updates connected to the book Idylls for a Bare Stage
& to performances of the Idylls
& other initiatives related to the Art of the Poetic Monologue

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Performer Profiles: Carol McCaffrey and Margaret Anthony

The Idylls show is less than a week away now...  coming this Sunday!

Carol McCaffrey in "A Saint Preaches to the Birds"

"A Saint" in Idylls for a Bare Stage

     Carol comes by this piece honestly, not least because she's a bird lover and bird owner... she's devoted to her four cockatiels, Casey and Maria ("the girls," as she says) and Beanie and Buddy ("the boys").
     Actually, her love of birds indicates something more thorough in her than your average pet owner's love of a pet; it is part of her active appreciation of animals and nature in general, a reverence for life practiced and cultivated with an affinity for the example of St. Francis;  this is a conscious reverence, and a conscious spiritual journeying which informs her as a performer, and she has brought this to bear for "A Saint Preaches to the Birds."
     To the point that, in her process as an performer, Spirit demands of the Show - accommodation.  

     Now, it helps that she has years-long experience of being with birds on the individual level, interacting with her actual birds and understanding their responses, so that in this Idyll the responsiveness of the imaginary birds during her preaching can be very real to her and thus made real to audiences (indeed, she rehearsed regularly in front of Casey, Maria, Beanie, and Buddy, and when I once joined her for a session with them, I was charmed by how attentive they were, seemingly to the words themselves, but most definitely to whatever nonverbal communication Carol conveyed to them through their mutual trust and deep familiarity).  Then, from there, she taps into that broader attunement, that understanding of what it is to become one with nature - whether as an aspiration or attainment - and allows it to operate on a mass scale, for a vision of those flocks of birds surrounding the saint on the mountain.
     Of course, we're not really or only talking about birds here - neither with this saint (mine or Carol's), nor with the St. Francis who historically preached to birds;  and yet, hopefully, the high ceilings of the Athenaeum can accommodate such flutter of multiplicity.

      Carol McCaffrey is a DC-based actor, and Actors' Center Board Member, who performs on stage, film and video.  She studies with Carol Fox Prescott.  Her performances have ranged playing senators to scary daycare ladies, from Kate in Harold Pinter's "Old Times" to the Wicked Witch of the West in children's theatre.  Favorite past shows include playing a variety of characters in an evening of one acts by Christopher Durang - and most recently stepping into Clara Barton's shoes for a corporate event performance.  However, all that said, stepping into the shoes and sermon of Magus' "A Saint Preaches to the Birds," has been rewarding on an entirely new level, and Carol is most grateful for it. 

Margaret Anthony, reading Kharms

reading Daniil Kharms on November 20th

     The acting techniques developed for performing the Idylls and other poetic monologues also have their utility in readings, recitation.  I take particular pleasure in reading and hearing Daniil Kharms, a Russian poet of the early Soviet era (he starved to death in a prison hospital under Stalin), who has been becoming more and more widely known in English over the last couple of decades.  It seems appropriate to extend such techniques to reading Kharms, in consideration of the form of his writings and their naming as "incidents" or "incidences" mentioned in a previous post, happily compatible with the incidental nature of the Idyll.
     Margaret has taken on these efforts splendidly, honing what can be brought out during a reading, and she'll surprise you with her embrace of the brutal vigor, black comedic harshness, yet eruptive absurdist hilarious spontaneity of Kharms - a voice like no other.
     Margaret Anthony is a trial attorney in Washington D.C., and member of The Actor's Center;  she has acted and directed for Silver Spring Stage, and has had roles with  St. Mark's Theater and Amnesty International.


"Everything that's extreme is difficult.  The middle parts are done more easily.  The very center requires no effort at all.  The center is equal to equilibrium.  There's no fight in it."
     -Daniil Kharms, #5 in The Blue Notebook (Matvei Yankelevich translator)

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