Thursday, November 30, 2006

Just show me the f'ing money!

It's funny how differently my various agents operate when it comes to bookings. One agency gives me phone calls and e-mails way in advance with everything I need to know -- wardrobe, directions, character description and, of course, the important stuff: how much I'm going to make.

That's the main question. What am I being paid? Commercial work isn't like theatre -- you're not doing it for the "art." You don't turn up your nose and say {accent=snooty french}, "Zee money? She is not important!" {/accent}. That's a pretty basic piece of info most people want up front. For whatever reason, it's sometimes treated like an afterthought. Not by me, of course. Before I agree to a booking, yeah, I want to know how much it pays.

Time is also money, and another agent is real loose about time. I like to know before I go on a gig whether it's going to be two hours or eight hours. To me (and, I believe, most humans), that makes a lot of difference. And sometimes, with this agent, I'm made to feel like I'm super-persnickety for wanting to nail that down. I don't think it's unusual that I might have other things -- work, theatre commitments, auditions, uh, life, etc. -- to balance.

In the end, it is all about the money, and that's why these things happen. I'm not bringing in major dollars for them so the amount of attention I command is not going to be what it is for the heavy hitters booking network beer spots.

Still, until then, I operate the same way I've done in business or other aspects of life. Like we're all on an equal plane. Respect, yes, courtesy, certainly, deference, of course, but I'm not going in begging for more gruel -- I have value and expect to be treated that way, and to be paid what I'm worth.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Oops. Not anymore!

I realize now that when I've been accepting projects and setting my schedule, I've thought in terms of "Will I have the time?" when I should be thinking, "Will I have the energy?" Capacity on my calendar doesn't necessarily translate to capacity in my will.

Whatever. I managed to catch up over the past few days (though I would have liked to do a little more of nothing), and I'm in good shape for No Skronking. But now I've got this callback audition tomorrow night that I've got quite a bit of prep work for, learning the sides and re-reading the play. These are the people who I had my two worst auditions ever with and I'm amazed they invited me in in the first place, so I want to do a good job. Which I guess I have so far since I got called back.

Other stuff. Deadlines this month for four different play competitions, one of which would require me (if I got in) to find a director in New York. And I'm on hold for an industrial -- or a commercial, I'm not sure -- for next week, which would be cool, though I should shut up about it so as not to jinx it.

Oh yeah, and clients are kinda expecting things from me, too ...

Caught up!

Cool.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Inertia

Usually once you open a show all the hard work's done. But I feel like we've barely opened. With the compressed rehearsal schedule, last weekend was like previews instead of opening -- still some things we were ironing out. I managed to get all my lines in, but it took two performances to do it.

Even last night, after almost a week off, things were a bit shaky for most of us. The flubs aren't anything the audience would necessarily notice, but we do. So we decided tonight is the REAL opening. Huzzah.

I should have used the holiday and plane travel and such to work on my lines for the next show, but ... I don't know. We're supposed to be off-book by Tuesday, but I still seem so much in the midst of this one. It'll be okay, I'm sure. It's just 5 pages. I would really like a day to just do nothing. But this is what I ask for when I'm between gigs, so I really can't complain, I suppose ...

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Scripts

Some scripts you read and they seem so perfect, so well-executed, that they immediately, on the first read, conjure in your mind the exact picture of how they will turn out in production. Your job as an actor is just to hop up on the crest of the wave and ride it in.

Other scripts you read and you just go, "Huh?" Those take considerable analysis and effort by the directors and actors to make them work.

Or maybe it's not a matter of good and bad. Maybe it's just what you personally respond to. I don't know. But I do find it amazing just how much fun you can wring out of a script you initially thought was kind of lackluster.

That's the situation with this new show I'm rehearsing. It's written by Shel Silverstein, who I knew as the novelty songwriter who wrote "A Boy Named Sue," which was performed famously by Johnny Cash. But apparently he's written lots of other stuff, from plays to poems to children's books.

Anyway, long way of saying that this play is actually turning out to be fun to work on. I signed on mainly to work with the director who asked me. He's a fellow actor I've worked with a couple of times who's really, really funny and doing very well right now -- he's all over television in a couple of national spots. So working with him, and the other actor, has been a real exercise in creativity and discovery. We're finding lots of great, interesting moments.

It's also a bit intimidating working for a director that you know could step in at any moment and do twice the job you're doing as an actor. But you try not to think about that ...

Saturday, November 18, 2006

All's well that ends well ...

We had a great opening. Good crowd, I managed not to flub my lines (at least not in a way that was noticeable to the audience), and the toe got along okay, wrapped in tape and two layers of socks.

Not much time to relax this morning, as I had to prep for today's audition, which went okay, I guess. I mean, it definitely did in that I got invited to callbacks next week. But not for the part of the Dad that I read for. Which makes sense, I think. He's supposed to be a retired firefighter and I don't think I'm the right type. So they're calling me back to read for several other roles.

Now to get ready for tonight's show. I haven't run my lines yet today and I definitely need to do that.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Purple

So I took off the sock and looked. This is the color of my toe. Especially underneath, on the bottom part, which is really weird.

Ow.

This reminds me of a funny thing. Well, not so funny at the time, but perhaps in retrospect. An actor friend of mine, David, was understudying at Chicago Shakespeare. Obviously, understudies fill in for principals who are sick, hurt or otherwise indisposed. One night he got his opportunity to go on and he proceeds to ... break his foot! Unbelievable!

Still, he managed to finish the show. (There's no 3rd string in theatre.) So if he can do Shakespeare on a broken foot, I suppose I can suck it up and get past my stupid toe issue.

Having an ice time

Final dress went great last night. I got most of my problem areas ironed out and I think we're ready to go. One problem, though. I seem to have broken my toe.

Well, whether it's broken, who can say? A doctor, perhaps, but since nothing can be done for a broken toe there's little point in that.

It's really pissing me off. I go shoeless for half the play and I made this fast move and stubbed my left middle toe really, really hard against a chair leg. It hurt like hell. When I got home and took off my sock it didn't look too bad. There was a little blood, some slight bruising around the toenail. So I iced it and went to bed.

Then I woke up at 4 am and it was throbbing really badly. I looked again and it was swollen and black and blue. I iced it some more and tried to sleep with my foot propped up on a pillow. I haven't checked it out this morning -- that's right, I slept in my socks -- but walking requires much gingerness.

I've been so clumsy during this production. I wonder if I've got some cerebellum issue? I'm not the type to get injured or sick all the time. In fact, those people annoy me -- the ones who are always hurt or coming down with some dreadful malady. I always suspect it's a plea for attention.

Anyway, this is bad. I mean, most of the play I spend hunched over anyway, but there are some physical moments, especially near the end, where I try to manifest Scrooge's spirtual rebirth with a physical transformation. Yeah, that's right. So we'll see what happens with that.

Dumbass!

Okay, upon googling "broken toe" to find an image, I have decided, based on the really heinous pictures of mangled toes that came up, that mine must be merely bruised. But it still hurts like a mother ...

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Weak link?

Oof. Terrible rehearsal last night, and I was a big part of that. Flubbed lines, missed cues, etc., etc., etc. They say it's good to get that crappy run out of your system before opening, so I hope it was an anomaly.

I feel like I'm playing a bad game of whack-a-mole. Every time I tackle one problem, another comes up. There were a half-dozen weak spots where I wasn't nailing my lines, so I worked those over and over and then suddenly a new crop of problems comes up elsewhere. Lines I thought I knew suddenly eluded me. Timing was off. And at one point my accent went totally out the window.

Yikes. I'm hoping it was just fatigue. Yesterday was a busy day and I wasn't working off much sleep. I've got to really focus. I don't know what I'm going to do for this audition Saturday. I read the play and it's great, but I don't really see how I'm going to get off-book on the sides in the next 48 hours.

On the other hand, I find sometimes the best way to learn something is to start on something else. It's like a step-ladder effect -- know something 80%, then move on to something new and suddenly the other thing gets easier. Don't know if that makes sense, but it's a valid learning principle that I was taught somewhere.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Ow

We are doing so well with Twist that tonight we just sat on the comfy couches in the lobby and did a line-through. It was nice to rest my ribs. They still hurt and get re-hurt every rehearsal when I do this backwards bounce/flip thing off the bed. Which nobody asked me to do -- I just thought it was cool and fun and funny.

The director replaced the bed with an upholstered bench-like thing. Partly to make it easier to bring on and off but I think also to kind of limit my acrobatics, which scare him. He'd be even more scared if he knew how much I hurt myself that night.

I agreed to do an audition on Saturday and only afterwards did I see in the e-mail that the director wants me to have the sides memorized. It's only a few pages, but I really think I should be investing my time in the show I'm actually in, that actually opens this Friday, and not the show FOUR shows from now that I may or may not get.

But it's a good group, they invited me without my even submitting for it, so I will probably do it. Or try to -- I have to read the play, too. I don't know when.
And tomorrow afternoon is rehearsal for the next show I'm in after this one. Then two more rehearsals for this show.

It's crazy that I have to worry now about what I'm doing in March, but that's the way it is ...

Saturday, November 11, 2006

18 Days

I've probably done something really stupid. I was offered this show in December and I took it. It runs Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday nights -- conveniently, my only three days off from Christmas Twist. As a result, I will now be performing 18 days in a row. Yowza. Right after that, I have two nights of rehearsals for another show going up in January/February. So 20 days.

But it's a pretty casual thing. It's with Steep Theatre Company. Each year they do this "Family Reunion" thing where they bring together old cast members from past shows for a few nights of one-acts. The script for mine is short -- just six pages. But it's a lead role, which I've never had there (in one play I had just two lines!). And the director is a great guy who I really like.

These guys are fun. After their shows they break out the beer, open up the theatre and have a big party. Actually, last year the partying started before the shows even did. Hmmm, I don't mean to make it sound like they're not serious. They are, and they do good work -- just not in that annoying Master Thespian way.

I may regret this in December when my I'm behind on Christmas shopping and holiday cards, but right now it seems like a good move. I had a night off earlier this week and I had no idea what to do with myself.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

#283

I went to this audition today and it looks like every actor in Chicago was invited. I was number 283! And there were easily 25 people in line behind me. How is it possible they would need to see that many people for a potential print job? I guess they were looking for all types, because I ran into three people I know there -- a tiny Asian woman, a young Pakistani man, and a 30ish big white dude. So maybe there will be roles for all.

I did not get the big print job I was on hold for for Friday, which is a shame. I think it was supposed to be lucrative. I did instead get this very small gig earlier this week. So it's this ongoing pattern of the past few months -- lots of activity, semi-decent gigs, but no jackpots.

Theatre-wise, a friend called with a potential role that would happen in December, but the scheduling is ridiculously tight, between Twist opening next week and Thanksgiving the week after. I'm not sure where we'd find time to rehearse. But it's with a good group of guys who would be fun to work with. So we'll see about that.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

A Christmas Twist

This is one funny f'ing show. I didn't think so when I auditioned or even when I read the whole play the first time. But when we got everyone in the room and read it together? Funny as hell.

I don't know. There is definitely something about adults playing children with ridiculous cockney accents that's hilarious beyond compare. That is certainly part of it. But it's more than that. A parody, it has lots of Pythonesque moments and tons of terrible puns and other silly jokes. Right up my alley.

It's been a tough process, actually. Normally you have six weeks to rehearse a show. We have four. Getting off book has been hard. I started early, got ahead of everyone, then fell behind, and am now caught up (thanks to a full five hours of practice today). But I have a huge amount of lines (I'm Scrooge, damnit!), so it's been hard. The funny thing is, nine times out of ten when I call for a line, the line is "humbug." I know, it's a big joke among the cast. Someone told me tonight, "Here's a hint, when someone mentions Christmas, it's a safe bet that your line is 'humbug.' "

Of course, it's not that easy. Sometimes it's "bah."

Anyway, this is going to be a very good show. I got to the point tonight where I could control my laughter at the other actors. But it's hard. They're really, really funny.

We open in nine days, which is pretty scary. Still much work to do ..

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Northern Lights

My new one-act, Northern Lights, debuted yesterday at Chicago Dramatists and I couldn't possibly be happier with the performance or reception. I was actually marveling all day about how few times in life -- or mainly in this career, I guess -- that I can enjoy a moment of pure, unqualified happiness and satisfaction. Everything always comes with "buts" and "ifs," like, "it's a good role but with an unknown company," or "it's a commercial spot, but it's only regional," or "the money's good, but the product is unknown," etc.

But this was perfect. The director, who's the artistic director over at Pegasus Players, found and brought out all the important moments in the script, and even some larger themes and ideas that I didn't realize were there. And the actors, with just two hours' rehearsal were pitch perfect -- funny and real and heartbreaking. They were both top notch talent -- one was an equity (union) actor. He was very gracious. He gave me his card and urged me to make the play into a short film, which I hadn't even considered but am intrigued by. A director I know was looking a while back for short scripts to film, so who knows? If I do it, he's got the role locked up.

I was worried, actually, that the Dad part was underwritten. As an actor, I try to make sure the actors in the pieces I write all have something to do. But he thought it was a wonderful part to play, so I was relieved at that. The director also gave me his card and was very complimentary of my work, so I might explore that.

Afterwards, each of the playwrights had a Q&A with the audience and I got some really positive feedback. Chicago Dramatists has been doing readings of new works every Saturday afternoon for years and years so they have a real following. The people are pretty knowledgeable and not at all shy about offering constructive criticism. But based on the comments, I don't think I need to change a single word.

The other plays were excellent, too. I was in very good company. According to the theatre they get 60-70 submissions for the 10-Minute Workshop, so to be among the five chosen is quite something.

Thank you to the actors, Thomas McElroy and John Sanders, and to the director, Alex Levy. You guys are the best.

Friday, November 03, 2006

I am beautiful?

Wow. So it looks like they may want me for that "beautiful people" gig. I'm glad I stuck it out for the two-hour wait -- lots of people ended up bailing. I have no details, but they've asked me to hold the date (which could always fall through.) So there ya go. You just never know what they're looking for.

I've been on a tear the past couple of months. I just got booked for another industrial next week, which will make 5 on-camera gigs in a little over two months. Six if I get this other thing.

The pace lately has been nuts. I have three auditions today -- two commercials, one film. I just counted -- 50 auditions in three months, which is more than double the usual pace. That includes theatrical stuff, but I've never had this much activity over a sustained period like this. It's always been really up and down. I don't know if it's me or something happening in the industry, but it's crazy. It will probably average out and I'll get next to nothing the rest of the year.

It's hard to keep focused on each individual one, and they all kinda go by in a blur. I'll go sign in at an audition and I'll have to look up which agent sent me. Then I'll get a callback or a booking and I'll have to really probe my memory and my records to figure out what they're calling me for.

Not complaining, of course. It's just weird.