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September 5, 2005

'The Audition'


Whenever you go to a play or a movie the actors and actresses you see are the winners: they were chosen over many other possibilities, often after anxiety–provoking auditions.

Betsy Head, an actress and director, was on the A train in Manhattan last year, on her way to yet another audition, when she had an epiphany: she realized she loved watching auditions and wondered if other people might also want to see them.

She told Ada Calhoun, for an article that appeared in yesterday's New York Times, "Every time we go to 'Urinetown' or to whatever, we see who wins. Who are the people who almost win? What was the show before the show?"

So she created a show called "The Audition," which she calls "reality theater."

Calhoun wrote, "The concept is simple: each night, a different set of 11 New York actors auditions for a panel of directors and a theater full of people, who vote for their favorite performers. In the first act, the actors present prepared monologues. In the second, those who are called back perform cold readings."

The photo above pictures one night's cast for "The Audition."

Here's the article.

    Auditions: The Do's, the Don'ts, the Sheer Terror

    Betsy Head, an actress and a director, was on the A train in April 2004, traveling to yet another acting tryout, when she suddenly thought: "I want to direct another show just so I can watch people audition. I wonder if other people want to see auditions."

    She has her answer.

    "The Audition," which Ms. Head, 26, calls "reality theater," had a sold-out four-day run last fall; its second production starts Wednesday at the Wings Theater in the West Village.

    The concept is simple: each night, a different set of 11 New York actors auditions for a panel of directors and a theater full of people, who vote for their favorite performers.

    In the first act, the actors present prepared monologues.

    In the second, those who are called back perform cold readings.

    "Every time we go to 'Urinetown' or to whatever, we see who wins," Ms. Head said.

    "Who are the people who almost win? What was the show before the show?"

    By coincidence, at the Culture Project in NoHo, there's another, darker show about auditioning: "Sides: The Fear Is Real," from Mr. Miyagi's Theater Company.

    Through skits, "Sides" - the word is theater jargon for audition texts - sends up the tension among actors, the ridiculous concepts for shows ("Hip-Hop Medea") and the sort of director who says, "I have two words for you: orange."

    "At first we were a little concerned that it would be a huge inside joke," said Hoon Lee, a member of Mr. Miyagi's Theater Company, "but we've found that people really identify with the fear, the humiliation and the awkwardness. Audience members come up to us afterward and say, 'Oh, I had a date like that!'"

    Between "Sides," which reveals the absurdity and terror of the tryout process and "The Audition," which enacts it, one gets an excellent primer in how to land a role.

    "The biggest mistake I see people make is not connecting with the directors," Ms. Head said.

    "You want to address them and remember their names."

    If a director suggests a change, make it.

    Oh, and that ubiquitous chair?

    It's a trap.

    "They want to see you move," she said, "so don't use the chair unless you use it as a car or something."

    She also sees the appeal of the omnipresent suicide monologue ("It's hard, but if you do it right, you get a big bang for your five minutes") and staples - never paper clips - to attach head shot to résumé.

    "If you paper-clip it," Ms. Head warned, "it shows you have no idea what you're doing."

    The cast of "Sides," including Rodney To, Jane Cho, Peter Kim and Sekiya Billman, artistic director for Mr. Miyagi's Theater, also had a few don'ts.

    Be careful of your dress, Ms. Billman advised.

    "When I auditioned for 'Miss Saigon,' " she said, "I wore a 50's cocktail dress that had a little train. I went to the bathroom right before I was supposed to go in, and when I stood up I noticed the whole train had been in the toilet."

    Mr. To added: "Don't try to squeeze a tenor out of a baritone voice. I've fallen for that and tried to sing Journey's 'Open Arms' in B flat."

    And Ms. Cho said, "The thing about auditioning is that you have to act like everything's completely normal, no matter what crazy thing they're asking you to do."

    At one audition, Mr. Kim said, a choreographer told a group of dancers: "After you do the eight-count combination, if you feel comfortable, you can strip. If not, you can just take off your clothes, or strip. O.K., let's go."

    Just that day, Mr. To said, a casting director had instructed him, "You, down" to indicate that he should sit, and then had taken away his sides.

    Mr. To's smile never wavered.

    "I was just sitting there," he said, "thinking, 'I am so putting this in our show.'"


The Audition
Wings Theater
154 Christopher Street, West Village; (212) 696-7303

Sides: The Fear is Real
The Culture Project
45 Bleecker Street, NoHo; (212) 307-4100.

September 5, 2005 at 05:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Refugee Radio — Self–powered by radio waves


German designer Mareike Gast has created what she calls the "Refugee Radio."


It draws its power from the energy of the radio waves and is therefore, according to Gast, "energy independent."


She states on her website, "I considered two situations: an emergency or a long–term refugee camp."


Amazing and impressive if indeed it does what it purports to do.

[via AW]

September 5, 2005 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

'The Rose' — by Jay DeFeo


Begun in 1958, "The Rose" (above) was legendary artist Jay DeFeo's almost exclusive obsession for the next eight years.

When it was finished in 1966 the eleven–foot by seven–and–a–half–foot painting weighed over one ton (2,300 pounds), mostly white and gray paint that reached depths of up to eight inches on the canvas.

Somehow the painting exudes spaciousness and light.

Even before it was finished the painting had acquired legendary status: the curator of the Museum of Modern Art was desperate in her desire to put the picture in her landmark exhibition, "Sixteen Americans," and Bruce Conner made a film called "The White Rose" about the painting's removal — by forklift — from the artist's studio.

Here's a link to the transcript of an extraordinarily in–depth June 3, 1975 oral history interview DeFeo (below) did with Paul J. Karlstrom for the Archives of American Art at the Smithsonian Institution.


Here's a link to part two of the oral interview.

September 5, 2005 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Carbon Fiber Toilet Seat — 'You know how fast a little fiber can make you go'


From Dynamic Composites (aptly named company, wouldn't you agree?) comes this high–tech toilet seat.

From the website:

    World's Fastest Aircraft Carbon Fiber Toilet Seat

    Finally, a high–performance, race–ready composite toilet seat.

    Hand–layered carbon around a pre-molded foam core — the same procedure used on our bicycle wheels and racing components.

    We use only the finest epoxy resin system and 550,000 psi tensile strength carbon fiber.

    The carbon fiber is custom–woven for Dynamic Composites, Inc. in a 2x2 twill pattern.

    This is absolutely the nicest looking weave, as seen in Indy cars and fighter planes.

So the next time you sit down to do battle, give yourself a fighting chance.

Don't ask about performance advantages.

Weighs 3.5 lbs.

$229 here.

September 5, 2005 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

'Rome: Engineering an Empire'


Tonight on the History Channel at 9 p.m. ET, what looks to be an absolutely fascinating analysis and recreation of how the Roman Empire rose behind the spectacular engineers and architects who provided the armature of the future.

Julius Caesar in 55 B.C. reached the Rhine River.

He decided to cross it and conquer Germania not by boat but, improbably, by land.

His engineers constructed a quarter–mile–long bridge (computer re–creation below)


that withstood the river's powerful tides and allowed his 40,000 troops — 8 Roman legions and their equipment — to cross.

Total construction time: 10 days.

A digression: just now, as I was watching on TV, for the third consecutive day, the ongoing efforts of the U.S. government to close a breach in the 17th Street Levee in New Orleans with helicopters, sandbags and bulldozers, with success nowhere in sight, it seemed to me that Caesar's engineers would have had this job done in about four hours.

When the Germanians saw the Romans crossing the Rhine on horseback, their force of some 430,000 soldiers fled.

After Caesar conquered Germania, he recrossed the bridge to return to Rome — but not before destroying the bridge, as if to demonstrate that Rome could and would go where it wanted.

Rome, for all practical purposes, invented roads.

Perhaps you've heard the phrase, "All roads lead to Rome"?

The Empire's first national highway, the Via Appia (below),


built in 312 B.C., stretched 132 miles.

By 27 B.C. Caesar's successor, Augustus, had connected the Roman Empire with over 100,000 miles of paved highways.

Along such roads the cities that became London, Paris and Bonn arose.

And of course, perhaps most important in assuring the success of Roman expansion was its water management.

Eventually Rome built 11 major aqueducts (the remnants of Aqua Claudia are pictured below)


carrying fresh water down from mountain springs along perfectly calculated downward gradients sloping a few inches every hundred feet, with such precision maintained over great distances and though passageways in many cases carved through mountains.

During the 1st century A.D. 200 million gallons of fresh water a day were delivered to the city of Rome, a volume greater than that entering New York City as recently as 1985.

The show uses detailed, hyper–realistic computer animation to demonstrate how such improbable structures as the Pantheon (below, during construction) were built.


Tell you what: this program looks so immensely interesting to me that I am going to do something I almost never do: break away from the much–anticipated Miami at Florida State football game that will have started an hour earlier on ABC to watch it.

That's saying something.

Note: The picture at the top of this post shows Hadrian's Wall in Britannia as it looked when it was new. (It was begun in 122 A.D. to transect the country and separate Romans from the barbarians threatening the Northern outpost of the Empire.)

September 5, 2005 at 12:31 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Tidy Bib


This ingenious baby bib (6–12 months) has a built–in crumb catcher.

Just release the Velcro tabs to empty.

Hot Pink.

$6.99 here.

September 5, 2005 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

2005 Consumer Information Handbook


It's published annually by the federal government and it's free.

This year's is just out and lists over 200 free or low–cost U.S. government publications ranging from "66 Ways To Save Money" to "The Great American Home Safety Check."

Order the handbook online here or call 888-878-3256 or send your name and address to:

Consumer Information Catalog
Pueblo, Colorado 81009

The highest and best use of our tax dollars.

September 5, 2005 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Napoleon Dynamite Talking Pen


"This hilarious talking pen says 7 different lines from the movie "Napoleon Dynamite."

You can hear what it sounds like here.

Among the seven lines:

• "Freakin' idiot!"

• "Tina, you fat lard, come get some dinner!"

• "Sweet!"

From the website:

    Great for school, the office or home.

    A perfect gift for any student.

    5.5"–high pen easily fits in pocket or handbag.

    You can click and listen to Napoleon anytime you want!

    Thermal transfer photo of Napoleon on the pen itself.

    Lasts a minimum of 3,000–5,500 playbacks with included batteries.

$6.95 here.

September 5, 2005 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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