Saturday, December 29, 2007
My, my, where has the decade gone? No time to get philosophical or comprehensive. Am heading up north to the Winter Wonderland that is Mackinac Island to celebrate the new year with friends and loved ones.
And what could be better than ending the year and beginning a new one with another fine road trip adventure?
Friday, December 28, 2007
He's terrible, of course, and getting worse every day. And the worsening is happening faster and faster. When you drop a rock off a cliff, it eventually achieves terminal velocity. This is the opposite -- it just continues to accelerate.
What can you say? It's Alzheimer's. In some ways it's better than you've heard and others worse than you can imagine. And it's barely begun. It's been over for a while and it won't be done for years.
I guess, ultimately, people aren't so much interested in exactly how my my father is. I suppose they're expressing their concern or asking how I am. And that's nice, but still, I don't really have an answer, or one I can or feel like putting in words.
I'm terrific, right? I'm not him. And, better yet, I'm not the one there responsible for him, day to day. I'm getting off scot-free. I'm the smooth criminal.
And that is that.
Sunday, December 23, 2007
Man, I couldn't be happier with the results of the photo shoot.
Zoe McKenzie Photography, everybody.
I didn't really know them from Adam's proverbial housecat, but they were recommended by my agents.
And then up to my appointment when I mentioned to people that they were doing my photos, everyone was like, "Oh, wow -- they're great/the best/really hot now."
So it's nice to do something top-of-the-line instead of on the cheap.
I believe it shows ...
The ones without glasses are pretty surprising. I'm told this one "makes me look like a man" -- i.e., a grown-up, which is a little disturbing.
Here's a completely naked face -- no glasses, no beard. I look a little too much like my Dad here.
There are so many to choose to from. At least a hundred that would be good. I love this one. What a handsome man!
Thank you, Zoe's!!
Saturday, December 22, 2007
I should get one of those ear thingies. I know I can do it. I just need to get fitted for one so I can.
So that's kind of a bummer. It wasn't like it was the greatest paying job in the world (though it was better than average), but it would have been fun, and it would make a nice addition to my reel (which is just an idea at this point anyway ...)
But again, it's an honor just to be nominated, right?
At least the year ended on a good note client-wise. We met Thursday morning with our law firm client and we proposed new ad campaigns and an overhaul of their web site and marketing materials, and they absolutely loved it all. Just ecstatic. The stuff we're putting together is like nothing anyone else in the market is doing and it will really help them stand out. So yay.
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
Either way, I think I'll know tomorrow. And either way, I suppose it's good to have a couple of good auditions.
That's what happened today, causing much juggling of client obligations and a total planes, trains and automobiles scenario. Without the planes.
This was another one where they asked for a "Steve Carell" type. And it was actually a pretty good script this time, and a pretty good fit for me. At that Callback show where the casting directors were guests, they had said what they really like is when people come in and improvise the hell out of it instead of just sticking to the script. So that's what I did.
Though I guess it wasn't actual "improv" -- it was a bunch of unscripted bits that I worked up beforehand. Some of them seemed to be pretty funny and lo and behold they called me back. Don't know if it was that or my ability to take direction -- they had me do two scripts three different ways each.
So in the callback they paired me up with someone playing the other character, and it just happened to be someone I knew, so that was good. I went in with some additional bits and tried to give them more of what I hope they wanted.
The funny thing is, the first audition this morning actually was a callback. Only I didn't go through the first-round. The callback was my first shot. When that happens, I always wonder why. I suppose they didn't get what they were looking for the first time around.
After all that, it would be a supreme drag not to get it.
Monday, December 17, 2007
It was a great afternoon. They've got this huge warehouse/loft space and we used just about all of it -- rooms, stairways, even the rooftop (brr)! Eight wardrobe changes, 400 photos and multiple facial combinations -- with/without glasses, with/without goatee.
It's weird that I don't really know what I look like without glasses. Since I can only see about six inches in front of my face, the mirror doesn't give much perspective. But when I take them off, people always go "whoa." Not because they're so spectacular (though they're kinda cool, green and all), but because the glasses are like a reverse magnifier, so without them the eyes look GIANT.
So seeing them bare in the viewfinder was ... I don't know what. Frightening? It's definitely a different look. And I'm going to have tons of options.
I get to see the proofs online Friday. Can't wait to see them. And to finally enter 2005 with headshots in LIVING COLOR. And get my facial hair back.
Sunday, December 16, 2007
Of course, I can't control the weather (yet), so fretting is pretty useless. But if we don't get these done this week, it probably won't happen until January. Tom Skilling says this just happens to be the cloudiest December in history. Hold on, sun ...
Regarding recent (and chronic) audition anxiety, I attended another episode of The Callback the other night where a couple of key Chicago casting directors were guests. The audience got to submit questions, so I asked what it means when you get called in all the time to a casting agency and then suddenly go a few weeks with hardly any auditions?
The answer was reassuring, and not, as I suspected, simply that I suck. They said it means you're at the top of the agency's list and that sometimes, inexplicably, for no reason that even they understand but that they recognize as a normal part of the process, shit happens. You might be an African American male actor in your '50s and suddenly in one short period every job that comes through their office will call for an African American male actor in his '50s. Followed, just as mysteriously, by a period of nothingness.
So there you go.
Thursday, December 13, 2007
I look at some of the writers I admire -- people like Sedaris and Dave Eggars -- and think, it must help a lot when you're surrounded all your life by colorful characters and go through bizarre experiences. By comparison, I've led a pretty ordinary, whitebread, vanilla kind of life. But good stories are everywhere, waiting to be found and brought out with a little creativity and a lot of hard work.
That's what this experience with the The Callback has taught me. I actually do have some decent stories to tell. And more than one.
So I've decided I'm going to put together a book. Whether or not it has a prayer of being published doesn't matter. But I am going to take a step I've thought about for years but never taken. I'm going to seek out representation.
The reason I didn't do it before was because the kind of writing I've been doing isn't very marketable. There's not much money in short plays or funny little poems. Agents are looking for sitcom spec scripts (and I don't want to be and am too old to be a sitcom writer) or screenplays. Or books.
So that's what I'm shooting for. Since the Callback show, I've crafted a second essay, based on something I blogged about earlier this year and I've outlined a half-dozen or so other ideas. The goal is not to tell my life story, at least not in a literal, totally linear way, but to present elements and episodes of a life in a series of vignettes that could easily stand alone but also, taken together, form sort of the patchwork of a larger story.
That's my goal for the new year. Get a literary agent and work on completing this project.
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
On the other hand, I hate waiting. I take a while sometimes to mull decisions, but when my mind is made up, I want it NOW. If I go furniture shopping, I'll buy the scuffed up floor model rather than wait an excruciating 12 weeks for delivery. I got a new suit and sportcoat over Thanksgiving and it's killing me to wait for the alterations.
Same with the headshots. My black-and-whites are looking worse than ever right now as I prepare to take them to an audition. I wanted to get this all wrapped up before the new year.
And it's not just the waiting. The timing and preparation is tricky. You need to get a haircut far enough in advance that it doesn't look like you just got a haircut, but not so far that it starts to look sloppy. You need to have wardrobe cleaned and pressed and ready to go. Beard length, tooth brightness, etc., etc. It's all very complicated.
So I wait.
Friday, December 07, 2007
Good lesson. If you can't bring people to the show, bring the show to the people.
It makes me a little self-conscious. Partly because it's all very personal. I think my family learned more about me in 16 minutes than they have in the past 10 years. That's just the kind of family we are.
Also I was concerned that it was truthful. And most of all, not self-aggrandizing. The hardest part about writing something from your own life is sometimes divorcing yourself from the facts, which can be the enemy of a good story.
I got to a place where I could do that with some of the plays I wrote based on things from my own experience, but for this I felt a little higher calling to the truth. I keep thinking of Lionel Hutz: "Do you want the truth or the "truuuutthh?"
So I think I achieved something like 95 to 98% accuracy, with just a little shaping of the edges of things. Some compressed chronology, some slight overdramatization here and there. Especially the big climactic moment at the end.
But I stand by it. Anyway, I learned a long time ago that there actually is no such thing as the truth -- at least, no such thing as an objective truth. I guess in the end I would say the story was honest. Which may be an even higher standard.
Wednesday, December 05, 2007
It will take you to The Callback page, where you can hear it immediately by hitting “Click to Listen” or download it for free from iTunes.
The whole show is about an hour, but my part comes in at minute 21. And it goes almost 17 minutes! It was supposed to be 10. We knew it was going long and they were cool with that, but still ...
So you can skip ahead to my part or listen to the rest of the show, which is also interesting. Other guests include the new Managing Director of TimeLine Theatre and the new Artistic Director of American Theater Company. And a couple of the regular features are always entertaining.
I was pretty pleased on first listen. And couldn't help timing the audience's applause. For the record, 15 seconds!
Monday, December 03, 2007
Still, my thought was, "What am I spending hundreds of dollars on new headshots for?" But then I keep telling myself, even if I quit tomorrow or never got another audition, it would still be nice to have really good pictures of myself that I'm proud of.
Last week, after accepting that role I got an offer from the other round of callbacks I did recently. It was for the play where I had such a great time at the auditions. But it was to understudy. So I thought about it, and even with a couple of guaranteed performances and some modest actor pay, I'd rather be on stage, part of the ensemble. So that's that.
Thursday, November 29, 2007
Honestly, it was the best thing I ever did. Both from a performance standpoint and a writing standpoint.
I couldn't possibly be happier. I knew the writing was excellent. We worked the fuck out of it, and I went through 12 drafts. But after Monday, my biggest concern was whether my performance would live up to the script.
The term "home run" wouldn't do it justice. It was freaky. It's a very, very, very personal piece. At some points in the development process I worried I wouldn't be able to keep it together on stage. At others, I worried I wouldn't get there at all emotionally. It came in right in the sweet spot.
And I actually lost it in places I never expected. I talked about everything -- my greatest fears and insecurities, old girlfriends ... "biological stuff." I cannot imagine what my family will think when they hear it. That scares the shit out of me. But I didn't hold back, and I'm proud of that. It was 98% truthful, with just a few smoothings of the edges of actual reality to fit the story.
I LOVE my friends, old and new. Frankie, an f'ing Emmy-winning writer who compared me to David Sedaris and said I should publish. Ashley, an old client who had no idea about this side of my life, but who said she always felt I was too good to just be doing marketing brochures for law firms. Cyn and Matthew, who I haven't seen in forever and who were, unfortunately, witness to the beginning of this story in real life. Barb, who was also there at the beginning, and going through the exact same thing -- both of us just broken up in the aftermath of 9/11 and dealing with it at C&M's wedding.
And, most especially, Kathy and Duey who, more than anyone still in my life regularly today, have been such ardent supporters of my work. Having them there -- witnesses to this bizarre journey -- helped keep me honest.
When it was over, I was so damned self-conscious I immediately skulked to my seat without really properly acknowledging the audience's applause, which was loud and sustained and heartfelt. That is my sole regret. But it was entirely apropos to the content.
I will post the link to the podcast when it becomes available.
Monday, November 26, 2007
But that's not what The Callback heading alludes to. It's the cool little show called The Callback, in which I will try to sum up in 10 minutes my five-year journey in acting -- from the breakup with a girlfriend on the eve of September 11 that spurred me to enroll at Second City to the morning I found myself on the bathroom floor heaving my guts out, alone, terrified and marginally insured.
It's funny that the process of developing this essay has very much mirrored my acting career as a whole. I went into it very naively, with far more expectations than actual knowledge. I found things to be a little different than I expected. I got feedback and was open to some of it, resistant to some of it. I dug in my heels a little bit and let ego and insecurity take over. And in the end, in spite of myself, I came to a bit of an epiphany, one that was waiting to be had the whole time if I was a little more open to it.
In any case, we did the final rehearsal tonight and together we finally nailed what has been the hardest part -- the conclusion. And I think we've got something really good. I talk about my experiences as an actor, the sacrifices I've made and the selfish things I've done and what, in the end, I've learned -- not so much about the craft, but about myself and often in spite of myself.
It's the best thing I've written in quite a while and I'm really proud of it. And I am going to resist with all my might having an Oprah Moment.
Wednesday night, 8 pm. Free admission. Cash bar! All are welcome.
Sunday, November 25, 2007
I suppose if there's ever a good time to be toiling away in a dark theatre, it's the months of January to April. Still, 12 weeks of no road trips and no vacations? That could get old fast. I suppose I could plan ahead, set aside a little time and mark it as a conflict. I used to take rehearsal schedules as sacrosanct -- you weren't to miss any. But everyone has conflicts, especially in a large ensemble. So they can account for that and work around them -- they just have to know in advance.
I don't know ...
It's a good company, they're on a roll lately, the role seems like a good one, not minor, something I can sink my teeth into. It could be fun. On the down side, work-work seems likely to stay pretty crazy for the next few months. I could find myself in a situation where, between the two, I lose my social life entirely, or am feeling constantly stressed because something's being neglected.
I do enjoy the acting, that's clear from the last couple of auditions and this Callback project. It definitely stretches me creatively. Hmmm ....
Friday, November 23, 2007
This is from last week's industrial shoot. They got it up amazingly fast. To view, go here, click on Experience Answers, wait for the flashy graphics and the lady to get done talking, then click on me when I come up.
I still can't over the sweet pay for this. On top of the session rate, they paid a buyout fee for it to run on the Interwebs, like they would if it was for commercial broadcast. I've done a number of these web gigs and don't recall getting a buyout.
So the lesson? If you're average of talent, buy yourself a really nice suit. Or, better still, get your Mom to buy it for you for Christmas.
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
Anyway, it was a great night for him. Good for people who just go and do it. I've done some things, yes, but on the screenplay, for instance, I've gotten myself so hung up on making it GREAT and PERFECT and rigorously adherent to the RULES as handed down by gurus like Robert McKee, that it prevents me from going farther with it. And here's J-man doing a whole freakin' film. That's how you do it.
I had another callback from this weekend's theatre audition and (I guess) didn't get cast. But, like the other one last week, I had a ball in the auditions. I've just loosened up so much it feels great. It's not quite a "who cares" attitude, because I prepped hard for both. But it was more, "Let's just relax and play and have fun."
I wish I had the perspective to do this more earlier on in this career-thing. I've always understood, conceptually, the point of making bold choices, but I've never quite practiced it like I've done lately. It's a total thrill going back into a room and doing the complete opposite of what I've done before. And doing crazy physical things.
So it's been a lot of fun. To hell with what happens. And maybe that's the difference -- I'm less result-oriented. More into doing my best and not worrying so much about getting the job. And that's where I should be.
Saturday, November 17, 2007
I love that tune from the Replacements. It's the closest I'll ever get to faith and religion.
Okay, I said it wouldn't matter if I didn't get cast in that show, but of course now that I've thought about it a few days (and haven't been called), just having done a good job at the auditions isn't quite enough. I was thinking, if they did call, this would be the first project in a long time where I would say yes right away, without the hemming, the hawing, the reading of the full script, the meticulous weighing of the pros and cons, etc.
It's too bad. See what happens when you start to get choosy? Every opportunity gets overly-magnified. Oh, well. Another audition today to focus on. At least they haven't called yet to tell me no. That may mean their first choice isn't on board yet. Or it could be they've just cast it and aren't notifying the rejects, which wouldn't be that unusual either.
Otherwise, a variety of small projects and initiatives are filling my time. I'm getting new headshots done, going in to meet the photographer on Tuesday. My agents are very happy with that, as I think I'm one of just a handful of people on their wall with B&W headshots. I'm doing a short reading for another theatre benefit. This is like my third one this year and I think I'm just about out of favors to dispense.
The coolest thing, though, is this 10-minute essay I've been writing and that I'm going to perform the week after Thanksgiving. It's for this cool show called The Callback, which is a lot of fun. Anyway, I'm trying to capture the past five years of my life on stage in 10 minutes. It's been therapeutic, if nothing else. The feedback from the producers has been very, very positive, but I've still got some work to do. And we'll see if I've got the guts to perform it publicly.
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
I read for eight scenes, performing each one two or even three times, so I got to go crazy and have fun. It became a challenge to see how many ways I could play the character. Like in one scene an employee of mine was quitting her job and with one actress I played it like I was crushed and with another I did poorly disguised elation.
So it was a blast. And to think when I first read the scripts I wasn't sure there was a lot there. It's amazing what you can bring out of something with lots of study and attention and practice. I wish every audition was like this. I'm not always so good with the usual one-shot thing.
Anyway, I still have no better than a one-in-four chance of getting cast, but I feel great that I was able to deliver my very best. So if I don't get it, I'm okay with that.
The industrial shoot this morning was easy-peasey, save for a small wardrobe communications snafu that necessitated a crew member driving me home to get a suit. NOT MY FAULT! Other than that it was super-smooth and efficient.
Monday, November 12, 2007
How is it possible to turn down a gig like that? It's not. I admit I knew next-to-nothing about Mr. Killah, but I did some googling and wikiing and even downloaded a couple of his songs in preparation for the big shoot today, not that I expected his posse and handlers to allow me much interaction with Ghostface, aka Ghost Face, aka Tony Starks, aka Ironman -- see how much wiki can teach you?
But on the bus on the way to the shoot I got a call that things were postponed to tomorrow. And now they just called again to cancel outright. It's too bad. The photographer is highly regarded and would have been good to meet. And the shoot was going to be of just a small group of us, so I would have been right there, up in Mr. Killah's grill, as it were, so it would have provided, if nothing else, an excellent story to tell.
In the end, they're even going to pay us for the inconvenience, which is really nice. Lesson: open yourself to opportunity and good things will happen.
Not 10 minutes later I got a call from my agent telling me I booked one of those auditions from last week. The one with all the business-speak, where I busted my ass, felt I knew the subject matter better than anyone in the room and where I proceeded to flub things up. So it was awesome to get a job I knew in my head I should have had in the bag. And the pay is WAY great.
Let's stop this week now -- I want to quit while I'm ahead.
Saturday, November 10, 2007
But the best sign of all was when I got there I ran into an old friend of mine. Well, calling her a friend I suppose is an exaggeration. We were in a couple of shows together, hung out socially around those shows, but otherwise pretty much never see each other. But I think she's great, so what does that make her? In any case, she's pretty choosy about what she goes out for, so I told her the fact that she was there made me feel better.
So I look at the sheet that explains what the script is about and it turns out it's set in a PR firm. Wow. So on the form where they ask for all your info, there was a line for us to share something unique or wacky about ourselves. And I said, "As it turns out, I was a VP at a top PR firm for four years -- not exactly wacky, I know, but definitely serendipitous." Except I'm pretty certain I misspelled serendipitous without the aid of spellcheck.
Anyway, the director told me he wants to call me back in, which is great. Of course, past experience tells me that doesn't mean for sure he'll call me back in, but it's a good sign. Whatever happens, it's a nice way to start the day.
(Pictured above is the "good luck rabbit" that appeared on my doorstep the other night.
Friday, November 09, 2007
This client wanted some video interviews we were doing to come out like they do on The Office. Um ... you know those are actors, right?
And it's come up in two different auditions the past couple of weeks. That farmer one -- in the character breakdown they described him as an older "Jim." And today I was doing a role where they said the guy was a nice, friendly, trustworthy, next-door type with an honest face. Then they compared him to Steve Carrell in the office. Whuh? Do they watch the show?
Wasn't sure how to apply that note. Especially since he had just two lines -- one of them being, "Yeah."
It's good to be going out a lot, though. Four commercial auditions this week, which hasn't happened in a while.
Wednesday, November 07, 2007
Yesterday was more up my alley. Once again, a company I've had as a client in the past, like with Motorola, Jabra and others. I know the business, so I should get the gig, right? No, not necessarily. They gave us a ton of copy and were expecting it to be memorized. Which was tough, because it was very technical stuff -- several big paragraphs of techno-speak. I worked my ass off on it, and I know I had the right "look" for the role -- when they were a client they actually told me I looked like one of them.
And I know of all the actors there (and the layout of the space meant we all got to hear each other audition), I was the the only one who actually understood the words we were saying. But none of that matters, really. I actually ended up over-preparing, having worked, I don't know, 5 or 6 hours over the past few days to get the lines down. So I'm not sure how I did. Parts were good, others less-so.
Some people use ear-prompters -- they record their lines in advance and then play them through an earpiece, repeating them a step or two behind what they're hearing. It sounds complicated, but I've actually tried and can do it pretty well. The only thing I lack is the fancy custom-fit earpiece.
However, one of the downfalls of this system is people can be overly reliant on it. Even if you don't memorize, you still have to study the lines so you know what you're saying and give the right words the right emphasis and impart the correct meaning. Some people don't seem to do that. So one advantage to memorization is you become really familiar with the text.
Anyway, off to today's role as Office Schlub. That one I can nail.
Saturday, November 03, 2007
These decisions are always harder than they need to be. Check that -- the decision's not so hard. It's the decision-making process that's ridiculous. Too much head, not enough gut.
One thing -- the single thing -- that makes it easier these days is I no longer feel that need to always be IN something, either performances or rehearsals for the next performance. In the past I would often take jobs for almost no other reason than the perceived need to be in something. For whatever reason -- to keep busy, to have something to say when people ask what I'm doing, fear of getting behind, or maybe just that "you never know" feeling. That is, you never know what obscure show or role you take may lead to something big -- somebody might spot you or you develop an important relationship or whatever.
Though I should also say, every show I've been in has given me something, whether it's professional or personal growth or a friendship or just a good time. I do love the process. But again, it's important not to mistake activity for action.
Anyway, onward. Yesterday I booked four auditions, so it's not like I'm doing nothing.
Thursday, November 01, 2007
It's wholly unrelated to the content of this post.
But deer are nice to look at and it provides visual relief.
Man, this client of ours -- mine and this informal business partner of mine -- just keeps giving us work. Five new projects today. We're overhauling the website, redoing all the marketing materials, launching a new ad campaign ... and a bunch of other stuff.
It's awesome, and not even that daunting really. They've got the right team in place.
I don't know what this all means, this fortuitous confluence of events -- as I step back a little and reevaluate the theatre work, the work-work just continues to go through the roof. Does the busyness with the jobby-job (to say nothing of the Summer of Rob) make it all-too-easy to pull away from the acting? Or has the pullback from the acting helped refocus my energies and priorities elsewhere? Does it all just constitute a might excuse to shirk?
Chicken or egg, chicken or egg ...
Either way, it's wonderful to get this recognition. From this client, plus the hospital I just finished a project for -- it's great to be providing value, to be appreciated, to be doing that thing that you know you do well and that maybe you're really meant to do.
As for the acting, the comment Dave left on my last post was maybe the best, wisest advice I've gotten in a long time. Thanks, Dave.
Monday, October 29, 2007
There was this quote I read from an actor who "made it," and her advice was to do everything you're asked, to take every role, to accept every opportunity -- on stage, on film, wherever. And that sounds right -- it definitely appeals to my work ethic -- and it's something I pretty much did for several years there.
But lately not as much, and it's starting to weigh on me. It seems all I talk about now is stuff I've turned down. Like today I got a last-minute call to go out on a commercial audition this afternoon at a studio near O'Hare. And again, I just couldn't take 3-4 hours out of my day for what I viewed as a pretty iffy opportunity vis-a-vis the client work I have on my plate.
And this afternoon I was asked to be in a show that I just ... well, I have reservations about. Basically, at this point I've got to have stricter criteria. Like on the artistic side, the script's gotta be excellent (which is not always easy to determine, even with published plays) and the role has to be challenging, taking me somewhere new. And on the commercial side, it helps to be working with a well-known company, one that has a good production track record, has an audience following, gets its shows reviewed often, is Jeff-award eligible, etc.
Then there's other stuff. Are the people fun? Do I like them? Can I envision spending 20 hours a week with them over the next 12 weeks?
I used to accept roles that didn't meet some or many or even all of these criteria, just to keep busy, to be in a show, figuring it's better to do something, anything, than nothing. (Though of course, I'm never doing "nothing." And it's important to remember the words of one my acting teachers: "Just because you're in a show doesn't mean you're learning and advancing.")
Why don't I ever get offered the slam dunks? The easy decisions?
Time to consult the magic 8-ball ...
Thursday, October 25, 2007
Here's a guideline. If you pull a potential patrons' name from some obscure place, or from some other theatre's list or if their connection to your group won't be immediately (or even after some investigation) apparent, kindly send them an individual e-mail introducing your company and explaining why or how you came to put them on your list (i.e., "your past support of All Things British Theatre Company indicates you might be interested in our season of plays by late-19th century Welsh playwrights." Actually, that scenario might be fairly easy to figure out. It's usually not that simple.)
Here's another tip: "premiere," as in "the first production of," has an "e" on the end. That's a pretty important word to know in this business.
But then who am I to talk? I insist on spelling "theatre" with an "re" instead of an "er."
Monday, October 22, 2007
So to get to the foliage, this weekend's roadtrip was a little ... overly aggressive perhaps. Another three-state adventure -- Illinois, Iowa and just a bit of Wisconsin (due to an accidental bridge crossing). Three hours getting there, three hours getting back, leaving just a little less than that total time for the actual being there part.
But in Chicago, you have to go a long way to get someplace that looks different. The Mississippi (not pictured) was amazing. Take my word for it. And the towns were right out of Central Casting. Or maybe Central Location Scouting.
It was for this festival I've auditioned for a couple of times over the years but not been cast. One of the auditors was this great guy who directed a reading of one of my new plays last year. So it was nice to do a good job for him.
If that's what happened. My other thought is it's a sympathy callback. Hmmm ...
Anyway, he chatted with me after my monologues and very nicely asked how my writing was going. And when I explained what I have (five little plays about death) it almost didn't sound at all like they are in the exact same place they were six months ago -- requiring various levels of revision/rewriting/reconstruction.
Must get on that. Soon.
Friday, October 19, 2007
The "director" audition was going to be simple -- no lines to prepare. So I spiked up my hair and wore jeans and a black shirt -- nothing much beyond an ordinary day's preparations -- and headed out. In the waiting room I did start to jog my mind a little about the craft of directing -- what I admire in and want from directors I know, that kind of thing, just to put myself in the right frame of mind, just to ... prepare in SOME way. Because without work or practice it all seems very trivial.
Turns out it was a quick interview. I've had a number of these, where they just ask you random questions about you, your interests, funny stories from your past, etc. They don't really care so much about WHAT you say than how you say it. They want to see that you are expressive and interesting on camera. So they asked me about Halloween, one of my least favorite holidays. I don't like being put on the spot to come up with a clever, timely costume, and I don't like wearing one because usually it turns out not so clever. And every Halloween party I've been to (as an adult) has been a disappointing bore. Basically, Halloween is for kids.
So I thought for a second about lying, but then said that it wasn't my favorite holiday, but I enjoyed it a lot as a kid, and so they latched onto that and asked about my favorite costume as a kid and, not really recalling anything particularly outstanding (ghost, hobo, etc.), I managed to come up with something. Some weird costume where I had been in a bombing -- shredded clothes, sooty face, blood, etc. Bombings were a lot funnier in the olden days.
A bad story, yes, but I did my best to sell it.
The farmer audition, on the other hand, went really well. I did my best to look like a farmer -- flattening down my hair and wearing some sensible "work-like" clothes and putting on my little wire glasses. But most of all, I went over the scripts over and over and over. A couple of hours worth. We had to play three different characters (not at the same time, though that would have been an interesting exercise), and I did a pretty good job bringing out the humor and showing some range and generally having fun with it.
They still won't cast me because no matter what I do I don't look like a farmer. But I feel good about the performance.
I've really got to be more trusting about these things, not wasting energy worrying about being miscast and just going for it. The casting people know me and they clearly called me in because they thought I could bring something interesting to the role. And I think I delivered, and that's all that's important.
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
The second audition? Farmer.
Yeah, that's right.
Okay, yes, I recognize that today's
My first instinct when this type of thing happens -- what I judge to be miscasting -- is to feel insulted. Are they really so out of touch with me and who I am and what I do that they send me on auditions I don't have a prayer of getting? But I'm trying hard, very hard, to see it maybe as a positive thing. The role does require some character work, comic instincts and a good bit of physical stuff. So maybe they see potential where I see pitfall. Maybe I need an attitude adjustment. So I will do my best. But I do not have an appropriate billed cap, that's for sure. And the glasses will have to go, which will be quite a trick as there are TONS of lines.
On the other hand, I shot an industrial today that was right up my alley: urban business executive in dark suit. Who's VERY annoyed with a clueless telephone customer service rep. That's my life right there. So it was a good day. Though long. A five-hour shoot sandwiched within a 6-hour round-trip commute. Zzzzzzz ...
Saturday, October 13, 2007
Time to stow away the summer shorts and seal up the house. Buckle down. Tighten up. Get serious.
For all its lightness, summer carries a lot of weight. Then come fall, it's all dumped back into your lap.
Tuesday, October 09, 2007
So if I've performed in one of your shows, then by all means, put me on your list -- e-mail, snail mail, whatever. I like you and want to keep up with what you're doing.
If I've auditioned for a show of yours and didn't get cast? Well, put me on your list. I'd probably come see the show anyway, because I typically do go see shows I don't get cast in, but it's nice to get a reminder.
Now if I auditioned for you several years ago and haven't seen you since, you ought to think about pruning your list a bit.
Finally, if I've submitted my headshot to you one or more times, and you've never so much as called me in for an audition? Fuck you. Take me off your list. Don't even add me to your list in the first place. Seriously.
Of course I don't expect people to call me in every time I submit or even any time I submit. That's totally their option. And I'm fully accustomed to rejection. But when you add me to your list, it looks suspiciously like you were just collecting names for your marketing and not really holding a legitimate audition.
Monday, October 08, 2007
I went to a planning meeting this weekend for a small project I might get involved in. It would be cool, I think -- involving writing and performance with a not-too-huge commitment. I also have to make a decision about attending an audition this weekend for the play I did a reading for a couple of weeks back.
And I'm woefully behind in seeing shows. I keep getting industry discount offers in my e-mail but it's just been too nice to go inside. I had four meals outdoors this weekend! And it's October. It's funny -- for most of my life fall was my favorite season. Now it's definitely summer. I wonder if that's a result of getting older -- the whole mortality thing? Probably when I'm really old and infirm, spring will be the season. Rebirth and all that.
Thursday, October 04, 2007
Without even really noticing, my commercial auditions have taken a little nosedive lately. I had five last month in what's been a pretty busy year. In fact, I just counted, and where I normally have just under 50 commercial, print and industrial auditions in a calendar year (and that number's been pretty consistent over the three years I've been doing this: 43, 44 and 48, in that order), I've had 68 just through September this year. But it still feels weird when you go from 12 or 15 in a month to 5.
I shouldn't complain, though. With work-work being so busy, I actually dread every time the phone rings. I've had a lot of days blocked out on shoots, in the studio or in meetings and I've been lucky that I've only had to turn down auditions a couple of times. And extra gigs -- I've turned away a couple of those.
But with several huge projects having just ended, I start to look at the empty calendar with some trepidation. I am on hold for an industrial shoot up in Milwaukee in a couple of weeks, but that's mostly it. And actually I'm already immersed in a couple of other big work projects so I guess I feel like as long as I'm busy and money is coming in, I can relax a little about whether the phone is ringing. And try to trust that it will pick back up, as it inevitably always does.
Yesterday was an easy one. My dream all summer has been to ride my bike to an audition. Because the trip to most casting agents and photo studios is this weird "L"-shaped commute requiring a cross-town transfer, it's not unusual for a round trip of 8 miles to take 3 hours (including audition time, which is often pretty quick), which is absurd.
Usually the bike isn't practical, but yesterday a combination of factors -- low humidity and easy wardrobe requirements (running outfit) -- allowed me to ride down there and I managed to do the whole thing in one hour flat. Now that's livin'!
And that's the Bahai Temple up in Evanston, by the way. One of only seven in North America I believe. It has nothing to do with this post, but I took the picture last weekend and I like it.
Monday, October 01, 2007
Another weekend of street fests, outdoor meals and road trips. I feel like I've got to kick things in gear, but I'm really having the time of my life. Appreciating the time, the peace, the experiences as much or more than I ever have before.
Audition notices pile up. I continue to check them, but not as obsessively as I used to, and I respond, but not as widely or as promptly as I used to. (I got a postcard from one company thanking me for my submission but telling me they only had 180 or so slots for the 450+ people who responded. How delinquent am I? I can't even be among the first third to respond!)
I've been getting kind words about my father. It's funny the difference a word can make. Now that it's "Alzheimer's" there's an automatic recognition. Again, for me it doesn't feel much different. His memory has been bad for several years and declining ever faster. But it just occurred to me the other day that the Alzheimer's brings a whole new dimension I hadn't considered -- serious dementia, radical emotional swings, loss of faculties.
I'm even more glad I visited when I did. And wishing I'd done more, of course, before. But it does remind you to live in the day. Like the play I wrote about it a couple of years ago: "Today -- right now -- is the best I'm ever going to be. And tomorrow ..."
Live. Live big, love hard.
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
My second excuse is that they usually have the lines up for you to read but in this case didn't, and I didn't have them completely down. But in both cases, I should have been prepared for the unexpected. A big part of what they look for is the ability to roll with it. And I was definitely not rolling this morning. I kept flubbing the words and generally felt like I was encased in jello.
I'm still really exhausted from this weekend. I've had little opportunity to relax and catch up and I think I've minimimalized here and to myself how stressful it was. Dad almost can't do anything other than the very basic familiar everyday patterns, and he can't form sentences. And it's clear at times he doesn't know who we are (sometimes he asks).
On a good note, I did this reading last night that went well. It's for a new play that's under development and prepping for a January run. We rehearsed once, Monday night. Not only hadn't I read the play, I hadn't even read the scene. And I told the director I wouldn't be able to until the day of the performance. So I was feeling pretty neglectful and behind. But yesterday I read and studied and practiced and by last night I was able to bring a lot to the short scene I did. And the director and playwright were happy and the audience was appreciative, so that was cool. It felt good to be up there, doing well and bringing value to the process and the people behind it.
I might just take a 4-hour nap now.
Monday, September 24, 2007
Yesterday I went straight from the airport to this cool outdoor antiques show out in DeKalb County, which I've been to dozens of times over the years. But this time we just meandered our way back along the backroads, going from town to town and ending up in Geneva. It's a fun way to travel, like with the Starved Rock trip, seeing places like LaSalle, and driving the little farm roads through Kendall County. There are actually some rolling hills out there, and trees and other cool things.
It was the perfect distraction after a stressful weekend. This world is simultaneously cruel and beautiful. You heard it here first.
Saturday, September 22, 2007
It was a little shocking and scary to hear it, of course, but in some ways a relief. For several years now I've been describing Dad's illness to people and they say, "Alzheimer's?" And I answer no, and explain that it's like Alzheimer's, but different. Different cause, kind of a different effect. But now they're saying that's what it is, so at least I'll be able to just say Alzheimer's and be done with it.
There are some promising drugs on the way, in spite of our having a president who cares more about cells than living human beings. But I don't think that will matter by the time they're approved. Because it's not Alzheimer's instead of his original diagnosis, it's Alzheimer's on top of that. And even if they cured or staunched it, the damage from the other is long since done.
So there you go. The long goodbye. His mood is better, at least, since Christmas. More confused, yes, but less stressed out and anxious, which is good.
Today we visited Great Falls, just down the road from their house. On the bright side, from his standpoint, it was his first time seeing it, even though it was literally at least his thousandth visit. Then we washed the car. He helped me, like I used to help him, stepping in for the fun parts, rinsing it down with the hose.
I'm glad I'm here. And I can't wait to get home.
Friday, September 21, 2007
A lot of people have it tougher than I do. The impact and the burden on me, 800 miles away, has been a good deal less than others have to deal with, so the very least bare minimum I can do is go for a brief visit.
Thursday, September 20, 2007
Over the years, through sort of a process of natural selection, they've winnowed themselves down:
- One agency, after booking me for my very first gig, an industrial for Kraft, went out of business.
- Another one specialized in trade shows. I applied to them because the person who was helping me with the process did a lot of work with them. Of course, she's a cute girl. Anyway, I would dutifully check in with them every month as asked, and they'd request another 30 headshots/resumes (at about a buck a pop). After 4 or 5 months of this I realized it was probably going nowhere. And most of the trade show work is pretty weird anyway, so I stopped calling.
- A third agent is in Milwaukee. They sent me on tons of auditions when I first signed up and even booked me on a number of gigs, mostly industrials and a couple of small, local commercial spots. There was a time I was going to Milwaukee 7 or 8 times a month. Which is a lot, even if you own a car, which I did not. Which was a tremendous pain. As work-work heated up over the past year, I stopped calling them. I simply couldn't justify taking 4-6 hours out of my day for an audition for a gig that IF I got it, ultimately would pay less than I could make staying in the office for 3 hours. It would be different if it was the kind of gig where you could develop a relationship that might lead to something bigger, but it usually isn't.
- A fourth one has just a terrible reputation in Chicago. Though they seem to get a few people some good work, for the most part they sign just about anybody who walks through their door. In two years I think they sent me on maybe 4 auditions -- compared to another agent who would send me on twice that many in a month. They have a lot of turnover, and every 6 months someone new comes on board with a lot of enthusiasm (and a strange tendency to call me Bob, when my headshot very clearly says Rob) and asks me to these giant cattlecalls, where 300+ actors are vying for a handful of roles. Yesterday I did something crazy. They called me for one of these and ... I didn't return the call. I just didn't. Even if I got a gig through them I have very little confidence, based on their reputation, that I'd actually get paid, or paid in a reasonable amount of time. So I'm officially breaking up with them.
- So that leaves three agents. One that's been consistently sending me out for four years and is really great.
- Another that sent me out a bunch when I first started but dropped off significantly when they had a major turnover of staff. (My fault for not going in there aggressively and making myself better known to the new people.) They still go up and down in terms of their attention to me.
- And a third that was really slow coming out of the box and barely sent me on anything for a couple of years but has been much more active in the past year or so. They'd actually like me to go exclusive with them. Which concerns me. Putting all the proverbial eggs in one basket, as it were. I have until the end of the year to figure this out.
Then again, the casting agents know me. They're the ones who dole out the work, not the talent agents. I've been to the major casting agencies hundreds of times over the years. I'm not sure how much difference these cosmetic changes might make, other than indicating a certain level of seriousness and commitment to the work.
So that's a lot to think about. But right now I can't because I have to interview a doctor about what makes his hospital such a great place to work. Then I have to draft a brochure introducing a law firm's new China office. And then ... lots of other stuff ...
Sunday, September 16, 2007
I didn't have great expectations, but wanted to do well. As with a lot of these things, the major roles have already gone to ensemble members so they're looking to fill out the smaller parts with people like me. I got there and it was the usual deal -- ran into a couple of people I know, including the guy reading with me. And I listened as the casting director explained to each of us that the director was going to work you, stop you, start you, have you run it again and again in different ways. And so I waited patiently as others took 5, 10, almost 15 minutes to do their slots.
Then up I came. I performed my little 3-page scene, giving it my best, drawing out the humor where possible, trying to give the long monologues meaning while also trying to keep up the tempo, playing my wants and all of that business.
And then? A few words from the director, something about doing a good job making the stories in the long passages understandable. And then ... thank you and goodbye.
Whoops! Who knows, maybe I'll be called back. But I doubt it.
My only regret is I could have had a much more laid-back weekend without having to cram for this. I mean, there were THREE festivals going on, for chrissakes. I could have made a couple of them, I suppose. But there was the weather. And it wouldn't have been quite the same without my festival compadre ...
Thursday, September 13, 2007
The funny thing is, common to all three of these clients, is recruiting. I'm becoming a recruiting expert, doing campaigns and materials for a law firm, a hospital and, possibly, a second law firm, to help them attract the best people to work for them.
I don't know if it's a coincidence or a really hot issue right now, but it's definitely another capability I can offer clients.
Monday, September 10, 2007
Then this weekend I Want Someone to Eat Cheese With, the Jeff Garlin movie with Sarah Silverman and 10,000 Chicago actors, came out. By "came out" I mean it was released in theaters in New York and elsewhere via Comcast on Demand. I appear for under three seconds in the last 15 minutes of the movie. Here is a bad camera phone pic of the TV screen, showing me, Dave Pasquesi and Jeff Garlin.
We shot this at least two years ago. Maybe three? A long time ago. Given all the delays, I wasn't expecting much, but was very pleasantly surprised. It's a pretty nice movie. Especially if you're a Chicagoan, but even if not. And Sarah Silverman was amazingly awesome as always.
Too funny. I found an old writeup of the evening on my website. It was three years ago. Wow, was I dumb, wide-eyed and naive.
Thursday, September 06, 2007
I don't even know if it that's true, exactly. I got a message from an agent to check my availability next week for a commercial shoot out of town. When I called back I got someone else who didn't necessarily have all the details. "So is the shoot for the entire week, or just a day plus travel?" I asked. She didn't really know. "So am I on hold for the whole week?" I asked. Yes, she said. Which is crazy.
Plus they were auditioning more people even as we spoke, so that, combined with the fact that the last few jobs I was on hold for fell through, means I probably won't get it.
I don't know. I take umbrage -- umbrage, I tell you -- at the notion that I am to put my life on hold for a whole damned week. So I'm not. I've been scheduling meetings and appointments next week. Work projects keep coming over the horizon, one after another, like the moon chasing the sun. Just as one settles down, another comes up, then another, and another still after that.
It's like 1999 out there.
Tuesday, September 04, 2007
- Bike rides ridden: 7
- Outdoor meals eaten: 5
- States visited: 3
- Beaches strolled: 3
- CatFight shows seen: 2
- Street Fests attended: 1
- Work done: 0
Friday, August 31, 2007
But I'm fried. I had this giant video editing project that's sucked up hours and hours this week because I was determined not to work this weekend. And I got most of it done -- enough to allow me to relax and enjoy the last semi-official weekend of summer.
So some of the work has been pure drudgery/hell, but some of it has been among the best, the most satisfying and fulfilling of my career. Which is awesome. I've really felt on top of my game lately. Which has coincided perfectly with this theatre hiatus I'm on. Without it I might go crazy. I've decided I really like to work. Well, check that. I really like MY work. I might not like digging ditches so much, but I love what I do. Probably because I do it well (and vice versa).
It's such an interesting contrast to the acting. I think I've mastered the work I do for my clients -- the writing, the strategy, the problem solving. Their appreciation and relief and sometimes surprise that someone "gets them" is palpable and genuine. Sure, I've been doing this almost four times as long as the acting, but I think it really started with a gift. Which I don't think I have for acting. Reviewers used the words "workmanlike" and "journeyman" to describe my work. That is to say, it's serviceable. It rises above mediocrity, but it doesn't blow anyone out of the water. And it may just be that, without that spark, that gift, no amount of honing the craft will bring it to that level where it needs to be.
I'm not sure about all that, but it seems an interesting theory. I just feel fortunate that there is something in this world that I know I really do excel at and that can give me satisfaction and rewards for years to come.
Anyway, food for thought. But enough thinking. It's Miller Time.
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
Normally it's very straightforward -- for men at least. You get a written character breakdown or a description from your agent and you go with some variation of "casual," "nice casual," "business casual," or "business."
But sometimes you're auditioning for a character that may or may not involve some degree of costuming or props -- stuff you wouldn't necessarily find, much less wear, from your normal wardrobe. And I always seem to be a little off in how far I go.
A week or so ago was "Aging Rock Star." I sat across from a guy I've known (in acting circles) for almost two years and I didn't recognize him at all. He had giant aviator sunglasses, a bandana, jeans, jacket, boots -- the whole getup. When normally he looks like he stepped out of a Ralph Lauren ad. I had very little rock-n-roll gear (he actually borrowed his son's clothes), so I was pretty minimalist -- boots, jeans, t-shirt, etc. -- and decided to rely mostly on my acting skills.
Then this week one of my auditions called for what was described as kind of a nerdy scientist/lab worker guy. They specifically called for a starched, short-sleeve dress shirt and tie, and also added that the guy never spends more than $7 on a haircut. I mean, they were really detailed. So I went all out (I'm sure partly because "nerdy guy" is much closer to who I am than "rock star"). Black pants, white socks, white s/s dress shirt, black tie, hair slicked down. I even wrapped white tape around the nose piece of my glasses. Of course, I get there and they're directing us to play it way, way down and really straight.
So there you go. I continue to audition a good bit -- about a dozen or so this month -- but I've been taking a really zen attitude toward it all. I just substituted "zen" for my original wording of "who gives a shit" because that's not quite accurate. I prepare, I try, but it honestly doesn't make a difference to me whether I get it or not. Maybe that's hurting my chances, but it's definitely better than pinning all your hopes on the merest suggestion of a potential gig.
I've just been so busy with work that I don't really need the money from the kind of gigs I've been auditioning for. I can make more at home than at a lot of these jobs. Plus it takes so long to get paid -- 90 days minimum -- that acting money feels a bit like funny-money anyway. It's all very abstract. I'm trying not to be too cavalier about things, but I just turned down another really small, last-minute, low-paying job last night.
And I think, damn, I've done that at least a half-dozen times in the past few months. Then I add up the money "lost" from all these gigs and it would barely be enough to pay a month's bills. Before taxes. And agent commissions.
Anyway, today is "straight-talking, no-nonsense" business guy. At least wardrobe-wise all I have to do is put on a suit.
Monday, August 27, 2007
I've been wanting to see Starved Rock since forever.
Who would have thought Illinois can be pretty beyond the lakefront? Not me. Thank you Father Time (and Mother Earth) for creating this wonderland of sandstone canyons and waterfalls within a two hours' drive of Chicago.
And one fortunate side effect of the flooding we've had ...
... all but two of the trails were closed. Because otherwise I would have felt compelled to do all 14 of them. This rooftop poking up out of the Illinois River is a picnic pavilion, under a dozen or so feet of water and a hundred yards from the new shoreline.
All kinds of exciting stuff in this world to see ...
... anyway, back to reality. Two auditions to prep for ...
Friday, August 24, 2007
The broken tree above hit the wires, causing this light pole a hundred yards or so up the block to come down, too:
It's been a weird summer. June was cool. You couldn't go anywhere without a jacket or extra layer. July was perfect. August has been nothing but heat, humidity and non-stop t'storms training through the area.
As a result, I hereby declare an extension to the Summer of Rob, which was never clearly defined anyway, but I suppose was presumed to encompass "meteorological" summer (June, July, August). So now we'll be observing astronomical summer, taking us well into September, which is one of the best months weather-wise anyway.
There is still much to do. With so much going on in the city, it's hard to get away, but some road trips are definitely in order. And I still haven't actually swam in the lake yet this year. Or kayaked the river. If only I could pry these plastic streetfest cups from my gnarled hand.
I did get an offer of a small part and an understudy role, but I've done that before and I'm not interested in putting in all that work for so little reward. I'm really not sure when I'll work in theatre again. And I'm not all that worried about it either.