Wednesday, June 28, 2006

141

That's the size of the pool from which my play (and 8 others) was selected. Cool. I found that out tonight when I auditioned for the show myself. I ran into a bunch of people I know, which will make this festival fun if they're in it. And if I'm in it (as an actor) -- who knows?

I canceled the Milwaukee audition, which is a huge relief. I can now get some work done in the morning, and prep for the week's final audition Friday afternoon. It's been a long week (and it's only Wednesday). Sunday night show, Monday night audition, Tuesday night class, Wednesday night auditions. (The first one was funny. The director stopped me and said, this has got to be with British accents, of course. Now, that's not always a given. Yes, it's set in London, BUT you don't do Chekhov in Russian accents. So I took a stab at it.)

Anyway, this week has not gone as I planned for this summer. I'm trying to jealously guard my time. I want to have, for the first time in four years, a "real" summer -- meaning street festivals and Grant Park outdoor movies and fireworks and picnics and concerts in Millennium Park and all that other stuff. And it's hard because I've got this show in August but haven't been told what the rehearsal schedule will be like. If they want to cast me in this other August show from the callback tonight I'm not sure what I'll do or how I'll even decide. I know I don't want to be rehearsing 6 days a week, that's for sure.

I'm really looking forward to this weekend. I may have to get together with my scene partner from class, but other than that, and my Sunday night show, I am mostly free from Friday night to Wednesday morning. And I bought a FRISBEE! Now that's summer.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

The words float on a river of emotion

Tonight was class #2 and we got up and did our scenes in front of the group. A table read, really, but it was a start. And I got the note I kind of expected. It's a very emotional scene, and the instructor emphasized that we (he didn't address me specifically, but I got the idea) need to feel it, then say it. Don't "act" the lines, as in, "Okay this is where I'm supposed to get choked up and this is where I build resentment, etc." It's hard to explain, but he's told us that the lines really are secondary to the feeling behind them -- that the words float on top of a river of emotion.

So I've got to find a way to get there. We're early in the process still, but I know there will be a point where, if I don't make progress, he will be very direct and tough on me. I think my river runs very deep, far below the surface.

This has turned into a busy week. Five auditions, including a callback. One of them up in Milwaukee, two requiring me to read the plays I'm auditioning for, plus getting off-book on my scene for next week's class. Plus work. Tomorrow night, back-to-back auditions 8 miles apart, then up in the morning to Milwaukee, back here to read a play for Friday's audition. Oy. If I was smart, I'd cancel one of these ...

Saturday, June 24, 2006

I'm a winner!

Awesome news. One of my new plays made the cut in a local competition!

The Shimmering Souldust of Matotanea will be produced in August by Speaking Ring Theatre Company, as part of its fourth annual Vitality Festival. Last weekend they told me mine was among 20 finalists, and I just heard this afternoon that it made the final 9 to be included in the competition. Once up on the stage the plays will be judged and a couple will be awarded prizes. That's cool and all, but I can honestly say I'm just happy to be on the program and to have my work exposed to the people on the judging panel, who are some pretty big wigs in the theatre community.

I've had my work produced before, by me, but this is a different kind of honor. Particularly because I didn't have any help with this one. For the shows I produced, the directors gave me lots of feedback on the plays and sketches. Anyway, it's a nice play. I'm happy.

Plus I'm auditioning on Monday to perform in this same festival, so that should be interesting ...

Thursday, June 22, 2006

First class

The first class was good the other night. I guess I don't have a ton to say about it at this point because we haven't really started working yet (other than reading the 5 plays and starting on memorizing our lines). Before the next class I'm supposed to meet with my scene partner and read over our play a few times, and get to know each other and talk about the scene we'll be working on.

Other than that, we mostly talked in the first class. About the plays and about ourselves -- where we are as actors, what we feel we need to work on. I can tell Darrell's going to be a really good instructor. He's very intelligent and insightful and communicates well. A lot of the conversation was -- and, I guess, a big part of acting is -- about figuring out who you are. Because you have to bring so much of yourself to the role, to make it real and honest.

That is one advantage to being older -- I've had a lot of time to think about that. I'm pretty analytical and consider myself introspective, so I think I've got the basics pretty much figured out. I know my strengths and weaknesses, likes/dislikes, behavior patterns, etc. Of course knowing these things and accepting them and being comfortable with them is a whole other ballgame.

I guess in general I am excited about this class but I am also mightily apprehensive. From our conversations and from the scene he picked for me, it's clear that there's going to be a lot of heavy emotional work, which I am not very good at -- in life and, therefore, as an actor. So going through this class will, I'm afraid, be in many ways like therapy, rather than simply acting instruction.

So I guess I'm sort of steeling myself for that. Which, of course, is the opposite of what I'll ultimately need to do, which is opening myself up.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Opening Night

Things were a bit touch-and-go in tech and dress rehearsals, but it all came together pretty well last night. Somehow Geoff managed to get 65 people into a venue that holds about 40. Of course, opening night was free, so we'll see what happens when people have to pay actual cash money to see us. Still, to get a crowd like that on Father's Day is amazing. This is a good show, definitely worth checking out.

For me, personally, it felt like a real breakout performance. We had some major momentum going and the audience was totally with us and I hit these emotional notes that were so real and genuine. There's this thing I do at the end, an idea I had that we added to the script, just a physical thing, that actually made a woman in the front row gasp. So that was cool.

Speaking of moments, I've been reading the plays in preparation for Tuesday night's class and in the scene the instructor picked for me it looks like I'm going to have to cry. Crap. We'll see what happens with that. Reading the plays is not quite as daunting as I had thought -- about an hour-and-a-half apiece, and I've got just two of the five remaining.

In other news, I was notified that one of the plays I submitted to a local festival has been chosen as a finalist, one of 20 plays from which they'll select 9 to produce in the competition. So that's cool. Just to be picked as a finalist is an honor. Of course, I'd love to know how many submissions they received so I can calculate just how much of an honor it actually is. For now, let's say it was 300.

I'm surprised at the one they picked. It's my less favorite of the two I submitted, but maybe it fits their theme better. They make their final decisions next weekend, so we'll see what happens with that.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Bizarro day

Long day.
  • After all that kvetching, I got cast in that show. Wtf? Far be it from me to question their judgment ...
  • So this scene study class I'm taking? They said we'd be working hard and I assured them I liked hard work. But this morning I find out that we have FIVE full-length plays to read between now and the first class. Next Tuesday. That's a play a day, with one day off. Yeah, I'm a hard worker, but sheesh! I'm not a very fast reader. I'm a little obsessive about going back if I miss something or don't understand what's going on, and I tend to drift off, jiggering my finances in my head or outlining ideas for something I want to write. This will be a challenge.
  • Had a commercial audition this afternoon. Just got notice of it last night. The script is 278 words and the instruction was to make lots of eye contact with the camera (duh) AND be sure to hit every word precisely. It had a lot of technical jargon in it -- plus some words that were just plain made up. I might have stumbled on 3 of 278 and the guy shrugs and goes, "That was okay, pretty good." I didn't even have time for this audition. I crammed it in and ended up having to jump out of my cab so I could do a business conference call from the cafe at the North Avenue Borders. "Pretty good??" Pfft!T
  • The client call? I can't even bear to talk about it. But it's the first time I've been advised to develop copy by cutting and pasting from competitors' sites.
  • This theatre audition this morning. All the equity (union) theatres are required to periodically hold open auditions for non-equity actors. This one always announces a phone number you're supposed to call within a specific three-hour window to get an appointment. In three years I've never gotten past the busy signal. Until this year. I got through, got an appointment and ... I don't know. I did my best. Some auditions are so formal -- the auditors don't give you anything -- no laugh, no reaction, no nothing. It's very disconcerting. Places where people are usually busting up and all you get are cricket chirps. That's hard.
  • There is a check floating around out there, equivalent to almost a year's rent, that I really could use (taxes are due today). I think it went to my old address. Crap!
  • On the agenda tonight: rehearsal for Twist, then I guess I'm going to read one of those plays ...

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

In the neighborhood


My dream as an actor is to perform at a theatre that's so close to my apartment I can come home to use the bathroom during scene changes. There's a theatre a block from my apartment, where I'm auditioning later today. Another one is two blocks away, and the one where we're performing Twist is about three blocks from my front door.

I think this is going to be a pretty good show. I haven't seen all four of the plays, but the snippets I have caught, plus the one I'm in, point to a worthwhile evening of theatre. I've had some pretty serious hubris lately over my writing. That will surely come back to bite me in the ass.

It's frustrating, though, as an actor, when you're spending a lot of time on something that has nothing to say, no plot or structure, thin characters, bad dialogue and no ending. And it's doubly frustrating when you realize that, as a writer, you could do (and have done) better. Luckily, most of the stuff I've been in has been good.

Anyway, while I await my comeuppance, it's been a pretty good week acting-wise. The reading went well. We had just one rehearsal, but the character I played was a good fit, and the director does such a great job casting that it came together pretty quickly. The playwright was very pleased, and it turns out I'd done a reading of another one of her plays a couple of years ago. Extremely small world. And the Twist rehearsals, too. I think we've got it nailed.

So I'm relatively angst-free. Or angst-lite.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Oh, grow up

Screw it, you big baby. Public failure is a big part of lots of peoples' lives. Athletes. Press secretaries (which I know from experience). Presidents. (This one, especially.)

So, whatever. I went to a street festival last night to forget and, of course, there are all these bands playing. Actual musicians not forgetting their chord progressions. Throughout the evening, about every 6-8 minutes I would remember and let out a Rainman-like yalp. Fun company indeed.

But screw it. Like baseball, the next day always brings a shot at redemption. Today I have back-to-back rehearsals (actually, they overlap, which is going to be a challenge) for the show that goes up a week from tonight and for a staged reading I'm doing tomorrow night. So I've got that, the performance tomorrow, four other rehearsals this week, an audition at Victory Gardens, one of the city's premier theatres and another one at TimeLine, another great venue. Plus this morning in bed I outlined a new play to write. And probably other stuff I don't know about that's bound to come up.

So screw it. Screw it, screw it, screw it. Tear off the rearview mirror and drive on.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Double failure

A while back I wrote about my worst audition ever. Surprisingly, I got a callback. But not at all based on that audition. There's this one play that requires some singing and guitar playing and so they just called in a bunch of people who had that on their resume.

I warned the person who called that my guitar playing is kind of basic/intermediate. I can strum and play a dozen or more songs, but whether I can learn the song that's in this play is debateable. That was okay, she said, just come on in and give them a sample.

So I did. And I sucked. Oh, god, it was like the first rounds of American Idol. I actually forgot the fucking chords to the song I was playing. The song I've played a hundred times. The song I've played in drunken 2 am jam sessions with my friends. The song I practiced and re-practiced for two hours yesterday and another several today.

And I knew the director, too. He's really good. It would be great to work with him. Not this time! At least he's seen me audition and perform under better circumstances.

So, just after I got over the humilation of the first audition, I have to go through another 2 or 3 weeks of cringing every 20 minutes or so when this memory pops into my head.

Why do I do this? Why does anybody do this? My god, in how many other professions do you have opportunities on a daily basis to humiliate yourself so completely and publicly? At least when skydivers fail, they're not around to stew over the consequences.

So I came home and ate half a bag of Sunchips. I know what you're thinking: "What are you, a girl? Have a drink, for chrissakes!" Yes. That's next. Right now, the guitar sits across the room, snuggled in its case, mocking me. Should I open it up and play the tune to prove to myself I can? Or would that make it worse?

And I could have brought the music in! Why didn't I do that? I didn't even think of that! Fuckhead!!

Friday, June 09, 2006

Back to School

I'm going to be taking this acting class that's co-taught by the artistic director of a pretty cool theatre in town and the casting director of Steppenwolf. They only take 10 people per term and I had to audition to get in, so I guess it's kind of a big deal. Semi-big. I don't know.

I haven't taken an acting class since I started seriously acting. When I was still just messing around with improv and sketch I took 24 weeks of acting courses that provided a good foundation. But now I'll have more "real world" experience to bring to the process. Kind of like working for a few years before going to grad school.

So I'm excited about that. It'll be almost like being in a show. We get paired with another actor and together we work for 6 weeks on a short scene. It's a 4-hour class each week, plus we're expected to spend another 5-6 hours a week working outside of class.

It'll be great to get some really direct, individualized feedback. I'm a pretty good self-directed learner, so I pick up tons of insights from every show I'm in and every director I work with. But with those, the focus, of course, is on the show. Here it will be specifically on me. Maybe I'll find out I suck!

It's also good to develop relationships and be seen by people who can advance your career. Unless, again, I suck.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Playwriting festivals

I got a submission off to another playwright festival -- that's 9 plays entered in 5 contests so far this year. Another one to do later this week. It will be interesting to see what happens. Because I think I'm a decent actor -- not great, but good for where I am in my training and experience. So I understand and accept that there are many, many people who are better.

My writing, on the other hand ... well, I'm a very good writer. I mean, it's my job. My clients are uniformly blown away and there are not a lot of people who can do what I do at the level I do it. So I guess I have higher expectations for my writing. Of couse, writing brochures and annual reports and speeches is very different from writing plays. But among the 50+ one-acts I've seen (or performed in), mine are better than many, if not most. (Not including the ones by "professional" playwrights that are, of course, in a whole other league.) There's one particular festival that accepts such bad plays that I know mine could get in. But I didn't submit to them. I just ... well, let's keep this positive.

These other festivals get submissions from all around the country, so I suppose the competition will be pretty stiff and the odds will be stacked against me. And, as with acting, the decisions sometimes have nothing to do with the quality of the plays. You may get rejected because they have too many two-person scenes, or because it might be technically difficult to pull off, or hard to cast based on the actor pool they draw from, or they may want more comedies or dramas or whatever. So, in other words, I should prepare myself.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Nightmares

Just about everyone I've ever talked to about this has had this same basic nightmare. You're in college, at the end of the semester -- or, worse, just before graduation -- when you suddenly realize there's an entire class on your schedule that you've completely and mysteriously missed. You haven't shown up once or read a thing and exams are around the corner and you're totally screwed.

No matter how many years or decades it's been since graduation, that one still comes up for tons of people. I personally have had it probably 50 times.

In the past few weeks I've twice experienced a similar nightmare but in a different setting: the theatre. The other night I dreamt I was performing in this show and I didn't know the lines. I didn't just forget them. For the whole second half of the play it was like I'd never even read them once. I was making stuff up and doing terribly at it. The other actors were shoving their notes and even scripts into my hands to try and help me out (and them as well, since the stuff I was making up was taking the show seriously off track).

So I wonder if this will be a recurring thing like the college one. What's strange is, unlike college, where I had a ton of anxiety about classes and exams and knowing the material, I have very few worries when it comes to acting. Well, I should say, when it comes to performing. I don't get nervous before I go on stage or worry about messing up my lines. The general career direction stuff, yes, lots of anxiety.

We'll see. Generally, dreams are the most boring thing you could possibly share with someone else, but sometimes the recurring ones resonate with people.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Movies I'm not in

The Break-up opens today, and it's one of a few feature films shot in Chicago during the last two years that I did not work on as an extra. I got called but I had a conflict, as I did with another one that's opening soon, The Lake House, with Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock. Both were filmed here last summer during a time when I was massively busy.

So The Break-up has been getting tons of hype, to my dismay, since The Weather Man and Derailed (which I was in and almost in, respectively) came and went almost without notice. But, like those two, it's gotten pretty bad reviews. Can they make a good movie in Chicago anymore? We'll see what happens with The Lake House (when it was filming, it was called Il Mare), and with the Will Ferrell movie that I think comes out later this year, which I was in. "Was" being the operative word, since I "was" also "in" Derailed, up until the point it left the editing room.

Anyway, when you start feeling a little regret for the projects you weren't involved in, it can be good when the reviews come out. Especially when they're bad. Same with a play I couldn't do -- it just got panned. Not to take pleasure in others' misfortune. No, definitely not. Just, I don't know, relief? Relief that maybe you didn't miss out on the opportunity of the century. Whatever, it's all about just constantly bucking yourself up and convincing yourself that you're on the right track.

Now with projects you auditioned for but didn't get? Well, that's a whole other thing. Sometimes then I do feel a bit of
schadenfreude, which I know will come back and karmically bite me in the ass.