Saturday, March 31, 2007

In my dreams ...


... my father is lucid, his old self. Then I wake up sad. And feel guilty for not doing something to help.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Lucky Stripe

Meet Stripey.* He's my new lucky shirt. Not a new shirt, per se, but newly lucky. Normally for auditions, particularly on-camera ones, you want to wear solids. But last weekend I pulled Stripey from the closet and almost haven't taken it off since. I was just tired (as I assume the casting agents are) of the same ol' medium-blue button down. (It's also possible that Stripey was the only freshly pressed shirt in there.)

Anyway, in less than a week, this shirt has netted me: offers of 3 theatre roles, a commercial callback, and one print booking. I learned of the new booking (making #5 in 6 weeks) this afternoon while waiting (with Stripey) for one of my auditions. I'm anxious to see what else he brings.

I think I'll start wearing him out on the town and see what happens.


* Photo for illustrative purposes only -- not the actual Stripey (or me).

Auditions

I'm back in that place again where I just expect to book every audition I go on. I was on a pretty good streak there, with 4 jobs in a month. Then that wave of auditions, callbacks and bookings sort of ran its natural course and ended. Then a new wave started last week, which I hope will pay off. I've got a callback and another audition this afternoon.

I don't know, right now I come out of the room feeling great and just assuming the job is mine. Which I guess is better than kicking yourself in the head.

The theatre auditions have been going okay, too. A couple of directors for this festival are talking to me about roles, but my schedule is a bit tricky. And I got an offer of another play, which I read and ... let's just say it made me feel VERY good about my own playwriting skills. So I won't be taking that one. I had too many conflicts anyway. The one I really want is this Saturday. It's an annual thing -- the weirdest, most free-form audition in town -- so I've got to prepare something for that when I have time ...

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Carism

To make up for the night before's 11-hour snoozefest, I woke up this morning at 4, with all the usual junk running through my head. I would have thought I'd have more trouble on the other end, getting to sleep. But I guess it all averages out.

I have this print shoot today waaaay out in the 'burbs. And just like the last job, when I asked where it was going to be, I got the brushoff -- oh, Chicago somewhere. And just like the last job I was notified just the day before that it's actually out in some godawful suburb. Thirty-some miles and, depending on traffic, anywhere from 45 minutes to two-and-a-half hours away.

The assumption seems to be that I have a car, which I guess most actors -- like most people -- have. Actually, the assumption is that my job is to be available always to get to auditions and gigs whenever and wherever they are someway somehow without a lot of fuss. Which is not a terrific lifestyle if you like having a little control and predictability in your schedule.

I belong in New York. As big as it is, Chicago is a cowcar town. Everyone comes here from Iowa and Wisconsin and Indiana and other places where there are no sidewalks and people drive for any trip over half a mile. Cars are the devil. I'm doing my part to fight terrorism by reducing our dependence on corrupt Mideast regimes, but they keep pulling me back in. Or out. To places like Warrenville.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Full speed ahead

I slept 11 hours last night, which has to be a record for a weeknight. I guess I needed it. Toward the end I was going in and out of a dream state and composing names for my next show. I knew on waking up that in the light of day they wouldn't be any good so I didn't bother writing them down.

(It was something about "Doors of Death," with a subheading. Which I think goes back to a sketch I wrote a few years ago about old-lady serial killers in Wisconsin. The straits at the tip of the Door County peninsula are called "Port de Mort" or, "Death's Door." Then some redundant subhead about "passages." Yes, probably better left in my dreams.)

I'd been holding back on auditions and stuff, contemplating a more normal life. Like there's this festival that runs Mondays to Wednesdays in June and my initial thought was, just because I have those three nights off between performances of The Castle doesn't mean I have to fill them, like I did in December with the two shows going at once.

So I let the audition date pass. Then they called me yesterday. Maybe the first round didn't go so well. So I thought, screw it. This is my life. And by life I don't mean my avocation or my career or what I love doing -- I mean it's pretty much the sum-total of my life. So I made an appointment. And I also signed up for two film auditions.

So there you go.

Monday, March 19, 2007

My next show

Last night we did the first read-through for the next show I'm in. It's the Midwest premiere of The Castle, a play adapted from the novel by Franz Kafka.

My first thought when auditioning was, "Kafka?" I tend to be drawn more to contemporary plays. Ones that are more realistic. Naturalistic. But a lot of companies do the classics, and a big reason for that, I've found, is that they're in the public domain and, therefore, royalty free.

Kafka can be so ... heavy-handed. But it's a good group of people, and I like the director. He assures me he intends to "ground" the play. So as much as possible it will be like real humans interacting and not just Archetypes delivering Sweeping Lessons on Man's Struggle Against the System, and whatnot.

We open in May.

This weekend's reading went well. I did such a good job with my role (a serial killer called The Wolf), that much of the feedback afterwards from the audience was that the character should be written out of the play! Go me.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Death by Weber Grill

So the lead singer from Boston killed himself in a very interesting way. He sealed himself up in his bathroom and lit two barbecue grills. Carbon monoxide. Or maybe dioxide? Wild.

One of the plays I wrote from One-Eyed Cat had two characters on a ledge discussing the various options for suicide. A favorite line:
Amy: Hanging is so ...
Mark: Iffy?
Amy: Yes. Besides, I have really low ceilings.
Anyway, among the many methods discussed, I never thought of the bbq one. That guy must have had a pretty big bathroom. Which would figure for a former rock star. In most apartment-sized bathrooms you'd end up getting cooked way before you'd suffocate. Ouch.

Got another booking. That's four in four weeks (two print, one industrial, one commercial), so I'm happy about that. Not handspring happy or anything, because I keep coming up just short on the really choice gigs, but happy enough, I suppose.

And I agreed to do a staged reading this weekend. That'll give me some stage time this month, plus it'll keep me busy during one of my least-favorite holidays, St. Pat's, who, as far as I can tell, is the patron saint of overly enthusiastic yet underly experienced drinkers.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Five plays about death

This weekend I dropped off my new batch of short plays to a potential director. He's not sure about his schedule this year, but he's interested in looking at them. So that's a good start.

They are typically grim: a mentally unbalanced son kidnaps his terminally ill father; a husband and wife kill a man for money; a man is disappointed to learn he's not dying after all; two women sort through the personal affects of a dead friend; an apocalyptic virus slowly kills 90 percent of the world's population.

So there's a lot of death. But they're not really about death. Death is a part of the circumstances the characters find themselves in. And I don't know if I have a particularly original take on the subject, but I am interested in the human capacity to adapt. People are amazingly resilient. How someone gets over the death of a child or a spouse is incredible to me. Or even how, for someone who is terminally ill, one good day can be as good as a cure.

On the flip side, I suppose they're also about peoples' capabilities. I'm not sure if people are inherently good or bad. It all depends, I think. People are capable of anything. Another not terribly original thought.

Finally, another theme that's also come up in past works is that there are definitely worse things than death. And, frankly, life isn't for everybody. We're very judgy when it comes to life.

Overall, I think these are better than the One-Eyed Cat plays. And I felt those were pretty good.
Two of them have already been staged elsewhere, so that says something. And I used a lot more imagination on these. The characters, situations and dialogue are less autobiographical.

Now I've got to think about a venue ...

Friday, March 09, 2007

One degree of separation

I was on this commercial shoot yesterday, which was really easy and fun (and which will have an entirely negligible impact on my career). Sometimes the best part of these gigs is the chance to meet and talk with the other actors -- to get advice and dish on jobs and agents and theatre companies and stuff.

It's just amazing how small this community is. There were six of us on this shoot. Actor #1 did a short film with me last fall. Actor 2 shot an industrial with me a year-and-a-half ago. Actor 3 was in an ensemble with a guy I did a show with when I was just starting out. At one point I mentioned a commercial that's now running that I auditioned for. It features a guy on a roof in the rain about to bash his satellite dish with a baseball bat. Turns out Actor 4 was the one in the commercial, the guy who got the job. And Actor 5? We were talking about shows we want to see and I said I've been meaning to go see Oklahoma. Turns out Actor 5's boyfriend plays Curly.

A friend of mine said the other night that I seem to know everybody, which is far from true. It's just that if you work a few years in this town it's almost unavoidable that you get to know a lot of people. It's like high school. Except it's fun.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

More stuff I didn't get

I've been catching up on shows lately -- I've seen three in the past six days. Tonight was one that I really, really wanted to see. So often you go because you want to support an actor or director or a company, but this was theatre just for the pleasure of it. And it was awesome.

The Intelligent Design of Jenny Chow -- a hilarious, heartbreaking, high-energy play about an OCD/agoraphobic Chinese-American girl who builds a flying robot replica of herself to travel to China to find her birth mother. Shut up, it won an Obie and was a Pulitzer finalist.

I auditioned for it -- even got a callback -- so after reading the script (twice) I couldn't wait to see how they'd manage to pull it off. And, of course, I wanted to see who they cast instead of me. An actor I know said she never goes to shows that reject her. That's kinda dumb. Hell, if I had that policy there'd hardly be a show in Chicago I could see.

I generally find I feel better after seeing the actor who gets a part I read for. Sometimes they're so different from me I realize that the director was looking for something else entirely, which is cool. And many times they're obviously better than me. This guy tonight was very good. (He also was an ensemble member of this theatre company, which I'm sure didn't hurt.) So I'm fine with it.

Anyway, it's quite a spectacle. Between the live electric guitarist and the flying robots and the hilarious moments and the touching moments, I'm sure it's like corralling a greased pit bull on crack in a nursery full of toddlers to keep it all from crashing into each other and turning into a bloody mess. But, for the most part, they succeed. And this was just a preview. See it!

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Yay, I didn't get it!

Actually, I was kinda super-secretly counting on a reverse-psychology/anti-karmic effect here. That the professing to not want it, and the inconvenience that would come with getting it, would actually help deliver it into my lap.

But that's okay. It's an honor just to be nominated. Actually, it is. I think I made a good impression with what is one of the most important casting agencies in town.

It's strange. This is by no means the only callback I've gotten. And it's not nearly the biggest job I've ever auditioned for. Why it stands out, I think, is because so often you're doing ONE line, or a goofy expression or you have no idea what they want. Most of the jobs I've gotten I've been surprised, because I didn't feel like I did that much.

But with this one,
I got to bring a lot of creativity to the audition process, adding some of my own jokes and physicality. I got to show the real me and what I'm capable of, so I was comfortable with whatever judgment they made because I knew that I consciously gave my best. If that makes sense.

So now at least I don't have to back out of the commercial and cancel the meeting and the other things planned for this week. And I won't even be thinking about it when I'm doing my little no-line extra job on Thursday. Who knows, that's an actual commercial for broadcast -- it may be more visibility than the other thing. You never know.

Monday, March 05, 2007

I hope I (don't) get it!

I'm in a little trouble.

I went to the callback today and it was pretty serious. Out of the, I don't know, 35-50 people they originally saw, they called back five of us. The guy who went before me used to be on the mainstage at Second City.

I know I did a good job. And the people they called back were all over the map, look-wise, so I think it all comes down to them deciding not just who they want, but what direction they want to go in.

Thing is, there's this extra job smack in the middle of this one. I called my agent this morning, trying to do the right thing and all, and asked how bad it would be if I had to pull out of this other job. I mean, it's extra work, and they have several days to replace me. But I got the idea it would be bad. So I said I'd see what I could do.

So at the audition today I told the casting director I may have a leeeetle problem with a conflict. He was cool and all but said, basically, that if I have to do that other gig they won't even want to see me. So I told him ... I'll get out of it.

Which will be hard. And will earn me some bad will. I understand what it means to commit to something, and if all other things were equal, I'd definitely stick to my commitment to the first job. But it's an extra role. The other job is as on-camera narrator for one of the ten biggest companies IN THE WORLD. And it would pay something like 6 to 10 times as much. I would think they would understand that.

This is the trouble with being multi-listed with several talent agents. One of them gets screwed. If both jobs were through the same agent, they'd be totally with me on taking the higher-paying gig.

Ugh. What if they don't let me out of the other job? I wonder if they can do that. I'm trying to be open and do the right thing here. I could have just called in sick at the last minute, I suppose.

Oh well, hopefully the decision will be made for me. It sucks to hope not to get something really good.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Wow

So I auditioned today for what could be a cool project, an industrial. They kinda made a big deal of it, so I worked hard for several hours today on the script.

It was a 4:30 appointment and when I got there they were all the way to the bottom of at least the second page of the sign-in sheet. And I was the LAST one. You know, "we've got a few last slots to fill -- oh, hey, why not this guy?" I figured even if I hit it out of the park they'd be too tired to know any better. Plus they were looking for a real "regular guy" look.

An hour later I'm home, just getting my coat off and my agent calls to put me on "check avail," which is a step below "on hold," which is one step below "booked." I guess I impressed them -- they were looking for humor and ability to ad-lib, so I guess my bits worked.

It's kind of a win-win. If I get it, great. On the other hand, if I don't, that would kinda be okay, too, as I'd have to cancel a few things next week to do it (it's out of town).

This has been a pretty interesting week. I had a theatre callback and got offered the part; then I did an industrial shoot; then I had a print audition, and they've put me on hold for that job; then I had a commercial callback and they cast me (albeit as an extra); then today's industrial audition resulting in the check avail. Nice.

Time, time, time ...

... see what's become of me.

I'm not a big fan of time. It generally goes too fast. (The whole "winged chariot at my back" thing.) I never talk about my age. And when I actually have to give it for real, like at the doctor's office, I really have to think a moment and do the math to figure it out.

And when people ask how long I've been acting, I've been saying three years. Which, in putting up some of my early show posters (over to the right), I see I've kinda underestimated. But what do you count?
My first "real" theatre gig was June 2003. And I didn't really start putting it all together -- theatre, commercial work, etc. -- and going after it aggressively and methodically until late 2003.

But then in fall 2002 I'd started off with a couple of improv and sketch shows. Do those count? Or do you go back to March 2002, when I started improv classes at Second City? That would be FIVE years!


It's a silly thing to concern myself with, I suppose.
But if people make the natural assumption that I've been acting all of my adult life (or longer), then I would think they would wonder why I'm not further along in my career. Like the 22-year-old wondering, "Okay, I know why I'm in this dinky show -- I'm just starting out -- but what the hell are you doing here?" When they find out I've only been acting a few years, they're usually surprised.

Obviously, I spend far too much time thinking about how I'm perceived. As if there's a great deal of thought out there about me and my career and where it stands and where it's going.

Anyway, figuring out the timeline got me thinking that I never really put a formal bio on my site. For whatever reason when I launched it, it didn't seem that important. Or perhaps I didn't have that much to say at the time. So I wrote something up, and I think it represents a pretty fair summary of what I've done.

Getting back to numbers (as always), 80 productions/gigs (theatre, commercials, industrials, photo shoots and films), over 400 hours of classes, countless auditions and rehearsals. It's been a busy however-many-years.

Anyway, enough of that. I'm done looking back. For the time being ...