Monday, October 29, 2007

No-how man

I'm getting tired of saying no, but I find myself doing it more and more.

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

Theatre spam 2

I mean, really. Some of these theatres I don't have the slightest connection to. I've never submitted, I've never heard of them and I don't recognize anyone in their ensemble. I've unsubscribed from at least a half-dozen different lists in the past week.

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

Fall is (t)here

You can't always wait for fall to come to you. Sometimes you have to go to it. 'Cause you never know. Storms, wind, rain -- anything can happen to ruin it.

So to get to the foliage, this weekend's roadtrip was a little ... overly aggressive perhaps. Another t
hree-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.

Galena, Illinois

Callback

I had a theatre audition Saturday and got a callback, which is eventful mainly because I've been auditioning so infrequently lately.

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

Turnabout

As I prepared for the auditions yesterday morning it occurred to me that things would likely go exactly opposite to my expectations. Which they did.

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

Farmer Ted

Tomorrow I have two commercial auditions. For the first one, I'm playing a film director. Okay, I'll buy that -- artsy, pretentious, possibly dressed in jodhpurs with matching riding crop and beret. I've even played a director a couple of times on stage. I've got nooooo problem with that.

The second audition? Farmer.

Yeah, that's right.

Okay, yes, I recognize that today's farmers agricultural engineers are a far cry from the stereotype of yesteryear. And the character breakdown reflects that somewhat. But still.

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

Hear, hear!

Something's brewing

Something's come in on the wind. An odd unsettledness. A vague in-betweenness.

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

Theatre spam

I know that theatres have to market themselves aggressively. It's a tough, competitive business. Hell, I'm a marketer myself, so I respect good marketing, and I even have a higher-than-normal tolerance for mediocre marketing directed at me.

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

A Day at the Races

I really love watching the marathon, especially since it's just a matter of rolling out of bed and walking a hundred steps to see it. It's festive and inspiring ... though those of us up here at Mile 8 had little idea what was going on down the road, with the heat and the water shortages and the illness and the death.

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

Slowdown


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

Endless Summer

Lake Geneva, Wisconsin

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 res
pond!)

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 yea
rs ago: "Today -- right now -- is the best I'm ever going to be. And tomorrow ..."

Live. Live big, love hard.