Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Decrepitude

So I'm playing softball Sunday morning, for the first time THIS MILLENNIUM if you can believe it. I barely can. Before that, I played softball every summer for probably 8 years. Sometimes in two leagues at once, going all the way back to the Capitol Hill league in DC, through the state government league in Ohio to the PR and advertising leagues in Chicago.

Anyway, at the end of practice, one of the guys says, "Sorry about tomorrow," and I'm like, "Huh?" And he says, "For how sore you're gonna be."

What? Really? Come on. I'm in, I would think, the best shape of my life. I work out all the time, and do all different things -- spin, biking, weights, Pilates. I shouldn't be THAT sore.

And yet, the next morning I was near paralyzed, from my insteps to the top of my neck, and everything in between. Two days later and even sneezing is torture. This is truly sad. It makes me wonder what the point of working out is, if it's not preparing me for situations like this.

Anyway, in spite of all that, I did do pretty well. I was glad to see that my hitting was very solid, if a bit inconsistent. I hit a bunch of very hard liners and some pretty good ones into the outfield as well. And my throwing arm is great. As for fielding ... well, I never quite adjusted to Chicago-style ball. I really like catching with a glove. 

So if I play they'll probably put me in right field. Like all your power hitters.

Monday, April 28, 2008

On a more positive note ...

Doing this show was a great experience. A good role that gave me a lot to do and plenty of room to play and have fun.

We also played to lots of big houses, in spite of a couple of negative reviews, which is always fun. In fact we never had to cancel a single show, which is pretty common in Chicago, especially on Sundays with good weather.

And the Factory people were great. It's a huge ensemble, but they really seem to have their act together AND are a lot of fun. Lots of theater companies are fun, without being super-competent. And some of the good ones can be a little clubbish or cliqueish -- you never quite feel like you're a part of them. And still others are like terrible, dysfunctional families, full of craziness and backbiting.

But these guys have been warm, friendly and welcoming through the whole process. And they're letting me play on their softball team, which is awesome.

AND, I'm looking right now at a handsome little check we all got for our troubles. There's a little piggy bank on the bar at the theater for audience members who care to throw in some extra dough for the cast and crew. It's not a ton of money, but it's the thought that counts -- and it counts for a lot.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Runaway train

Wow. Last night was wild. I don't know if it was the closing night energy or the shot or two of Maker's Mark (an official sponsor of Ceres -- seriously!) I took beforehand.

More likely it was because I think someone was fucking with me. For my big entrance early in the play, I come in drunk, disheveled and with a pink slip that I've fashioned into a yarmulke on my head. I always check the yarmulke pre-show, and did last night, but when I went to find it, it wasn't there. That's never happened. Luckily the stage manager had an extra pink slip, so in the few minutes I had before going on, I managed to get it all folded up into kind of a yarmulke shape and then taped and bobby-pinned onto my head.

So I think that moment of slight panic propelled me a little. But then for my next entrance, I go to pick up my props and find that my cell phone is in two pieces. Somehow the back came off. Again, I'm the one who sets the cell phone there, and the back has never once come off through 13 weeks of rehearsals and shows. I managed to piece it together okay in the little time I had, but this I thought was strange. What are the odds of two back-to-back screw-ups in one show?

I don't know if someone was trying to be funny or trying to screw with me. It's hard to imagine someone would. I mean, not having that yarmulke on would be a pretty major gaffe, not just for me but for the whole show, since we go on about it for 3 or 4 minutes.

So it was probably just a couple of weird, innocent happenstances. But that's not how I took it last night. From the yarmulke on, I attacked the show with a total reckless abandon. I was on fire, and I was everywhere. Kind of like how I ski -- charging down the hill a little faster than is comfortable, just a degree away from being out of control. It felt awesome. I should have done the whole run like that. So thank you, mystery saboteur!

No show tonight. Yay!!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Get-r-done

(As Bo would -- and does -- say in Ceres.)

I'm ready for the show to end. I felt not great about last weekend's performances and so last night I really worked and went balls out and think I had a really good show. We all did.

In fact, there was a lot of energy pre-show last night and I predicted that of the last two shows, Friday's would be stronger. We'll see what happens tonight. Maybe we'll top out and exceed Friday. Maybe even exceed our best.

Either way, like I said it's been a great experience and I've really loved it, but I'm tired. Not tired of it, just tired -- after 17 shows and 37 rehearsals over three solid months. 

And I'm looking forward to having my weekends back. As long as I don't get fat. Somewhere in the past month I dropped 7 or 8 lbs. Not sure if that was the residual activity from the show, or the stepped-up workouts or some trimming of the meals and beers and such. Probably all of the above. But a 31-inch waist is a nice place to start the summer.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Trepidation

It seems at the beginning of almost every big new work project I get this sinking feeling that I can't do it.

It's odd. I've been doing this since forever almost. I'm not lacking in confidence or anything. (Far from it!) I think it's just that every project is so different. And often requires a whole new subject area to learn. (Today it's Institute of Medicine patient care standards for hospitals, yesterday it was the retrieval and use of electronic information in the litigation discovery process.) So it seems overwhelming.

In the end, though, it always seems to work out. I get it done, the client's happy (often deliriously so) ... all's well that ends well.

But still, even knowing all that, the beginning part, as I sit here trying to digest a 2-inch-thick stack of powerpoints, spreadsheets and journal articles, that feeling just sorta gnaws at me.

Like gophers. Little soul-chewing gophers.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Still holding

Okay, my agent called and now they're looking at the 12th. Sure glad I worked vacation plans around this week.

I'll believe it when I see it. I'm guessing there's a 30% chance it will get pushed back to June. And at least a 50% chance it will be canceled altogether. On the bright side, if they wait long enough, my black suit will likely turn gray. 

I know it's a ridiculous cliche, but one thing (among many) the PR firm taught me was a "bias for action." Part of it was, the more we work, and the faster we get things done, the more time we have to do (and thus bill) other work. And billing by the hour really makes you appreciate, in stark terms, another old saw, "time is money."

For instance, you would look at a certain project -- a brochure, a speech, a press release, whatever -- and figure out a) how much time it will take and b) what it's worth. You know a client's not going to pay, say, more than a thousand bucks for a press release, so you work to keep your hours in line so they don't exceed that figure. 

The corporate world, on the other hand, will stew over something for-freaking-ever. I once did 19 drafts of a speech for this client. At one point, the CEO looked over at us (the corporate people and me) and joked, "Good thing you're not being paid by the hour!" The joke was on him -- I was being paid by the hour. And that speech ended up costing them something like $2 a word.

Anyway, it's not all about money, of course. But without some kind of objective measure, there's no way to determine how much time and energy, hemming, hawing, revising and rethinking should be put into a project or a meeting or anything else. So it can just go on forever.

One out of five

So I ended up booking the thing I was on hold for -- so that's one out of five from last week's auditions. And not entirely surprising that I'd get "hip, upper-class business man" over, say, "Father Knows Best" type or "Midwest cabdriver."

The cab driver one actually would have been fun. It would have been a shoot with a certain former boy band member who had his own reality show. That would have been interesting and a nice story to tell. Right up there with the time where I almost did a photo shoot with Ghostface Killah.

I am still supposedly on hold for the industrial that shoots, oh, THIS WEEK. Not much of this week left, so I assume it's not happening. I checked in with my agent and she's got nothing new. Bizarro world.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Ex x-worder?

For a few years there, I was doing the crossword every day. (In ink, of course. Okay, okay, it was the TRIB, not the NYT, but still, it was something.) I was actually doing 8 a week, including the one in the weekly Reader.

But things have been busy. I gave up the Reader a while back. And lately I've skipped some dailies. I still haven't missed a Sunday in several years. 

I guess it became at some point more like an obligation than a pleasure. I'd love to say I'm using my time now more wisely -- working on the book or the screenplay or the plays. But actually I'm mostly pissing away the extra time on the Internet, browsing blogs of people I don't know and sites that are updated far less than I check them.

With the show coming to a close, that will be my next thing. Getting more productive.

Monday, April 21, 2008

I lied

As it turns out I DO own a couple of gray suits. I just didn't think about them because they're ANCIENT.

I mean, I think they go back to the mid-'90s. They fit, but they're pretty out-of-style.

I only keep them because you never know when you might need some retro outfit for a role. In fact, I used an old suit last year in an industrial where my character was from the early '90s.

So we sent them this documentation. But I STILL don't know whether I have the gig. 

This is crazy. When I was over at the casting agency last week, they joked about the suit situation and again said these guys "love" me. But I find it hard to believe it's actually going to happen -- I'm on hold for this week, for chrissakes.

Whatever.

I did hear already about one of last week's five auditions. They're checking my availability for -- I guessed it -- the least lucrative of the five.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Ceres Industry Night

Tomorrow night, Monday the 21st, we're doing a special show for industry people. Five bones gets you in the door. Check it out. 8 pm curtain.

Last night was a hoot. Which I guess is one way to put it. It seems some people who the characters in the play are based on were in the audience and, I guess, it was really funny/weird/shocking/cathartic or something for them to see these events played out on the stage. Because they were quite ... animated in their reaction. It was kind of odd. And pretty disruptive. 

They get a pass, I suppose, since the story would not have been possible without them. And at least they were laughing and talking instead of, say, booing and throwing things. 

I personally have had a couple of lame shows. I just haven't been getting to where I need to be emotionally. And in my head I hear every director and acting teacher I've had yelling, "Stop faking it! Be real!! I don't believe you!!!"

It's so hard. I'm always battling against the feeling that something I do is contrived, and thus false, instead of in the moment, and thus truthful and natural. On the other hand, we're working with scripted lines and choreographed blocking so, you know, how do you deny it's contrived?

I don't know. With the nice weather we've been hanging out in the alley back stage before show time and, while fun, I think it's distracting me. I think I'm really one of those people who needs to settle in and focus before going on. 

4 to go ...

Friday, April 18, 2008

Hard day's night

I admit that sometimes I create post titles that are likely to attract google hits. Just because.

Anyway, today was:
  • 10:20 am: Commercial audition, West Loop.
  • 11:00 am: Commercial audition, same location, thankfully.
  • noon: Spin class in Lakeview.
  • 2:30 pm: Industrial audition in Evanston.
  • 7:00 pm: call time for Ceres.
All the auditions went fairly well. The cab driver one was hilarious-- five giant "regular" guys and me. The Dad one was fun -- though I wouldn't pick me to play a dad.

The one in Evanston was odd. They had me do 6-7 pages of the 10-page script which, obviously, I didn't memorize, though I'd read it enough that my head wasn't buried in it. But this was the least lucrative of all five auditions this week -- just really basic money. Yet there were a half-dozen people in the room! And I got almost no feedback. So maybe they already had their heart set on someone else (I was last). Or maybe the loved me. Who knows?

Something better come from this week. The weird thing is, the shoot and travel dates for almost all of them overlap somewhat with a mini-vacation I've got planned. So that right there ratchets up the possibility I'll get a booking!

And I can't believe I spent almost my entire 2.5 hours of free time online. 

Thursday, April 17, 2008

5x48

I have 5 commercial auditions in the space of just 48 hours. Okay, 51 hours, but close enough. It's ridiculous. 

So I'm playing:
  • "Hip, upper middle class business man. Not model gorgeous. Good hands."
  • "Wise, compassionate doctor. Think 'Father Knows Best.' "
  • "Cab driver, old enough to have that cabbie wisdom. Has that Midwest feel."
  • "Dad, obvious innate 'Dad' tendencies, likes to be acknowledged when he does something 'cool,' but deep down he errs more on the side of sweet and awkward."
  • "Married man, white, American, with two teenaged children."
Hip I can do in my sleep. Wise is no problem. White is super-easy. And I'm  SO not model gorgeous, so I've got that nailed.

Cab driver, though? With a Midwest feel? I don't see it. But I'm going to just show up and do my thing anyway. I am NOT wearing one of those ol-timey caps, though ...

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Just kill me already

I've been on hold forever for this industrial job. The one where they made me audition THREE TIMES. The one where they pushed back the shooting schedule at least three or four times.

Right now I'm supposed to shoot sometime next week. But I don't know, because recently I ran into one of the women I auditioned with and apparently they've asked her to put different dates on hold, which is weird.

The latest snafu is wardrobe. My agent called the other day and said they needed to know if I had 1) a white dress shirt (check), 2) black dress shoes (check), 3) blue and red ties (check) and, 4) a navy suit (nope!). Today the agent called and asked if I had a gray suit. Again, no. I have only the same two black suits I auditioned in.

It would be a real shame after all this if I don't get the gig. Especially if it's because I don't have the right suit. I mean, they haven't confirmed me, so I guess it's possible they have someone else on hold who may or may not have a non-black suit. 

This is really odd and unprecedented. Black shoes indeed ...

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Hi-yo, Silver!

It's ironic that when I got my new bike last year it took forever for me to let it out of my sight, even locked up. I finally got to where I could do it, but I never felt great about it. I managed to make it through the whole season, only to have it stolen out of my apartment.

Ah, well.

The replacement bike is the same model as the old one, though this year's version is silver instead of the flat gray that, to tell the truth, reminded me a bit too much of my college car -- a '78 Corolla whose modest, unassuming paint job was often mistaken by friends for primer.

I've only been able to take it out twice so far, but I'm really looking forward to spring and summer. For now, though, it's safely u-locked and chained to the radiator.

Monday, April 14, 2008

As not seen on TV

Someone from the show told me this weekend that she saw me in a TV commercial. I was sort of mortified because it was the result of this sort of dodgy photo shoot I went on a couple of months back. It's a little local spot appearing, apparently, on WGN.

This morning I googled the company -- it's a lasik clinic here in Chicago -- and they are very clearly an established enterprise with lots of recognition for their doctors and expertise. So that's a good thing. But then I'm wondering why they felt the need to do their ad on the cheap? Anyway, I'll wait and see what the spot looks like if I can catch it.

Right after this I turned on the TV and there was a girl I know appearing in a national cable spot for Allstate. Crap!

I mean ... good for her!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Marketing

Lots of people on the books for tonight and even tomorrow. 

They're really good about sharing box office information with us, encouraging us to bring people out and help announce discounts and stuff. I like to have that kind of information.

When I produced my own shows, I'd work hard on the marketing, but I also wanted to get the casts involved -- or encourage them to be involved to the extent they were able and willing.

There are some people who take the attitude, "I'm an artist -- marketing's not my job." In fact, there was a guy in one of my shows who I could tell was put off by any marketing talk. My feeling is, fuck it. When you're doing blackbox/fringe/storefront theater, sometimes people have to pitch in to fight for the fragmented theatergoing audience. If you find marketing distasteful, then become a better actor. That way you can play at the Goodman or Steppenwolf, or one of the maybe dozen or so theaters around town that have a reliable following.

Until then, either pitch in or shut up.

Friday, April 11, 2008

The drinking show

It's great to be able to drink on stage. Not drink-drink, though I'd like to give that a shot (ha!) near the end of the run. But our Heineken bottles are filled with water and I down several of them on stage.

Me and liquids. It's a sick, sick story. That's always a big concern during a show when you're onstage the whole time -- where your next drink's coming from.

At the end it's a mad dash as we all run for the bathroom. Which is the other big concern about being onstage the whole time ...

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Workouts


All my life I've heard of people who feel GREAT after exercising. Runner's high, gym high, whatever it is.

For me, it's like the feeling you get after going to church. (Back when I went to church.) You feel better about yourself for going, maybe relieved your obligation's done until next time but you don't necessarily feel better.

Maybe I'm just used to it. I've been working out since forever. Five to six times a week for almost a decade. Several times a week for years before that.

Lately I've been kicking it up a notch. I started spin classes early last year, and with finally using a heart rate monitor lately, I feel like the cardio's going really well. I still do the weights. And now I'm adding in Pilates. The goal is to do two of each every week.

But I'm feeling wiped out. I did feel a little stronger/healthier after the first Pilates class, but the last couple have left me with near-crippling monkey fists in my back. It's ridiculous how non-flexible I am, especially in the hips. I'm keeping up pretty well form-wise. Like, I can do that thing up there. Mostly. Straightening the legs all the way out is tough.

I assume it'll get easier once I get used to it. Seriously, though, between the monkey fists and the fatigue I feel like I've been run over by a truck carrying safes full of anvils.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Gimme Shelter

That campaign for DePaul continues to run, with different people featured in the print ads. I've still had only the two I know of in the Trib.

More recently, I've noticed the campaign up in full color on CTA bus stop shelters. There was one right around the corner from me, but it used the photo of some Asian dude. So I've got my eyes pealed, inspecting every bus shelter I see, hoping to see a big ol' life size portrait of me.

When I find it, I'm going to put on the very thing I wore for the shoot, shave like I did that day, and go stand there, in the shelter, all day long, in the same pose. And see what happens.

Now that's entertainment!

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Every day is not like Sunday

First off, something that's always bugged me about that Morrissey song is the misspelling in the title. "Everyday" (one word) refers to a common, regular occurrence. What he means is "Every day" (two words), as in "all days."

Sometimes it kills me that possessing rare knowledge like this has so little value in (ahem) everyday life.

Anyway, as I blogged before, we had a very small house Sunday, but we did the show anyway. Mainly because there's this guy, apparently, who lives up in Milwaukee, but has come down to Chicago for every single Factory show for the past 5 years. And he always comes on Sundays.

So we couldn't disappoint him. I think that's cool. By no means an everyday thing in Chicago theatre.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Oh, we're halfway there ...

Three weekends down, three to go.

It was a good weekend. In spite of the Trib and Reader slams, we got good crowds on Friday and Saturday (Sunday, not so much), and turned out three good shows. And it was fun. Plus we got a nice little review from our last, sixth reviewer -- an Internet reviewer, but that's fine.

So 4 out of 6 positive reviews. That counts for something. As Hillary says, it's the popular vote that counts, right? On the other hand, she also says the "big states" count for more than the little ones ...

Tonight I guess I was kind of an asshole. We do this little "love" circle before each show, which is cool, where we hold hands and sort of get our heads together, do updates and try to connect and focus and get positive and stuff. Anyway, someone asked for a moment of silence for ol' Chuck Heston and me, assuming it was in jest, basically said it's too bad he destroyed his reputation in the last 10 years of his life with his reprehensible politics. So yeah, I guess I ruined the moment.

I suppose I should feel some affinity there, with the Alzheimer's and my Dad and all, but still ...

Anyway, this is how I basically alienate people and inadvertently (or perhaps, vertently) create these ... gulfs around me. Ibiza, and all that, I suppose ...

Friday, April 04, 2008

Ouch again

Okay, so the Trib wasn't great either. Like the Reader, they were confused by the plot, so it left them with a lot of questions -- "Why is that guy yelling?" "Why are those two fighting?" "What's that mean?" etc.

On the bright side, it was a very small review, tucked into a roundup, buried in the At Play section. So ... we'll just bask in the glow of TimeOut's 4-star review and just put our heads down and do our job like we're supposed to. The audiences have been enjoying it, as have we -- that I know.

In other ouch news, Pilates REALLY hurts!

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Ouch

Okay, so the Reader review came out. Let me see if I can selectively edit it to turn this sow's ear into a silk purse: "This Factory Theater production ... is ... a bright ... unremitting ... story ... [full of] ... tension and levity." Ta-da!

Oh well. We've said all along that this is not the kind of play you'll want to see if you're keen on figuring out every detail of the story. The plot and situations are complex and, in some ways I guess, not fully intended to be completely comprehended. 

It's funny that the reviewer found the corporate speak "unconvincing," especially since it's lifted almost directly from real-life incidents. I guess the truth is more confusing than fiction.

Speaking of the truth, it's very odd that none of the reviewers thus far have noted (or seemed to notice) that the play is based on real events. We thought it was pretty clear, not only from the press materials but from characters like "Attorney General Stewart Spritzer," an ambitious and ruthless New York politician gunning for the governor's office. Particularly in light of recent events involving an actual state Governor and former Attorney General whose last name is just one letter off from the main character's.

I think that goes to show the perils of overestimating what people will pick up on. Or maybe it's a sad commentary on the public's lack of political awareness.

Either way, the show's clearly not for everybody. And if someone doesn't like the script, they're going to have a hard time getting past that to anything else. Like this guy did. Or didn't.

Anyway, yes, I recognize I am totally rationalizing this review away. A job that will be made much easier if the Trib has something decent to say about us. Come on, Trib.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

I'm getting married!

All my friends are in shock. Parents, too. Really, though, it's true. I never thought this day would come. Late as it is, though, it feels right. 

Funny how life is some times. Only a year ago it seemed I'd be alone forever. Old and miserable. Lucky me, though -- I've finally found the one!