Archive for the ‘Entertainment’ Category

What Does it Take to be Best Actor?

January 3, 2017

We’ll learn February 26th, 2017, who gets this year’s Academy Award for Best Actor, and, of course, who gets one for lots of things. But, acting is what I’m discussing here.

What does it take to be a good actor?

I am no expert on the subject, but I have done some amateur acting. My first role was Santa Claus in a play I wrote in 1942 in the 7th grade at Eleventh Street School in downtown Columbus.  We performed it for the 6th and 7th grades. You can read about it and a lot more in my memoir The Newsman: a Memoir.    I also did a part in a play in 1943 at Columbus Junior High School, then one at Teen Tavern in Columbus when I was a teenager. I played Petruchio in Taming of the Shrew for Columbus Little Theater, which was morphed into the Springer Opera House after that, and I acted in a number of plays for the Springer and for Theater Atlanta in the late fifties and sixties.  Theater Atlanta exited the stage  before the Alliance Theater  came into being.

Considering all that, maybe I can say what it takes to a be good actor with a thimble of expertise. First of all, learn your lines.  The drama professor at Agnes Scott said she was so happy that I would act in some of the school plays because she knew I would learn my lines. Just that accounted for a lot she said. She said nothing about the quality of my acting that I can remember. Some of the male teachers at Agnes Scott, a women’s college, would help her from time to time, but she had to go outside the school had to ask male amateur actors to participate in school plays. I think I did minor parts in two plays for her.

Second suggestion: concentrate. The Springer’s first director Charles Jones emphasized that a lot. He said it’s really important in everything you do. I agree.

Third suggestion: learn how to ad- lib when other people forget their lines and you have to reply to the lines they made up. Often when the other actor forgets his lines, the audience thinks you are the one who forgot his lines because there is a pause while you are waiting for your cue which is never delivered. That happened to me more than once. Once when that happened, Charles complimented me on my improvising a line when the lead forgot his and ad-libbed something that  didn’t make much sense. He said, “Thanks for bringing him back into the play.”

O.K., now here’s what some experts reportedly said about acting.

“Talk low, talk slow, and don’t talk too much. ” — John Wayne

“Never get caught acting.” – Lillian Gish

“Without wonder and insight, acting is just a trade. With it, it becomes a creation.” – Bette Davis

“With any part you play, there is a certain amount of yourself in it. There has to be, otherwise it’s just hat you ust not acting. It’s lying.” – Johnny Depp

“Suit the action to the word, the word to the action, with this special observance, that you o’erstep not the modesty of nature.” – WIlliam Shakespeare, Hamlet

And Orson Welles said, “The essential is to excite the spectators. If that means playing Hamlet on a trapeze or in an aquarium, you do it.”

Now, if we really want to get serious about this we could discuss the different schools of acting, things like method acting, naturalism, non-naturalism., realism, and romanticism.  I don’t want to  get that serious.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CSO Beethoven Opener was a Winner

September 19, 2016
George Del Gobbo, Music Director and Conductor of the Columbus Symphony Orchestra

George Del Gobbo, Music Director and Conductor of the Columbus Symphony Orchestra

To me, the litmus test for a symphony orchestra is how well it masters the classical music master Beethoven. Saturday night the Columbus Symphony Orchestra, in my view, definitely mastered the master.

It didn’t hurt that it had a world-class concert pianist to dazzle us. Swiss-born American pianist Gilles Vonsattel’s rendition of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3 in C Minor, Op. 37 was…well… breathtaking. I didn’t know anyone could  move their fingers that  fast.  Judging from the standing ovation he got, I would say that the audience was transported.  I know I was .

Once, when rehearsing the Bob Barr Community Band, retired legendary public school music educator George Corridino, not pleased with the way the band was playing the Sousa classic Stars and Stripes Forever, told the band that it simply could not get  away with not playing that song well. “Everybody in the world knows that song! They’ll know you’re not playing it right.”  When it comes to Beethoven, it’s probably Symphony No. 5 in C minor, Op. 67.  That’s the one that its first four notes have the same rhythm as the Morse code’s “V.” The British used it to stand for “victory” during World War II. I remember that. I was 14 when World War II ended.  To put it mildly, the Columbus Symphony Orchestra nailed it.

It was really good to hear CSO Executive Director Cameron Bean announce before the concert that there were 200 middle school students in the balcony. Leter, he told me a sponsor made that possible. It’s really important to expose young people to the sound of a live full symphony orchestra.  I was 15 when I first heard one. The Three Arts League brought the Pittsburg Symphony Orchestra to Columbus.  A wealthy Columbus lady bought tickets for all members of  the Jordan and Columbus High bands. We sat on the first and second rows.  I have loved live symphonic music from that moment on.

Stage Floors Matter, Too

February 20, 2016

Maybe not a lot last night because there very few people sitting in the mezzanine of the Bill Heard Theater. But, for those few of us who were there, we got a very good view of a pretty messy stage floor apron.  The turn-out for the Rising Stars of the Metropolitan Opera concert was not impressive.  The three sopranos, a baritone, and a pianist/emcee were quite impressive. Too bad  so few people were there to hear  them. I guess not many Columbus folks are into opera concerts. They do seem to show up more when a popular opera with a pit orchestra and sets play the  Heard. There were good crowds for Madam Butterfly and Carmen when road companies brought them to town. I know, because I was there.

Symphonic Music for Everyone

November 12, 2015

It’s good to see that the Columbus Symphony Orchestra is playing symphonic music that everyone can enjoy. I like a lot of the classics, but a good way to get the general public to become symphonic music fans is to play new, popular movie scores like the ones featured Friday evening in the Bill Heard Theater at River Center. Maybe it would be a good idea to do more pops concerts during a season. This one starts at 7:30. Hope to see you there.

Cameron Bean, Executive Director of the orchestra, says now is a great time to pay a tribute to John Williams because more of his musical masterpieces are premiering this year, “Jurassic World” and “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”  “We thought it would be fitting to celebrate his works with a pops concert for the whole family to enjoy.”

Also, there will be a costume party before the concert.  Sounds like a winner to me.

 

A Columbus Film Society?

July 1, 2015

Anyone interested in restarting a film society group in Columbus, Georgia?  I don’t know what happened to the one that existed at one time, but I think it would be fun to have one now.  After all, the Screening Room at the Ritz 13 is showing a Carmike Classic every Tuesday night at 7.  All seats $5. Not bad.  We plan to make the next one and hope to see you there. We saw “Raging Bull” last night. Robert De Niro turned in an incredible performance as Jake LaMotta.

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This Tuesday, July 7, it’s David Lean’s (yes, the fellow who directed “Lawrence of Arabia”) production of Noel Cowards “Brief Encounter.” It is indeed a classic.

 

Escape Radio, TV, Books, and Movies

March 4, 2015

When I was young, fiction interested me more than non-fiction.  Since my family subscribed to both the Columbus Ledger and the Columbus Enquirer, I did see the front page headlines on the way to  the  comics and movie ads, and I did  see the newsreels when I went to a movie, so I did  have an idea of what was going on in the world. But it was the feature films and the cartoons that I cared about.

Then, as I got older I became more interested in reality.  A highlight of the year was radio, and later, TV coverage of the Democratic and Republican National Conventions.  And when, as a teenager, I got into radio broadcasting, announcers did a little of  everything back then. They read commercials, newscasts, and hosted disc jockey shows. It was the disc jockey shows that I wanted to do the most. Still, reading wire service radio news copy served me well when I matured enough to specialize in news, first on radio and then on TV. I learned to interview news subjects, edit audio tape for radio, and shoot and edit film and video for TV news. 

I basically stopped reading fiction, concentrating on non-fiction.  But, I never stopped going to  the movies,  watching entertainment TV,  and listening to music, live and recorded. All of us need some escape from the real  world. And now I find myself escaping even more when I watch TV and go to the movies.  There is so much distressing news in the world.  Fortunately, there are enough quality TV programs and movies to hold my interest. A prime example of quality TV programs is Downton Abbey.  The British are especially good at producing period series and movies for TV. Downton Abbey is over for  this year, but Selfridges, another excellent period series follows it, so I won’t complain.  

  

 

Best Way to Watch the Oscars

February 23, 2015

 

What to do? Watch Downton Abbey or the Oscars?

How about both?

We watched Downton Abbey while recording the Oscars.

Fast forwarding through all the commercials and the awards that didn’t interest me,  I got to watch the Hollywood pat-itself-on-the-back show in a lot less time than watching it live.

There were almost no surprises.  The predictors got just about all of them right.  There was some uncertainly about Best Male Actor. Some predicted Michael Keaton would edge out  Eddie Redmayne, but he didn’t.  I was glad. Keating was really good as Birdman, but Redmayne was brilliant as astrophycist Stephen Hawkins in The Theory of Everything.

 

Space Science Center Works to Display Shuttle Prototype and to Affiliate with Smithsonian

November 17, 2014

 

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The relatively new whitewater experience in downtown Columbus has impressively increased the number of tourists visiting the Columbus area.  Hundreds of thousands were already coming because of the National Infantry Museum,  the National Civil War Naval Museum, and the Columbus State University Coca-Cola Space Science Center.  And now, the Coca-Cola Space Science Center could be on the verge of making Columbus an even greater national tourist destination.

CCSSC Executive Director Dr. Shawn Cruzen told members of the Rotary Club of Columbus that adding the 1/4 scale model space shuttle to the center’s museum and affiliating with the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. will make the CCSSC an even greater tourist attraction, as well as enhance the educational aspects of the facility.

Dr. Cruzen told me that the space shuttle model played a large role in the development of the space shuttle. It was used as a testing prototype.  Developers of the shuttle had to know if the three elements involved in the launching of the shuttle, the main rocket, it’s attached fuel tank, and the shuttle, could withstand the violent vibrations that would  happen during a launch. They found out by submitting the prototype to those vibrations created by a machine. That makes the prototype, a $9.3 million gift of NASA’s to CCSSC, a highly valuable historical artifact.

However, it will take an estimated $2 million to modify the CCSSC building to display it.  As part of the efffort to raise the funds,  the center brought Dr. Valerie Neal, Director of the “Space History Division” of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, to Columbus to speak at fund-raising events. She was also scheduled to speak to the Rotary Club of Columbus, but commercial flight problems caused her to miss that; However, Dr. Cruzen and Mary Johnson,  Assistant Executive Director of CCSSC,  impressively substituted for her, in my view. Their presentations were well-received by the audience.

The CCSSC will do what it takes to make the affiliation application to the Smithsonian  next year, and has a goal of achieving affiliation in 2016.  There are all sorts of educational and promotional benefits in becoming an  Smithsonian affiliate, including use of artifacts and bringing Smithsonian experts to Columbus to speak.

I hope Columbus leaders will give full support to this initiative.  The Coca-Cola Space Science Center is a valuable asset for the area.  Shows in the world-class Omnisphere planetarium alone are worth a visit, thanks to the creativity and skills of its director, Lance Tankersley. 

 

CBS Sunday Morning in the Limelight

November 10, 2014

As I sat watching the illuminating CBS magazine program CBS Sunday Morning,  which has been on the air for  35 years, I learned the roots of the word “limelight,”  which, besides meaning “the center of public attention,” also means an actual light used to illuminate a stage, providing the first following spotlights,  I had to reflect on what an entertainment and informative  treasure CBS gives us every Sunday morning.

The program’s Almanac feature spotlighted Scottish inventor Thomas Drummond who, on November 9th, 1825,  successfully demonstrated a brilliant light produced by a white-hot flame from burning calcium oxide. (Calcium oxide is lime.)  He used a parabolic reflector to direct the light. Theaters quickly embraced the limelight to light stages and provide spotlights before the advent of electric lights. (Wikipedia tells us that Drummond didn’t actually invent limelight. Sir Goldsworthy Gurnery did that. Drummond made it work.)

This is one TV news magazine that leaves you feeling good after watching it. You can’t say that  about the others.  I get tired of being depressed by reports of the bad things going on in the world, so I  look  forward to this program, which I record every week.  Sometimes I actually watch part of it  when it airs. (more…)

Having a Drink with the Duke

July 14, 2014

As I read the news about John Wayne’s estate engaging in a legal battle with Duke University over the use of  the name Duke, it reminded me of  the time I had a drink with the Duke.

The estate wants to put the name “Duke” on the label of bottles of Kentucky bourbon. Duke University reportedly opposes that idea. From personal experience, I know that Wayne did like bourbon.

He had just finished shooting some scenes for The Green Berets, a film about the Vietnam War at Fort  Benning.   Meeting him on location the night before, I had so upset him when I asked if he was making a propaganda movie that he cut the interview short and stormed off, saying, “You’re just trying to provoke me. I’m  trying to make an entertaining  movie.”

The next morning his publicist called me to say that Duke felt bad about the episode with me, that he had been upset by something else and that he would give me another interview if I wanted it. The publicist and I met him at his apartment after that day’s filming.  He gave me his famous smile and a hardy handshake,  explained that he had been in a bad mood the night before because of problems he was having with one of his actors who had a drinking problem,  said he understood I was just doing my job and I could ask  him anything I wished.  I responded by honestly telling him I was a fan and had really enjoyed his latest movie in the theaters, The War Wagon. He invited me to join him at the apartment’s  kitchen table to do the interview.  He also asked me if I would like to have a bourbon and water with him.  Usually, I didn’t drink on the job, but there was no way I was going to  not have a drink with John Wayne.

I interviewed him for an hour.  He gave me a lot of interesting inside stories about such things as the mafia’s influence in Hollywood. I sent both the short interview from the  night before and the hour interview to  CBS.  They only used the one with the verbal fireworks from the night before.