Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Cast photos

My frustrations over getting decent cast photos now seems a little ... trivial? What with all the disaster and human tragedy going on right now in the South.

SO, in spite of the crappy light and the multi-surfaced (and scuffed) walls and my lack of familiarity with the borrowed digital camera (thanks, Gretch!), I managed to get a handful of decent images (after considerable photoshopping). Whether they're decent enough to be published, I don't know.

The point of the photos is to get them out to the newspapers and other media so, ideally, they can use them in their theatre listings, thus drawing more attention to the show. But I don't know if it's too late. Friday was the earliest we could shoot, so I worked this weekend to get the photos in shape and uploaded to the site and then printed out and sent to reporters so everyone would have them by today.

Home stretch. 10 days to show opening. Just to have to lay out the program, write out and send 50 or so postcards to friends, agents and reporters, put together press kits, do another round of postering and postcarding, final show e-mail and ... probably a couple of other things I'll think up. Like t-shirts.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Nightmare

Last night I dreamed I was locked in really vicious feud with a woman from another theatre company. I accused her of stealing my graphic design for my show. (Which actually was a cube-shaped lump of clay in two colors.) One of her goons had to physically throw me out of their offices. I have no idea what that means (probably nothing, like most dreams), but it's unsettling to wake up with all that anger.

This weekend I'm readying a second mailing to critics -- this one with cast photos. I have no idea whether the show will be reviewed by anyone, but I continually question the scripts. The stakes seem higher than writing straight comedy. If you're trying to be funny and fail, then you're just unfunny. Or unorginal. Or derivative. With drama, you could be accused of being pretentious, phony, superficial. Or worst of all, dishonest.

Are the stories contrived? Emotionally manipulative? Cliched? Too melodramatic? Too cute (I read an interview where Tina Fey talked about her training and the emphasis on eliminating anything from her work that was "cute")? Too talky? Too literal?

Everything I write is very literal. I look at poems and song lyrics and dialogue from other plays that are very surreal, full of strange imagery and surprising justapositions of words and ideas. I don't really write like that. I think it's very clear exactly what I'm trying to say. I don't know. Sometimes I get very impatient when I see a show that could be a very appealing, honest look at a relationship between two people, but then the playwright felt compelled to clutter it up with some bizarre fantasy element. To me it's like people worry that maybe what they're saying isn't original enough, so they load it up with distracting gimmicks.

I don't pretend that what I have to say in these plays is particularly groudbreaking. I'd like to think there's a unique point of view. And some true, honest moments. That they're at least compelling and hold the audience's attention. And natural dialogue -- people, well, the actors, have said that a lot, that the dialogue flows in a really natural way. I do think I have a good ear for that.

In the end, I feel like the audiences will really enjoy these plays. The critics, if any? Like they usually do, they'll naturally find good and bad things to say about them. Which I suppose is better than being ignored entirely.

I suppose a real artist doesn't care what others think about his work. Well, I think everyone cares, to the extent that they consider the criticism and its source. Most people liked my sketch show. A few I heard did not. But then I've seen that their idea of comedy is fart jokes and so I don't give their opinions much credence.

Anyway, when I get like this I have to keep reminding myself of all the really talented people, from Rob C. on down, who are behind this project. They have lots of choices and wouldn't be involved if they didn't believe in it. Yeah, me too.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

$$$$$$$$$

I am forever doing calculations in my head: let's see, if we get 50 people per show, 80% of them at full-price admission of $10=$400, the rest a mix of students at $8 and training center students at $5, that totals $468, minus Second City's cut of $175=~$300, divided by half (more of Second City's cut)=$150, multiplied times 5 shows = $750 gross revenue.

So that's kind of the budget we're working with. Though that's on the conservative side. My last show averaged 57 people per show, but it was late at night, at 11:30, so maybe we'll draw more people. On the other hand, one of the actors brought a dozen family members to EVERY show. On the other, other hand I think I'm doing more to market this one. On the other, other, other hand, this show has less appeal to the improv/sketch community, as it is not improv/sketch and doesn't really have improv/sketch performers in it ...

So those are the thoughts that run through my head, now that the show's written and I've got my lines down and my other shows are done, these calculations go through my head most every waking minute. And a few sleeping ones.

I want a lot of people to see this show. Because I think it's very, very good. But also I want to cover my expenses. Which continue to escalate. A couple hundred here for design, a couple hundred there for printing, then there's misc. props, copying, etc. And I need to pay the director. AND we've just added a sound designer, which I think will really add a lot to the show, but which I didn't anticipate.

As a result, I am doing everything I can to boost attendance. A second and third mailing to the media. Dropping postcards at several dozen theatre venues. Mailing postcards to friends. Group e-mails. Right now composing the first of what will probably be 150 individual e-mails. Posters, posters everywhere. Message boards. Etc.

So if we get 50 full-price ticket buyers and 12 students, that makes ...

Saturday, August 20, 2005

These actors rock

Breakthrough rehearsal last night. Everybody was doing such wonderful, amazing things. As I've said before, it's so hard sitting there, watching the words you've written and re-written and fretted and struggled over for months and months to the point where you feel like you hear them ringing out in your head like pitch-perfect music, watching them being performed by others. First, you have to shed your expectations that your interpretations of every nuance are the only correct ones and, second, you have to be patient and let the actors grow into the roles.

Being an actor should prepare you more for this experience, but it's still very, very unsettling. And I have to keep reminding myself that some roles just fit you so well that you slip into them effortlessly like, oh, a favorite pair of jeans, and you're up and running from day one. While for other roles it's a long journey of getting to that place where you're shedding the layers of your self and becoming that other person.

All of the actors shined immediately -- that's why they were cast -- and they were all doing amazing things from Day One. But I've got this problem, this results-orientation, where I want to arrive at the destination immediately, and it's difficult for me to see how the side trips and the exploration will get us there. It's not that I don't trust people. I trust the actors and directors completely. Probably I don't trust myself. Ahhhhh.

Anyway, mixed with the elation last night of seeing it all come together (and we still have a full 3 weeks to play with and perfect it!), was the realization that, okay, the actors are firing on all cylinders, they're doing their job (our job -- I forget I'm in this, too), so that just puts even greater focus on the writing. Will it stand up to scrutiny? I imagine reviews in my head (if we even get reviewed): "a fine ensemble of talented actors did their level best to give shape and substance to the material, which was pedestrian and derivative at best ..."

We'll save those issues for another day. Now I have to focus on this one-time performance tonight of Dawn's Lover, a really excellent play that I wish we could perform more than once. So, off to rehearsal, then an audition, then the show ...

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Lingering Delerium

I know I've overextended myself when I start doing stupid, absentminded things. Like getting off the train at the wrong stop. Or getting on the wrong train in the first place. Forgetting to return phone calls (even if it is to a client that made my check out to Rib Biesenbach). And scheduling two rehearsals for the same time period.

Acting is really exhausting, beyond just the physical part of running around all over town -- I think all the emotional work, and focusing so hard mentally just really takes it out of me. I've had a three-day headache. Maybe I'm still hung over from the Brown Couch wrap party.

The postcards arrived and look great, except for one stupid thing that they did that I don't have the energy to complain about now. Rehearsals move into high gear this week, so it'll be good to see things gain some momentum.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Breathing room

Got all the art for the posters and flyers. Got the press release out to 14 reporters -- huge relief. So they'll get it 4 weeks to show opening. Should have been 5, but I'm okay with 4. Postcards to be delivered Monday. Wanted them by tomorrow, but Monday will have to do.

So for a couple of days I'm focusing on actory things. Like getting my lines down. 95% there for both shows. Very tired. And my throat hurts, like I'm about to get a cold. I would love to not do anything for a couple of days, but I have One-Eye rehearsal at 5, then the Brown Couch show, Dawn's Lover rehearsal at 10 am, then the final Brown Couch show tomorrow night, then Dawn again at 10 am Sunday. Sunday afternoon/evening will be nice. But then more of the same next week. I have Tuesday off. Tuesday's good.

At least Brown Couch will be done. I was in one show too many, so things are about to get a little more reasonable. Then we'll perform Dawn's Lover next Saturday and I'll have all my time to focus on One-Eye.

It's so hard to say no when you're offered a part. You always feel like, "What if something else doesn't come along? Then I'll be doing nothing!" But inevitably, several things come along and they're all great so you take them all and kill yourself. But I'm going to really, really try to be more selective from here on out. I've had auditions with some really great groups, so hopefully those will result in something. We'll see.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

I am wearing makeup

I dashed out of a photo shoot so I could come home, peel off my wet clothes (they said it was supposed to cool down today, so I thought I'd be fine carting 12 lbs of wardrobe on public transport to the South Side and back), scarf a sandwich and head to rehearsal for Dawn's Lover, which I am supposed to be off book for but am not. The shoot was very lucrative, but long and boring -- 9-4:30. Before the shoot I got up early and finished drafting the press release for One-Eye. Tonight on the way back from rehearsal I need to meet the designer and get the poster art so I can go to Kinko's and run those off then touch up the press release and prep it for mailing in the morning. Naturally, sitting here typing this is making me precariously late for my rehearsal. In fact, I might not get this damned makeup off. But the weatherpeople here suck. It was really supposed to be upper 70s and it was not.

Funniest thing said to me today, near the corner of State and South 21st Street: "How you doin' this morning, white boy?"

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Stuck

I feel like I'm in that Star Trek episode where everyone is frozen around me and not moving. As it turns out, actually, they're all moving at a normal speed but you're set at some super hyperspeed so they appear motionless. We're in the final stages of getting all the marketing materials done and coming up against multiple ridiculous little complications, the kind that always, always, always come up when you're dealing with print and technology but that when you want your stuff TODAY, it is incredibly frustrating.

I feel like I'm WAY behind, where just a few weeks ago I was ahead of the game. In mid-July I had the name of the show, most of the cast and crew lined up and concepts for how I wanted to market it, but here we are now, with 4 weeks and 3 days to show opening and I still don't have the things I need. Right now I am waiting for the printer to get back to me -- I have e-mailed and voice-mailed three people in the last hour, as I have to be out the door to an audition in 30 minutes. I don't care at this point if I get 3 different people all working on the same thing. I DEMAND SERVICE. RIGHT NOW!! Stupid software glitches have delayed things enough already. I wanted postcards to give out this weekend to the cast/crew of the Brown Couch show I'm in. After Saturday, I don't see them again. Looks like that's not going to happen at this rate.

And I need to get a press release out but I wanted the poster art to send so, you know, it looks like this show's being put together by someone who knows what he's doing. The release should have gone out last week. And multiple tech snafus and miscommunications with the designer mean I won't get the art for maybe another 24 hours.

And tomorrow's blown because I have a booking all day, which is actually good because it will pay well, but crap. Rehearsal and shows every night for the rest of this week. And Saturday and Sunday morning, too.

And of course, I should be finishing that press release right now instead of blogging about it, but I'm too frustrated. This is the trouble with blogs, message boards and other online activity. People get so caught up in documenting and talking about what they're doing that that often don't get around to actually doing the stuff they're talking about.

If I had a gun I swear I would shoot someone right now. It would be delicious.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Staying in circulation

So you'd think with performing in a show and rehearsing two others that I wouldn't have to go around town auditioning.

The thing is, you can never really sit back and let auditions go by. During the summer, a lot of theatres hold their general season auditions, meaning they see everyone at once in a great big cattle-call, and they may call you back at some point later on to read for a specific show. So if you don't get in front of them now, you may have missed your opportunity for the year. And others ... well, I'm only booked now through October 7, so you always have to be looking ahead.

So on Saturday, when I had a 4-hour rehearsal for One-Eye and a performance with Brown Couch, I had to squeeze in an audition at 11 am. Which was a good thing, because they called me back for another round last night, before I went off to Brown Couch. And the other day I sent off headshots to several places for future auditions. Listings come out twice a week and you have to always check them and either call for appointments or assemble your materials and mail them out. In fact, the latest listings are up now and I have to go check them. It's bad when you hope there are no good postings or appropriate roles listed.

Got the proofs for the postcards last night. I was hoping to have these by next week -- we'll see if 48hourprint.com lives up to its name. Still so much to do. Get postcards printed, draft press release, create media mailing list and send the release out, then start posting the second wave of flyers, then create the show program, then get the posters printed and start posting them, and distributing postcards and doing mailings and ... oh yeah, get off-book on my play. And the other one for Abbie Hoffman. Rehearsals Saturday and Sunday at 10 am, then shows. In the next 16 days I have two off from performing/rehearsing/auditioning. For now.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

I have flyer envy


Well, not exactly. The thing is, I've got this multi-phase rollout planned for marketing the show. The final phase (phase 3) includes full-color posters and postcards with the art you see on the site. Phase 1 is this simple B&W flyer that I just spent a couple of days posting all over Old Town and East Lakeview.

I considered making it appear as those I had actually lost my cat, but I feared backlash from samaritans duped into going to my site. And I thought about not even including a web address at all, so it got people thinking, "what the hell is that about?" But time is short and I figured I had to take full advantage of every pair of eyeballs and at least direct people to the site. I figure this way, since it's not specifically identified as a theatre thing, I might get non-theatre people who otherwise wouldn't give this a second-glance to check it out and maybe get interested in the show.

So phase 2 is a color flyer giving One-Eye sort of a Warhol treatment. Then about 3 weeks to show opening we'd get the final poster up with all the show details.

Oh, the flyer envy thing. When I go up to these stores and ask them to put the flyer in the window, I feel first of all that maybe they're wondering if this vague flyer is actually for some kind of porn site. Plus, it's pretty primitive compared to the other color posters they have up. So I make a deal out of explaining that this is a multi-phase approach and that I'll be back with replacement flyers and full-color posters and they kind of look at me like I'm a wee bit nuts. A guy behind the counter at a bookstore eyed me suspiciously and asked, "Is this non-profit?" And I told him it was theatre and if I play my cards right I should lose only a couple hundred dollars so, yes, it's non-profit in that sense.

But mostly people have been cool. The nice inked-up girls at the tattoo shop on belmont thought it was cute and I saw yesterday that they actually did put it up. And the pet store on Wells Street? They asked, "So is the show about a cat?" "Well, not exactly, the cat is a metaphor, you see, for need, and the way people are sometimes drawn to others they can help because maybe it makes them feel ... " then I get the blank stare and I quickly wrap it up: "It's a real cat!" and they're just happy to take the poster and send me on my way.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Marketing

The web site is up! Go to:

www.TheOneEyedCat.com

It looks great, but it's been a nightmare the past week or so. I'm working with three different people -- the materials designer for this show, the web designer for the site, and the guy at the company that hosts the site. Plus the place where I have the domain registered. They're all super-talented and on-the-ball mind you. Most of the problem is me in between them all, messing things up in translation. Anyway, 117 e-mails later and we're up and running.

It's a very fun site, with some stuff that I think will get people checking back for updates and, I hope, interested in seeing the show.

So I have 3 days and nights off. In a row! Not sure what to do with myself. Oh, yeah, walk 6 miles of city streets posting flyers for the show. Excellent.

The Brown Couch show opened this weekend and went really well. Good crowds, good response. So most of the work is done on that. Initial rehearsals are done for One-Eye, and we've got a 10-day break during which we're supposed to get our lines memorized. That shouldn't be so bad for me since I've found memorizing your own words is pretty easy.

And I've got to start working lines for the Abbie Hoffman fest later this month -- first rehearsal this Saturday.