Wednesday, March 28, 2012

My Time In 'Eden'

I was thrilled to be asked by Lindsay Taylor at the Prague Film & Theater Center to participate in a staged reading of "The Eden Game," a play about Vaclav Havel by California-based playwright Jock Doubleday.

Doubleday wrote the first act of "The Eden Game" in 1989, inspired after reading Havel's "Letters to Olga." The second act was written in 1997, after learning of Havel's second marriage to actress Dagmar Veškrnová. As Doubleday said in the playbill:

"Unfortunately, no one had any interest in a play about Vaclav Havel. Perhaps his real-life drama was enough. Today's staged reading, 22 years after the play's inception, is a great gift to me. I have written 39 plays, but "The Eden Game" was my first, and it holds a special place in my heart."

The staged reading is a chance for the playwright to see and hear his words come to life for the first time on a stage and to get constructive feedback from the audience and the performers. The performance was filmed and the audience was asked to fill out feedback cards. Sadly, Doubleday couldn't be in Prague for the reading.

I was asked to read the part of the Prison Warden in Act I. I had a fantastic time meeting and working with the other actors. It was the first time I had been on a stage in front of a live audience since 1990 or so, when I was a stand-up comic for a night for a Plimpton-esque first-person newspaper story. (That's another story.)

(Read a review of our performance here.)

The actors sat on stage in a horseshoe around an old bench, where most of the "action" took place. When it was our turn, we entered the acting space to engage with the other performers (mostly with Scott Williams, who played Havel). We were all reading from the script; we hadn't had time to memorize our lines. And while we weren't in costume, we did act the parts as best we could given the limited parameters.

What did I think?

There is much to recommend in "The Eden Game." The dialogue is smart and chewy, and the subject matter is right for the stage. It's an ambitious play, and Doubleday obviously knows his history. But I think it is too long, its structure overly complicated and a tad gimmicky (a play within a play) which, in my opinion, detracts from the power of Havel's story, which needs no embellishment.

I hope our performance helps Doubleday hone "The Eden Game" and that it gets produced somewhere.

Who knows? Maybe even Prague.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Things We Carry

The things we carry with us through life. The things we just can't bear to throw away or give away.

I've got a few.

We just moved, which forced me to confront all the things I've carried.

Like my NFL Action '72 stamp album. My dad used to bring the stamps home from the Sunoco gas station. I guess you'd get a package of nine with every fill-up.

I managed to fill the entire album, except for one stamp. Terry Hanratty, the backup quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers. That was a thankless job, playing behind Terry Bradshaw. Maybe they didn't even print a stamp for him.

The Steelers were my team (we were living in New Alexandria, Pennsylvania, at the time, not that far from Pittsburgh). Funny that the Steelers were the one team whose roster I somehow couldn't complete.

I see today that there's someone on eBay selling an NFL Action '72 album for $100. Funnily enough, it's also missing one stamp.

I've also lovingly carried with me all these years a mint sheet of the 50 state flag stamps issued by the U.S. Postal Service in 1976 to mark the bicentennial. I used to be a stamp collector when I was a kid. Sadly, after all this time, a similar sheet is selling for only $10 on eBay. Ten dollars after 36 years!

I guess I'll just hang onto them for a little while longer.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Train Station Stuck In Time

Two images taken at the train station in Kralupy nad Vltavou, about 30 kilometers north of Prague. Looks like it was built in 1963 and has been preserved in amber ever since.

Monday, March 19, 2012

My Acting Demo Reel

Grant Podelco (Demo Reel) from Grant Podelco on Vimeo.

"I don't know what acting is, but I enjoy it." -- Anthony Hopkins

Here's a demo reel of some of my acting efforts so far, mostly appearing in films written and directed by the talented students at the Prague Film School. (I wrote about my fledgling acting efforts in a previous post here.)

On May 3, I'll be appearing in a small speaking role in episode of ABC's "Missing," starring Ashley Judd, Sean Bean, and Keith Carradine, which was filmed in Prague last autumn. I'm pretty excited about that. I'll add that clip to this show reel after it airs.

I've been going to a few auditions and took an intensive acting class from Nancy Bishop a few weeks ago. I was pretty nervous about committing to it, but figured that if I was nervous, it's something I should probably do. And I'm so glad I did. I met some wonderful actors from Prague, Berlin, and Vienna, and really challenged myself. Nancy's a great teacher. She really knows the biz. Heck, she wrote the book on it.

Because of that acting class, I was asked by the Prague Film & Theater Center to read the part of the Warden in a staged reading on March 23 of "The Eden Game," a new play based on the life of Vaclav Havel by Jock Doubleday.

Come out and see us. It starts at 6 p.m. at Male Vinohradske Divadlo. Tickets cost 150 CZK for adults and 100 CZK for students. You can e-mail for more information.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy the demo reel. Make sure the kids are out of the room first before you hit Play.