Thursday, August 23, 2012

Comedic Timing

I guess this is my time for comedy. I'll be performing in my second straight comedy this fall! I love that I'm getting the chance to stretch myself and try on my funny pants for a change. Take that drama! Oh wait...there's some of that in this play too.

I had one of those weekends that you look back on and think, "Why did I ever think that was a good idea?" Of course, this meant it was a great idea because I learned a ton.

Because I lost my phone on Bainbridge Island and was without communication or navigational capabilities, I had to learn routes to places beforehand (oh the horror, I know I live in a digital age) and make sure I left with enough time to get lost.  This wouldn't have been a huge issue if I hadn't been carrying the entire set for Shrew in my car and couldn't afford to get lost, and if I hadn't booked myself so full. This weekend I had two callbacks, two auditions, two shows (post phone loss), and some errands.

My first callback was for a feature film that didn't end up panning out. I did have a really fun time at the callback though. The script was really accessible emotionally and I was able to read with the male that had already been cast opposite my character.  I learned that organic blocking in a film audition is difficult. I was in an unfamiliar setting that was opposite to where the characters in the script were located. It was exciting to try and make it work, but I know I could have been more effective if the movement had been made more clear in the space. In the end, my schedule conflicted with the shooting dates, so this wasn't meant to be my first feature film.

Then I had an audition for an upcoming comedy that I was crossing my fingers for. I prepared two monologues, performed them, and scored a callback for the role I wanted most. The next night I had a four hour callback for the role. It was the most fun I've had in a callback since Shrew. I had the opportunity to read so many times that I felt the freedom to make crazy choices because I knew I'd be in the room again to try something new later. I felt daring and funny and read with some very talented people that only made the scenes funnier (which is all you can hope for).

I found out the next day that I got cast! I was so excited. This was also the day I finally received my phone in the mail and was able to finally look at my long lost schedule. I found a lot of conflicting rehearsal dates between this new show and my Fringe Festival piece. Luckily for me, my directors were willing to work around the conflicts and I'll be performing in both this fall!

I also auditioned for a short film that went well and I'm waiting to hear back on.

Here are some things I learned from my weekend:

1. It's good to audition as much as possible. However, if you're going to audition for many things that will be happening in the same time frame, be prepared to make decisions between them if it should come to that. Sometimes it's easy to get caught up in auditioning and forget that all the people you're auditioning for think they can cast you. They can't. You'll have to decide.

2. Don't put your whole schedule in your phone if you're going to lose your phone. It can cause you a lot of stress.

3. Know your conflicts before an audition. Don't ever put a director in a position to cast you if you can't accept.

4.  Auditioning is FUN! Seriously, it's too much fun. I'm like an adrenaline junkie and I love the high I get from putting myself out there. Don't overdose--it's not healthy. Give yourself a chance to figure out what you want from an audition instead of auditioning for everything you qualify for.

5. I need more headshots and resumes.

I took an assistant position this week at a summer theatre camp. It's been a lot of fun to be in a new environment. It has made me excited to start back this fall with my after school theatre teaching. I hope I get some exciting classes!

Post Show Shrew

The Taming of the Shrew ended this past Saturday after a surprisingly cool 3PM matinee.

Here's some things I learned this summer:

1. I like theatre in the park more than I thought I would. You have to be louder, bigger, and more engaging to the point where you can feel unrealistic, but you have the opportunity to create a world including an audience and the natural setting around you. Adapting the show to any occasion is a great exercise.

2. I used to be attracted to dramatic realism because it made me feel alive. More and more I find myself being drawn to physical theatre where I can use my body and engage myself to the fullest extent. Whether it is fighting, rolling, running, or stunts--I want to do it all. Doing so much of this work has also helped me when I return to dramatic realism. It's become much easier for me to physically engage.

3. Comedy is incredibly freeing. There could not be a more perfect time for me to have the opportunity to do comedy in my career. Being pigeonholed in dramas for so long had unknowingly put me in a mental and artistic bind. I was finding it difficult to be organic. Comedy has helped me to relearn what it means to be organic.

4. I have so much more to learn about acting Shakespeare. I could fill a book with everything I don't know.

5. Always bring a second pair of contacts to a performance, some contact solution (in the case that you don't have a second pair and your first pair dried out after falling out of your eye and being lost in the grass for ten minutes), never try to do a fight call with one contact unless absolutely necessary, drink too much water to make sure that there is absolutely no chance of you getting heat stroke during a performance, learn to control the urge to vomit (in the case that you get heat stroke anyway), and remember to never forget your phone on a strange island park after dark when your phone battery is dead and your ferry is leaving. If you do lose your phone, be happy that there are good people in the world that will mail it to you at their earliest convenience.

6. Theatre is most fun when everyone you're working with has a passion for the work and a love for each other. Don't take the instances that this actually happens for granted, because you'll miss it when you aren't so lucky to experience it on the next show.

7. Pick-up rehearsals may seem pointless, but an actor shouldn't belittle any opportunity to look over the script and rehearse a show before showing it to an audience when time has passed. It keeps everything fresh and reminds you to do your homework.

8. I loved working on a show with a six week run. I would have been happy to continue doing the show because I loved my part so much. I was worried at the beginning of summer that I might get tired or bored in a show that ran so long--it never happened.

9. I really loved traveling to new spaces. There was something dynamic and exciting about literally bringing theatre to people instead of making people come to the theatre. I loved the feeling of giving something back to the community with a free show and a location near everyone. I think I would really love touring theatre.

10. As strange as it is to have to talk to people after the show and accept compliments from strangers that sometimes seem like they're only said because you're standing in front of them and they can't get around you without speaking, I enjoyed connecting with an audience after the show. It was exciting to hear people talk about loving theatre and Shakespeare. People would tell me stories about the first time they'd seen the show, or the time they were in the show, or about their favorite shows and how so and so reminded them of it.  There is nothing more heartwarming to me than being able to share my love for something with the people around me. What a wonderful experience.

11. Doing theatre at night in the dark really makes you appreciate stage lights. And run lights. And lanterns that light your costume tent.

12. Sometimes the best shows seem to be when actors have people they know in the audience. I think the theory behind this is that you want the people you love to love watching you. In this case: imagine that every audience for a show is made up of people you love (because you should love everyone that comes to see any show you're in) and that they all love you (which they must because they came to the show you're in to watch you, right?). Now every show is the best show.

13. Always thank a stage manager that knows how to use Febreze .

I had the most amazing time this summer learning about Shakespeare, meeting Seattle for what felt like the first time, and doing what I'll consider my first professional show. I'll never take being in a theatre for granted, and I'll always appreciate an audience that will sit in the sun to roast while watching a free show. I spent the summer with friends and new family. I don't know how to sum up the summer in this blog post, but I know that I'll remember how much fun I had bruising myself, smashing mosquitoes, and chasing butterflies.

Chasing Winifred

Hear about my crazy weekend next!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Talk about being an adult

This has been an eye-opening month.

Last week I had a difficult decision to make that took me a couple (much needed) days to decipher. I had accepted a wonderful opportunity of a show. It was going to teach me new skills and introduce me to new people. I had the chance to work with some people I've worked with before. I felt grateful that i had finally been allowed a chance to approach improv work, and do more comedy. On the other hand, I was noticing some auditions coming up for shows and films that were much more up my alley genre-wise. They were the types of theatre and film that I've always wanted to pursue, the kind that I want people to see on my resume because I think they represent the kind of artist I want to be. They were the kind I started doing theatre for--the kind I fell in love with.

When I finally started looking at the situation in this light, my decision became the slightest bit easier. Which isn't saying much because it was really hard for me to make. I've never turned down a role before--and it's not something I would ever recommend doing. It can breed poor relationships and break reputations. However, I think it's important for an actor to know what they want and have the courage to follow through and do what is best for their career. I hadn't started rehearsals for the show I had 'accepted', and I hadn't signed an official contract--does that make it ok? No.

There comes a time in every actor's journey though (for some only once, for others much more often) where they have to make a difficult decision between jobs. An actor only hopes that they can handle the situation with compassion, professionalism, and a good degree of contrition. After all, you have caused a step back in some one else's plans. At the same time, you have given some one else an opportunity to play a role you couldn't accept.

For me, it isn't something I will do often. I had such a difficult struggle doing it this time. I can say with confidence though, that I feel I made the right decision for myself. It took me a while to figure out that money wasn't the factor in my decision that I was worried about. It all came down to the kind of theatre and film I love to do. Of course I hope to have many opportunities that teach me new things and help me grow as an actor, but this wasn't my turn. My turn will come again.

On another note:
I attended a master class called Playing Pinter that I had signed up for almost three months ago. It was a truly inspiring experience. Henry Woolf (Pinter's longest friend) taught the class. He spent a good hour telling us stories of he and Pinter growing up, how they came to be the artists that they were, and the way that the times affected their work and careers. My how times have changed. Mr. Woolf was easily one of the funniest men I've had the pleasure of meeting.

The class itself was about Pinter's work and the difficulties of approaching his style, and how he preferred it done in his lifetime. It was incredibly enlightening and I took a copious amount of notes on the subject which I probably won't transfer here because it would take a long time.

In the end, I was paired with a scene partner and we were given the chance to rehearse and perform A Kind of Alaska. It was a very emotionally charged scene, and we were given minimal blocking to work with. It was really fun to just stretch my dramatic muscles after so long. In fact, it felt great. My partner was extremely talented, and we had a great time piecing it together and giving it a go with the rest of the class. Everyone received different scenes and then we all performed for each other. Mr. Woolf was happy that we had taken some of what he said to heart as a class, and seemed to enjoy the work.

It was a really enjoyable experience not only because I had a great time acting, but because I got to feel one step removed from an amazing man. Just hearing the stories and all about the relationship between the two men was fascinating. And I learned a lot about Pinter's work. I'd love to do more of it.

In other news tomorrow begins the final weekend of Shrew. I'm sad to see it go, but after a six week run and with so many auditions happening around town, it seems that everyone feels content to leave the summer behind with the fondest of memories to think back on. It's been a great ride, and I'll be sure to put up a list of all the things I've learned after this crazy summer with this awesome cast!

Here's our most recent review:

Thursday, August 9, 2012

What kind of actor do you want to be? Think really hard about it.

I might have whiplash.

This week's challenges came at me so suddenly, I barely had time to think--which is not the best way to make important decisions. Let me back up.

This week I started rehearsals for Connecticut, which I was very excited about. However, that meant that I was back into my busy schedule. Rehearsals most evening, performances over the weekends, and of course, work during the day. Now, to my surprise (and delight) I received my first unsolicited offer to audition this week.

This is something I expected to come a little later in my career here, so I wasn't prepared for it. I was emailed by an artistic director of a local theatre who said she was interested in me for a role in their upcoming production, and would I like to come read? Unfortunately, this production will be rehearsing at the same time as another show which I've already agreed to. Also, the audition date was during my Pinter Master Class that's happening soon. I took a day to think it over.

One difficulty in the decision was that this role was a paying role. Here I just finished auditioning for a show I wasn't expecting to be cast in, somehow managed to get cast in anyway, and then agreed to the contract not minding that I wouldn't be paid. I did this because I told myself in my first year in Seattle I wouldn't be choosy. I would take the work I was offered as long as it would teach me something new. I also thought that:

#1 All the other theatres had cast their fall shows because the performances are already coming up so quickly.
#2 That I shouldn't worry about being paid because so few theatres pay here anyway.

However, as I said, this offer was for a paying role, and here I had accepted an unpaying role, thinking it was my only option. Now I find out that the Seattle theatres are late casters, because there have been various other auditions popping up that pay small stipends as well.

I want to clarify here: the role I accepted originally is a great opportunity to learn something new outside of my comfort zone. It's something I've never done before, and always was told I wasn't good at. I'm lucky to have the chance.

Now, the big morality question for me was--what kind of actor do I want to be?  Do I want to be the actor that backs out of an agreement (even though rehearsals haven't begun yet) because I take my career and myself seriously enough to want to get paid (even though the money wouldn't make much of a dent in my pocketbook)? Or do I want to be the actor that is known as reliable?  Do I want to learn something new? Or do I want to pursue the kind of theatre that is already on my resume and continue to build that representation of me?

I have to admit that the majority of me was saying that I really needed to consider the options. I do want to do this as a career. And I want to be paid for my work because to me that shows not only a respect for actors and their time spent, but also can show the caliber of work being done (not always). However, when the money isn't that much anyway, it really boils down to the type of theatre it is. But rehearsals are coming up so fast, and I was stressed with rehearsals and scheduling all my conflicting auditions and rehearsals into my limited free time that I panicked a bit.

This is a situation I think you can only hope for as an actor. You want to be wanted by people who respect your work. You want to be in demand. But because I'm just starting out, and the demand for me is not with hugely reputable companies (let's be honest, it wouldn't have been a very difficult decision then), I struggled to decide what I wanted to do.

In the end, I emailed the AD back and said thank you but I'm booked. It helped that their rehearsal schedule conflicted with my Fringe show, and that it took up Saturdays and Sundays. Normally companies here rehearse on Saturdays. But Sundays are normally dark days, because companies respect that that is your weekend from your day job. I didn't want to commit myself so fully to something that would suck me dry when I would have to disappoint people in the process.

It's definitely made me rethink my priorities. I think that from now on I will have to choose carefully the first time around, so I don't run into a difficult choice later. Maybe it's time for me, in this market, to let certain opportunities pass me by, because I respect my work enough to want to be paid. Now, that doesn't mean I won't accept an intriguing script for no pay when nothing else is going on, but it does mean that maybe next time I won't be so quick to jump into the first opportunity that comes my way.

Now--while all of this moral turmoil was happening, there was more.

I received a call from the casting director of a SAG film that is interested in me coming in to read for their two main female roles. I was incredibly excited! But wait--let me look at my schedule--

Rehearsing Connecticut at night, Shrew every Thursday-Sunday, teaching Pre-School during the day, and I picked up a freelance teaching/assistant director position to fill my meager 3 hour break between work and my shows...Have I finally overbooked myself?

It's definitely possible. I had to rearrange some things, and we finally decided on a time. It wasn't until I woke up this morning that I realized I booked my audition at the same time as one of my teaching gigs...I need to call the CD back. I really hope they can squeeze me in. The script is really intriguing.

The film I auditioned for the other weekend called as well--they wanted to schedule a callback with me for the lead role in their film too! So I finally moved things around on a Saturday for them. I'll be auditioning at 9:30, rehearsing 11-1, and then performing 2-5.

Needless to say, I've forgotten what a weekend is.

My roommate is coming back this week, so I also need to clean the apartment. These are the moments you want a genie in your life.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Back to Basics

My film audition last weekend went splendidly. I walked into one of the smallest waiting rooms I've ever had the pleasure of squeezing myself into and met my fellow actors. Now, unlike many of the auditions I've been attending in Seattle where you read with a scene partner, this audition had a designated reader.

This means, when it was finally my turn to go inside, I met the director, the writer, the assistant director, and my reader. I got incredibly lucky this time around because my reader was awesome! Sometimes, the reader doesn't know how to be an active scene partner and they don't help you out by reading well and with purpose. However, this reader was very giving and made it a point to stay in the scene with me, even going so far as to act the stage directions for me to respond off of. Because of this, I had a great audition. I was able to read three scenes, two for the main role, and one for the supporting best friend.

I'm finally gaining more confidence in my auditions to do what I need to do in order to have a good audition. I walked in and introduced myself. The scenes I was reading for took place in beds and chairs, so even though I didn't see one available I asked for one. I could tell by the surprise on their faces that no one had bothered to do that yet. Lucky for me it was pleasant surprise, and the reader happily gave up his chair for me to have. After I had finished reading, I was asked to do one of the scenes again with a little direction. I thought I took the direction well, and the director seemed to agree. Before I left they asked for my headshot and resume to keep.

Normally these are required at every audition an actor attends. However, in Seattle there are some that don't ask for it because you've already emailed it to them, or because they don't want it unless they know they want to hold onto it. This film didn't ask me to bring one in, but I was taught well and so I always have one on hand because you never know when you'll be asked for one. I happily gave them my headshot and resume and then proceeded to try and block the very exciting audition from my mind since I knew there was a large group of actors auditioning and I wouldn't hear back for a while.

I just got the email two days ago--I scored a callback for the lead! I'm so excited to have another opportunity to read for this character because I love the script. Also, I have some things I'd like to try differently, and I always feel lucky when I'm given a second chance to do better.

Unfortunately, I'm not certain what kind of filming schedule their going to have. The audition process was a little unorganized in this regard because I expected to be asked my availability, but hopefully things will work out if I'm lucky enough to get cast.

Tuesday is the beginning of my next rehearsal process! My Fringe Festival show will be underway and moving along before I know it. My improv show starts the week after, so I'm already jumping in full steam ahead before I've wrapped Shrew.

Shrew has been going very well. It's amazing how fast the time flies. I spent my whole summer rehearsing and performing this show, and I can't believe there are only two weekends left. This past weekend had great audience turnout and support. This weekend I expect will be even better. The longer the show is open, the more word of mouth travels and makes people drive over to see the show. I plan to make the most of these last performances!

On an unrelated note, I spent my week traveling around Washington with the family and took some great pictures.

Also, I recently read a great article in the New York Times (even though it was written forever ago) that really rang true with me.

It's about why actors do what they do. Written by Frank Langella, an actor himself, the article speaks to the dangers of a career in acting as well as the reason many of us do it anyway. I myself am only truly beginning to understand many of the fears talked about in this piece, and if I'm lucky I will never know all of them.