Saturday, June 28, 2008

Speaking the speech trippingly on the tongue

This weekend marks our first runs of pieces of TOS. Doing one of our acts a day, we figured out all of those moments in the play that still needed attention to make things a little clearer and cleaner. I seemed to be involved in a lot of those moments that needed cleaning, so I was one of the two actors who were working all afternoon today. Granted, we had some time off here and there, but I was stuck down at rehearsal until 5. Lucky for us, I spent some time with Krista (who plays my Bianca) before work yesterday, and we developed some specific and funny moments for the scene when I'm "teaching" her Latin. We hadn't quite found the funny in that scene, so we came up with some ideas that had everyone laughing. Our director was impressed, and he knew right away that we had done some outside work on it.

One of the things I like about this director and this process is that he understand what my instincts are and allows me to try all sorts of things as they come to mind. And while not all of them work, he is always able to explain why there is a stronger choice for any particular moment. His direction also focuses the moment for me, so that I can play the scene better. It's not just about taking out the bits and playing with ideas for business, but also about giving the notes that allow the real purpose and intent of the scene to come out and show itself among all the physical beats.

We go back to scene work for a few days, and then we have a run-through for all our designers before we go into tech rehearsals next weekend. It's hard to believe that our first show is coming up, and is only a little more than a week away. Feels like we have plenty of time, and yet we really don't have all that much time left. We're in good shape, though, and now it's just about making what we have even better.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Two weeks of Taming

I'm terribly sorry that I've been absent from my blog, and here is the proof!
I've been working by day out at P.Windows and rehearsing TOS by night down in Philadelphia. In addition, Rob and I are currently working on a feature screenplay in all the in-between times. I've even been taking my laptop on the train to Philly so I can write, scene-by-scene, as I travel through the suburbs. I'll devote more attention to each of these specific things in future entries. Well, not really the windows. Not much to say about them, really. Although a think a lot of people in the office are interested in coming out to see TOS this summer, which is awesome. We had a sneak preview of "Changing Lane" for my co-workers, and they got to see what I do for my "real" job.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

First few rehearsals for TOS

On Monday, we started rehearsing TOS. We've been primarily working on just simple blocking stuff at the moment, laying the seeds of the more advanced work that we're going to do once we get to our "work-through" periods. On Tuesday night, we were working on the opening scenes of the show, and the work was making us all laugh. There are some really talented people working on this show, and it's going to be a good summer. I also have a fun role in this show, one that is entertaining but not overly challenging. Lucentio is one of Shakespeare's more "traditional" leading men, although I am playing him with the idea that he's not terribly bright. And after a production like TMS, it's nice to play a character who is a little clearer, a little less conflicted, and just a lot more fun. It's also a beautiful thing to sink my teeth into the language again, and I realize that I'd really like to make a career of classical theatre. Yes, Labute was a lot of fun, but I really like the idea of going through the canon of Shakespeare's leading men.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Pressing some flesh

Last night ended our project down in Trenton, and we ended it on a high note. The two shows yesterday went very well, and it was another great time to see the looks on the faces of the children playwrights. After the evening was done, all of the other Philly actors went home, which left me as the sole representative at the party at the artistic director's house. I got into a long discussion about the morals and worldview of my last show, and also discovered that the guy in charge of the project out in Trenton is as big a fan of Sherlock Holmes as I am. He's a fan of Superman too, but not as big as I am.

I was also approached by one of their education coordinators about another project the theatre runs. Apparently, they have a new play festival, and they are looking to bring together an ensemble of actors for whom the writers can write the new plays. Apparently, two of their playwrights saw my work in this Playmaking festival, and they were both interested in writing characters for me in the set of upcoming plays. I told them immediately that I was interested in being a part of their ensemble. So again, working on a simple little project has set the stage for my involvement with the company on another level. Hope was explaining the project to me, and it's the kind of project that reminds me why I'd want to be an actor - working one-on-one with writers, working with a close ensemble group, and working on new plays. The kind of thing every actor hopes for.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Playmaking in Trenton

Last night was our first (of two) days performing the show in Trenton. The scripts were written by school students, and last night was the first chance they got to see the shows based on their work. I didn't get a chance to see all of the writers, but the ones I could watch were having the time of their lives. They all looked so happy and so proud, and that was making everyone involved just bust a cheek from smiling all night long. I also realized that all of the Philly-based actors had worked together in "Much Ado About Nothing," so it was like an old-home week when we all got together again. We spent several hours hanging out at the bar in the local Marriott hotel, which felt just like old times. I tried to blend over to hang out with the group from Trenton, since I'll be hanging with the Philly crew all summer. Met some cool new people, including the powers-that-be behind the theatre, who told me that they want to look at hiring more Philly performers. So if this is another job that can find me more work in the future, then it's worth it for more than just the fun.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Film audition

This afternoon I had another audition, but this time it was for a film that is shooting this summer in Philly. A writer for Paper Cuts told me about the gig, and I went down to meet with the director and read for one of the leading roles today. I was reading for a character named Cole, who was described as a good-hearted guy who has a tough and wisecracking exterior. Thinking that I knew this guy pretty well, I went to the meeting with a good feeling. Not only that, but the director was a fan of my work on Paper Cuts, as well as the various scenes I did for the evening of senior screenings. I read all of the sides I had prepared, and then I read them again after he gave some adjustments to my interpretation. I was there for about an hour, and it was a good audition. I'm not sure if I'm the best fit for the role, but I know that I did a good job with the read. Hopefully he'll look at the work, look at my experience in acting, and he'll take a chance on me.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

First read

After a typical PellaMonday, I headed into the city for the first cast meeting and group read of “The Taming of the Shrew,” my outdoor summer Shakespeare project. I’ve worked with many of these people before, both in “Much Ado About Nothing” two summers ago, as well as in other projects around the city. So to sit down around the table with everyone and hear the words come to life was very exciting. People brought their A game to the reading, and we were cracking each other up all the way through the show. It’s going to be a good performance, although the challenge is going to be finding a way to make the characters both broad enough to be funny and sincere enough to be engaging. I didn’t get the chance to do the homework and preparation that I wanted to, but I did have a chance to at least read over the script before I went to the reading. (I did not have that opportunity with TMS. The first time I read that script was during the initial read-through.)

With the role of Lucentio, I am again playing the “clean-cut, earnest young man” who ends up with the girl at the end. I’m making a career out of the Shakespearean straight men, since everyone else around me gets all the laughs. But this show is very subversive; I think there is the chance to make Lucentio a little something more. He is not really the most intelligent character in the show, and others consistently lead him around. So I think there is an opportunity to play up those qualities, as opposed to making him just a standard leading man. Part of his humor also comes from the fact that in his first speech, he speaks lofty ideas about studying virtue, and then three pages later he is trying to figure out how to get laid.

The show is set in the 1950s, and Damon, our director, said that he wanted to dig and find those moments in which this show connects to the 1950s. We will strive to make the setting feel like an integral part of the show, not just a concept that we have imposed upon the script. And I’m excited about that idea, because Damon and I share senses of humor. Lucentio spends a lot of time on stage without saying anything, so maybe we can fill some of that silence with little bits of humor. I’m excited for this project, and even excited to sit down with the script and do the homework on the text that I need to. It’s going to be a fun summer.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Shortest, easiest Tech ever

Any entry about our tech rehearsal today would be a very short one. Our show is only five or six pages long, so it doesn't have all that many light or sound cues. We ran the show twice to work out tech issues, and we also confirmed that we had something pretty funny on our hands as well. But the biggest challenge we faced today was Septa. In the mid-afternoon, my train broke down two times before it reached Center City. And then I was running an hour late by the time I got to Trenton. Good thing that it was a short tech process!

Tomorrow night I have my first rehearsal for TOS, our first readthrough down in the city. I wanted to have a chance to work over the script on my own before meeting the rest of the cast, but I have been too busy to do my proper homework. The rehearsals don't start in full force until next Monday, so I should have that chance I'm looking for. This week I'll finish my project in Trenton, and then move onto the next project of TOS. All the while working that part-time schedule at Pella windows, this is, truthfully, the life of an actor. And I fervently wish that I could be happy doing something else.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Bummer and bummer

So far, it's been a rather down-er week for me. On Monday, I learned that I lost out on the chance to do a show that I was really looking forward to. The auditions had been scheduled so they conflicted with a rehearsal for my upcoming show. And because I couldn't make it to the auditions, the director found someone else at his open call that he liked for the role. I was looking forward to working on that particular thriller, even if it was with a community theatre, so it's a little bit of a heartbreak to lose the chance. I will have to make up for it by making some opportunities for myself in that late-August time frame. And yesterday, I missed out on the chance to add a perfect Indiana Jones safari shirt to my wardrobe. I had seen it in a thrift store on Saturday on my way to the gala event, but I was running late to the call, so I didn't have the time to stand in the 12-people deep line at the counter. Like a savvy shopper, I tried to hide the shirt so no one would see it before I could get back to the store and buy it. But I was out of luck yesterday, and someone else had snapped up the shirt. Now, I will be the first person to admit that this is such a tiny and irrelavent detail of life, but it really bummed me out yesterday. So much so that I was googling those types of shirts all last night, looking for a suitable replacement for the chance I missed.

In short, this week has emerged as a series of small setbacks, which can often be harder to manage than bona fide disasters. When something major happens in your life, there is a feeling that you can get a handle on it, deal with the problems, and then move on from there. But when life gives you a small series of challenges, it can often be harder to deal with them. I've honestly been a little depressed of late, so I'm sure that I'm a little over-sensitive when it comes to these little... encounters.

I also know that I should always buy the shirt when I first see it!

Monday, June 2, 2008

Nifty Fifties

This past Saturday night, I performed in a gig with a promotions company up in Allentown. A rehab hospital was having their 100th anniversary gala, and the company had set up the event in which five different era-themed tents would represent the last 100 years of culture. I was cast as a greaser in the 1950s, complete with slicked-back hair, cigarettes rolled into the sleeve of the white t-shirt, and used Chuck Taylor Converse All-Stars. We learned trivia about the fifties, including what the hospital was doing around that time, and then we headed out into the event to entertain the guests. The first two hours was a lot of fun, once we got our jukebox working. (Up until then, we were singing various songs, offkey, with one delightfully drunk guest.) We spent time dancing, chatting, dishing out the trivia, and handing out Elvis stickers for the "passports" the guests were issued. While some people in my group were giving the stickers away, I required everyone to do their best Elvis Presley impression to get a sticker. People had a good time and we saw some really terrible impressions. I also started accepting impressions of women watching Elvis.

While they were serving dinner under the big tent, there was a torrential downpour. Lightening and thunder seemed to signal the end of the world, and all the actors were rushed away from their tents into the main building where a DJ and a dance floor would finish out the rest of the evening. From that point on, it was pretty much like "Tony and Tina" with a 50s flair. I got paid (in cash) at the end of the night, and I got paid really well for my amount of work. So much so, in fact, that I need to start doing some more promotional stuff with this Philly-based company.

I also met a lot of fun people while working on this, including a talented costume designer, the executives behind the company, as well as a couple of actors that I hope I get the chance to work with again. A few phone numbers and emails added to the list of actors available for Radio Hound Productions, as well as more people in Philly to have coffee and/or a beer with and see their shows. A few days ago I was wishing that I had all this time to myself. Now I'm really glad I went out to play.