Thursday, November 29, 2007

I pity the fools ...

... who did not come to The Callback tonight.

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

The Callback

I ended up taking that role -- we start work after the holidays and it will be my first full theatre production since The Castle closed in June.

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

Decisions

So I've been offered a role from last weekend's callbacks (not the slam dunk one, but another good one), and I've got to figure out whether I'm ready to go back to that life. Not that I've been doing nothing since The Castle closed -- three readings, three industrials, a commercial print job and The Callback. But that's a far cry from six weeks of being booked on weeknights followed by six weeks of weekend bookings.

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

Johnny Bravo

I've commented before that sometimes I think I get these gigs because I "fit the suit." My suit, actually (which would make sense). But seriously, I've worn this suit in at least a half-dozen on-camera projects. What can I say, it looks great.

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

Reel fun

Tonight I went to the world premiere of my old classmate Jonald's debut film, That Asian Thing. It's a documentary, and I'm one of the token honkies interviewed in it. I'm just glad I didn't say anything stupid in it -- check that, I'm glad that none of the stupid things I said made it in. Thanks for not pimping me, J!

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

Jesus rides beside me ...

... Never buys any smokes.

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

Best Audition Ever

Tonight I went to the callback for Saturday's audition and it was completely awesome. There were only four actors going out for the role I auditioned for (as compared with a dozen or so reading for another character -- a 20-something woman, unsurprisingly). So we were asked to stick around for the entire three hours.

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

Doors Closing/Windows Opening

So I got an e-mail from one of my agents this weekend about an unpaid extra gig for a photo shoot happening today. Not the most attractive of offers. But the e-mail had two words in it that could not be resisted. "Ghostface." And "Killah."

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

Excitement

I went to this audition today for a new play that's being produced. These can be very dicey, because you have no way of knowing whether it's going to be good. But the director has good credentials and he's putting it up at a very prestigious venue that doesn't let just anyone put on a play.

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

The Office

The Office is everywhere lately. Or maybe I'm just more conscious of it since I began watching this season.

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

Casting about

So Monday was another weird audition -- I was supposed to be an outdoorsy hunter/fisherman type guy. But, true to my pledge, I went in there cheerfully, and even bought a shirt from Eddie Bauer for the occasion.

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

Decisions

I turned down that part.

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

Landslide

This is a picture of a deer from last weekend.
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.