Acting Assumptions and Reciprocal Effects


My head appears in the doorway, red and all.

“Hel-lo, then. Look what I missed.”

A cute young thing, a docent as it might be, is standing with a group of people in the crowded room, the gallery.

I get in front of her, staring down from her head to her tits, blond to perky.

Kneeling, I attempt to greet her breasts in a medium-high-pitch Mr. Rogers fashion.

I give them the individual treatment.

“Well greetings to you, and to you,” I say.

The individual treatment.

“Well, this is fortunate.” I say, finally shaking the lady’s hand, herself.

“Do I, know you?” She asks.

“I’m Aubrey Black,” I say and turn to the crowd. “And this is how to get a girl naked in five minutes flat.”


As you might have surmised that is not my persona, not my usual attitude among women, one of mass-bundles of nerves and insecurities coupled with laughter and self-deprecation.

Rather it is the persona of “Aubrey Black”, one of the characters I play in “The Confidence Man”, an adaptation of a Herman Melville novella set on a giant decomissioned 1930s Coast Guard boat called “Lilac”.

The play takes place in both 1857 and the current day, jumping back and forth as its audience is led to or wanders through rooms to find the play’s action.

I also play a southern dandy and a reverend/preacher/con-man denouncing the efficacy of graham crackers as a moral deterrent.

Someone told me today that graham crackers actually were thought of at one point as some sort of panacea for the repression of unbearable urges, but I find it hard to believe.

In a play that combines so much sketchy history, with historical reenactment, with social commentary and outright lies, you always doubt the truth.

What’s more, it’s on a boat.

Even now, when I’m home, I still find myself rocking in my chair, swaying side to side, ro maybe not perhaps, the vertiginous aspect of my brain still trying to compensate for the gentle rock of the boat I just spent nearly 9 hours on going through tech aspects of rehearsal.

I’m here all week, folks.


For my part though, acting is as much a mystery, as disorientating as my nautical disorientation.

I feel rudderless (apologies) when I’m going off in a scene, wildly gesticulating. While I’ve seen plenty of theater, I feel I don’t have a base to judge myself or my abilities, since there are so many styles and I don’t feel that I’ve been priveleged (or otherwise) to much bad theatrical acting.

Instead, I just act from my gut, seizing whatever feels natural, making faces, smushing my chin, pouncing on every other line.

Trying everything, in other words, in order to find something.

What I thought the hardest part would be, memorizing the lines, came easily as I realized I already had them through the lengthy studio-bound rehearsal process.

But finding character and the dynamic of the scene feels more and more daunting/scary as I realize that there’s no redo in theater when you’re live, no “cut” or second take.

At the end of the day the audience takes home their mental footage and does with it what they will.

And there’s no way to know what that looks like.

The play starts September 1st, for a mild plug, and it was listed in the New Yorker this week.

Incidentally, the boat that I provided a picture of is not the boat we’re on, but the boat next to ours.

It says on the side it’s name is “The Queen of Hearts” but that banner names it:

“SEA TEA: America’s Only Gay Sailing Tea Dance”.

I’m not sure what that is, but it does, indeed, sounds gay.


Quickly, three things.

1. I apologize for the lack of blogging recently.

I’ve been busy with Tech Week for the play and a surfeit of thoughts, sadly unbloggable.

While it may seem like I share everything here on these pages, there are really some things I like to keep for myself.

And the decision to write something, and my own self-critic, acts as a somewhat effective deterrent to self-damaging speech, or at least a better one than the one I come naturally with.

Anyway, I’ll try to keep updating as I can with adventures and excitements as they come.

2. Inglourious Basterds, not quite “Inglourious”, but not quite “basterdly” either.

As discussed with good friends and film afficiandos all (John Beamer, Chadd Harbold and Ro-No-Beardo Malone), my take on the movie ended up being that the film was a non-exploitation film and an exploitation film that ran parallel to each other but never really meshed. They could have been two separate movies and their juxtaposition felt awkward and often dissonant.

Other than that main complaint, there was also Eli Roth, who John Beamer pointed out was not Tarantino’s first choice, that being Adam Sandler who was sniped by Apatow for Funny People.

Hans Landa, played by Christoph Waltz, who was uniformly excellent no matter the context in the film, but who Rob reported, brought displeasure to his friend Dan Dickerson as “snide and fake”.

And then there was Shoshanna, whose film-part was interesting and earnest, a meditation on cinema, history and artistic revenge, who Chadd pointed out was “French and hot”.

All in all, a worth-seeing film.

IMO, better than Death Proof, worse than Kill Bill (a film more tone-appropriate).

And I’m glad for QT that he got a quality opening.

He’s a real auteur, love him or hate him.

And a victory for him is one for us all.

3. Someone de-friended AND blocked me on Facebook today because I called Dave Eggers a “tool”.

Lisa Qiu, seen here in freakish virtual form, decided to abolish all trace of me after I commented on her Digg post about Where The Wild Things Are.

She replied to my post with three comments before I even noticed the block, asking me:

“…how so?”

followed by

“why are you such a hater?”

followed by

“I hope you’re just kidding… calling the best living American writer a tool, is it an acronym? Totally Outstanding Outrageously Lovable?”

I did not even have a chance to respond.

So in, a Stew-like attempt to modify the problems of life with art, I present my rationale, on my own terms:

Lisa, I have not seen Where The Wild Things Are.

I will say however of Eggers that this is a:

1. Guy who publishes a self-knowingly fake semi-auto-biographical book called A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius.

2. Writes a fake-but-extremely-self-congratulatory movie based-on-himself called Away We Go, that was a naked play at Juno-style hip.

3. Publishes, as an American white guy, a docu-fake-memoir of a child soldier called What is the What

and finally

4. Owns a superhero supply store in Brooklyn.

If these are not qualifications for tooldom, I don’t know what is.

That said, please un-block me.

3 Responses to Acting Assumptions and Reciprocal Effects

  1. Matthew Chao says:

    He’s such a tool about the superhero supply store (which has the potential to be cool, he’s just got a stick up his ass about it).

    Still a little miffed I essentially got a “fuck you” when trying to do a doc on it sophomore year.

  2. p-t says:

    What Is the What is a synthesized version of what is a real, bona fide story, and it’s also heartbreakingly tragic (and done with the full collaboration of the guy who actually lived through it).

  3. jason says:

    first things first. when the french girl gets shot at the end, wasn’t anyone else reminded of this:
    inglourious basterds sucks a mean dick, i’ll tell you that much. christoph landa might have been good if qt didn’t overwrite him so much and i suspect that i only thought he was ok despite it all because he looked a lot like daniel day lewis. that jews/rats thing was literally six times as long as it needed to be. and “that was a bingo!!” was probably the stupidest line in a movie of this year’s ever. reminds me why i skipped kill bill, kill bill part 2, and grindhouse. i had zero interest in seeing this movie. declared many times that i would only see the movie for the “French and hot” french girl in the movie. he’s going to think of something better than that to get me to watch any other movie he makes. fool me once. at this point i wonder if i should rewatch pulp fiction and discover that my 8th-10th grade was just a lie.
    inglourious basterds is not a movie. i dont have a problem with overwriting. i have a problem with smug overwriting. you stop wondering what’ll happen in the movie and start wondering what is this asshole going to do next. he sucks every ounce of tension and pleasure out of every goddamn scene. his dialogue becomes a black hole. but black holes used to be stars, you know. stars which collapse into themselves perhaps out of pride. which is a deadly sin. i might have just made all of that up.
    reminded me of synecdoche new york because i thought an hour into the movie that it had already been two hours. except this one was completely devoid of ambition.
    one classic moment though: “that makes three of us.”
    also i’ve never read dave eggers and i dont want to because i doubt id like him at all, but if you’re going to knock someone for being a self-aggrandizing tool in the same post as quentin tarantino…i don’t doubt eggers is a tool, but as they say in iceland: if you are standing in a room with james dean and chris crocker and you don’t say “hey chris, you know what, you’re alright, but james i’m afraid we won’t ever get along because you’re just so damn gay.”

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