre is your thing, then go for it. If being in on the action is your thing, there’s times for that too. Though I treasure research and academia and all that goes with it, I’m a social animal and when I want to, I can be outgoing and engaging.

Those skills come in handy when leading a talkback, especially the one I led tonight after Richard III.

I went to the show tonight with five friends. We all sat together in the front row and watched what was, obviously, a fabulous show. Then afterwards, I got to put on my dramaturg hat and lead the talkback with the director and the cast. I’m super awkward in real life, like a good deal of people, but my inner performer really comes out when leading talkbacks. I like to think of myself as a host, kind of like Oprah, Ellen, Sally Jessy, Steve Harvey, Ricki Lake, Wendy Williams, David Letterman, Jay Leno, and Conan O’Brien all wrapped up into one. That would actually be an awesome combination, and slightly scary. While the cast was changing out of costume, I engaged the director in an open conversation, and the cast filtered in for about three or four moderated questions from the audience and a final “button question” from me (what was the most enjoyable part of the experience? what was fun?) to seal the deal. Basically, it’s like I get to have my own talk show.

Even though I try not to judge myself, I inevitably do after each time I moderate a talkback. Like any good performer, I take stock in what I do and usually find myself giving myself both praise and criticism. This time around, it was no different. On the good side, I remembered to get dressed up for the show; I don’t quite have a uniform, but in my black jacket, black pants, teal Oxford shirt, and a touch of makeup, I thought I looked pretty jazzy tonight. I started on kind of an awkward note, as I thought that the director would announce the talkback, and then he gestured to me to start by the time people started getting up and leaving, which they would’ve done anyway, but I might’ve been a few seconds too late. Plus, I was kinda caught on my phone/keys/wallet and I didn’t want to walk onstage with that kind of entourage. Since it was my first time doing a talkback in this space, I also might not have been loud enough in my announcement, but out of about 100 audience members, 20-30 stayed, which was not bad. Also, the actors didn’t stay onstage, nor were they able to change quickly, so it actually was the Jacob Show for a few minutes.

I started to get a little nervous as the crowd started to leave, but then the director joined me onstage. I introduced him to some applause (yes!) and then we sat down and I asked him a few questions while the cast was getting ready. I made them pretty open-ended and general, because I definitely wanted him to take the spotlight and say what was on his mind, rather than talk about the show myself. I do not come from the Jeff Probst school of event-hosting. After a few minutes, the cast started filtering in, so I did the “go-around-and-introduce-yourselves” thing, and then another round of applause. After this, I opened the floor up for questions, which ended up being a little awkward since some of the characters with more extensive costume/makeup started filtering in, so we needed to pause every so often so I could welcome/introduce the new arrivals. I almost made a booboo when I didn’t see someone in the corner of the audience, and the cast pointed him out for me to call on – hey that’s my job! – but granted, he must’ve raised his hand after I looked away, and I managed to officially call on him after a momentary twirl to get things back on track. I like it when the whole cast gets to speak, but due to the time and the gigantic cast, a few people didn’t get to say anything; one of the larger-cast shows that I led the talkback for was A Streetcar Named Desire at Spotlighters in Baltimore, and I predicted that most of the audience’s questions would be directed towards Blanche/Stella/Stanley, so I made sure to jump in at a brief lull and ask Negro Woman and Mexican Woman to give us their take on being citizens of Tennessee Williams’s New Orleans, which hit the dominoes for the rest of the chorus to speak, which is something I strive for – to make everyone feel special.

For some reason, I have a pretty good sense of time when it comes to these things, and I cut it off at just the right moment, after my button question, with no awkward lulls along the way and concluded by thanking the audience, cast, director, and everyone everywhere. Ending is never fun and this was not one of my best attempts; I hate getting all thank-y, but at least the audience left happy and the actors seemed to be pleased to continue on with their night. Of all my friends, only Kelly stayed throughout the whole thing, and I’m really happy she did. She mostly stayed because she was watching my keys/phone/wallet, but since she did, I introduced her to the director and to Richard himself, to whom she was ecstatic. Combine that with a front row seat and an escorted walk back to her dorm and that’s a red-carpet, VIP experience all for the price of $16.00.

Oh, and one more thing that happened, which was kind of unexpected: when an audience member asked about how the actors learned about Richard and Shakespeare and all the history, one of the actresses pointed me out and thanked me publicly with a “we’re not worthy”, which some of the actors echoed. The director chimed in that I did a good job, and led a brief round of applause for me while I gave an “aw-shucks” face, with a slight bow to the cast and to the audience. That’s never happened before.

I always leave a talkback feeling exhilarated, like I did a performance myself, walking offstage with a beaming smile and a bit of graceful spring in my step. It’s like magic. Yay for dramaturgy!

So..hey NBC, can I have my own talk show? I’ll dress up for it and everything; I’d like late-night and afternoon, but I could be coerced into primetime, or even a hangover slot…will you think about it? Give me a call…please?

 

0

Care (Igan) for a Glass of (Lowder) Milk?

Today, for the first time, I looked upon these two faces through my computer screen, although I have been listening to what they’ve had to say for years.

So just who are this cheeky couple?

These are Kait Kerrigan and Brian Lowdermilk. Most likely wonderfully fabulous alone, as a duo they are the stick of dynamite, the force that is…Kerrigan & Lowdermilk. (Oh, and by the way, Kerrigan’s on the right and Lowdermilk’s on the left. In case you were confused.

What do they do?

They write songs. Good songs. Great songs. Wonderful songs. Amazing songs.

Every generation has its pure pop songwriter duo. For my grandparents’ generation, it was Betty Comden and Adolph Green who set the trend from the musical theater angle, coming up with the music and lyrics for one of America’s most beloved musical films, Singin’ In The Rain, and one of the most underrated, On the Town. The sixties and seventies launched Gerry Goffin and Carole King, who are responsible for “(You Make Me Feel Like A) Natural Woman” and other songs whose original versions are solid gold classics, and are probably known to most of my generation as the songs most butchered by contestants on American Idol. And before you say that pure pop classics written by boy/girl songwriting are so last century, look who just won an Oscar: Kristen Anderson-Lopez and her partner/husband/newest EGOT-club member Robert Lopez, whose “Let it Go” from the popular Disney film Frozen beat out U2, Karen O, and Pharrell Williams for the coveted Best Original Song. Which brings me back around to my original topic.

I first became aware of the Kerrigan-Lowdermilk songbook in Israel, when a friend of mine decided to sing a song from a little musical called Henry and Mudge entitled “My Party Dress.” The fact that my friend was perfect for the role notwithstanding, the song was intriguing in its music and hilarious in it’s lyrics. I haven’t found a version on YouTube that I like, but basically it’s about a girl who talks and talks and talks, with unintentional humor, so much so that you often forget what the song is about (hint: it’s in the title). Of course, I set about memorizing the lyrics, which I still know, four years later; in fact, I performed it one night to some friends just for fun.

Then I realized…could there be more where this came from?

And the answer: yes.

K & L have not only written musicals about awkward children’s books I barely remember, but also original musicals for contemporary audiences, with songs that could easily top the Billboard charts if given to someone like Demi Lovato or Lorde or Michael Buble as a single. There’s The Unauthorized Biography of Samantha Brown, which I don’t know that much about other than its basic plot structure, but that I realize I need to learn more of, as one song from it keeps coming back into my mind: “Say the Word.” It’s a lovely ballad that is just as easy to understand out of context as in, and also works great for either gender and really just about any age. I wouldn’t put it in its own Masterpiece YouTube segment or anything, because there’s not really a music video for it, but you should hear it any way.

If I didn’t have a million things due by tomorrow, I would walk you through their website, their karaoke page, or their YouTube channel. But you should do that, and then leave a comment on this page telling me which song or theirs is your favorite, or which one makes you smile, or simply which one gives you the feels. Because, undoubtedly, one of them will.

Do it. Do it right now.

Then come back and tell me how it was, so the next time my head is not full of papers-cake-dinner-proposals-dramaturgy-life, we can share the magic together.

0

Masterpiece YouTube: “For Good,” Kristin Chenoweth & Sarah Horn

That’s So Jacob Presents: Masterpiece YouTube

Episode 5: “For Good,” Kristin Chenoweth & Sarah Horn, 2013.

I’ve heard it said, that people come into our lives for a reason.

Not only is that the opening line to the song “For Good” from the musical Wicked, but aptly sums up my feelings about tonight’s episode of Masterpiece YouTube.

I first saw this upon moving to Madison a few months ago, and I was just as amazed as the rest of the world at this completely fortuitous pairing of professional singer/actress Kristin Chenoweth (who originated the role of Glinda and sang this song as a duet with Idina Menzel as Elphaba) and a random woman at one of Chenoweth’s Hollywood Bowl concerts in August 2013. It turns out that not only is the woman a huge fan of Chenoweth, the show, and the song, but she knows all the words. And on top of that, she’s a vocal coach for a living. And not only that, but this girl can sing

The video starts with Chenoweth meeting the completely starstruck young woman, who introduces herself with a brief fangirl moment before the music starts. Chenoweth sings, it’s kind of usual, and then it’s her turn. And BAM. The pipes not only hit the viewer, but Kristin Chenoweth, who looks on in shock, saying “oh, sing it.” After the solo, they take a beautiful, and according to Kristin Chenoweth, a harmony worth a “holy crap,” before concluding the song (but not before Chenoweth takes a glance at the audience like “really, now?” when the woman hits Elphaba’s high notes) and wrapping up in a big hug. Bows, the woman is led offstage, and Chenoweth’s all “what just happened,” saying “note to self: never bring up anyone better than me,” adding a dose of humor and humility to her character. Good PR move, Kristin. She goes on about how wonderful this woman was (well, duh, we all just heard it) and how she’s “teaching our young people.” Either way, I love how this professional is just completely brought to her knees and reacts in an appropriate and witty way.

Who is this mystery woman, you ask? Her name is Sarah Horn, and she’s a voice teacher at California Baptist University, from Riverside, California. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, she quashes any doubt that she was plant, saying that it had been a coincidence and a lifelong dream. Previous to this video, she was known for absolutely nothing, and now, she’s somewhat of a something but still your average 26-year-old. She calls herself introverted, which I can totally believe, given her initial timidness on stage, and probably got some buzz out of it, but it will only help her career as a teacher or a singer (or both) – whatever she wants to be. She seems nice and approachable and very sweet and cool. But what’s so special about this unassuming video, then?

I call it the “Susan Boyle” effect. An unassuming random nobody takes the stage, a bit nervous and out-of-place, and goes on to shock the world and show their incredible talent. This one, I believe, is even more special as it features not only an amazing singer but one that can hold her own in a once-in-a-lifetime duet with her idol, rather than freaking out, getting stage fright, or messing up the words or the tune. It inspires me to keep on practicing and doing what I do because someday I might meet one of my idols, just like she did, and that dreams can come true from the places you least expect them to. From start to finish, this video is pure magic. Right place + right time + right girl = a six-minute rush of talent and pizzazz, with nary an AutoTune to be heard.

This episode of Masterpiece YouTube was brought to you by Daylight Savings Time and possibly a bit too much caffeine for this time of night.

Works Cited

Abramovitch, Seth. “YouTube Singing Sensation Sarah Horn on Fame, Fans and Those Stubborn Skeptics (Q&A).” The Hollywood Reporter. 29 August 2013. http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/youtube-singing-sensation-sarah-horn-616870.