September 30, 2004

GeneralA single, impulsive act

Philadelphia got hit with a terrific rainstorm a night ago. I haven't seen a rainstorm of such magnitude and destruction for a while - the only thing to come close was the remnants of the hurricane last year about this time. I-76 was closed for quite some time because it was under a foot of water in spots, and because of multiple accidents. I, thankfully, being stuck at Villanova, heard about this all as the night went on and did not have to experience this first hand.

Heavy rains had always intrigued me, and I had come up with a single philosophy to cover them. It's quite simple really. Just a manageable realization made in the morning: "I will not be completely dry today, and that is okay." I can then shrug off my umbrella (which, when I almost without fail ALWAYS lose somewhere along the path of the day) and throw on my hoodie and walk stridently through the rain. I mean, logically, think about it: why try and fight against the forces of nature with a thin piece of plastic on a stick? The human body is already made up of over 80% water, so it's not going to hurt a person in the long run. It's pointless to create more stress over something that one has no control over whatsoever.

All of this led yesterday to an act that I've wanted to engage in for quite some time. After class was over, a bunch of us walked over to the Connelly Center to grab a bite to eat before our respective rehearsals (Art, and The Visit.) Problem was, the usual entrance to the Connelly Center was blocked by a large puddle resulting from a blocked drain.

By puddle, I mean small pond. This puddle was a square of about ten feet by ten feet, with about 5 inches of water at the deepest point in the center.

Now, my classmates formed a wall as they came to the edge of the puddle unsure of whether to cross or not. There was another entrance further up a set of steps. Being outside meant being wet for a few more minutes whilst trekking up the stairs.

I looked at the puddle, looked at my friends, and remembered my philosophy. I strode, clearly hearing a different drummer, into the puddle. And began to jump and skip through the puddle.

It was fantastic. I was soaking wet from the waist down. (I was wearing the traditional DeMizio class uniform of a polo shirt and khakis.)

It was a single, impulsive act based on a philosophy that seems to make sense only to me. But it was a wonderful feeling jumping and splashing around to get to the doors. I felt like I was five again, running through the sprinkler in the front yard. I knew now what Gene Kelly was hinting at during the song "Singin' in the Rain" from the musical of the same name.

The downside was my pants were drenched. They're still drenched tonight, over 24 hours later.

The upside was an affirmation of my philosophy and a few moments of positive irrationality, which is never a bad thing.

To end with, a quote from "Art:"

."...nothing formative in this world, nothing great or beautiful in this world has ever been born of rational argument."

[Listening to: "The Only Living Boy In New York", by Simon And Garfunkel from the album "Garden State"]

Posted by Matthew at 01:45 AM | Comments (0)

September 26, 2004

Canon for Music on College Campuses

I am proposing a new "rule" regarding music on college campuses, based on years of experience:

DeMizio's Canon for Music on College Campuses: At any given moment on at least 50% of the college campuses in the US, someone will be playing the song "Livin' on a Prayer" by Bon Jovi.
Corollary 1:At least 50% of the times that it is played, at least one person can also be heard yelling loudly to the music, attempting to sing it, off key.
Corollary 2:When played, the song has the power to penetrate most walls, including concrete and cinderblock.
Corollary 3:The percentages are significantly higher if it is past 5pm or before noon.

The DCMCC is not necessarily a bad thing. It's not a bad song by any means. It just tends to travel.

That's all for now...the law kind of randomly stuck me today at rehearsal.

[Listening to: "Winding Road", by Bonnie Somerville from the album "Garden State"]
Posted by Matthew at 11:06 PM | Comments (0)

September 23, 2004

General"And on we blindly stumble!"

Think of the first performance as the dress rehearsal. If we can just get through tonight- doors and sardines. That's what it's all about, doors and sardines. Getting on, getting off. Getting the sardines on, getting the sardines off. That's fast. That's-that's the theatre. That's life. -Noises Off
It seems as though "Art" is going to test my limits - both in terms of workload and getting essential classwork done, but also to what level I'm willing to work for a production.

So far, I've prompted lines for eight hours while simultaneously taking line notes with no problem. I was asked to run for coffee for the cast and crew. No problem - even brought back multiple sweeteners, both artificial and natural, to the approval and acclaim of everyone.

Tonight, I've found that I've been assigned to counting nuts. Cashews, to be exact.

We have this bowl of cashews, see, and they get eaten during one scene by two actors. Now, the bowl has to be empty at the end of the scene. The plot falls apart if it's not. Believe me. (I'm trying to...) So I have to meticulously count out the number of cashews going into the bowl before each performance, and before each rehearsal. Of course, demanding the most of myself in my drive to succeed in this program, I only pick the most handsome, juciest, whole, perfect cashews I can find in the bag.

13. 13 is the number of cashews we worked through the scene with tonight...

It's going to have to be less I've determined. 13 is still too many.

Gosh, I love my practicum

Honestly though, I love it. I just feel like I'm getting put through these practical jokes to see how much the new guy can take...although I know this isn't the case.

In other news, I heard La Salle "rioted" tonight in some sort of mass protest in front of North Halls. Although to be fair to the definition of "protest" it should be noted that it was a very La Salle protest: there were no picket signs, no megaphone, the people only came because free pizza was promised, and the slogans were vulgar and kinda dumb. (I at least wanted to see some initiative on the part of the students here, but was sorely disappointed.)

My feelings? I'm kind of sorry I missed it. Any demonstration, no matter how poorly put together, demonstrates that apathy doesn't permeate every dorm and every student to the core as I so often feared. I feel for the people on community development, the student staff of ra's and ca's who have to put up with this and determine where their true allegiances lie. I feel for the residents. And I feel for the administration, who have the student's best interest in mind, but can't always keep control of every situation, 24-hours a day, 7 days a week.

But yeah, I feel for my friends on CD/RSA most. They're the ones who have to deal with this on a day-to-day basis, who'll take most of the crap for it all, who have to put up with listening to the yelling, the complaining and the anger. And they don't have a voice to speak out, as they're "forbidden" from talking to the press (even to the Collegian, which is a provision I fought last does not lose their first amendment right just because they become an RA.)

I don't know what to say to them other than hang in there. Remember why you're doing this. Remember the good.

And remember that it'll all be over soon enough, and things will probably revert to the normalcy that existed prior to the change.

[Listening to: "Bad", by U2 from the album "The Unforgettable Fire"]

Posted by Matthew at 02:09 AM | Comments (3)

September 22, 2004

GeneralThe Given Circumstances

Script Analysis is the class that scared the most out of me this summer.

To a degree, it's still the class that scares me the most. (In conversations with others, this is pretty much a universal fear too...)

The fundamental principle of the professor seems to be that we, graduate students in theatre nearly universally coming from some sort of theatrical background, need to be g how to read a script. We need to re-learn the art of reading the script, so as to better grasp the "given circumstances" present in the text - answering the questions "who," what," and "when" among many, many others. The "given circumstances" chip away at the basic facts of the play in order to better see the motivations and the

It is only after answering these questions that a convincing performance of any contemporary work can be delivered, or can the reader adequately understand what the playwright was going for with his use of language. It's a good idea. But it's daunting. The workload is daunting. The professor is daunting, demanding that we read the plays and understand them (unbelievable, no? ) We're treated as "professionals," I guess, although I don't like that term. We're treated as adults...that works a little better. We're expected to want to get this information that is in the text.

And for the most part, I really do. I want to write plays. I want to have them read, and performed and understood. This is what I (thought) my life should be about. It's at least what I want to (eventually) get paid for.

The problem is it's hard. Reading the plays for this stuff is tough. I just want the plot. Second, I want the images - what can I put on the damn stage to make an audience like the words? By that point, I had always thought I'd exhausted the text.

Apparently not.

I like the class, don't get me wrong. It's just tough as nails going in every week trying to say something intelligent. Or rather, to go in trying not to sound like an idiot, harping on some random tidbit of fact blatently missing the more relevant information.

And the professor, though daunting, is also incredible. She elevates what we're doing to the highest status that art can have in a society. We're not insulating ourselves by reading these texts, we're allowing the texts to be freed and learning how to bring them into the world. She herself has been an (equity) actress, has studied theater at the highest levels, wrote books on Theater, has directed more plays than I can count. It's just daunting, going in week after week.

It's all worth it though, it seems, when she talks off-hand, in general about the class. Like tonight. During a moment in class, she told us:

"Theatre exists to uplift. That's your job - to keep that going. Because when that dies, we're all midgets."

It helps to see this as a higher calling, rather than a path to unemployment, disappointment and waiting tables.

It's been a pretty decent week so far otherwise...It's funny when one's initial impressions come out in the company of people you formed them of. Thinking of someone as "the big acting guy." And then finding out that your initial impression is nothing like the person. It's refreshing.

"Art" goes incredibly well. I don't think I've ever worked on a production that's been as far along by this point in the production schedule as this one is. We're further along than many Masque shows were on the Thursday of tech week. Tonight was a night off, and was WONDERFUL. I pump myself up each rehearsal by reminding myself that I'm a part of something bigger, that this is gonna be great, but still, a rehearsal amounts to me sitting on my ass prompting lines for up to 8 hours at a time. It's boring as heck, and easy to get distracted, and I also don't want to screw the actors up in their work.

Wednesday is my day off from classes. There's a late rehearsal, and I gotta run food shopping, but otherwise it's an otherwise unencumbered day. I can't wait.

[Listening to: "American Idiot", by Green Day from the album "American Idiot"]
Posted by Matthew at 12:01 AM | Comments (0)

September 17, 2004


As of today I'm working on Villanova's production of Art.

Specifically, I'm the "prop runner" which boils down to a kind of Asst. Stage Magager that presets props, and moves them on and off as the show progresses (those people in black moving around in the blackouts.)

I'm excited as anything...It's good to be back in the swing of things and doing SOMETHING again. It's a 3 person cast, and a small crew. I spent tonight in rehearsal from 8-11...fantastic.

Show info is here, we open on 10/5 - about 2 1/2 weeks, I think...

Of course, this also means I'm gonna be stuck in rehearsals for the next 2 1/2 weeks as well.

Oh yeah, I also apparently have to stop shaving as well...the cast and crew is predominantly male and all have I may look a little scruffy for the next couple weeks.

[Listening to: "Bad Day", by R.E.M. from the album "In Time: The Best of R.E.M."]
Posted by Matthew at 01:16 AM | Comments (0)

September 15, 2004

GeneralFor any actors...

It always seems more fun to do it the other way around, however, this really seemed to make sense. From this site:

Every actor eventually is called upon to act drunk. Most do this by slurring their speech, stumbling around, and perhaps drooling a bit. This is what a freshman drama teacher calls “indicating.” A better way to appear drunk is to act very, very sober. Walk very carefully, and try not to let anyone see that you’re inebriated. This is much more subtle and will register on a level the audience won’t immediately recognize.
Think about it for a moment, and picture yourself drunk. Now picture yourself drunk, trying to act sober, and how much drunker you actually seem. See?
Posted by Matthew at 07:52 PM | Comments (0)

September 14, 2004

GeneralIn morning traffic. In the middle right lane.

This should be an entry about being home last weekend, or about seeing and really enjoying most of "Garden State" or any one of a hundred other more mundane and fun things than what happened today.

My car's battery died Saturday with no warning. I came in from La Salle on Friday night (where I had an awesome time) and parked it. Saturday, it simply wouldn't start. Called for a jump, and it started. unfortunately, the battery wouldn't recharge, even after I drove it around for like an hour.

Flashforward to this morning. I get the call that it can be taken in for servicing, so I call for a jump intending to drive the car the 6 miles to the dealership. One hour later the jump comes. I drive off thinking all is well. Make my usual left onto Manayunk Ave., then down Green Lane to I-76 Eastbound towards the city.

Underneath the bridge prior to the Montgomery Avenue exit (I believe that it is exit 341) my car decides to stall. On I-76. In morning traffic. In the middle right lane. And I can't get it restarted.

I throw the hazards on, call 911 from my cell, and then DESPERATELY to restart the car. No luck. I'm stalled 4 miles from the dealership, after waiting an hour for the jump, in the middle right lane on I-76 in morning traffic.

(I momentarily have visions of John Ogden doing the traffic report and specifically mentioning me by name - "There's a backup on the Eastbound Schuylkill expressway this morning caused by Matt DeMizio, whose car has stalled in morning traffic in the middle right lane.")

About 5 minutes after the car stalls ( morning the middle right lane) a caravan of large yellow/orange trucks comes up in my right lane. I believe they were from PennDOT. Two pull over to the shoulder, and several large men (of the type that one imagine would drive and operate the machinery of the transportation authority of your jurisdiction) get out and begin helping me to the side of the road. A tow truck driver stops and assists me in getting the damn car into Neutral (it locked itself into Park when I was trying to restart it...Toyota owners, take note: if it locks into gear, pry up the little thingie that's on the shifter console, and stick something into the hole to allow yourself to be able to shift.)

(I realize now that this was incredible luck, and am just completely floored by the generosity of the people who helped me out. I know it wasn't much more than helping to keep the road clear, but I complain enough about the DOT in any state to warrant that this seemed above and beyond. I want to buy this road crew a couple of cases of beer...)

As I'm sitting on the shoulder of I-76 contemplating traffic going by me at high speeds, I try and call a few people for laughs ("Hey, I'm stuck on the side of I-76, how are you?") but I'm unable to get in touch with many people.

Eventually the car gets towed; the car gets fixed; Matt drives to 'Nova; class goes well; Matt drives home, and then Matt writes this story down.
I mentioned above that I spent Friday at La Salle, and I had a great time. The night began with dinner, then just random meeting after random meeting as I moved from West Campus to Main Campus to South Campus.

I had really missed a lot of people, and I had created this artificial "Because I've graduated, I can't go back" wall between myself and them. I don't know why this is (was?) such an important thing to me. I always joked with people when they came back intoning that "Commencement means move on.

But I realized moving on doesn't mean that you have to sacrifice the part of you that once was; the part of you that still exists with these people. Friends exist at all levels - undergraduate and graduate, and it was my own damn self-confidence or sense of identity that was getting in the way of seeing that.

So that's all... I'm tired, and I want to go to bed...

"Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; begin it well and serenely and with too high a spirit to be cumbered with your old nonsense." -Ralph Waldo Emerson
[Listening to: "Friday Night in Philadelphia", by Pepper's Ghost from the album "The $1.03 - EP"]
Posted by Matthew at 12:59 AM | Comments (0)

September 02, 2004

GeneralEverything you thought you knew is wrong

That's how some of my classes have made me feel over the last couple of days regarding what I know of theater. I've been working off and on in theater since senior year of high school, but have always been thrown head-on into whatever needed doing. I learned stage management because nobody else really wanted to do it. I learned lighting the same way - here's a wrench to hang that light and here's the manual to program the board, but never the why I should take a 6x9 ellipsoidal instead of a 6x16 ellipsoidal for that particular wash.

Surprisingly though, the revelation that I still have a lot to learn is reassuring rather than off-putting. I've always known that the way I've worked through things theatrically has been inspired at best and half-assed a lot of the time (take a look at some of the light plots from my junior year...) The reassuring part, I've found is that I know when I'm doing good work, and what good work looks like, and when the production in itself is deviating from that theoretical ideal (not always my fault, I know.)

Actually, a lot of things haven't been my fault. Take something I learned in my dramaturgy class this past week. Theater should always have a purpose. Up until now, the purpose has been just to do theater for those kids that wanted to do theater. But there can be (and I'm starting to believe more and more) that there has to be a reason behind why theater is chosen to be performed. It's great to do familiar, fun stuff, but there should be a challenge involved in it somewhere for everyone involved - the technicians, the cast in creating their characters, and in the audience that they're not just being entertained for 2 hours.

And in general, if those questions as to what the challenges should be are being asked, then there's an inherent type of fun present in the works watching it all come together.

So, in other words what I'm trying to say is that I've had a great week and I feel at home in this program. I feel challenged as all hell, but I feel at home with a decent group of people. I'm starting at the bottom again, I feel, re-learning stuff I thought I knew. In one class, we picked apart a script to get at the underlying structure that was always there but that can go missing on a cursory read. My acting class is a class in acting, (takes place in a rehearsal hall on campus, rather than a classroom) which is interesting as I've not really had an interest in continuing with acting.

The commute is fine, the workload is managable (21 page paper due at the end of the semester for Script Analysis, 4-5 plays to read per week,) the roommates are interesting (and fun to be around) and the parking is going to be treacherous (both on Dexter and at Villanova) but I'm learning the shortcuts, the routines, and the stuff I need to get by.

I'm heading back home for Labor Day, and should be back Monday at some point. I really need to pick up some stuff that I left at home when I left last time...

And finally a quote (what is a journal of mine if it doesn't end with a quote ?) that I first saw on the wall at Villanova a few months ago that has kind of stuck with me:

"Set love as the criterion of all that you say, and whatever you teach, teach in such a way that by hearing may believe, by believing may hope, and by hoping love."-- St. Augustine, "The Instruction Of Beginners"

[Listening to: "Careful", by Guster from the album "Keep It Together"]

Posted by Matthew at 01:36 AM | Comments (1)