Thursday, July 31, 2008

When interns call


Feeling very irritable, even though I just booked my sixth commercial audition this week. I really don't feel like going on three auditions tomorrow. And all of them have lines I need to learn. And I'm tired. And cranky.

And I'm tired of going up and down Halsted in that bus 2, 3, 4 times a day. And tired of interns who give you five minutes of details before they tell you WHEN the audition is. And then have to be told that you're already auditioning at that same time, for something they themselves booked you on. And casting agencies that book you on two auditions three or five hours apart.

I did get put on hold for a job next week. We'll see if that pans out. Last few holds haven't always resulted in anything.

AND I took that part I was offered with a show this fall. I think it will be fun, but if I had to start it right now or even at all this summer I think I'd shoot myself.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Pennies from Heaven

So one of my agents calls today to tell me that the people behind a print looksee I went on back in February want to use the photos they took of me at the audition. And pay me for them! He said, "Good news, huh?" And I said, "Yes! Exactly how good is the news?" Enough to pay this month's rent, which is pretty good indeed, especially considering I didn't have to do anything else but sign a voucher.

Busy audition week -- five commercial auditions scheduled (so far) including a callback. I've been in a "one-or-two-a-week" rut for a couple of months now, so maybe this is a sign of things to come. Or maybe it's just a blip.

And now another scheduled for Monday. Maybe it's not a blip after all ...

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Auditioning

I had my first theater audition in a long, long while this past weekend. I think it actually might have been my first one this year, which is bizarre, considering I used to go to a handful every month.

When I used to audition, I much preferred doing monologues to cold reads. But now it's totally the other way around. I am sick of all my monologues -- and I have about 10 of them. And I think I've lost the ability to surprise myself with them, thus they don't surprise or inspire the auditors. Maybe they never did.

I paid this one well-respected director to coach me on my Shakespeare monologue and it was very helpful. But at the end of the process he very frankly said, "I wouldn't cast you based on that monologue." I definitely made progress, but I couldn't get it to where it needed to be. And it's probably the same with all my monologues. I've been cast based on them, but none of the big-time theaters have been blown away by them.

So that's been partly behind the pullback from auditions. (The other part being a general pullback from theater itself.)

Another director I know says he hates using monologues to audition actors. He feels that just about anyone with lots of practice can do a good monologue. What he wants to see is the creativity and resourcefulness an actor brings to a cold read.

And I've become much, much better at those. It used to be I would get the script, and even with my 12 guideposts and other tools I couldn't really crack the code. I'd see it and think, what does this 3-page scene even mean? It doesn't seem like a significant moment at all. My character has absolutely nothing to do.

But at some point in the past year or two I had a sort of breakthrough. Somehow, auditioning less made me better at it? Or maybe the increased number of commercial auditions, where you REALLY have to work to find substance and meaning in a script, were the key. So now I love nothing more than finding those heretofore hidden places in a script where I can do something weird or crazy or fun or surprising.

And it seems to be working. Of my last three auditions I've been offered roles all three times (albeit an understudy role for one of the them). Including this past weekend -- so I have a decision to make there.

Monday, July 28, 2008

When Allergies Attack

This is how it feels.


Like hundreds of little pins sticking the skin on my face.

Sundays seem to be especially bad lately. Don't know if it's the cumulative effect of being outside for extended periods or the alcohol intake. (It's been suggested by my doctor that alcohol can aggravate my condition. Which sounds like total quackery to me. Who ever heard of alcohol being bad for you?)

One thing that is good for it is sunlight. A true Morton's Fork (which I just now learned is the actual term for what I thought was known as a Hobson's Choice) if there ever was one.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Ren Faire!

OMG, I went to see this show at the Factory the other night and it blew me away with the funny.

I went in thinking, okay, Renaissance fairs (and the people who enjoy them) are obviously a ripe target for satire, but this sounds like a good premise for, at most, an extended comic sketch. But they made a whole damned play out of it and it was honestly one of the funniest things I've seen on stage in the past five years.

It reminded me of Anchorman, which for me is sort of the sweet spot on the Louisville Slugger of comedy. Or, as they put it in Spinal Tap, there's a fine line between clever and stupid.

And the performances were brilliant. Really, really sharp. Ren Faire: A Fistful of Ducats. One more weekend!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Stompy got a girlfriend!

When I moved from high-rise living to *cough* vintage, I was shocked and surprised at how poorly insulated the floors and ceilings are. I will never again live in a place where I'm not either a) on the top floor or, b) protected by a foot of concrete above my head.

Anyway, I'm home most of the day, except for meetings and auditions, so, yeah, almost all the time. Wouldn't you know it that the guy who moves in above me just happens to also be home all day? He's a grad student. And he's LOUD. Stomps about very, very heavily. When he gets out of a chair it sounds like he's jumping from the top of a bunk bed. Things get dropped all the time, seemingly from great, great heights

And I have also, through analysis, guesswork and, yes, one serendipitous and unintended bit of spying from across the street, determined that the frequent occasions where he walks back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, constantly, for up to an hour? He's on the phone. (One theory a long while back was that he was running some kind of factory assembly line out of his home. I know, bad guess.)

In any case, he recently got himself a girlfriend. And it's been like heaven around here, as he seems to spend a few days and nights away. It has done wonders for my peace of mind. I actually feel at home in my home.

I am happy for him. But mostly I'm happy for me.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Workin' the network

Oh yeeaaaahh ...

So I got a call the other day from a highly admired director in town.

He was looking for the number of another actor I know.

PSYCHE!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Still feels like cheating

So I'm at Agent A this afternoon picking up a check and one of them says, "So you've been keeping pretty busy lately." Um ... not really. And not so much from auditions or bookings through you guys? Was that a crack at the work I'm getting from other agents? Eek.

Then on the way back I get a voice mail from Agent B for a commercial audition tomorrow. (Was that what Agent A was talking about? Getting beaten out on that?)

Then I get home and have an e-mail from Agent C, calling me for the same audition as Agent B.

Agent C's e-mail was marked 4 minutes earlier than Agency B's voicemail, but I picked up the voicemail before the e-mail. So, ethically, I go with Agent B, right?

So then I had to call Agent C and (once again) tell them I couldn't do the audition because I've already been called by someone else. They hate me. 

Everyone hates me. Sometimes I hate me. This juggling is very stressful. But not as hard as breaking up with B and C. Or A and C.

At least I know this: they don't spend a bare fraction of the time thinking about this that I do.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Ambiguously gay?


I can do that!

So they found an alternative slot for me -- heh, alternative -- for the phone company audition. No word on why they need to see me a FOURTH time, but wardrobe is suit and tie, with "some flair, but not too flamboyant." So I guess I'll wear my other black suit that's a tad more hip than the one I wore as "legal worker." As for flair, I'm not sure where to find that, but maybe a pocket square is in order?

And yes, they did say the character is "ambiguously gay." Which I get mistaken for fairly regularly -- especially living so close to Boys Town. Like I said last time, at least they're getting warmer.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Fireworks

Every time I visit Navy Pier (about once a year or so), I tell myself it's the last time. And then I find myself there again, somehow surprised that it's still as annoying as it is.

But a Wednesday night's so bad. And you can see fireworks and walk around with a beer, New Orleans style.

Best of all, with a bike you can make a quick escape.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Are you kidding me?

So I've mentioned multiple times this phone company that has had me audition THREE different times over the past couple of months, doing three different characters, from blue collar to white collar.

Today my agent called and said they want to see me again Tuesday. I don't really understand. These aren't callbacks, these are whole new ads. And it's not like I've got different lines every time -- there are NO lines. It's a print ad!

So how many times and in how many outfits do they need to see me standing their holding a phone in order to cast this thing? It's getting kind of ridiculous. ("Sure, we know he can do guy in green t-shirt and guy in gray t-shirt, but I'd like to see him do something in a light blue.")

I probably screwed the pooch because I said I had a conflict, which I do. It's not something that would be impossible to work around but, at this point, I don't want to have to work around it. So they're going to see what they can do about another time, but who knows ...

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Oops

So one of my agents calls yesterday and says that the birthdate in my Actor's Access profile is wrong. And I said, really? What does it say?

{Hmmm, from here, let's just make up numbers.}

Agent: "1970. And our records have 1973."
Me: "Yeah, that's correct."
Agent: "So could you go in and change it?"
Me: "No, I mean it's the correct one -- it doesn't need changing."
Agent: "Which one?"
Me: "The Actor's Access one."
Agent: "The Actor's Access is the correct one?"
Me: "Yes, that's what I'm saying."
Agent: "So you weren't born in 1973?"
Me: "No. No, I wasn't. {Pause} I have no idea how THAT got in there! WEIRD!"
Agent: "Okaaaay, so we'll change ours then."
Me: {Chirpy} Okay!
Agent: "To 1970."
Me: "Right."

Oy. I've long been hung up on my age. For the longest time I was 33. But I would always tell people I wasn't really 33, but then when they'd ask how old I was really, I wouldn't tell them. Used to drive people crazy. I considered it a charming affectation.

And when I signed on with my agents originally, everyone said you never put your real age in anyway. It got kind of confusing because I told different people different things. Then earlier this year this agent asked everyone on the roster to make sure all their Actor's Access info was correct and up-to-date and made a big thing about not lying about your age or your dimensions. So I went and filled it all in correctly, forgetting they even had my old age on their records.

In a way, I think it's dumb, because I've never liked being pigeon-holed to a certain age. I think my "range" runs several years younger than I really am. So I don't know how the database works, but I'd hate to be excluded from castings because my biological age is 2 or 3 years older than the range they're looking for. On the other hand, you could find yourself excluded in the other direction, too, missing out on jobs for older people. Anyway, I assume they use some kind of range. I hope they do.

In the meantime, the agency called today with an audition, so I guess they're not mad. Still, I imagine they found the info a little surprising.

Like I said, "oops!"

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Cleaning House

Periodically, the three file drawers I allow myself (any more would encourage hoarding) reach the point where George Costanza's wallet got to when he tried to fit one more little sliver of paper into it ("Guitar Lessons: First Lesson Free!") and the whole thing exploded into the street.

So today I went through the Finance & Admin drawer and tossed some 18-month-old cable bills and expired insurance policies. Not much there, though -- that drawer's pretty clean. So then I attacked the Client drawer and made some pretty good headway, getting rid of old handwritten notes long since typed up, and duplicate hard copies of documents long since saved on the computer and whole files of stuff from clients in bankruptcy or under indictment (I do good work!).

Finally I got to the drawer that has for several years been sacrosanct. The Acting drawer. Along with headshots, resumes, check stubs, agent stuff, etc, I have a file for just about every show I've done. And in just about every one of those files is the original script. Ouch. How can I throw away a script? With all my precious markings and director's notes (one favorite: "less gay!")?

But then I thought, hey, I need the space. So out they went. With extreme prejudice. Oh, I kept a few. A nice little Tennessee Williams, for instance. But out went the Arthur Miller and the Kafka and the Joyce Carol Oates. Those can be found in the library if ever needed. And I kept a couple of nice ones by some local unknowns -- maybe they'll be famous someday. Many of them were not at all difficult to part with.

And I kept all the mementos -- programs, reviews, photos, and the nice little notes you sometimes get on opening night from directors or writers or other cast members. I almost tossed the one below because it doesn't fit easily in the file. It's from a stage manager, which is rare. But it has a nice sentiment. And a genuine rock! Maybe I'll keep it on my desk a while. Thanks, Allie!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Shows I should see

Say that three times fast.

I've been very bad about seeing shows lately. Shows I should see, shows I want to see, and the precious few that fall into both categories.

I think it was 2003 or 2004 when I actually went to 54 shows in one year. Yes, yes, I counted. That was too many. And I did that for a couple of years.

I worked with a director once who said he'd go see theater 7 nights a week if he could. I guess maybe I don't quite love theater that much. Maybe I don't love it enough. And the less I do it, the less I feel motivated to see it.

If they had more theater outside I might go more. Maybe that's the ticket.

Monday, July 14, 2008

It's a bike! It's a puppet show!


It's both! It's Puppet Bike!

These people are hilarious. I came across them the other night up in Andersonville (and took this sadly awful camera phone shot) and thought, "What an odd time and place to seek a crowd." Then they were at a big festival yesterday, so I guess that's the advantage of creating mobile performance art -- you go to where the audience is. (I would have snapped a better, daylight photo, but it was surrounded by humans, especially the little kind, and I've always been loathe to have them mess up my photos.)

So yeah, it's a puppet booth attached to a bike. I'm not really much for puppet shows -- I suppose I've never really thought about it much. But this one is cool. You don't even have to follow the plot, as the booth has all these lights and doodads and googaws and things to keep you mesmerized.

Maybe the best part is the little slot down below where you can feed dollar bills. In the perfect blend of art and commerce, they have different characters pop into the little window there to grab at the money. So if you're, say, a cat person instead of a monkey person, you have to keep feeding it to see the cat.

So now do I write off the $50 I spent as a gambling loss or a theater expense?

Friday, July 11, 2008

Memories of fishing


Cheesman Canyon, Colorado
September 2001

The first fish I remember catching was a monster. Not that it was especially huge -- it was simply a freak of nature, at least to me.

It was on a family vacation in Texas and I was 5 or 6 years old, using a pole (definitely not a rod and reel -- not at that age), a bobber and live bait (shrimp) off the end of a pier in the Gulf of Mexico. It was near the end of the day and we were down to our last piece of shrimp, which my Dad broke in half for me to use.

Most of the fish had gotten away that day -- the art of setting the hook not yet mastered. But when the bamboo pole doubled over, I knew this one meant business. And when I pulled it up to the pier I was shocked by what I saw. Mutant! A fish the size of a medium pizza pan, flat on one side and with both eyes on the other side!

I was told it was not a mutant after all. It was a flounder. We were ready to throw it back, but another fisherman was all too happy to take it off our hands. I think that was the first time I can recall doing something of real value to an adult -- this guy's family was going to eat the fish I caught!

There really aren't many things as consistently exciting as hooking a fish. No matter the size, it's always a thrill, that tug on the line. And the suspense! It's not really caught until it's in your hands. You have to land it.

My father took me fishing a ton when I was a kid in Virginia, in Lake Occoquan, just south of DC, where we'd hover in our little metal rented boat over submerged tree stumps, deep where the crappie liked to hide, or troll the shoreline for bass. And in Lake Anna, which was made to feed the twin cooling towers of a nuclear plant that peeked menacingly from behind the trees on certain parts of the lake. Talk about mutant fish.

Dad taught me to fly fish there. The bluegill, at a certain time of the year (I'm guessing spring) would lay their eggs in crater-shaped depressions they'd create in the lake bottom by fanning their tails. You could see dozens, scores, hundreds of them side by side in the shallow water in a giant honeycomb pattern. And over every crater was a single bluegill, acting as sentry, guarding the eggs until they hatched. Ever-vigilant, they'd bite instantly at anything that came near.

One day from the dock of our campsite, we pulled more than 30 bluegill out of the water in under an hour. (Of course I counted.) I feel kind of bad now -- I hope they had some kind of system of reinforcements so the beds weren't left unprotected. Anyway, on a fly rod, even a six-ounce bluegill can give you a lot of action.

I fished all day and even into the night, shining a flashlight on the bobber sitting offshore. Dad was none too pleased one morning to find the line I'd left out had hooked a cat fish, which proceeded to wrap yards and yards of line around our boat's motor.

I learned to clean fish. More remarkably, I even learned to eat fish, which, when caught the same day, taste and smell absolutely nothing like Mrs. Paul's and the terrible orange-crusted concoction they served up in the school cafeteria.

Speaking of cruelty, my brother and I sometimes fished in the then-fetid Accotink creek that ran behind our house. There we'd catch catfish, which are problematic, as they don't just bite the hook, they swallow it, sending it deep into their gullet. So while they're fairly easy to land, getting them off the hook requires a pair of needle-nose pliers (if you have them handy) and a bit of surgical skill. Sadly, we would -- and let's remember, we were kids -- use our rods to whip the fish into the sides of tree trunks to dislodge them (and most of their insides) from the hook. Barbaric, yes.

The last time I went fishing was in Colorado. I'd long dreamed of standing in a fresh mountain stream in hip waders, River Runs Through It-style, and I finally got to, with my Dad. I had a couple of "fish on," but didn't land anything, which was fine -- that's often not the point of fishing (especially when you have beer). Dad got one, which I was happy about.

I heard the next year that the canyon, one of the most beautiful places I've spent time in, burned completely in a wildfire. Shades of Hemingway's Big Two-Hearted River.

That was the last time I fished. I've had one of my Dad's old rods propped in the corner of the closet for years now, but have never used it. Other than in a play I wrote, If Fish Could Scream -- a "what if" question I actually did pose to my Dad on one of our trips (answer: there wouldn't be many fishermen.)

Someday I'll fish again. Not with my Dad, sadly. Maybe with my brother. As Hemingway said in another story, "Long time ago good. Now, no good."

Cheeseman Canyon
Before the fire

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Magic pants

As I understand it, the general rule of thumb when going through your closets is to toss out/give away anything you haven't worn in a couple of years.

But it's amazing how stuff you'd never think to wear on the street again comes in handy. Like these pants. I bought them sometime in 2000 or so, wore them faithfully for a couple of years, then stopped.

And now I've worn them twice in the past couple of months -- in an industrial for Hyatt and in photo shoot for a cheese maker. I've got lots of stuff like this. Old suits and jackets and shirts and pants that only see the light of day on stage or in front of a camera.

What is it about these venues that make out-of-style, ill- fitting clothes suddenly acceptable? The camera's forgiving eye? Distance? Low/poor standards of the wardrobe stylists?

In this case it was the depth of field, as we played bit background players to the real star. The cheese.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Third time's a charm?

So this major telecom company is auditioning me today for a third time.

The first time they were casting for a blue collar warehouse worker/truck driver type. {Cold}

The second time I was supposed to be a professional landscaper. {Warmer -- one might imagine such a person looking a little bit artsy, I suppose.}

Today? Lawyer. Or, less precisely and according to the breakdown, "legal worker." But since they also say professional and polished and accomplished, I'm going to go with lawyer, as opposed to, say, paralegal or legal secretary. {Very warm. Red hot!}

I don't know if I just keep coming up because I fit the general age/race specs or if they are specifically asking to see me over and over. If so, I hope this represents an evolution in their thinking about me and my look. But we'll see what happens. In a couple of weeks they'll probably call me in for House Painter/Ditch Digger.

Monday, July 07, 2008

6

If a holiday weekend's enjoyment can be measured by the number of meals eaten outdoors, then 6 is the magic number. Throw in two fireworks shows, a couple of bike rides, some sun, water, music, beer and cheese -- well then, what more could one ask for?

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Holidays in the sun

Back when I was doing 10 or 12 or 14 shows in a year, I used to scoff at time off. If you weren't rehearsing, performing or at least auditioning EVERY day you were wasting your time.

Now I'm loving the time off. I remember this one July 3rd coming out of the show I was in and seeing the fireworks happening way, way, way down the lakeshore. It seemed odd at the time to be missing it. Then later it became kind of a point of pride to be so busy. Labor Day, Memorial Day, Valentine's Day, Halloween, St. Pat's, birthday, Superbowl, etc. -- I've worked on them all.

The pendulum has definitely swung the other way. I can understand a show having to run over a holiday weekend. That happens a lot. Rehearsals? Unless it's very close to opening or a very tight schedule, I'm not sure I see the need. Actors should have holidays like normal people. 

Then there's auditions. In some of the latest postings there's a group or two holding auditions this weekend. Maybe it's totally unavoidable, but that's not usually the case. Why hold your auditions on a weekend when some (or a lot of) people are likely to be out of town? Or just wanting to relax and enjoy themselves?

It just seems dumb. Happy 4th!

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Midyear report

Just for fun I looked at my commercial auditions so far for the year, and things seem to be holding steady to last year's increased pace.

Through June I had 47 commercial auditions (that's for commercial spots, industrials and print jobs). Until last year, that's as many as I'd normally have in a full year. But last year I almost doubled my usual number, with 86 total auditions for the year. So actually I'm doing a little better even than last year's pace.

I should try to figure out how many of these were callbacks, and whether the number of callbacks are increasing. But I don't think I've got that info easily available. I feel like I get more callbacks, but without the hard data, who can say?

Bookings are also a little ahead of pace, with 7 so far this year, and the money also better, too.

So I suppose, in spite of not getting that gig today, things are going well. According to the numbers, at least. And what else is there?

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Another one bites the dust

Damn. I was on hold for a pretty nice industrial job, down to me and one other guy, and I didn't get it.

Sucks. It was for a major consumer products company, for a household brand -- a product I actually use every day in my kitchen! They'd had auditions a while back that I wasn't part of and I guess they were unhappy with the results.

So they completely scrapped everything and started from scratch with a whole new slate of people yesterday. They kept me in there a while doing different takes and it seemed like a good experience, but you never really know with these things. Then they called yesterday afternoon and put me on hold. And called back this morning to check my availability for a wardrobe fitting this afternoon. Then ... nothing.

At least I was in the final two, right? Out of, I don't know, 30? Or so?

Pisser!!