For those of you who don
‘Urbania’ Embarks on a Harsh Sexual Odyssey
By KEVIN THOMAS, Times Staff Writer (LA Times)
Movie Info, Locations, Showtimes
Jon Shear’s “Urbania” is such a powerful experience that it is equally effective whether you have figured out from the start where it is headed or whether its denouement comes as a complete surprise.
Actor-turned-director Shear has reworked Daniel Reitz’s play “Urban Folk Tales” into a daring and unnerving evocation of contemporary big-city life where sex and violence seem so frequently interlinked. It’s a reminder of how illusory self-control over our destinies can be and also how transitory and fragile happiness and life itself are. These are of course timeless truisms, but Shear expresses them with such jolting freshness we find ourselves rediscovering them all over again. “Urbania” represents a formidable directorial debut for Shear, who starred in the original stage production of “Angels in America” and appeared on Broadway in “Six Degrees of Separation.”
Shear chose Dan Futterman, who replaced him in “Angels,’ to star as Charlie, a clearly successful young New Yorker. When we meet him he has undergone some kind of experience that has left him seriously traumatized yet determined to regain control of his life. His dislocated state of mind has left him with a heightened awareness of people absorbed in slaking desires for sex and romance but also existing in a constant state of danger in pursuit of them.
Shear plunges us into Charlie’s fragmented and often terrified imagination. We soon sense that for whatever reason, someone Charlie cares for deeply is no longer in his life as he proceeds on a series of experiences over a short period of time that quickly take on the shape of a quest. Some 15 minutes into the film we discover that Charlie is gay, but by then we realize that his ordeal, in another context, could happen to anyone.
Suddenly, Charlie’s eye is caught by a leather-jacketed type, the kind of guy who struts about, often accompanied by pals. He could be rough trade or just a sexy macho guy who knows his impact and flaunts it. One way or another, however, Dean (Samuel Ball) would seem to spell trouble for Charlie, determined as he is to chase him.
As Charlie’s pursuit of Dean gets underway, “Urbania” draws from Reitz’s other urban tales to round out Charlie’s dicey sense of the universe. A kindly bartender (Josh Hamilton) relates to Charlie his story of his encounter with a formidable older woman (a sultry Barbara Sukowa), which leads to astonishing good fortune; a visit to a friend, Brett (Alan Cummings), afflicted with AIDS and whose friendship with Charlie seems as edgy as it affectionate; a showdown with his upstairs neighbor (Bill Stage) and his dimwit girlfriend (Megan Dodds) to whom it never occurred that flaunted heterosexuality could ever be carried to an offensive degree; and a less-than-thrilling tryst with a soap opera star (Gabriel Olds) with a lot of attitude and rules for Charlie to demolish.
There are glimpses of the man (Matt Keeslar) Charlie has loved and other asides: a homeless man (Lothaire Bluteau), who has a story about how he came to be mentally handicapped and a glimpse of a woman who decides to stick her beloved little dog, damp from rain, into a microwave to dry him. All these developments add to Charlie’s heightened perception of the darkly bizarre.
In his own mind Charlie is turning himself into a Rambo until he arrives at a moment of truth that is boldly staged by Shear to incorporate a touching, redemptive sequence. Shear and cinematographer Shane Kelly have done a superlative job of discovering myriad ways of expressing visually all that Charlie is going through in his struggle to regain his equanimity.
Futterman, who has a starring role in the TV series “Judging Amy,” in turn, registers all the changes and emotions Charlie is experiencing with conviction and empathy. Cummings lives up to the stir he first created as the emcee in the recent revival of “Cabaret.” They make strong impressions as does Keeslar and, for that matter, everyone else in the film. “Urbania” manages to be quite candid–even blunt–about sex and desire and violence in the modern world, without being exploitative. Be warned, however, “Urbania” is strong stuff.
MPAA rating: R, for strong violence and sexual content, including related dialogue, and for language and some drug use. Times guidelines: language, adult themes and situations, with strong sexual candor and violence.
Dan Futterman: Charlie
Alan Cummings: Brett
Matt Keeslar: Chris
Samuel Ball: Dean
A Lions Gate Films presentation of a Commotion Pictures/Daly-Harris production. Director-producer-co-writer Jon Shear. Producers Stephanie Golden, J. Todd Harris. Co-screenwriter Daniel Reitz; adapted from his play “Urban Folk Tales.” Cinematographer Shane Kelly. Editors Randolph K. Bricker, Ed Marx. Music Marc Anthony Thompson. Costumes David Matwijkow. Production designer Karyl Newman. Running time: 1 hour, 45 minutes.
New Times LA – David Ehrenstein – “… Matthew Shepard’s murder has put a face on all the overlooked lynchings of gays that came before. Consequently, the gay/straight divide today seems more a sidewalk crack than a sinkhole of Grand Canyon proportions, and all of this is reflected in Jon Shear’s brilliant new film Urbania”
LA Weekly – Ernest Hardy – ” The performance (Dan Futterman’s) is matched by the film
As Leonard Bernstein once told viewers of his Omnibus program,
ACTING IS BELIEVING
JORDAN BESWICK, C.S.A.
PHONE NUMBER (S):______________________________________
AGENCY NAME & NUMBER:____________________________
HOW DID YOU FIND OUT ABOUT THIS WORKSHOP?
BACK STAGE______ Web Site________Friend/Agent____________
One morning I was coaching a young man who had taken one of my intensive
acting workshops in Paris, when suddenly he said to me,
JORDAN BESWICK, C.S.A.
YOU BELONG TO ME
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FORTY SHADES OF BLUE (Memphis)
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BRIAR PATCH (aka PLAIN DIRTY)
Director: Zev Berman, Producers: Lauren Moews, Sam Froelich, Andrea Magder, Cast: Henry Thomas, Dominique Swain, Karen Allen, Arie Verveen, Debra Monk, James Urbaniak
Writers: Daniel Reitz, Jon Shear, Director: Jon Shear, Producers: J. Todd Harris, Doug Lindeman, Exec. Producers: John Davis, Tim Daly, Cast: Dan Futterman, Gabriel Olds, Matt Keeslar, Josh Hamilton, Lothaire Bluteau, Alan Cumming, Samuel Ball, Barbara Sukowa, Paige Turco, David Wheir, Scott Denny, Marylouise Burke, Gerry Bamman, Bill Sage, Megan Dodds, Christopher Bradley, Pamela Shaw
GETTING TO KNOW YOU
Writers: Lisanne & Tristine Skyler, Director: Lisanne Skyler, Producers: George LaVoo, Laura Gabbert, Cast: Bebe Neuwirth, Heather Matarazzo, Tristine Skyler, Michael Weston, Chris Noth, Mary McCormack, Mark Blum, Sonja Sohn, Celia Weston, Jacob Reynolds, Tristine Skyler, Bo Hopkins, David Aaron Baker, Jonathan Hogan
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Writer/Director: Carlo Gabriel Nero, Producers: Franco Nero, Francesco Papa, Cast: Vanessa Redgrave, Franco Nero, Eli Wallach, Adam Hann-Byrd, Kevin Isola, Jennifer Wiltsie, Olivia Birkeland, Barton Tinapp, Liam Sculley-Wolfe, Nick Sandow, Alix Elias, Russell Harper, Jessie Munch, Patricia Dunnock, Stephen Mendillo
Writer/Director: Kief Davidson, Cast: Peter Sarsgaard, Larry Pine, Barbara eda Young, Kristina Lear, Raven-O, Tania Grier, Charlotta Nutley, Jose Soto, Jennifer Wiltsie, Yvette Mercedes, Kate McBride
SAX & VIOLINS
Writers: Nye Heron, Ronan Carr, Director: Nye Heron, Cast: Brian D
JORDAN BESWICK began his career in Casting as an Assistant to Douglas Aibel on James Gray
When the film version of Peter Hedges
PROFESSIONAL ACTING WORKSHOPS with CASTING DIRECTOR, JORDAN BESWICK, CSA
The workshop takes you through the process of creation. From the initial reading of the script to the realization of any given character’s emotional, psychological, spiritual, physical, sexual and sociological world. You will learn not only to think for yourself, but also to take and incorporate very specific direction. Bottom line! You will obtain the tools you need to develop into an actor with both the ability and the confidence to make the impression necessary to get the job.
Emphasis is placed on the following:
RELAXATION – An actor who is not relaxed will not do his best work. Period. Why? Because tension creates blockage on all conceivable levels. Mentally, emotionally, physically. Most actors stop breathing the moment they start acting. Why? Because they’re terrified. Most of them will tell you it’s just when they audition, that when they get the job they’ll be relaxed because they’ve already proven themselves. Wrong! An actor is always proving himself so you’d better take a very deep breath and get used to it. Actors are expected to create specific realities on demand. And when an actor is not relaxed he is far less likely to be able to do that.
THE PRIVATE MOMENT – The effective creation of the fourth wall. An actor who can not create privacy for himself when performing can’t help but impose his own self-consciousness onto his character. Bona fide actors are people who can breathe, feel, listen, think, believe, actually live as human beings entirely different from themselves, while being observed. Without self-consciousness. Private moments remind actors of the necessity to create for the people they’re meant to be the privacy that they take for granted in their own lives everyday. It helps liberate the actor from himself.
SCRIPT ANALYSIS – Breaking down the script. When most actors receive their scripts they immediately start making choices as to how to ACT the ROLE. They have unfortunately missed the first and most important step which is to listen to what’s being said, think about what the characters think and feel about what they’re saying, observe how they deal with their given circumstances, deduce what their relationships are with the people, places and things that they’re dealing with, etc. Because it’s those very things that will enable them to make the kind of informed choices that will ensure that they create people as opposed to simply acting like. Because most actors don’t take the time to think about what they’re reading they oftentimes miss the point of the stories they’re telling, which can sadly lead to the point being lost altogether. Beyond learning how to “act,” actors must learn how to break down scripts, train themselves to think specifically about what they’re reading so that they can acquire the understanding necessary to do their jobs to the very best of their abilities.
THE AUDITION – From the COLD READING, where actors are given material, asked to break it down, prepare it and be ready to audition in a severely limited amount of time, to the CALL BACK, where they take the material given to them at the cold reading, work on it and return with it having had that much more time to prepare it, to the AUDITION MONOLOGUE, where they are asked to audition with a prepared monologue for more generalized auditions. Every actor should have at least three contrasting monologues (dramatic, comedic, classical) in his repertoire prepared and ready to go to share at a moments notice. Actors must discipline themselves to do the work necessary to be prepared for absolutely anything at all times so that they’re always ready to seize an opportunity when one is made available.
The Master Class focuses each actor’s attention intensely on the choices that best serve him in the professional workplace.
An actor’s job is to create different types of people. But instead of working to create the very things that differentiate them from their characters, most actors simply project their own personality, character, nature, etc. onto their characters. I’m endlessly hearing the same complaint from actors, that “Casting Directors, Directors and Producers aren’t looking to cast an actor, they’re only interested in casting THE person!” To which I reply, “Maybe it’s because their experience has taught them that there are very few actors actually capable of creating different types of people.”
The goal of the Master Class is to assist the actor develop that ability.
An actor must use himself to create without making it about himself. He must liberate himself from his fear based NEED to limit himself to his own experience. He must develop and use his imagination instead of constantly complaining that everybody else should. As the great Russian actress, Alla Nazimova, once said, “First, last and always, a player must have imagination. Imagination kindles the feelings, steers the actor through the character into emotion, enables him to reproduce feelings he himself has never experienced.” So that when he is requested to morph into an entirely different person than himself on the spot, he can. It’s about focusing attention. It’s about conscious observation. It’s about choosing to believe. Whatever necessary to achieve.
Focus, concentration, relaxation, emotional, psychological and physical availability, respect, and commitment to the self-discipline necessary to both compete with the best actors in the world as well as to meet the extraordinarily high expectations that come with the job is the goal.
Beginning in 2007
BUILT FOR LIFE
This workshop is designed specifically to allow the actor to focus entirely on building his given character and the world he inhabits for the purpose of production.
Each actor will be assigned a one person play and over the course of the four weeks will work to create that one person. Work to create a life so secure that on opening night he can step out onto the stage genuinely prepared to live and breathe as that person. Knowing who he is and where he is as that specific human being. A person prepared to live the experience.
From the initial breaking down and analyzing of the script, through the myriad exercises necessary to create sense and logic, form connections (i.e. relationships) to every person, place and thing mentioned by and/or dealt with by his character, through the mandatory receiving and incorporating of specific direction to the seemingly endless repetition of dialogue and actions to achieve the illusion of spontaneity.
To make an audience believe that you