Sunday, April 29, 2007

I'm a vegetable

There was this moment in high school I'll never forget. Our PSAT scores came out, and it was like the great equalizer. For me personally, it seemed empirical evidence -- better than grades -- that I was kind of a smart cookie. (It also made me realize that most of the cool kids were headed for community college. Or prison.)

So I like getting test results. I like a measure of progress. I like seeing where I stand. This weekend I got to see if all the years I've spent working out and trying to eat healthily had any impact at all. As it turns out
I have the cholesterol of a celery stalk.
Total cholesterol: 171 (recommended: <200)
LDL (bad) cholesterol: 89 (recommended: <160)
HDL (good) cholesterol: 71 (recommended: >35)

Triglycerides: 54 (recommended: <160)
I'm most stunned by my HDL. That's the one you get mostly through exercise. I work out a lot, but feel I slack off much of the time. To be double the recommended number? It feels ... awesome. Of course, I don't really have a baseline to compare it to. Maybe it would have been the exact same if I sat on the couch collecting dust for the past decade.

But either way, it means I probably won't die of heart disease, which, you know, is one less thing to worry about.

My money's on cancer. Or a vicious beating. Most likely provoked.

Thursday, April 26, 2007


I've had zero auditions this week. It's the first time that's happened since Christmas week. I'll never understand the cycles of this business, how it's total feast or famine.

Same with bookings. I had so many in such a short time that it put me on a pace to have double the number of bookings over last year. But I figured instead it would be followed by a drought and everything would average out. Like it seems to be doing.

It's kinda okay. I've been super busy with work-work. Plus six rehearsals a week this week and the next three weeks after that.

Had a good meeting with the headhunter. It's interesting. Ever since I went out on my own I felt fully confident that whenever I chose I could easily go back and get a great-paying job at any major agency in town. Now I'm a bit less certain. I've been out of the action so long it could be a handicap. A perception issue, mostly.

Weird. I think I'm having a reverse mid-life crisis -- contemplating throwing away adventure and freedom for the opportunity for security and commitment.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Feeling gravity's pull

Tomorrow I am doing something I wouldn't have considered just a year or two ago. I am meeting with a headhunter about a corporate/agency job. Reactions from a couple of people in rehearsal the other day summed it up. "A lot more money?" I nodded. "The death of your soul?" Perhaps.

I don't know. At this point I'm exploring. With all my talk over the years of never going back to an office job, it seems a little narrow-minded to base that stance on something I haven't really, directly experienced since the late '90s.

So I'm going to go see what it's all about. I don't know if this specific position they called me about is for me, but I think it will be a good opportunity to discuss what I think I'm looking for and best suited for and see in the weeks and months ahead if there's a match out there in the market. I've got some interesting ideas about the value my experience could bring to an organization. Wow. I'm already in interview mode.

There are a thousand and one considerations, but the weird thing I've found with decisions like this is, once you make a step into that world of "what-ifs," the landscape of perceptions starts to shift beneath your feet. Then at some point it becomes less of a leap. The decision sort of comes to you.

We shall see ...

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Take Me Out

I never get advance tickets for anything -- shows, concerts, ballgames -- because I never know what my schedule is going to be like, with rehearsals and shows and stuff. So yesterday morning when I stepped out of an audition, there was a message on my phone inviting me out to the Cubs game. I looked up at the clear blue sky and in an act of reckless spontaneity, I said yes!

I hadn't been to Wrigley in at least two years, maybe three. During that time, Cubs games have mostly been a nuisance -- actors are always bit
ching about the rubes and drunks who crowd the train on game day. But secretly I think we resent that we're on our way to a cold, dark windowless theatre while they're drinking beer in the sun.

I didn't much care about the game's outcome. I even had to be reminded that St. Louis won the World Series last year. Huh? I think I was in a show.

It was nice to be part of the crowd. To see again how the other 95% live. To be a drunk rube for a day.

And now today, back to the cold, dark windowless theatre. This year, once this show's over, I'm going to have a summer. I know I said that last year, but this time it's happening.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

A really big cast

Man, rehearsing this show is HARD. There are so many moving parts and people. Fortunately we have lots of time. This is about the longest rehearsal process I've been in. But we're going to need it. Nevermind what goes on IN the 12 scenes, what goes on BETWEEN the scenes has to be carefully choreographed.

This is my creepy smile ...

Nobody told me not to smile creepy.

Olga and the servants:
Poor Olga.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The Plays

I just got word that the director I presented my plays to can't do them this summer. He's got a very full schedule and I totally understand.

He was nice enough to provide comment on the drafts and that, I guess, is the even more disappointing part. I thought four of five were solid. He felt it was more like one of five. Two of those I can envision fixing per his comments. The other two ... probably need a lot of work. Or scrapping altogether.

I don't know. I think, in the past year, the full limits of my capabilities have come into very sharp focus.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

The Boxer

In the clearing stands a boxer, and a fighter by his trade
And he carries the reminders of every glove that laid him down or
cut him
til he cried out in his anger and his shame
I am leaving, I am leaving, but the fighter still remains
I've been feeling very mortal lately. Ever since I got sick, which doesn't happen very often to me. What should have been a bad stomach virus turned into a hospital visit, which the Interwebs says happens only rarely, mainly to the elderly, the young and people with depressed immune systems.

It just makes you think. I'm not scared so much of dying as I am of premature aging. Of disability. Of dependence. I dreamt the other night that in the mirror I was the picture of Dorian Gray, looking 20 years older than I am.

I've been on this SuperFoods kick. More than a kick, actually. The last nutrition/fitness "kick" I was on lasted more than seven years. I'm loading up on things that I think will help stave off cancer, heart disease, etc. And this local hospital has been offering all these free or low-cost health screenings. Today was cholesterol/EEG/heart-related stuff. (If I had these tests at my own doctor it would go on my insurance and then if some kind of problem was found it would be one more thing that Blue Cross would exclude from my coverage if I ever changed my policy. It's such a racket.)

Anyway, I feel like I'm pretty healthy, but arteriosclerosis runs in the family -- it's what's caused my Dad's cognitive problems -- so there's only so much you can do on your own before genetics catch up to you.

I guess this all sounds like an (early) mid-life crisis. I prefer to think of it as a reevaluation of priorities. I just feel ... a little vulnerable. Once you cross 30, your body starts betraying you in little bits and pieces. And it seems no matter how well you eat or how much you work out, the breakdown is kind of inevitable. Slowed a bit, maybe, ameliorated, perhaps. But snowballing nonetheless.

Sometimes it feels like I'm out there, in the ring, fighting, and when I look back there's no one in my corner. I miss my best friend.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

The Eye in the Sky

I was at this commercial audition this morning and we were having a lot of fun. It was three of us and we were really loose (especially for 10 am!) and laughing and improvising according to the casting person's directions. Then the head of the agency came in and gave us a very different direction to go in.

I had heard that he watches the auditions from closed circuit in his office, but I didn't really believe it. It was a kind of an odd feeling. I can see why he does it. It lets him do other stuff during all the downtime between actors and takes -- besides, it's all about what comes across on the screen and not in the room anyway. But still, I was suddenly self-conscious after that.

In other news, I am NOT moving. They kept trying to show my apartment so I had to renew my lease. I was looking at trading my humble, rickety first-floor space for a humble, rickety top-floor garret up the street. But who wants to move? Moving sucks. At least now I'm content in the knowledge that mine is just about the biggest 1BR apartment that can be found in East Lakeview.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Another show

I accepted a part in this annual festival at Bailiwick. It was complicated and drawn out. Initially I auditioned mainly because I hadn't done so last year and I thought it was a good opportunity to get up in front of a dozen or more emerging directors.

Then I got offered these roles. Two, at least -- maybe a third. At some point it transformed from, "I'm not sure I have time for this anyway" to more a matter of choosing which one to be in. It's funny how your reality kinda shifts.

In any case, I had a choice of a very complex role in a long play that wouldn't go up until the closing week of the The Castle, or a shorter, simpler play that goes up much sooner -- the week after The Castle opens. So definite pros and cons to both.

I finally settled on the shorter one. I think it will be a good experience. I get to work with someone new, someone old, and the play itself is a nice, sweet story. Plus the festival is a good venue. Of all the shows I've done in Chicago, I get more people (actors and directors) saying they saw me on stage there than anywhere else.

So the play's called Interpreting a Dream and it goes up in May. The rehearsal schedule's not too bad -- who needs more than a day off a week anyway?

Friday, April 06, 2007

So tired

I've been so tired this week. I wake up and have no idea what day it is -- not even like an "is this Tuesday or Wednesday" thing, but I don't know whether it's a weekday or weekend. I had forgotten how rehearsing 3-4 nights a week can kind of take it out of you, especially after so much time off (off from theatre, at least).

I'm supposed to make a decision about this festival. A couple of directors want me in their shows -- a third one even called the other day but hasn't returned my return of her call. I just really fear committing to something else when I have so much to do on The Castle. I even canceled a film callback yesterday. And a theatre I worked with last year called to offer a role in their next production, but I have performance conflicts.

Where were all these opportunities in February and March?

It seems like years since Monday and the photo shoot. I kind of did a funny thing. I tried to pick up the makeup girl. But she was the first hair and makeup person I've worked with who a) had hair and makeup of her own that wasn't a disaster and, b) didn't offer an unsolicited reading of my astrological forecast. She was cool. And, it turns out, married. Happily, apparently.

Thursday, April 05, 2007


At the beginning of rehearsal last night we all had a long, very useful talk. It helped us better define this bizarro world we inhabit and our roles in it.

On the face of it, the play seems to be about a man on a quest to get to The Castle, this unseen and all-powerful authority. But the villagers conspire to thwart him at every turn, burying him in bureaucratic gibberish and double-talk. {Yawn}

We sort of went round and round and I said that as an actor I wasn't interested in doing a play about the evils of bureaucracy (and as a theatregoer I wouldn't be interested in seeing that play). I want to play a person, not a symbol -- one who is grounded and has real relationships with the other characters. One who has a higher purpose than simply thwarting the protagonist. As one of the actors said, "If I'm a wheel, what's my function? To turn or to drive the car?"

So it occurred to me that, from our characters' perspective, the protagonist is the crazy one. He's seeking answers and definition and clarity in a world that has none. We are content and confident within our own spheres because we have our purpose -- which is partly to sustain the system that sustains us, that provides us comfort and a sense of belonging and ... life. And maybe we're not thwarting the protagonist -- maybe we're trying to save him. In some ways, this play is about -- or can be about -- faith. Which is much more interesting than the surfacey stuff.

So I'm feeling better about things.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Slow going

It's been tough getting into the Kafka. I'm not even going to make the obligatory observation that the process is downright kafkaesque. But usually I love going to rehearsal, love being at rehearsal -- I even enjoy studying the lines. But I'm not there yet.

An actor friend I ran into had some smart observations. I was complaining today that my character doesn't have a lot to do, objective-wise. His main purpose is to thwart the protagonist in his aims. But he doesn't do it malevolently or anything -- he's just a big ol' bureaucrat, part of the system. He runs it not with greed or vanity or a hunger for power -- it's really just a benign kind of incompetence and neglect.

Anyway, my friend said that the minute you decide your character is dumb, you have nowhere to go. He's got to believe in what he's doing, believe in himself, believe he's right. Which I know, of course. But it's helpful to be reminded. I think I can relate to loving what you do so much and believing in it so hard that you lose perspective. So that's a place to go.

But for me it's not quite as easy to slip into as, say, Mr. Paradise, a dissolute old man moved by the power of art and the love of a pretty girl.

Love is always the best way to go. I've gotta find the love.