Monthly Archives: January 2009

When Acting is a Snap

I haven’t heard from Andy lately, so I’m certain he’s busy learning his lines for the lead role in The Devils, UCLA’s major spring play. He’s also back playing basketball on campus at Pauley Pavilion, where he sometimes plays with Adam Sandler.  

Andy had stopped playing basketball for awhile after injuring his right shoulder last fall. When he visited us at home over Winter Break, he injured his left shoulder at a local gym after a bigger basketball player smashed down on top of him. He couldn’t move his arms up, but at least he looked symmetrical. He also has plantar fasciitis, scar tissue from torn tendons on his legs, and permanently stiff trapezius muscles.

Adam Sandler doesn’t know Andy’s an aspiring actor who’d be perfect to play an assault victim. Even better, a corpse.   

Andy somehow gets involved in hazardous undertakings. Last year, when he came home for summer vacation, his body was covered in permanent ink designs, particularly over his arms, legs, and abdomen. He resembled a kids’ skeleton costume at Halloween or a marked up piece of prime beef. Relieved to see these markings were not tattoos, I asked why he was imprinted all over his torso in dark blue ink.

          “Performance Art,” he explained. I remembered Performance Art is a term for a theatrical performance where the artist’s personal expression of an idea takes place before a live audience. I knew performances could be offbeat, but Andy assured me his was a meaningful experience for himself and his audience. He showed me a YouTube video where he and an attractive, well-proportioned young female student, standing side-by-side, performed yoga, stretching, and a series of difficult postures.

          “These markings on my body are designs of muscles,” Andy said. “Each drawing was inked directly over its counterpart muscle.” He explained that his partner was selected for her superior physical prowess, and that during the performance his task was to copy her moves exactly.

          Then why in the video was he wearing rubber bands over most of the blue-inked skin muscles?

          Andy explained that for the performance, his good friend Jack, also a theater student, was enlisted to snap the rubber bands forcefully over whatever muscles Andy was stressing if  Jack determined Andy wasn’t as good as his female counterpart.

Talk about a blank check.

I remembered Jack was not exactly on the best terms with Andy last spring when the video was made. Silently I watched Andy in the video grunt and moan as he worked out while Jack snapped the various rubber bands repeatedly. Performance art or not, this seemed like a definite inequality of the parties. I got the feeling Jack was really into his role.  

In the video the audience began to squirm and I heard a chorus of boos and hisses. Mercifully the video ended when Jack, anticipating more audience participation than usual for Performance Art— perhaps a lynching— rushed to remove Andy’s rubber bands before Andy was hauled off the stage.

          Watching me view the YouTube video, Andy asked what I thought about it.

          “I understand your intent was to evoke a strong reaction,” I said carefully, “so I did feel sympathy and revulsion watching you be tortured by Jack.  As your mother, though, I hope you don’t do another one of these performances. And,” I added, “it also seemed kind of kinky.”

          “You’re the only one who thought of that,” he replied with a sniff.

          When I described the video to various friends, the consensus was that  Andy’s Performance Art video absolutely had creepy overtones. That issue aside, they wished Andy would beat the crap out of Jack.

Because I’ve seen the video, I’m now certain I’ll cope well watching Andy perform naked and be tortured in The Devils. How often does a proud mother get to see that?



Son Exposure: The Devils Made Him Do it

My son Andy, a 22-year old senior at UCLA’s School of Film, Theater and Television, called to tell me he’s been picked to play the lead role in UCLA’s major spring play, The Devils. He urged the family—Dad, 24 year old brother Jordan and me— to attend.

He’s got a nude scene. We’re not bringing binoculars.

The play is based on the book The Devils of Loudun by Aldous (“Brave New World”) Huxley. It was made into a 1971 film directed by Ken Russell. The film caused enormous controversy, and, according to Wickipedia “attracted scathing reviews” and was banned in many countries, including Italy, whose Venice Film Festival honored Russell with the award for the Best Director of a foreign film.

The original uncut film featured sex, sex orgies, masturbation, torture, blasphemies, and self-flagellation. Other than that, it was good family fare.

This will be a challenging role for Andy. Among other roles he’s played Petruchio, the lovable rogue in search of a bride in Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew. His last role was a philanderer in Irwin Shaw’s Bury the Dead. The character part was identified as “Corpse Number 6.” At least this was a dead guy with lines.

After playing these two macho guys, he’ll now portray a womanizing priest who’s the victim of a political plot to destroy him, notably to burn him at the stake. A cruel and unusual punishment for priestly misbehavior, but the play is set in the 17th century. Somewhere in the course of this depravity Andy will be nude.

In truth, Andy’s the most modest guy among the three men in our household. Although my spouse Alan and Andy’s brother Jordan walk around naked or bottomless, unperturbed by my female presence, Andy will grab a robe, towel, unwashed underwear, the dog’s blanket or any conceivable covering lest his masculinity be viewed.

I’m wondering how his director Patrick Kennelly will prepare Andy for his nude scene. Take him to a nudist colony? An even more pressing concern, I’m wondering how I, The Mom, will prepare to view Andy in his nude scene.

Will the ushers give a warning before Andy comes out nude? Shall I leave right before his nude scene? When he’s finally nude, shall I look at the other actors and pretend he’s not on stage? What if he’s all alone on stage? Shall I look at the “Exit” signs around the perimeter of the theater? Shall I pretend I’m reading the Playbill although it’s too dark to see?

Just what is the protocol? When he’s stripped of his clothes, do I applaud immediately?

After the play is over and he visits us at home in the Bay area, will he
be so comfortable that I’ll have one additional nudist around the house?

If I have to avert my eyes more often than I already do, my eyes will stick.