Sunday, December 28, 2008

Shots of the clumslethrough

Below is a little gallery of images from our clumslethrough of "Cock-A-Doodle-Doo" that we held a week ago. I got a new camera for my birthday (thank you, sister!) so I'll be able to take photos of our process on this show. I used it at rehearsal to capture what I thought were promising physical images, the sort of things that might be incorporated into the final production. For now, check out the gallery. No captions on this one, but maybe the next gallery will have some.

Being a Directing fly on the wall

Last weekend I attended two musical rehearsals in New York for "Cock-A-Doodle-Doo." They were wrapping up their musical work on the piece, and I was there to hear all the music and how it works with the text. I didn't have a whole lot of input in the show yet, but I was more just listening to everything to start getting my own ideas. I talked with the writer/producer and the stage manager about the general concept I have for the show, and they seemed to go for it. The story is not a straight-forward one, and it requires a bit of an abstract touch to really give the right atmosphere to it. I was a little concered that I was "dangerously unprepared" to direct a show like this, but after sitting through two days of musical rehearsals, I'm confident that I have enough ideas to put up something amazing on this stage.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Directing project

As some of the readers may know, I have been signed to direct a production in New York City in January. As a part of a festival based on the works of Herman Melville, I am the director of an original one-act musical based on the short story "Cock-A-Doodle-Doo." (Read the story here: ) The story is about a small-town farmer who is depressed by the world until he hears the crowing of a rooster that restores his spirits. He then abandons the rest of his life to search out and find this rooster, because having it would restore his spirits permanently. But he finds the creature in the hands of the poorest man in the town, and that challenges his perceptions even more. But, Melville being Melville, the story has a very bleak ending. The story is also a long dirty joke, since Melville never uses the word "rooster" and only uses the word "cock."

My girlfriend Andrea was in a musical based on the works of Mark Twain, and it was written by the same composer. When he again hired her to work on this Melville piece, she suggested to him that he talk to me about directing. Once I read the story and she sung me some the music, I was very interested in the gig. It's not an easy, straight-forward story, and it's going to require something other than a neat, traditional way of staging the story to convey it onstage. I started the process with only a few ideas, but as I've read the story more and more, and I attended two rehearsals last weekend, more ideas are starting to collect.

I will be living in NYC for two weeks in January to work on this project; Pella windows gave me the time off I requested. So I'll get a two-week artistic vacation, and I'll have nothing to do but experience the joys of New York, work on the show, audition, and play Xbox. But I also plan to blog either during or after every rehearsal we have, to provide as close to an "in-the-room" feeling as I can on this project. I say that a lot, but I'm going to try to mean it this time. I'll just make it part of my day.

Rehearsals begin again on Jan 3rd, but there is a lot to do before then. We'll have to get a final version of the script, we have to plan out our rehearsals, and we need to think about any technical aspects of the show that we'll need before we start. Also, I still have four days at the window mill, thinking about the show every chance I get.

So stick around and check back often, it should be a good ride. And feel free to post suggestions if you have any....

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

New headshots

Two Sundays ago now, I met my friend, co-worker, and long-time contributor to this blog, Mr Jeff Paris, over at Valley Forge National Park, and we took some new headshots for me. My current headshot is a few (5) years old, which is far too old in the theatre world. They say you should get them re-taken every year, but it's more important to have new ones every time you change the way you look. Well, I need new ones. Jeff has a photography business and a website for it, and he offered to take some headshots for me.

We met on a windy and stingingly cold afternoon at the top of a hill, and spent about an hour taking photos of me around a church on the hill. It was really low key, and a lot of fun to work with him. He freely admitted that he hadn't done anything like it before, so we were collaborating on things like locations and backgrounds, posing and lighting. We'd plan some things out, and then adjust our plans as we got different ideas. It was a good time, a good creative and collaborative afternoon.

I've since been able to look at some of the shots, and they look great. Once I really narrow it down to my personal favorites, I will post some of them up on this website for everyone to check out. And comment upon. And such things.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Working with friends

Yesterday I went to a reading of a new play. I had seen the posting on Craig's List looking for actors to participate in a reading, and I sent in all my information right away. I really like doing readings of scripts. There's no pressure to perform a monologue as an audition, the people in charge aren't really judging your suitability for the show, and there is always the chance that you can rock the reading to make the author want to keep you with the show. Secretly, that's what every actor hopes for when they agree to do a play reading for no money. They hope that they make such an impression on the produciton team that they are hired back for subsequent readings and stagings of the show.

Yesterday's script was an abstract one, reminding me a lot of the Charles Mee play I did a year ago. When I was reading it on my own, it was almost too abstract to really get into. I wasn't sure how fun it was going to be. But that all changed when I walked into the room and saw Bryan, a buddy of mine, sitting at the table. He and I used to do Tony n Tina's Wedding together, and we had been emailing each other earlier this week. So it was the craziest thing. But the hits didn't stop there, because one of the girls they had selected was my other friend Lesley, someone that I don't see as much of as I would like to. The jokes surfaced that Philly is such a small theatre community, that everyone pretty much knows everyone.

When it became clear to them that the other two girls they had recruited were not going to show up, the three of us took it upon ourselves to read all the characters on the script. I was tapped to play the other leading female role, which made for some very unintentionally funny scenes between me and Lesley. But Bryan and I also had our share as I played a photographer from Adventurous Male Magazine who was taking pictures of his character dressed up as an Eskimo.

When we started reading the script out loud, most of us agreed that it was much funnier than we thought it was going to be. And I was having a blast working with my friends. They are the sort of friends who make me excited to work with them. They inspire and motivate me to have fun, to push myself, and to do the best work that I can. Those are the kind of people that I always want to work with, because it means that I do my best work around them. I'm trying to recruit them both into my next film, if they are free.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Is brilliant too strong a word?

Curio Theatre Company is currently presenting a one-man version of "A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens. I was fortunate enough to attend the opening night performance and reception last night, recruited by their PR contact to write a review of the performance. A little piece of my review will follow on this blog, but I just wanted to get the word out that the performance was fantastic. It's the kind of show that I really think that everyone needs to see. Here is the website for the theatre. Tell your friends!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

In any other business...

I had an audition today for the world premiere of a new play. Although I was on the young end of the casting breakdown, I know the artistic director so I went down to audition. I gave a very solid audition, starting with a monologue and then finishing off by reading the scene provided. After my audition, the director was very complimentary. He started off by saying that I was a little too young for the role. But after that, he said that I was a very thoughtful actor, and that I gave a wonderful reading. He said I was the best actor they had seen all day. We talked for a bit, I thanked him for the compliments, and then I went on my way.

Now, in any other business, that would translate into the job. But in this business, I am not one of the three men called back. (They are all older, in their late thirties.) It was a very nice ego boost to hear those compliments from the director, even if it doesn't translate into the actual job they were offering tonight. He's a well-known director and playwright who does a lot of work in regional theaters all over, so he's certainly a good person to know.

More often than not, this career has a way of propping you up and pulling the rug from under your feet at the same time. Just as I had a few bad auditions and meetings that didn't go anywhere, I went to this audition literally on a lark, and I walk out feeling good about my career. Now, I didn't get the callback and I didn't get the part, but I got just enough support and encouragement to push me forward.

Monday, December 8, 2008

No news is no news

In spite of my stellar audition and my unique qualifications, I will not be a part of the Christmas Carol radio play. The director sent me an email saying how much she liked my work, how nice it was to see me again, but they were unable to use me at this time. They will, however, keep my information on file for future projects, which they will be having many of in the coming months.

That last sentence was seriously what was in the email I opened this evening. That's how we theatre people talk when we're on that side of the table.

I'm really bummed out not to be in this show. I was looking forward to a light and easy opportunity to get back into the world of performance, and this is one that I really had a connection with when I first saw the posting. The program will be broadcast live on the internet, so I'll be sure to listen to see what they do with it.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Outline twice, write once

I spent three hours tonight (off and on) creating a beat chart for my Jekyll and Hyde script. Here is a picture.
For those of you who may not know the term, this beat chart is what I will use to write the script. Essentially, it's an outline. But it's an outline that is created with index cards thumbtacked to a cork board, which makes it very easy to change things around. The writer and producers can see how the sequence works in miniature before it moves to the actual page. Sometimes when writing a feature film, each scene would have its own index card. Due to the constraints of both budget and space, however, I had to condense some of the longer sequences onto one card. But as the outline gets more and more precise, the cards will become more and more specific.

Here is another, somewhat closer, view of some of the cards.
I've never done this sort of major outline for a writing project before, but it seemed like this script was going to be a big enough endeavor that it would be a huge help to have this sort of roadmap for the story. It will be especially helpful because I want to play around with the order of events in the script timeline. For my first pass through the outline, the cards are set up to replicate the sequence of events as they occur in the novel. The next task is to look at the cards and put them in order for the radio script, which might be a different dramatic order. I've already started adjusting things, so those are the next steps in this process of adaptation.

And all our ships at sea...

Last night I auditioned for a local theatre company that was producing a radio play version of "A Christmas Carol." Those following this blog know that I am huge fan of radio dramas, and I am currently working on a few of my own creation for Radio Hound Productions. So when I saw this posting on Craig's List, I submitted my information right away.

The actual audition went very well. Not as well as I wanted, but very well. I had imagined myself doing such a better job, but I wasn't really given the change to read for a whole lot of roles like I had imagined. They had us read the opening narration from the book, encouraging us to use a variety of different character voices so that the director could hear how we could use our voice. I went into the room with some planned characters, and then I allowed my voice to be flexible as I was reading the text, so much so that I was shifting performance with every sentence as I got near the end. But always switches that made sense in the context of the piece, I made sure of that. I tried to balance a natural sense of speaking with a heightened use of the text, and I think I did pretty well. I also made an effort to not merely affect "character voices" or "impressions" as I was reading; I tried to actually give different voices to different characters. I tried to CHANGE my voice for every character instead of merely putting a mask over my voice.

After that first reading, they handed out sides, and they had me read the scene between Young Scrooge and his lady friend Belle during the ghost of Christmas Past sequence. In their adaptation, however, Young Scrooge had all of three lines, three short lines, and I had to do my best to generate a life and a character behind very simple sentences. I also got to do it twice with two different actresses, so I had a chance to try a different interpretation on the second time through. And, I won't lie, I kinda rocked. It's all the BBC Radio Adventures of Sherlock Holmes that I listen to on every long car trip.

I'll know about the audition by this weekend, either way. It was a fun time. I saw a whole bunch of people that I knew, I had a few free cookies, and I got some useful ideas for my own projects. After reading the sides, however, I wasn't as excited about their project as I was going into the audition. I had thought at first that they were doing an original script based on the novel, but since they had us read for a character named "Narrator," I'm guessing that's not the case. The script was more like a recitation of the book using actors as the character voices; that idea is cool, but not as cool to me as a fully dramatized radio play.

Either way, there aren't many modern companies that are doing anything like live radio drama, and I'd love to be a part of this show. You might say that I want to be on the actor side of the microphone before I have to be on the producer side of it. Which is, to say, the other side. The back side. The non-recording side. You get the idea.