Sunday, January 30, 2011

Be the Best Candy You Can Be

Last week was one of the most exhausting weeks of my life. I had a lot of lines to memorize, and classes to worry about, a poster to tweak, meetings to attend, a fight/movement scene to choreograph, and my sanity to hold onto.

I wasn't having trouble juggling, so much as I was having trouble staying aware and excited. I had a blast in rehearsals, but come Thursday I was really ready for the weekend. Many of the girls in my class went on their first professional auditions last week, and I was feeling a little like I was running behind again. It's so easy to get into a funk when the future seems so precarious. But then something happens that makes me realize how lucky I am to be doing what I am doing, and to be surrounded by such amazing and creative people.

This week, it was simply watching the beginning of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie and being helped by so many different people to get my lines down. I've had nothing but encouragement about the show, and even when I'm tired of rehearsing after a long week, I still know how lucky I am to be given such an opportunity. I love working with the talented cast, and I learn something new every night. By Friday night I almost felt like I knew what to do with my hands in at least 60% of my scenes.


Saturday I choreographed my piece in the upcoming combat show. The writer of the piece and I decided that it wasn't necessary to include combat because the piece is about empowering women in a different way. Now, I was excited to choreograph a fight scene, and I have little experience in other areas. But somehow, I came up with a few ideas, proposed them to the writer, and I choreographed the piece with success! I'm proud of the ladies involved, because there was a lot of experimentation going on. We spent a good 20 minutes trying to figure out a safe way to do an epic trust fall line. It felt great to be a part of something bigger than myself, and be collaborating in such a free environment. I think it was the most fun part of my week!

Saturday night we had a Schindler's List viewing party. My cast mate John suggested I watch the movie since I hadn't seen it. It was one of those movies I'd been meaning to watch for quite some time. However, the library only had it on VHS, and though we happen to have a VHS player, the sound quality was slightly lower than I expected. I only made it most of the way through the first tape (yes, there are two tapes) before I ran out of time. My classmates were throwing a party we wanted to go to, so we stopped watching and went to the party. I got to see some people I hadn't seen in a while, and I had a lot of fun catching up.

I've also decided to take the advice I was given last night and I will attend some auditions in Kansas City later this semester for experience. I never thought about auditioning, since I don't want to live in KC, but there's no harm in testing my skills and gaining some experience. I'm actually really excited at the prospect.

Now, you may be wondering at the title of this post. On Friday, I had Professor D's Acting for Film class and we listened to some of the girls' experiences auditioning. They all talked about how they expected more people at their auditions, and how some of the places clearly were only casting people they knew or had previously worked with. Then Professor D made us do an experiment. He handed everyone a piece of candy or fruit or some sort of snack and then made us give it a value of 1-10, with 10 being the best. Then he told us we could trade if we wanted to. I originally received 6 boxes of raisins. I hate raisins. I rated them as 1. I traded for conversation hearts, because there was only 1 person who really wanted the raisins. Professor D went around again, and asked us the value of our new snacks. I rated mine a 2.

Then he told us that we had just practiced capitalism, but more importantly, it was a metaphor for our future. We are the snack. Our job is to market ourselves to directors, and casting directors, and producers. And all of these people will value us differently. Some will think we're the best candy ever, and some will think we're disgusting. But all of that is out of our control. Professor D wanted to remind us that there are some things in life we cannot change. We can only be the best candy we can be. We can train ourselves, we can meet people who will help us, and we can be nice to everyone we work with. Everything else is out of our control. He told us that some people may feel undervalued here, at college. But when we get out into the real world, people will see us differently. There will be different competition and different stakes, and the only thing we should worry about is being the best that we can be.

It was a really inspirational talk. Looking back at my time here, I've been cast twice a year. That's good, compared to most. But I've always known that it didn't mean I was better than anyone, necessarily, but just that I was more right for a part out of the people in my pool. I have a lot of friends here who feel constantly undervalued, and they're all incredibly talented and intelligent. It was nice to hear a professor acknowledge this situation, and tell us that our lives will not be a reflection of the experiences we've had here. I hope to be successful in the future. I know though, that success is measured in different ways, and that, even if I might be talented to some people, I could easily never make a career out of this. The only thing I can do is put my heart into working hard and bettering myself, and hope that one day I'm lucky enough to say I've made a difference.

I have homework to complete, and lines to remember. Until next time!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

In the Land of Women

I've been doing a horrendous job of keeping up with this blog. I really should be updating everyday because I'm in a show, and these are the times to keep a very specific acting journal. Obviously, I need to step up my game.

So, rehearsal this week has been great! I go in every day and have so much fun! I was off book for Act 1 by Monday, but we were still blocking Act 2. By Tuesday we had completed the show! We ran Act 1 off book, and Director B worked through it with us. She corrected some character choices and gave us a lot of things to think about. We did a lot of moment work, meaning that we cleaned up the action between our lines.

She's been pretty hard on the underclassmen about slowing down and having better diction. But they're strong actors, and they're doing a great job of taking her direction and making it work. I'm proud of them for not being completely overwhelmed. I remember when I was in my first show, which was ironically with Director B, and she was really hard on me. She pushes you out of your comfort zone and forces you to make bigger choices. She's specific about interpretation and she gives you the tools to match the upperclassmen. Already, this show has improved so much.

I'm still not completely off book for Act 2. It's so long. Longer than Act 1. It's a very disorienting act for me, because I hardly leave the stage, and sometimes I can't remember what scene I have next, because there are so many time lapses in the play. The scenes don't always flow well, and so it's difficult for me to keep track of where they are. I know once I get it down though, I'll be fine. And I'm working hard to get completely off book! The deadline is tomorrow, but I like to beat the deadline.

I'm having a blast working with such a large cast. I realized, belatedly, that I haven't worked with a large cast since The Laramie Project ! All my casts since then have been 5 people or less. Everyone's doing a great job, and it's been fun to build new relationships on stage and off.

Crew watch is already next Friday! I can't believe it's happening so fast. Time flies when you're in a show. And I've been put in charge of designing the headshot/biography board, so I've been thinking about that a lot too. I have my first major assignment due in Creating Online Media on Tuesday. I have to turn in a mock up design of my website. It's really hard, because there's so many things I want to try that I don't think we'll learn how to code. So I have to keep it simple.

I've also been busy with the off the wall Women Fight Against. It's a combat show that I'm helping to choreograph. I have the large end number, and it looks like it's going to be a lot of fun, but my deadline is Saturday so I hope my creative juices start flowing soon. I finished the poster for the upcoming Warehouse show. I need to get it finalized and approved before sending it off to the printers, but I'm well on my way to being stress free on the PR end of things.

Comedy class has been going well. I found a great comedic monologue that really fits my style and I performed it in class last time. I got a great response from it and I think I'll be using it at the Midwest Auditions, and maybe even the next show here. Acting for Film has been very educational as well. We learned last class about creating a relationship with your scene partner, especially when they can't be there. We were given slips of paper that had relationships on them like 'the obnoxious delivery guy' and 'the emo kid' and we had to endow a spot on a wall with those characteristics and deliver a line of dialogue to it. It was a lot of fun.

All in all, there's a lot of things I'm thinking about that I would love to blog about, but I haven't had much time to make them into cohesive ideas that I would feel comfortable sharing. Hopefully the next post will include something of the kind.

Friday, January 21, 2011

When You're Behind, You Catch Up

It's been a whirlwind around here this week, yet I feel as if it's gone in slow motion.

I worked on my memorization over the weekend, and I put together a 5 joke set for comedy class that I was extremely nervous about.

Tuesday's Comedy class went very well! Everyone's material was great and most of us had worked in a through line so the set was tied together. Professor L was impressed, and she told us our next assignment would be to personalize it. We needed to come into Thursday's class with a personal funny story. It could be a memory of an embarrassing moment, or just a comedic situation.

I was even more nervous about this assignment, and I had to get my best friend to remind me of all the funny moments in my life. I couldn't seem to remember any of them. I finally settled on the slightly less politically correct story of my fear of homeless people after a run in I had in Dallas with my friend Erik. Professor L wanted us to push out of the safe zone a little, and I felt like this story did that more than if I had talked about boys. I have so many great boy stories. Those will have to wait for another time.

Professor L really seemed to enjoy our personal stories. She laughed so hard she cried at some of them, and by the end of the class everyone felt much more comfortable about the idea of stand-up comedy, I think.

I'm definitely getting more excited about this class. I feel stronger knowing that I'm out of my comfort zone and that I'm still pushing myself to do my best. These are the kind of classes that teach the most, because they can teach me about myself, and they can teach me technique. I'll definitely be looking into some sort of comedy class when I'm in the professional world. Also, it feels great to not constantly be doing dramatic things!

Creating online media is going to be a really fun class, I can tell. I've seen examples of some of the students websites from the past, and they look great! They're fresh, clean, and professional. I can't wait to learn to code! We've been going over xhtml, and we're going to set up our websites next class. I was supposed to have class Thursday (yesterday), but it snowed 10 inches the night before and my teacher couldn't make it to school.

We really thought we might have a snow day, for once. It started snowing hard during the afternoon rehearsal on Wednesday, and so Director B canceled night rehearsal. She told us that if they canceled school that we would have to make up the rehearsal on Saturday. I'm really glad we had rehearsal last night instead, because now my weekend is free!

Rehearsal has been going great! We finished blocking Act 1 on Wednesday (after 3 days, love professional time), and we've moved onto blocking Act 2. We'll be off book Act 1 by Monday, and I'm already there! I'll be spending my weekend working more on character and interpretation. We're getting some of the main cast together this weekend so we can work together on our lines and interpretation. I'm really looking forward to that. This particular cast meshes really well together, and I think it might turn out to be my favorite experience yet at college.

Director B has been in great spirits, and has been very patient with correcting our dialects. The upper years have it in their bones more than the lower years, but even we mess it up sometimes. It's been a really fostering environment, and I've had a lovely time so far. The best rehearsals are the ones where you feel free enough to make choices (or mistakes as we call them most of the time). Director B has a very specific style, too. This is my third show working with her, and it was nice to come in knowing how she ran the show. She gives blocking the first week, and when you're blocking everything has to be done specifically as she's told you. Then once the cast is off-book, she allows you to make artistic decisions regarding your character. If you want to change a movement pattern, she'll let you decide what you like best. I enjoy her method, because it starts with structure, and then it allows you to grow into it.

The best thing about my college, I think, is having the opportunity to work with so many different directors. I've gotten to experience the way that many directors choose to work, and that is my preparation for the real world.

Speaking of the real world, the title of this blog post is referring to my growing worry that I'm going to run out of time to prepare myself for life after college. All of my classmates who weren't cast have been working on their auditions and headshots for the upcoming Midwest regional auditions, as well as finding internships and auditions in their chosen future cities. I come home from rehearsal and I work on getting my lines down, then on my homework (which thankfully hasn't been too much), or on my Warehouse advertisements. I know that 3 weeks from now is not too late to start. And I'm certainly not complaining about being cast, because I wouldn't trade that at all. However, I'm definitely working hard to remember that I can't get completely caught up in this show and forget that there are preparations to be made.

Speaking of preparation, I've given my verbal agreement to work somewhere this summer. I won't put any details here until things are finalized, but I did a lot of considering this past weekend, and I finally decided that this job was the best job for me right now. I'm very excited about it, and I'm looking forward to sharing the details later!

So this weekend looks like it's going to see some more snow, as well as the beginning of next week. Maybe I'll be able to sneak out and get some groceries, and maybe I'll just order in food this weekend.

I have Box Office and my first voice lesson today, which should both be a blast! I'm really enjoying working in the Box Office, and I've been put in charge of the headshot/biography board, which is really cool! I've got Acting for Film and Dramatic Lit today, as well. Acting for Film is looking like it's going to be a very educational class, and I'm excited to learn all the things I never knew about how difficult it is to act on camera. Wish me luck!

And before I go, here's a picture!

Besides the creepy eyes, which one day when I have time I'll fix in photoshop, isn't he just the cutest darn thing you ever saw?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

I'm Walking on Sunshine

I'm not even sure where to begin. My break was crammed full of family and friends, and a lot of lessons. I'm a student of life, what can I say? I got to spend a lot of time with family in Florida, where I let myself unwind and relax for the first time since May. By the time I got back home I was ready to juggle my friends and my homework.

It was a really odd sensation, knowing that this was the last significant break of my college experience. It was the last time I would be visiting home and seeing all these people that I grew up with while I didn't have any real world responsibility on my plate. The next time I go back, I won't technically live there anymore (unless I happen to need to work at home for 6 months to save up those elusive funds that will help me move to a large city and jump start this crazy career plan). And one year from now, all of my friends won't technically live there either. Real life is starting now, and it's just a whirlwind trying to emotionally and mentally keep up with all the new opportunities and ideas that are coming my way.

I had a lot of fun with my friends, and I realized this break how lucky I am to have such a large group of people that support me and each other. We've been together so long, and it gives me hope that we can continue to keep our friendships strong as we go our separate ways in life.

I saved some friendships that I was losing. I gained piece of mind. And I learned a lot this break about how to deal with situations that are out of my control. There's only so much a person can do, and the rest is up to others. I also learned that some things never change. I feel like a different person every time I come home, but that doesn't mean that I should expect others to be different. And it certainly doesn't mean that relationships always change or evolve.

Anyway, break was short lived and it relaxed me just enough to prepare me for this last semester ahead of me. I spent the week before school started back up preparing my monologue, and touring Kaitie around my hometown when she came to visit. We had the opportunity to speak to the high schoolers in the beginning theatre classes. I was surprised at how interested they were in what we had to say. They asked great questions about getting over stage fright, how to pick the right college for you, and about why theatre is important. Kaitie and I performed our monologue packages for them as well. I was surprised at myself because I wasn't nervous to perform in front of them, and it didn't occur to me until later that it was the first acting my old teacher had seen me do since high school. I think he enjoyed it, which was nice. And he had nothing but beautiful things to say about me to his classes, which made me even more grateful that I came from such an amazing place. My theatre background is so different than most of my classmates, and I've truly started to appreciate that.

The theatre productions class was preparing their competition play, The Importance of Being Earnest. The teacher asked if we would mind giving advice about the dialect to her class. We went through a couple drills, and somehow I ended up performing for them as well. They also had great questions about college, and about college theatre, and theatre in the real world. I felt really influential, because I was able to tell them important things that I wish someone had told me in high school about what I was getting myself into. They have so much ahead of them, and my high school brings out so many talented individuals that understand hard work and what it's like to be part of a family. They have so many great things ahead of them, and I believe they're going to be great! I wish them all the success in the world.

I realized that that would be the last visit to the high school where I would know the students. The seniors were the freshmen when I graduated, so the next time I go back, I won't personally know anyone. Scary.

So I tripped back to college on Sunday in the crazy snowy weather. (Side Note: we have gotten so much snow! And apparently we might get more this weekend. I'm not sure I can handle this. I was pretty sure my limit was receiving an email about ways to prevent frostbite). I cleaned up my apartment Monday and made sure I had my monologue down pat. I also saw Black Swan on Monday night, and it was phenomenal. I found the movie scary as a performer, because it showcases the worst about being an artist. It delves into the pressure and competition of wanting and performing a role, as well as the need to be perfect and the constant need to be noticed or validated by your peers and superiors for your talent. I also found the idea of transforming into your role a scary concept, because it can happen so easily if you don't keep yourself under control. I've experienced slight versions of this. During Rabbit Hole when I never had a break from my character because of the work hours and the rehearsal process, I was horrible to my friends at Boji. The character of Becca was so lost and desperate to find her way back to normal, and I definitely lashed out at people in real life while I was struggling to understand her. The movie just reinforced for me how important it is to understand the concept of losing yourself in a role as an acting method.

Tuesday was the first day of classes. I was introduced to the various great comics of our time and before in my Acting for Comedy class. We spoke about what is funny to our generation, and the ways that comedy has changed over the years. Yesterday in the class, we delivered one liners and practiced landing a joke. Our assignment for next class is to come in with a 5 joke set for a stand up routine. I'm freaking out about this class because I've never thought of myself as particularly funny. However, my mindset for this semester is to have no fear. It doesn't matter if I'm not good at it, it only matters that I try to do my best work every time I get up there. I'm terrified as well, because Professor L (the teacher of the class and the director of the upcoming and last mainstage show Clean House) has told us that the auditions for her show for certain characters will including a standup routine or the telling of jokes. I better prepare myself.

The thing about comedy is that it makes you so vulnerable in a different way than drama. You have to put yourself out there and hope for an audible response. ...Words cannot express how I feel about this.

I also had Creating Online Media. The professor explained that this class will be about creating a website using Photoshop and Dreamweaver. Sound familiar? It did to me, because that's what I spent last semester teaching myself. Imagine my surprise. But I decided to keep the class and not drop it because I'm going to get to learn how to code my own site, instead of build it using a template, and that is knowledge I just can't pass up!

Monday afternoon I performed my monologue for Sense and Sensibility auditions. I felt great about it! I used the techniques I learned last semester in the monologue class. I had action all the way throughout, so there was a forward motion to the words I was saying, and I made it very conversational. Director B (also Professor B who has taught me Theatre History, Greek Acting, and Monologues for anyone who cares to put a letter with a class) told me that I would be called back and that she would be having me read for the character Elinor. I was excited because that was the character I was most interested in.

On Wednesdays I only have one class at noon--Dramatic Lit. Dramatic Literature is just going to be reading great plays and giving presentations on them. Nothing too different from last semester's Shakespeare Lit class. It's going to be fun, but not terribly exciting.

Wednesday afternoon I had callbacks. First I read with Megan, a 2nd year on the Warehouse Board who I've never had the opportunity to work with. I was so excited! We read a great Elinor/Lucy scene that Professor B said she really enjoyed. She gave me another Elinor scene to read with Erin as the mother. I love reading with Erin because we build really well off of each other. I also hadn't had the chance to work with her since Acting III and The Laramie Project. We had an even better read than my first one, and after we were done Director B took our scripts and said, "We better stop there; you can't get any better than that."

Callbacks are always my favorite part of the audition process. I came back to the room feeling like I had done the best audition I'd ever done at college. I worked so hard to fit a specific character, which honestly isn't something I'd done before. Usually I try to fit as many characters as I can so that way a director sees that I can adapt easily to roles. But this time I chose a part and I fought for it. I was proud of my night, but a little terrified because I had finally put myself out there. It's so easy to handle rejection when you tell yourself that you don't care if you get cast. I've been using that method since I got to college. This was the first time I truly told myself that I wanted a role and I knew I would be upset if I didn't get cast.

To my surprise and absolute happiness I did get cast! As Elinor! I couldn't be more excited to work with the talented cast that was also picked. There are so many people that I haven't had the pleasure to work with yet this year, especially the men because I haven't been on the mainstage yet this year. I'm especially excited to work with my 'love interest' because he's a first year boy in his first main role and we're going to have a blast! There's a swing cast that gets a Thursday performance, as well. At our read through last night, the main cast switched off reading with the swing cast so everyone had the opportunity to flesh out their characters and get a feel for the words.

A period piece is always a little slow going at first, because the language is easy to trip over. I'm excited to see this show pick up. Sometime this weekend, some of the cast is going to get together and watch the mini-series of the Masterpiece Classic as character research. I love cast bonding.

Oddly enough I have no rehearsal today, and Monday is a holiday so no rehearsal then either. I have a long four days to help me start memorizing. I also need to spend a lot of time this weekend working on my PR poster for the next Warehouse show which auditions next week: The Young and the Fair. Also this weekend are auditions for our 2 off the walls: the combat show Women Fight Against and the sketch/student written 33 in 66. A busy, busy weekend for sure. Today is my first day of Acting for the Camera, and I'm excited to be back in the classroom with Professor D.

So, all in all, I had a fabulous break with my amazing family and friends. I learned a lot of great life lessons and a lot about myself as a person. I've freaked out about my future (did I forget to mention that part). I've become excited about my future (there, that's better). And I've gotten cast. Great start to my last semester? Yes!