Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Cast twice in one night: Embracing Seattle!

It's official:
I've signed on for my next two projects! I've been cast in an improv show that will be modeling itself off a classical script, and I landed the role I was hoping for in the fringe festival show.

It's difficult for me to believe that after everything I was pushed towards in college, that my first large scale professional production in the city was a comedy, and my newest will be an improvised version of a classic play.  I was never given the opportunity to do comedy, and I was way too intimidated to try my hand at improv in school. I was always told my niche was drama. And I know my passion lies with drama and realism because it soothes my soul. Drama is the reason I fell in love with acting. It allows you to go to all the places you wish you had the courage to go to in real life.

Having the opportunity to really stretch myself creatively, artistically, and fundamentally through different genres of theatre since I've moved to Seattle has to be the most amazing feeling, though. I've learned that just because I haven't had the experience of doing comedy or improv, doesn't mean that I'm not capable of it. And it certainly doesn't mean people aren't willing to take a chance on me--apparently. I feel so grateful to have become part of such a welcoming community that will look at my audition and say "I believe in you."

It's definitely something that has only brought theatre closer to my heart since my move. One more lesson to add to my list from last time, I suppose. Embrace yourself and you will be embraced.

Now onto the details:
I was terrified walking into the improv auditions.  I didn't really know what I was doing. I was lucky enough to read with a very sharing partner who made me feel incredibly safe and therefore experimental and daring. I wasn't afraid to try things with him. Even luckier for me: He's been cast opposite me! I'm really looking forward to working with a cast of experienced improv performers. What am I looking forward to more, you ask? Clowning.

That's right. In this show, we'll be learning clowning techniques to build our characters and create movement patterns. This is something I've been interested in for quite a while since I discovered my first year in college that many masters programs cover clowning because it's become such a popular method in our post-modern world. I'll also be delving deeper into commedia dell'arte than I've gone before, I expect. 

My audition was solid and I walked out thanking myself and my wonderful friends that pushed me to challenge myself and not turn down the callback. Who knew it would wind up with me getting cast?

My Fringe Festival auditions and callbacks went very well, too. I had a great scene partner in callbacks and we received a really interesting scene. It had so many levels to play with, and the characters were so obvious the second you read the side, but I felt like I had all the control with where I wanted to take the scene. It's been a long time since I've come across a play that I've enjoyed reading for as much as I enjoyed this one. 

Not only was the script great, but I had a wonderful experience working with the director as well. Different styles of directing work for different people, but I immediately felt as if I clicked with this director. His insight was exceptionally impressive, and I can't wait to dive into the script with him and the playwright (who will hopefully be working on the project as well).

We performed four shows this past weekend. Friday was the most interesting with a smaller crowd, no backstage covering, and torrential winds that carried our voices and our tents away.  We learned some lessons that night, but every show this weekend was a great show and it felt good to be hitting our stride early on. It feels like we've been doing this show for months and we're only on week two! This week we'll be performing in the parks closest to me, so I'll have an enjoyably short commute for once.

We've been getting great attendance, and have thankfully had very few mishaps. Besides bruises, some stumbles, and one unfortunate swollen ankle from a ladder incident the cast has been fortunate for an outdoor show that deals with ever-changing terrains, temperatures, and weather conditions. We did have a bout of food poisoning on Sunday with one cast mate. I was incredibly impressed with his stamina and stubbornness. Not a single patron knew he was sick, and I wouldn't have either. It was very inspiring to watch someone be so committed to a project. Because of the nature of the rehearsal process and the budget, we don't have understudies for our show. If he had decided he was too sick to perform we probably would have had the stage manager go on with book in hand instead of cancelling the show because our audience was so large. Luckily, it never came to that. 

Coming up this weekend I have a film audition that I'm looking forward to! And next week I'll be taking some much needed time off. It's going to be absolutely wonderful.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Can you do your special skills on command?

I've had the most terrifying, exhilarating, and liberating weekend in quite some time.

I did my callbacks for two upcoming fall shows at a local theatre company (both classics), and a Fringe Festival piece I'm hoping to have the opportunity to join.

Each callback was challenging in a different way. Some things I learned this weekend:

1. It's okay to be scared. It's not okay to let that fear make a decision for you. A wise friend reminded me that we don't know what we're capable of until we try it.

2. Some directors will not have a vision you agree with. It is up to you to decide if you can work around that, or if it will cause a problem. Choose wisely, because if you can't be professional you could gain a bad reputation.

3. Reputation is very important. However, don't let someone's 'reputation' stand in the way of you giving them a chance professionally. Sometimes people don't get along, but you never know who you'll click with that someone else didn't.

4. Always be prepared. And when you aren't, be prepared to look as prepared as possible.

5. Never put a special skill on your resume you can't do. This weekend a director decided to test my skill to mimic animal calls by calling in his friend who works at the zoo to guess each of my calls. It was fun, but imagine if I hadn't been able to do them on command...

6. Always take the time you're given to learn something about the people you're working with. You never know when you'll see them again, and it's wonderful to be able to remember a name with a face. It's all about the networking, but more importantly it's about connecting with people in a way that makes them want to work with you.

7.  Scheduling is very important. Give yourself time to breathe between the things you have to do in your day (like 3 callbacks). I forgot how important breathing was until, as I was walking down the sidewalk to my latest callback today, I passed a sign in a window with elegant script that simply said, 'Pause'. I did. And I was better because of it.

8. Remember that there is a time and a place to speak in detail about an audition experience. Some experiences don't need to be shared. You don't want to be a downer, have an attitude, or give someone the impression that you don't want to work on something. Control yourself.

9. The difference between paying theatre and non-paying theatre is not necessarily the money. Don't forget to wager in the connections that can be made, and the overall experience you could obtain. If you're always in it for the money, you could miss a wonderful opportunity.

10. Be A Team Player. Theatre is a community. It's about helping each other, loving each other, and never letting down your tribe when you can help it. Always give your best, and expect the best in return--because that's what everyone expects of you.

I had some positive and negative experiences this weekend. I also learned how to turn those negative experiences into positive ones. I think, in this business, that's an important trait to foster. You have to learn something from every experience you have--know what to take away and what to leave behind.

I don't know what I'll find out this week, but I do know that I'm a better artist for pushing myself the way I did this weekend. I never thought I'd be auditioning for improv shows. I never thought I'd have a chance to read for Hamlet. I never thought anyone would actually ask me to wiggle my eyes in an audition because it was on my resume (I mean, you hear about that stuff, but come on.).

I had many loved ones come see my shows this weekend, and am lucky enough to have more coming to see them in this next week! I also have another callback coming up, as well as a movie audition that I'm really excited for. I'm happiest when I'm busy working towards a goal, or...working at all really. But needless to say, this is going to be a wonderful week!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Callbacks and Auditions coming up

I'm so excited that I wanted to write this before I go to bed, which I really need to do since my crazy performance schedule picks back up tomorrow and I'll be exhausted.

In the last two days I did not clean my apartment, do my laundry or dishes, nor did I read a book. I did, however, rent two versions of Hamlet (Kenneth Branagh and David Tennant), brush up my audition pieces, and researched an excess amount of history pertaining to productions of Hamlet and their actors.

I got to my audition an hour early today and was lucky enough to sneak in about fifteen minutes before my time. For some reason I wasn't very nervous for this audition--which is only abnormal for me because I was so excited about it so I expected that to be a side effect. Honestly, I don't think my audition was top notch compared to what I wanted it to be, but you can't win every time. I was prepared, confident, and showed my range. And I did manage to get callbacks for both shows!

The directors were wonderful! One had heard of my college, which is beginning to happen so often that I need to stop being surprised by it. It was also a little exciting for me to have to schedule my callbacks with them around my show this weekend as well as some other auditions I'll be attending. It made me feel busy and important, which is of course ridiculous and untrue, but fun to pretend for the two minutes I was in the room.

I was also asked to go in another room and work with the Fight Director on some sword fighting and period movement (which I'm proud, and yet not humble enough to not mention that none of the six girls auditioning before me were asked to do). That was also a lot of fun. To be honest, I'm too young for Hamlet (they're looking for 25 and older), but I'm going to give this callback my absolute best. When listing the top ten roles I'd love to play in my career, Hamlet is definitely one of them--and it's not a role many females find the opportunity to approach. What an amazing chance.

All in all, it was a great start to my week of four upcoming shows. Tomorrow I have my first pick up rehearsal. Saturday I have one call back, one audition, and one performance. Sunday I have a callback and a performance.

The audition I have on Saturday is for a show that will be performing in the Seattle Fringe Festival which is reopening this year after a very extended hiatus. I've been trying to worm my way into it (which is, unsurprisingly, very difficult to do), so I'm hoping to get a good shot at it this weekend. There are going to be so many great and notable pieces performing in the festival this fall and I'd love the opportunity to join in.

I thought that auditions were going to take until August to pick up, but it looks like the race to cast seasons has begun already. Good thing I love auditioning! I can't wait to prepare a Hamlet monologue for this weekend!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Hit Refresh

The large knot on my forearm that I'm almost certain is a bone bruise thanks me for having the next two days off. The rest of me is sad and yet elated. Opening weekend was so exciting. Saturday we headlined for the Seattle Outdoor Theatre Festival at 7pm. We had almost 500 people show up to watch! They were a wonderful audience and we had a fantastically fun show running, rolling, fighting, and wooing.

Sunday night was a slower night. The sun wasn't out, the temperature was lower, and the park was closed to cars for 'bike day' so our audience was smaller. All in all, it was a test in pushing the pace and raising the energy to keep the audience engaged. Based on our charitable donations and audience enjoyment, I'd say we succeeded!

Now the cast has a wonderful two days off until our pick-up rehearsal on Wednesday night. We perform Thursday through Sunday this week. Because there is so much to remember, we're required to rehearse the night before our next show to refresh blocking, memorization, and fight choreography. I'm excited for my co-workers to see the show this week, as well.

Now that I have a couple days to myself I feel a little lighter. I love being busy, but now I have just the right amount of time to clean my apartment, run some errands, and maybe read a book. By read a book I mean that I'll probably be reading plays for Acting on Friday, and refreshing my memorization on my upcoming Tuesday audition pieces. Since Hamlet and Scapin are the two plays I'm auditioning for, I watched a Hamlet documentary on Netflix to get in the mindset. Of course, this made me overly excited for auditions and now I can't wait to do them. Plus, I adore auditioning for new people and I've never auditioned for this company before. It's so refreshing to put yourself out there for people who don't know who you are!

I've written my cover letter and made my submission packets for agency submissions and will be sending those out this week and waiting to hear back. It's nice to be able to do this while I'm in a show, so if the agency is interested enough they have the opportunity to come see my work.

In this short three day run a reality has really sunk in for me. I'm one of three women in this wonderful cast. I feel so incredibly lucky to have been cast with these fine women (and men). Every time an audience comes out to see us, the gender division becomes increasingly apparent to me. It only solidifies how difficult it can be for females in this industry. There aren't as many roles available to us, and that fact makes it difficult to obtain consistent work unless you're in demand. The Hamlet audition I'm doing on Tuesday is for a gender crossed version. All the male roles have been made into female roles. Many theatres make decisions like this when they know the majority of their talent will be heavily female. Of course, it's obviously an artistic statement as well--but it's a great opportunity for the female actors in the area to have a go at some truly inspiring material. My goal this next year is to continue to do the work I love to do, and hopefully to become an actor in this city that people want to watch again. That's the key--when you're given the chance to act, do it well so you have the chance again.

I'm so grateful for the opportunities I've had this summer so far. I've finally been able to find my family here, and that's the most important thing about theatre. Here's to seventeen more exciting shows!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Tech and Opening Night for Taming of the Shrew

Two weeks have flown by! And by flown by I mean I've acquired at least ten new bruises, run Shrew almost  eleven times, officially opened Shrew to the public, and experienced two great acting lessons!

Greenstage has two weeks of tech for their Shakespeare in the Park, purely so the company can visit as many parks as possible to adjust to space and volume levels. Normally, there's one week of tech for a show--quick and dirty. Two weeks was a long time of running the show consecutively, but it definitely taught us all a lot.

We had to adjust to fecal matter on the stage, murderous and drunken audience members who threatened the cast, blood-sucking insects that only travel in packs of fifty, stages covered in pine cones and rocks instead of grass, and spaces with terrible acoustics and too much wing visibility. All in all, I'd say it was great practice and we all felt prepared last night to go on stage and give it our all.

Last night was opening night in Seward Park. It was really exciting to finally be playing for the public and get the audience reaction we've been craving. We had a terrible final dress rehearsal, which is supposed to be good luck--and it was! Opening went fantastically! We had a great crowd! Some left, some more trickled in. It's interesting because doing a free park show means that:
A. Small children who come with their families generally leave early because they have a short attention span and it's a two hour long show.
B. More families with small children come by part way through and watch because it's family friendly.
C. People don't feel obligated to stay because they didn't pay money to attend.
D. There are always those that cross by unexpectedly and end up staying because you held their attention.

It's so different from playing inside a theatre. For one thing, it's incredibly hot/humid outside some days, and we're not only wearing long sleeves and many layers, but we're also running around on stage and behind the stage to make it to our next entrance. You sometimes have to be much louder than you think is possible without hurting your voice, and be very conscious of the spaces where you must cheat out or all your sound will be lost. Sometimes audiences don't leave aisles for you to travel through and you have to reevaluate an entrance. Sometimes planes, or frisbees, or scared animals will interrupt your show--in which case you have to make sure to not let it interrupt the show.

I find it to be a great exercise in immediacy. Every performance is something new. It keeps you on your toes, it makes the play fresh, and it keeps you in the moment as an actor. Now, at the same time, I think of it as a completely different style of theatre. It's over the top, not always concise, and not at all the way a show would be performed in doors.

I think what I've taken away from the experience so far is that outdoor theatre is great with the right cast (like mine, lucky me), and that you have to buy into every single cheesy second of it to make it worth anyone's while.  It took me a while to become accustomed to it, but I love it. Would I want to do it all the time? No way.

Next up, I have auditions on Tuesday night for a local theatre company I've heard a lot about. There's some other auditions coming up soon that I hope to nab as well. Once August hits the auditions are supposed to pick back up, so I'm doubly excited to not only have a couple weeks to recuperate, but to know that there's exciting things up ahead as well.

Last acting lesson I performed my Pygmalion piece for the third week in a row and finally nailed it. It took me a long time to figure out where I should go with that monologue. I finally took it too a much lighter/funnier place and it worked so much better. Acting Coach then gave me a monologue from Saint Joan by Shaw to work on, and I've been loving every second of it. Because things were so crazy this past week with tech going on, I took the time this lesson to talk about grad schools, seeking local representation, and the direction we needed to take me in the next year or so. It was really nice to discuss where I'm wanting my career to lead me currently, and know that Acting Coach was interested in helping me get there.

Acting Coach has a masters in Directing from one of the top schools in the country and has been working professionally as an actor, director, and instructor for many years. All of our lessons are graduate level lessons, which is great for me because I'm constantly pushing myself and knowing that each lesson is worth every penny. I think the more comfortable I get in my career here, the less I'll think about grad school. However, grad school is something I'm incredibly interested in doing because I want that solid technique behind me, and great connections can be made from all the top schools. Of course, the tops schools are very difficult to get into, so I'm working my way up to that.

Next up on my list this year: Agency Representation.

For now I have nineteen more shows of Taming of the Shrew to perform, and it's going to be an incredible ride!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The 'Busy' Trap, Indeed

The African Desert Turtle that came to visit work with the reptile petting zoo.
I can't believe that it's taken me so long to update. I've been very busy, but usually I can find the time to slip in a short post.

Monday through Saturday I rehearse about four hours per day after work. I have very little time between work and rehearsal to breathe/get anything done/sleep if I need it/memorize or work on lines. Of course this means my blog updating has suffered as well.

Here's the skinny:

Rehearsals have gone by so fast! This show was funny by week two, by now it's hilarious. Every day we discover something new and we're keeping each other on our toes.

We had a fight choreographer come in to build our combat scenes and  chaos scenes. We have quite a few. I believe I'm in four 'fight scenes' in this show, none of which are actually scripted. Director has added in all the fighting, and I think the next time I see a version of Shrew I'll miss the physicality of this show. All of the combat scenes add so much to our characters and really support the story.

Our fight choreographer wasn't able to stay on very long, but with his groundwork, the rest of us pitched in and created all the fight scenes. We're lucky to have three actors in the cast that are extremely well trained (and certified) in many specialties of stage combat so the fights are not only creative, but technically executed as well. I have adored every step of the process of getting these fights to where they are now.

We've had three entire days of rehearsal throughout the process dedicated to fight choreography and cleaning/sharpening movements. Some fights have changed drastically and some have just gotten longer. In both cases I've had an absolute blast being a part of them. I have a feeling I'm only beginning to understand how much I love stunt/combat work. I'm finally getting a chance to really partake in this side of theatre and film, and every time I do it I can't help but be more excited than the last time. I'm thinking about getting into some classes here on stage combat--and because I'm lucky enough to be working with some great actors who have already done so, they've been nice enough to point me in the right direction. It will definitely make me a more marketable actor, but honestly I'm going to do it because it's so much fun.

In these past three weeks we've been getting off book, getting to know each other, and tightening up the pace of the show. We're still not quite reaching the 90 minute mark that we should be at by the time we open, but we're getting closer every day. We've rehearsed in many different outside areas to simulate the different parks we'll be playing in. This week we're finally traveling to some of our performance locations so we can become accustomed to them. Because every park is different and will present different obstacles, we're learning now how best to adapt. Some parks have massive tree roots in the middle of the stage, others are near airports, while others will be a small metal flatbed truck provided to us by an island. In the end, we have to be able to change our blocking (and out fighting) to the space we're playing in.

This means we have separate blocking and fights to remember for those different parks. Before every rehearsal we have a warm up and then a fight call. Fight call is a rehearsal of all the fights in the show to assure that no actors will be hurt in the performance by forgetting a move. Fight call for our show has become extremely lengthy, sometimes lasting over half an hour. I love it.

We've long since added in props, and we're finally getting to the costume stages. Next week will be tech/dress rehearsals, so our designers are working hard to finish the show up. We've had to make sure that many of our costume changes will be able to be made fast enough (they're called quick changes), and that our costumes allow us enough movement to fight safely.

Personally, I've been waiting for the nice weather to kick in so that we won't have to rehearse in the cold rainy weather anymore. It's slightly refreshing, but I think I'll enjoy Shakespeare in the park when summer finally arrives. Seattlites say it happens after the 4th of July! Here's to hoping!

In other news I had a fabulous audition last weekend for an adapted play with two parts--one man, one woman. It was at a very reputable theatre here, and it was the most substantial role I've been able to audition for since coming to Seattle. Most theatres here have a list a mile long already of the young, tall, thin female that they're going to use, so it's not often that I'm given the opportunity to strut my stuff.

I prepared a monologue from A Doll's House with Acting Coach. I rocked my audition, and landed a callback! I was incredibly excited, especially since the Artistic Director I was auditioning for showed me a list of at least 35 women that he was auditioning besides me. Eight of us made it to callbacks, and we all auditioned in front of each other. I had a great time, and best of all I was able to work with an extremely talented and well known actor as my scene partner. In the end, I didn't end up getting the role, but I felt like I made a good impression on a lot of people and there's not much more you can ask for than that.

This is the slow part of summer audition wise in Seattle. There aren't a lot of audition opportunities right now which is simultaneously frustrating and relaxing. In another month or so things will be picking back up again, so I'm biding my time until then. Which, of course, actually means that I'm attending my weekly acting sessions and rehearsing every day.

My second film was put on hold, which is really great for my schedule because I'm not sure I would have been able to keep up with it. Instead, I was able to pick up a shift at The 5th Avenue, and I got to see the touring cast of Les Miserables. Now, I've read part of the book (then got so busy I couldn't finish it), and I'd heard a lot about the musical. I was absolutely blown away by the show. It was amazing. I loved every second of it, and it's definitely in my list of top five favorite musicals now. It easily became a musical that I will try to catch again and again with different casts. It's such a moving piece with beautiful songs.

I have this hang up--I can't listen to a musical's score until I see it in person. I hate to know the story before I see the show, I mean, it's like knowing how a book will end before you start reading it. What's the point? So even though Les Mis is a classic, and I've sang at least one of the songs in a voice class before, I generally didn't know what to expect. I'm so glad I didn't. It made the show that much better. And the singing was just phenomenal. It was an extremely talent cast and I'm glad I caught the limited run. If it was here longer I would probably go again.

Les Miserables inspired me all over again to continue on this path. I was so awed by the talent on that stage, and the power of the piece itself. It reminded me of all the reasons why I'm so passionate about what I do.  It was also incredibly relaxing to take three hours to sit back and let my mind wander. I've been running around so much lately, which I love to do, but there's been a little nugget in the back of my mind making me wonder what's so great about being so busy?

Yes, it's incredibly fulfilling if you're busy doing something you love. But I think it's also important to remember to take time for yourself, which is something I haven't been able to do lately. Now, don't get me wrong, I'd choose rehearsal over work any day, so I'm not tired of rehearsing. But I am interested in reevaluating my day job soon and really looking at what I need financially and professionally to fulfill me so that I can feasibly and regularly give myself the time I need.

If you have five minutes read this article about being 'too busy': http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/06/30/the-busy-trap/

It's a really interesting look at the effects of being busy, and it makes you take a hard look at the kind of life style you might actually want. Strangely enough, I had all these same thoughts before I read this article, so when I read it, it really cemented many of the ideas in my brain. It's time to sit back and smell the roses.  Good thing my first vacation in ten months is coming up in three weeks!

Unrelated news:
I've since purchased a bike and have begun biking to work when the weather permits. Staying active and taking some extra time to get around to places has increased the amount of time in my day I take to just breathe and think. Healthy body, healthy mind.