Art and Life

In the echoing words of Oscar Wilde “Art can make life”, I concede this truth especially when it comes to the power of theatre. On stage whether metaphorically or literally we, the audience watch life unfurl onstage. we capture moments of pure truth that touch our soul. I believe theatre has the power to change our perspective; it has the power to show us new forms and if we let it has the power to open up our minds.

The Scenic Artist

I have often found that many people don’t understand how scenic painting works.  The fact that we can make a bare stage look like anything we want with the right brushes, rollers, or other tools seems like a foreign concept to some.  I think part of this is a lack of understanding of what a scenic artist does.  We don’t just make it up as we go along.

There are specific tools that we can use, and certain types of paint that work better than others.  But knowing all the different tools and paints that are available to use is half the battle.   Knowing the differences between paint and glaze, or a regular brush and a chip brush.  To most a paint brush is a paint brush, and a sponge is just something you use in the kitchen sink.  However, a sponge to a scenic artist, is also something that you can use to make stone come alive with dimension, to add depth to something that looks flat, or to age a piece of furniture.  The list of things a scenic artist can do with any given tool is long; and depending on what job needs to be done will determine what tools will be use.  Sometimes those tools will vary depending on what paint is being use.  So again, one of the most important things to remember, is to have a good basic understanding of what is used when it comes to scenic painting.

The Educational Theatre Association has put together a great list of what is required for Painting The Scene.  The article goes in depth into the different tools and paint that are used, as well as multiple different techniques that can be done with the brushes that you have at your disposal.  It is an great resource and you should save it for future reference.

So the next time you pick up a paint brush remember that it can be used for something other than just slapping paint onto something.

Advice from a Casting Director/Acting Teacher

10 Things You Wish The Casting Director Had Told You Sooner

By Caroline Liem | Posted Nov. 1, 2012, 4:49 p.m.

10 Things You Wish The Casting Director Had Told You Sooner

Photo Source: Jon Weinberg

Your teachers, mentors, friends, casting directors have trained you, taught you, listened to you, and brought you back over and over again because you’re terrific in the room. But there are always some things you wish they’d told you sooner.

1. “No” does not equal failure. Casting is working at a heightened pace – creating a family, recasting because the male role became female, the location changed for the role due to budget or local hire, executive orders, nepotism – do you get the picture? It’s not about you. Casting directors are not required to give you closure or cushion the blow. So, what will they do? Though you weren’t right for the role, you were so prepared and confident and brought something unique to the character that they added a role just for you. They loved you so much because you were personable and professional that they remember you and bring you in for another show they’re casting and tell their casting/director/producer friends to meet you.

2. Take big risks. You got the appointment because you satisfy the role. But standing out in the room and landing the role, requires more than satisfactory choices. You didn’t play it safe by choosing this career. What’s the rhythm of the dialogue? What’s happening in-between the lines? What is the world you are creating? What do you want from the other person? And make it bold. Again, it’s not about you.

3. Work smart. What’s your goal? What’s trending? How does it fit your brand/casting? Who knows about what you want to do? Where are the gaps artistically and in business and who can help you fill them?

4. Nurture your love of your art outside the business. It matters that you are a fully developed human being. What are the other things you have in your life which bring delight, purpose, challenge and growth? We are all more than our resumes, and that person is the one we want to know about in the room and on set for the next three months. So try something new or revisit some long lost passion and tell us about it when we ask “Tell me a little bit about yourself.”

5. Mom was right! We never hear about struggling doctors or struggling attorneys. Mom begged us to get a business degree or take a class, but most us decided, “I don’t think that way. I am an artist. I’ll never use that degree.” There is a real way to earn money, pursue your dream, and still have the creative life you deserve. Acting is your career. Bartending, teaching pilates and yoga, or dog walking may help create schedule flexibility and supplements to your career, but they are NOT the reason to change or cancel an appointment. Your reps tell us you’re sick. We know better because of social media. If you have your team already – agent, manager, attorney – listen to their guidance. You have chosen them. If it doesn’t work over a realistic period of time, then consider a change. You are the CEO of your corporation and its star.

6. Be like the reed. Ever have a day when you get to your appointment and find out there were notes never received, new sides, and awkward camera set up, and an extended wait time? How can we do our best under such circumstances? Be flexible, and keep it positive. Look, stuff happens every day that’s out of our control, but how it’s handled is what will be remembered.

7. My reader was a zombie. A tough room = A chilly reception. The audition process is already awkward without these additional bumps in the road. Still, it’s your job to create your environment and show us what you’ve carefully prepared. An Academy Award-winning actor once told me she made a game out of it. The goal was to get the reader to look up. It’s still about connection and taking it off of yourself.

8. Yes, your degree counts. It shows steadfast determination. But class is how you keep sharp, develop additional skills, and stay current. Be open to taking selective classes or seminars continually. Training never ends.

9. Tell a friend. Refer people for jobs you can’t work. It always comes back in a positive way.

10. No car = no work. If you’re in L.A., for Pete’s sake, have a working car!

Caroline Liem is a casting director, audition coach and teacher based in Los Angeles. Her highly acclaimed film/TV audition and text analysis classes have been taught throughout the U.S. both privately and at universities. She has cast indie films, studio features and television pilot/series for Disney Studios, Warner Brothers, Sony, Paramount, Twentieth Century Fox, ABC, CBS, NBC, WB, and Fox. You can see her latest casting on Nickelodeon’s Parental Discretion with Stefanie Wilder-Taylor. You can find more information on Caroline and classes at www.CarolineLiem.comand like her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter @CarolineLiem.

Chekhov – served three ways

In contrast to the article on authorial intent and protecting the playwright’s vision that I previously posted, this article in the Guardian talks about 3 different productions of Chekhov plays being performed in London – each with a unique vision of what it means to attempt to communicate what the playwright had in mind:  One traditional looking ‘samovar’ production, one minimalist, and one updated ‘contemporary’ production.

As a playwright, I am generally on the side of authorial intent.  Good playwrights think through all the elements of production, and if it’s a good play, all of those elements – text, design, staging, lighting etc. – should be aiding in making the play what it is.  I’m a believer in a traditional looking Beckett play, because the design of the space is part of what he was intending.  And if a production wants to tell an audience something other than what was intended, find another play.


As a director, I recognize that I am as guilty as anyone of taking liberties with the look and feel of the production of a play.  Steampunk Romeo and Juliet wherer the actors change roles every scene.  A blown-up Viewpoints improv production of Antigone.  A production of Murder in the Cathedral that looked like a Robert Wilson show.  But, for me, presenting those plays in that way had more to do with unlocking different elements of the play than regularly get released than it did with just ‘looking cool’ or ‘being interesting.’  These different elements were not OTHER than what was in the play, they were (and are) within – in the text, the language, in the implications of the situation, sometimes lost in the recontexting of a play (producing an ancient Greek play in 21st century America).  But my most sincere hope and prayer is that these productions are all still true to what was in the text of the play, and hopefully carry across to the audience what was intended by the author – even if it looks different.

So, do I want people to do that with my plays?  Well, no.  I’ve had the experience of someone making an alteration to a play of mine that I felt strongly changed what I had in mind, several times.  I’ve seen it drastically injure the intention of the play, putting “words in my mouth” that I never said and didn’t mean – an addition that was not what I had written.  But, if there’s a way of taking something that I’ve written and discovering something in it that I hadn’t noticed before and drawing it out of the text that is already there – I hope that I could find the joy in that.

Can I have some salt with that imagination?

Albert Einstein

“I am enough of an artist to draw freely upon my imagination. Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.”
― Albert Einstein
What’s lacking in the theatre?  Seriously, I would love to know what your answer is to that question.  For me there are three big puzzle pieces that seem to be missing in much of what I see in educational and professional theatre.  The first is an understanding of story.  What the story is, the plot, themes, the unity of ideas.  The second is specificity.  The nooks and crannies, the crevasses of the story, of the characters.  And finally use of the imagination.
Neil Gaiman

“Everybody has a secret world inside of them. All of the people of the world, I mean everybody. No matter how dull and boring they are on the outside, inside them they’ve all got unimaginable, magnificent, wonderful, stupid, amazing worlds. Not just one world. Hundreds of them. Thousands maybe.”
― Neil GaimanThe Sandman, Vol. 5: A Game of You
I absolutely believe that.  Until the artist believes that they have these worlds, these people, these possibilities inside them, they won’t be able to tell stories in any full, dynamic, specific and imaginative way.  How do we develop our imaginations?  We have to spend time there.  We have to dream, read, listen, explore, care, investigate fearlessly.  And you know what?  It’s fun.  It makes life richer, more colorful and always interesting.
Determine to be an imaginative artist.  Learn how to tell a story.  And get your hands dirty.
*quotes from

Auditons for The Drunkard

Nest week begins the audition ofr the Spring musical,The Drunkard.  W.H. Smith’s The Drunkard lurched onto the stage  in 1844 and has been holding forth with beery charm ever since. With  a  score by Barry Manilow, audiences are wafted   back to a simpler period where “God is good and right is good, but  evil’s not so good, right?” Will our brave heroine, Mary, rescue her drink-besotted husband from the evils of bottled sin? (MTI)

For me, this musical presents in interesting idea about redemption and reconciliation. I beleive that theatre is meant to ask question giving you the oportunity to find these answers for yourself. I beleive it is up to us, the audience to seek and find the answers for themselves. The question this work asks is: How can I change my ways? Or how can I re-build the bridges of broken relationships that I once destroyed. Having come from a family thatwrestled with alcoholism this play espeacially speaks to me



Deep Calls to Deep


Andy Goldsworthy- Maple Leaves Arrangement

Nature abhors a vacuum.

We’ve come a long way from the empty hallways and classrooms of summer. It seems like only yesterday that schedules lay blank, and unfilled- awaiting the promise of a new school year, challenging academics, and exciting activities.  The prospect of having “nothing to do” is now a sweet, distant memory, as we rush from class to class, project to project, idea to idea.  Taking a moment to breathe and reflect seems wasteful and self indulgent. After all, there is so much to do, and it’s good right? It’s good to be involved and engaged and… and… and…?

Somehow, in the rush we forget who we are, and why we are doing this all in the first place.

Writer Charles E. Hummel calls it the Tyranny of the Urgent. We lose what is important amid the tide of busyness. We become disconnected from our creative and spiritual Source, instead focusing our energies towards whichever deadline approaches fastest.

In a society wired for instant gratification, the value of contemplation and reflection increases.

As artists, as Christians, we can remind ourselves that we are called to stillness, to rumination, a deep AWARENESS of what we do, and a holy imperative to execute our tasks mindfully. It’s not enough to go through the motions. After all, this is our act of worship.

My teacher, Dr. Don Postema says it beautifully:

The world doesn’t need more busy people, maybe not even more intelligent people. It needs ‘deep people,’ people who know that they need solitude if they are going to find out who they are… The world needs people who want their lives not only to be filled, but to be full, and fulfilled. If we are to be artists of our lives, we need to be in touch with the One who is a “greater artist than all other artists…” The world needs people who will allow time for God to recreate them, play with them, touch them as an Artist who is making something beautiful with their lives. (Postema, 18)

Take time to be still today. Connect with your Source.





Postema, Don. Space for God. 2nd . Grand Rapids, Michigan: Faith Alive Christian Resources, 1997. 18. Print.






The Week After

This is our first week after the closing of HENRY V.   The entire H5 team blew it out on the last day striking the set along with the rest of the Theatre Department.  The cast party was a pizza break for all.  I deeply appreciated this.  It took the entire department working together to pull the show off, so it is fitting that the cast party involve everyone together.  And it was fun.  The theatre majors at Belhaven know how to work, they know that they are integral in the storytelling.  What’s great about the process here is all members of the team are valued equally.  You may direct your senior project, then you are hanging lights for the next show and then stage managing a one act play that another student is directing.  There is no doubt that each job in the theatre demands different skills, however the work ethic must be the same and ultimately the service to the story for the sake of the audience is a group goal.  Joy is the result.  I’m grateful to now have space to process the rehearsals and run of HENRY V.  To ponder the work that was done and next time take another step forward in actor training.