Archive for the ‘Sanford Meisner’ Category

Yesterday was crazy, today may be even crazier, so…

In A post to keep afloat, Local projects, photography, proto drafts, Sanford Meisner on July 5, 2016 at 8:07 am

…so I may get to drop back in here again today, or not. If free time shows up, I’ll try to spend it on the proto draft instead.

Ergo, a bit of good craziness here, as in turning on the computer this morning – in a state of advanced fatigue – and smelling the jasmine at the sight of the photo I snapped of it yesterday. Worth a share? For sure.

Smell the jasmine? Hope you do.DSCN9163

Through a thicket of parentheses

In Break - coffee, Food, Hautvoir, Local projects, proto drafts, Sanford Meisner on June 14, 2016 at 8:01 am

Too many highlights in one day. For now, I’ll settle on the moment when the freak storm hit town. I was reviewing English pronunciation with an eleven year-old whose contributions to the school play consist of four lines. First line: I’m a zebra. Second line: I like oranges. Third line: Hello Handa, I’m fine thanks. Fourth and final line: A surprise! I like surprises. Tangerine! My favorite fruits!

(Note: even in their English lessons, the French use a lot of exclamation points.)

The session was at the Social Center. All activities there scheduled for a move (when? soon. When is soon? Please. Soon gets moved down the line on a regular basis). Ergo, maintenance on the building: down to zilch (I avoid the elevator). Freak storm hits town and the waterfall begins (somewhere around Hello Handa, I’m fine thanks). Instead of Hello Handa etc, the girl says My feet are wet in French (mes pieds sont mouillés). And so they were. My feet were next. Stanching the flow: impossible, the water fell from under the window. So we set aside tangerines as the zebra’s favorite fruit, pulled out the mop, spread towels on the floor, and moved the lesson to the other side of the room.

What makes this highlight worthy of note over the others? The others are too complicated. Way too complicated. They involve transferring information from one language to another (French to Albanian or French to Soninke, two languages I don’t speak nor understand). The Albanian and Soninke speakers then attempt to tell me what they’ve understood of what I said in French. Sometimes, confusion grows at exponential rates. Other times ultra-basic information clicks into place. “Ah, that’s what you meant. – Yes, this is what I meant. Now, what do we do about it.” And so on.

I pause for a break of mindlessness and my second bowl of coffee.


At this point in the writing, even the word proto-draft sounds too elaborate. At this point in the writing, I jot down whatever carries an emotional charge sufficient to lift the words out of my head (my head’s a crowded space these days, in terms of things that must get done, must, must, or else…)

I pause to savor the coffee. Plus toasted walnut bread with a slather of Italian ultra-bitter lemon marmalade. Whatever pops up next as the most pressing of the pressing things to do? May (or may not) get my full attention

In strictest confidence

In Hautvoir, notes, Sanford Meisner, Story material on May 26, 2016 at 7:39 am

I won’t even try to describe what “navigation” on the web looks like at the moment. Suffice it to say, I get to sort through papers on my desk, or water the plants, while the whirligig whirls or the page freezes over. Yes, hoping for some relief today. If no relief shows up, I’ll see what happens next.

This morning, the judge in the case being on sick leave, the President of the Tribunal in Castres will hear the lawyer’s appeal. Yesterday, I spent close to two hours listening to what the woman had to say because, good bad or no decision today, she needed someone to listen. So I listened. Took notes. Asked questions, and listened some more.

She’s hoping the President of the Tribunal will designate her as “tiers digne de confiance” (English  literal translation: trustworthy third party). The designation is somewhere between a tutor and a foster parent. If she gets the designation, the boy she’s been sheltering, feeding and otherwise protecting for the past six months can get the knee operation he needs. The surgeon won’t touch him without a signed authorization by an adult officially designated as – well, as something.

The boy’s plight – a variation on a now-familiar theme: the only official paper that survived the crossing of the Mediterranean in a dinghy gave his (true) age. However when his buddy got turned back at the French-Swiss border (the Swiss? Not the Italian?? Yes, and don’t ask for details if you veer toward impatience). I continue: his buddy got turned back, so he claimed he had no papers at all and was over eighteen. Then French authorities took his certificate for authentication in Albi, he was placed in a home, got kicked out after the infamous bone test, and so on. (The certificate of birth? Now proven authentic.)

The woman told me all this. Some parts of the story, I knew already. More than anything, she needed to talk about her own life and her own plight. A lot of that sounded damned familiar. She’s a shade better off than I am, financially speaking. But at age sixty-one, after a professional career in the medical field, she now works crazy, irregular hours as a nursing assistant in an old people’s home. In other words, helping those who can’t help themselves anymore in their own feeding, bathing and other bodily functions.

The sun was out so we sat outside the tea room a local friend has opened close by. She had coffee and paid for my pot of Earl Grey.

Yesterday afternoon, two teen-aged girls (in the 12-14 range) shared the names of their beloved with me. In strictest confidence, for the thrill of speaking the beloved’s name out loud. Then we got back to the serious business of nailing those damned multiplication tables once and for all – for those times when electronic devices don’t deliver the goods as expected.

“…wait, OK, let’s go.”

In Drafts, Hautvoir, Local projects, news coverage, Revision, Sanford Meisner, Synopsis on May 19, 2016 at 7:56 am

At 7:27 am, I have no idea what I’ll do with the anywhere-from-four-to-twelve participants in this afternoon’s workshop. Nor do I know how many will be fluent in French, recent arrivals (as in, less than a month ago) or more ancient (as in five to six months of presence on French soil). However, the workshop organizer told me last night one of the teenagers stutters and another tends to behave like a hermit crab. Purpose of the workshop: How to Introduce Yourself. Only certainty: Will Not Be Boring.

The best moment in yesterday’s coaching sessions: three twelve year olds (two girls, one boy) discovering It Can Be Done. Memorizing multiplication tables, that is. Best moment, not because they can now reel off the tables of 2x, 3x, 4x, 5x and 6x. Because, a piece of basic info kicked in at 4x. It kicked in when one of the girls whined: “that one’s too hard”. Except, she’d said the same thing for 2x and 3x too. Once she’d sailed through 4x (5x is a cinch), she said: “Oh 6x is too… wait, OK, let’s go.” Hence, the title to this post. (The basic technique, of course, is the same as that involved in memorizing anything, including the scripted words for a stage or film role, as taught by Sanford Meisner: rote learning, no pauses, no special effects, nothing other than the words so you don’t have to think about them anymore.)

Ridiculous? The world is coming to an end, the sky is falling, Paris is burning (sorry, make that one police vehicle), the seas are roiling, the earth is heaving, we’re promised worsening catastrophes on all fronts. Three kids catch on to the fact you can exercise your brain, and I’m happy?


Fiction-wise: word-by-word revision with two objectives in mind. The first – and most important: maintaining the right tension throughout. Meaning? the right tautness. Without the right tautness i.e. each character as crisp as I can make him or her, there’s no way I can achieve the second objective: a synopsis that captures the overall mood of the thing. Easier said than done because nailing the elusive it, that’s too hard. Can’t be done, can’t…OK, let’s try anyway.

Round and round it goes, where it stops, nobody knows

In and other spirits, Animals, Artists, Hautvoir, Local projects, Sanford Meisner on May 18, 2016 at 7:41 am

This post as a favor to myself i.e. getting the swirl of yesterday’s events in some kind of order.

The five (5) cheeses sitting on the top of my mailbox, for instance, when I came back from the two sessions of coaching. (What vowel do the words torchon and cochon have in common? Poupée and poulet? etc).

Between loading the washing machine, seeing the rental agency about the power issue, answering the phone while buying a few bottles of mineral water, getting a boy’s exam paper typed up and photocopied, and making it to my front door again: the swirl remains.

Back home, then, with the hope of emptying the washing machine so the clothes could dry, I’m met by one (1) person with a stack of administrative papers, summons and Final Notices we dump on to the table in the living room. The sorting begins while another person shows up with cables he wants to check out on two (2) photocopiers he’s picked up in a sidewalk sale. While he toils on the floor, the cheese-bearer shows up with his two sons. We are now six people and one large dog in my living room. As one Fats Waller once sang: the joint was jumping. The cheese-bearer’s two sons had shoes with built-in rollers they wished to demonstrate. As for the cheese-bearer – a personable Gitano in his early thirties – I’m still unclear on what all the cheese-bearing portends in terms of special requests in the misty future.

A long and pleasant pause on my neighbors’ terrace. Sun, geraniums and tales over chilled white wine followed by grilled steaks. Followed by a list of agenda items for the to-do list. It was close to midnight when I got around to a bit of reading, then, sleep.

Dreamwise, a lot went on during sleep time. The most persistent dream image being of a long and steep cast iron staircase and of the dreamer, standing at the top and the precautious approach to it. At the foot of the stairs : a busy street scene and the figure of an androgynous black person, singing something operatic to herself/himself.

Will take this day as it comes? I’d say that’s the wisest course.

Hurts? You bet.

In A post to keep afloat, Absurdlandia, Drafts, Hautvoir, Local projects, Revision, Sanford Meisner on May 14, 2016 at 9:09 am

when fiction veers too close to reality, the real challenge begins. Maybe you want to howl. Or break down and cry. Or lash out. Or give up. You counted on someone and that one person on whom you counted does not come through for you. For instance. Or reveals that whatever you wanted or expected wasn’t in the cards at all, as far as he or she was concerned. You can pack up your illusions and do bloody well whatever you want with them. We iz not interested in you, not even one tiny bit.

In the cacophony yesterday afternoon – each one of the ten workshop participants was tuned in to different music and destroying his eardrums from what I caught of the sounds – in or of that cacophony over which I had to shout several times, I choose to concentrate on a few seconds only.

I choose to concentrate on a few real moments of contact. Eyes connecting to something I was offering. Taking it in, and making something of it. For the most part, the workshop participants weren’t. Participating, that is. They were busy shutting out as much of their present experience as they could. A body experiences enough contempt from others? A body often decides to treat others with contempt in return. Hurts, in both directions.

They’ll tell you – and life will demonstrate this, over and over again – they’ll tell you life isn’t for dreamers. Over and over again, events will show how vile and despicable humans can be. For some reason, this is supposed to shut down all reflexes other than those of compliance and submissiveness. Stay out of trouble. If trouble comes looking for you anyway, just shut up and put up.

As a first step in the getting-to-know-you process yesterday, I filled out my own card with name, age, country of origin and profession. A few of the boys said: wow, you’re old. Indeed, I answered. Humans haven’t found any other way to live for a long time than to age.

OK. At which point one of them said he’d like to live until a hundred. So, we managed to move on to the next second, and the next second after that in a two-hour session best described as a post-doctoral exercise in frustration – both theirs, and mine.

“living truthfully in imaginary circumstances”. a post to keep afloat.

Geography on my mind

In Current reading, Drafts, Hautvoir, Local projects, Revision, Sanford Meisner, Scene Prep on May 11, 2016 at 7:11 am

Last night, amid several incursions by real life characters, I left a fictional one walking down a familiar stretch by riverside. The fictional one has lived in this same fictional town all his life – something far from what my personal CV looks like.

A solitary character in a solitary place is one of the hardest writing exercises for me. There’s none of the friction two or more characters can produce through dialogue, conflicting agendas, misunderstandings both great and small. Plus, neither descriptions of landscape (or even, physical descriptions of the characters) feature in my habitual writing patterns. In fact, a lot of the revising on a first draft involves adding some pointers for the reader as to where events are occurring; where the characters are holding their verbal joust; where so-and-so happens to be,  etc.

After leaving both real life and fictional characters of my immediate acquaintance, I opened my copy of Joyce Cary’s The Horse’s Mouth, a Folio edition I picked up for five euro in Lisbon, three years ago. Will I read through the book yet again? Maybe. What mattered last night was the first page that begins with the words : “I was walking by the Thames,” and proceeds to show the scene through the eyes of Gulley Jimson – the kind of character copywriters describe as “a lovable rogue”. Had Gulley been a flesh and blood type, I doubt he would have described himself in those terms but that’s neither here nor there.

My fictional one walking by riverside is nothing like Jimson, and his river is nothing like the Thames. His general mindset is of the whereto now variety, as pertains to his life, not only to the purpose of his stroll.

Meanwhile, real life characters phone, ring my doorbell, walk into a neighbor’s house while I visit. My closest contact with a Gulley Jimson-like character yesterday would be one of the elders from the local gitano community. He usually greets me on the street with a respectful bonjour, madame.  He was in his cups yesterday. Called me Céline, told me I was mignonne and made kissing movements in my direction. Hello. Goodbye.

A man walks by riverside in the small French town in which he’s lived out his life thus far. He’s fictional and doing so in the overall context of an ongoing story.

Nu? Nu, on to the day, both his and mine.

The old story about half-empty or half-full

In A post to keep afloat, Absurdlandia, Animals, Current reading, Drafts, Hautvoir, Local projects, news coverage, Revision, Sanford Meisner on May 10, 2016 at 7:38 am

I feel like a punch-drunk boxer tackling the fifteenth round this morning. Because of wild carousing all night? If only. Because of straws and the relative strength of a camel’s back – although I identify more with donkeys. Something to do with geography and culture, no doubt.

A shame authors can’t sue translators. In this instance, the translators may be as dead as the author so there’s not much litigation in view. I didn’t expect a transcendental experience when I paid my fifty centimes for a tired edition of Groucho Marx’s autobiography. Why I didn’t leaf through to “hear” if the writing sounded like Marx? I don’t know. Bottom line: it didn’t even sound close to Groucho and there wasn’t even the titter you get from watching a segment of a Dickens-based film dubbed in Japanese. From what remains of the reading experience, I gather Marx suffered from insomnia and feared ending his days as an indigent. On both scores, he has my full sympathy.

Even the prospect of tackling more revision feels like a full bale of hay added to the load this morning, so I’ll stick with pleasantries such as : the wind. Has stopped. No need to brace against crumbling buildings and risk a konk over the head from a falling piece of said structure (wordpress wanted this to read “a monk over the head” but no flying monks or nuns reported anywhere in the neighborhood).

The French press is all a-flutter over yet another sexual harassment scenario. All the usual stuff and all the usual To Tell or Not To Tell because that’s how harassment works best. I note, in this case, that the man changed targets whenever a woman turned on him and slapped him in the face. I used a more extreme gambit with a long-ago creepy boss. It worked but whether the harasser suffers the consequences he deserves or not,  there’s no glorious feeling that attaches to recollections of that type.

I’m broke and beyond because of the dog’s illness. Can’t see how I’ll make it through the week, let alone the month. Banks advance money to some but hold back funds for others. I belong to the second category. When things get ludicrous enough, either you collapse or you don’t. Sometimes, you do both and the rest of the story depends on whether you collapse, then pick yourself up, or the other way round.


moneys-in moneys-out update, in case some far-away family member reads this: the money I deposited on the 4th finally landed on my account this morning. I’m sure the bank’s debit feature will work at electronic speed though. I’ll save the sarcasm about to rise up – a waste of energy better put to some other use.

Smile though your heart is broken, and so on

In Absurdlandia, Artists, Circus, Current reading, Drafts, Hautvoir, Music, Revision, Sanford Meisner, Theater on May 9, 2016 at 8:54 am

The paper is foxed and brittle. The French translation, terrible. I have no idea how the original reads nor at what book sale I picked up this copy of Mémoires capitales, the French title to Groucho Marx’s Groucho and me autobiography. Learning how he came to apply his mustache with greasepaint is fun. His first encounter with Charlie Chaplin, interesting. What matters most to me at this juncture has to do with comedy and what the man has to say (or demonstrate) about it. Saying is the easier of the two. When comedy works, you laugh, period.

Why you laugh rather than shooting yourself or writhing and fainting in coils. You laugh because you ducked at the right moment and the boojum didn’t. Saved – de justesse. You laugh because the absurdities are so huge you know a temper tantrum won’t cure anything, no more than a dramatic attempt at making them understand –  this last word in italics, caps and underlined. Can’t they see how desperate, grim, horrible and detestable the human condition? Etc.

In fact, they can. They do. I bet many a comedian is just like Grock, the circus clown who goes to see a psychiatrist about his deepening despondency. The psychiatrist doesn’t know the patient’s name and recommends he go to the circus and laugh his cares away watching the inimitable Grock. Marx mentions this story. It may have more to do with the original title of his autobiography than first appears.

The quiet awoke me around four AM. The quiet lasted no more than five minutes. The restless, relentless wind picked up again. I’ve lost track of the number of days now that tree branches have swayed and bent to the horizontal, trash cans and shutters clattered, and dust blown into eyes, ears and nostrils at every foray into the great outdoors. No rain yet, so no busted umbrellas. Monday. The mundane, the lists, the agenda items. Comedy, lurking somewhere, somehow, cleverly disguised as yet more dreck.

A moment of foolery, or *

In Current reading, Drafts, Food, Fun, Games, Hautvoir, Revision, Sanford Meisner, Sundays, Theater on May 8, 2016 at 7:58 am

*or why I don’t waste my money on buying the magazines, but read those I find devoid of their sealed plastic covering :

The five-page article gives telling anecdotes from the lives of young persons born to the toiling/unemployed classes (known as classes populaires in these climes) who’ve taken the social elevator through access to the better schools frequented by those young persons born in the upper classes (known as la classe supérieure in the singular around here). This is followed by a two-page interview with a woman who describes the social climbers as trans-class – something like transgendering applied to social categories. In this interview, the woman informs the readers that no one is responsible for his or her class of birth.

With this stunning revelation in mind, I return to the day a young man by the name of Pierre – whose dad is a mason and his mom a lingère – goes for a meal at his new girlfriend’s home. On the menu: something to which he refers as purée de patates (that’s mashed potatoes for the likes of most English speakers). The girlfriend’s mother gently chides him: no, no, these aren’t mashed potatoes, she says, this is un écrasé de pommes de terre (the closest translation I can think of: a smash of earth apples.)

If there’s an afterlife – and Molière not otherwise occupied – he’ll be glad to learn Les Précieuses Ridicules are alive, thriving, and pursuing their mission of civilizing the great unwashed.

Five magazine pages of learning how to wear your Ralph Lauren shirt so as not to give away the fact you were born and raised in a ZEP. That’s a Zone d’Education Prioritaire i.e. the kind of town in which I live and where I coach school kids and – gasp! – get paid to do it too. No benefits, no paid holidays, but paid, Madame I gently inform you, so I can buy my own potatoes, hold one up and ask it for the plain truth: “Life form, how dost thou prefer to be eaten – boiled, fried, mashed or smashed?”


Meanwhile? Meanwhile, in Act 5 Scene 1 of Twelfth Night, or what you will,  Orsino, Duke of Illyria, asks Feste how he fares and the following ensues :

Feste : Trully, sir, the better for my foes and the worse for my friends.

Orsino: Just the contrary, the better for thy friends.

Feste: No, sir, the worse.

Orsino: How can that be?

Feste: Marry, sir, they praise me and make an ass of me. Now my foes tell me plainly I am an ass: so that by my foes, sir, I profit in the knowledge of myself, and by my friends I am abused: so that, conclusions to be as kisses. If your four negatives make your two affirmatives, why then, the worse for my friends and the better for my foes.

The rest is excellent too. But I digress because, writing-wise, I’m still trying to figure out scene breaks and where the reader goes next. Revising, in other words.