Monday, February 25, 2013

Acting on Impulse

Channeling Cleopatra as she mourns Antony's death
 Admit it, all of you who secretly believe that you could have been an actor (or actress, as I also admit to liking the feminine form of the word).  So perhaps it was that tiny, deep-buried germ that brought me early in February to the Exploring Shakespeare class at the Skillman/Southwestern branch of the Dallas Public Library.  A free class for seniors (alas, c'est moi!) meeting for two hours twice a week. Did I want to invest that much time in something so removed from all my other interests?  Did I need something more to do?  I thought I would just go and check it out; I could always choose not to return. 

Hassan with Sharon and Renita
Well, I had so much fun that first session that I couldn't wait to return.  Hassan El-Amin, the instructor, was enthusiastic, encouraging and amusing as he had us all performing warm up exercises, both vocal and physical, then playing interactive games to get us introduced to each other as we mingled.  Indeed, Hassan, who is a member of the Dallas Theater Center's Brierley Resident Acting Company, was key to making this class a success.  I was constantly impressed not only by his acting expertise but also by his teaching skills and his ability to deal innovatively with some of the impediments that a class of individuals who were both older and mostly total acting neophytes sometimes presented.  We also got to see his professional side performing as the Duke of Kent in the Dallas Theater Center's production of King Lear to which we were all given complimentary tickets. Do check out his website, The Dream.

Clockwise from upper left: Melissa, Peter & Mary, Sam, Gary,
Jeanette, and Gordon
The culmination of the class was to be a performance given at the library at the end of the month.  We each chose monologues or short scenes from Shakespeare's plays.  At the first session that I attended, he suggested Katherine's monologue from the final scene of The Taming of the Shrew, and I volunteered for it since no one else did. Then later, after having read Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff, I also decided to do a monologue from Antony and Cleopatra.  It was so interesting to watch the members of the class begin to learn how to perform the piece each had chosen.  There were those who seemed "good" to me right off the bat, but always Hassan gave suggestions that improved their interpretations.  For others who were more reticent, he continued to coax from them more and more emotion and dramatic flair.

And all the while it continued to be – fun!  For myself who spends the better part of my days in solitary pursuits, working on my various projects, this interaction was very refreshing, an invigorating change of pace, as I'm sure it was for others.  At the end there were fourteen of us in the class (but only thirteen for our grand acting debut, as the flu unfortunately had claimed one member).  Was our performance a success?  I can only relate that there was thunderous applause from the
Curtain call
 audience ...mostly composed of our nearest and dearest, of course.  But believe me, we all took it seriously and tried our utmost, while enjoying it thoroughly.  I certainly did.  We even had a little reception with refreshments afterwards where we all beamed and laughed and congratulated each other.  And, most especially, thanked Hassan. 

There's one more class and even another performance at a large senior living complex here.  And after that...well, some of us, including myself, are considering continuing this brave new endeavor in some fashion.

I should also mention that the class was offered by the Dallas Public Library in cooperation with the Dallas Theater Center, and funded by the MetLife Creative Aging Libraries Project.  Thank you all.

The Class and Cast

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Illustration Friday - Storm

Storm My February Illustration Friday is a kind of two-fer.  First I created the painting, joining two photos from stock.xchange and using both Photoshop and Topaz filters on several copies.  The ornate frame came from the Frames and Borders group on Flickr. And the lightning is from a set of 40 lightning bolt brushes downloaded from

Then once you have a painting, well, it should hang in a gallery, shouldn't it?  And, of course,  you need some viewers to appreciate it.  So I collected some individuals from Flickr via Creative Commons and removed them from their backgrounds using a trial version of Topaz ReMask.  I didn't take much time to learn its intricacies, as my goal was to get this finished, so they aren't as good as they could be.  I wanted to create the impression that their hair and garments were being blown by a wind coming out of the painting.  I added a little splash of water also coming out of the painting onto the wall, but I'm not sure if it reads as such.  I used Topaz BuzSim filter on one copy of the group of people to try to unify them.

After spending the better part of two days glued to my computer, I just managed to finish this in time.  It was a bit complicated, but it does resemble the vision I had in my mind's eye.