Monday, December 28, 2009

I (Almost) Saw Myself on TV

Sitting here in my pajamas watching "Mythbusters" (it's a holiday season!), I saw a commercial for a tax company that I had actually auditioned for. This has happened to me once before, where I recognized a car commercial as one that I had auditioned for. In both cases, the actor playing "my" role is a completely different "type" than I am. Both of them are older guys, and sometimes casting directors and/or producers just have a certain physical type in mind and even a good audition won't deter them. It's something that I guess most actors are used to, or have gotten used to, but it is still always exciting to me to see those final products broadcast on television. The next step, of course, is seeing myself in one of them.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Lots of water

Under a few different bridges. As it always happens, when there are interesting and exciting things happening in my career, the blog entries always suffer. And of course, the irony is that those are the moments that are the most interesting and exciting, one might argue the most worthy moments of actually being recorded. But then time goes by and the prospect of writing a generic "catch-up" entry just looms larger and larger on the horizon, so ultimately important things go by somewhat unrecorded except for a passing reference six weeks from now. And also, to be fair, I've been doing a lot of writing lately that I get paid for, so this more informal blog has to be the one that suffers.

Two weeks ago, I went out on an audition sequence for a new play workshop festival sponsored by PTW, a Philly-based company dedicated to producing plays by Philly writers, using Philly actors. I was called back for all four scripts the festival is producing, the only actor so rewarded by the different directors. After going through the evening of callbacks, I got the call that they wanted me to be a show by the same playwright as GL. At first I wasn't sure if I wanted to go back-to-back with the same writer. After some hard thinking on it, I realized that this was a chance to develop a close relationship with another theatre professional. I've been forging the same connections with a local director, so it only makes sense to link to a writer as well.

But I also won't pretend that it was an easy choice for me to decide to do this play, TS-TP. By taking this opportunity, I have to drop out of the show in Allentown, which I have previously written about. I was very excited to go back up north to work with some of my favorite artists. But when I weigh those two very appealing options, it ultimately comes down to a choice between my "job" and my "career." No matter how much fun one show would be, I have to do the show that I think has the better chance of pushing my career forward. These are some tough choices that I have to make as an actor, and these choices never get any easier the more I have to make them.

Friday, December 4, 2009

February plans

In February, I am headed back north to Allentown and CCC to work with old friends on a production of "Trust" by Stephen Dietz. I have long been an admirer of Dietz' writing, but I have not yet had the chance to appear in one of his plays. That all changes soon, when I will get to play Roy, a character unlike any other I have yet played at CCC. He is quite passive, quite meek, and a man who is acted upon rather than a man who drives any action himself. A very unique chance for me, and I'm looking forward to it.

On Wednesday night, I went up to CCC for the callbacks for the play to read with the young actresses called back for the female roles. Dave and I both took turns reading sides with them, a process which took almost four hours before Tim the director decided he had seen what he needed to see. Of course it was another few hours of talking outside about the casting decisions before I was on my way home, but it was a good night.

I always love sitting in on auditions because I learn so much that I can apply to my own career. With a very important audition coming up on Tuesday, I used these as a little class for myself. I saw what really work and what didn't work so well, and I took mental notes to prepare for Tuesday. I also realized that I do my best work when there is nothing at stake. My six times through the same scene were all different, all present in the moment, and all completely authentic for the scene that was being played. It was a great exercise in artistic freedom that I should keep with me as I audition on Tuesday. Always learning and staying on toes in this career.

Come see me in person!


Well, yes, I know that many of you see me anyway. That is, if I have more readers that my girlfriend and JParis. :) But I do have three followers, which is exciting. So, hello followers!!

Anyway, as I've been mentioning, I am working on a new play that is being workshopped. It is having it's first public reading in a few weeks, the evening of Dec 15. The information is available on the Walking Fish Theatre website here. This is their logo for the play:

I hope to see some of you at the reading, and those that I don't see will hear about it on this blog. Thanks for playing along at home.



Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Pounding the pavement

One peculiar element of this acting business is the small community in which we all work. Good actor/businessmen can work those connections to hear about upcoming auditions and then use those connections to again get an audition for a job. The networking element of this business is one that I'm not so good at yet, but one that I am trying to learn as quickly as I can. Especially in a theatre community as small as the one in Philadelphia, knowing the right people can benefit actors if they play their cards right and strike while the iron is hot. But enough overused metaphors.

A current co-star of mine told me about an opening in a theatre that just came up. Technically, her boyfriend had to back out of a role leaving an open spot behind him that she knew about. So I emailed the people I knew at the theatre, and I now have an audition for that show on Tuesday. I'm normally not that on-the-ball when it comes to following through on connections, so I'm pleased with myself. I have almost a week to prepare for this audition, and I'm going to be working on it every day. It's a big opportunity, and I'm going to make the most of it.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

If you couldn't be there....

... watch it here!

For those of you who could not made EECD in person, here is an online scene from the show. This was the top of the second act, and it features the heaviest and most "serious" wrestling in the actual show. Enjoy.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Climbing my own Golden Ladder

Last night was the first rehearsal/reading for a new play that I am working on. It is a workshop process for a new script called "The Golden Ladder." I mentioned this project in a previous post and I had been looking forward to the first reading since then. Not only would I get to act by using some words, but I was excited to join some friends on another project.

When the cast list email went out a week ago, I saw a familiar name listed as the actress who was playing my wife. I met Victoria a few months ago when we were both extras working on The Last Airbender. Our paths have crossed around town repeatedly, and we have each gone to see the other in shows. We've been talking about working on something together for a while, and I'm trying to bring her into the fold with Radio Hound. I've had what you would call a professional crush on her since I met her, and now we get to work on a great script together, playing some beautifully complex and flawed characters.

The first reading went very well, and even more important than that, it was a whole lotta fun. Victoria and I anchor the first half of the play, and our scenes were crackling last night. And that was only in the first read, too! She and I have really good chemistry, and I think that our partnership is going to be a really good one. Maybe not on the Hepburn-Tracey level, but you never know...

Monday, November 23, 2009

Title Match

Yesterday was the last performance of EECD. We followed it with a reception in the theatre for the major donors, then we went drinking and bowling (mostly drinking) before heading out for two-pound cheese steaks. Our final show was a great one to go out on, too. We had a great audience that was very supportive and responsive in all the right places in the show, and we had a fantastic wrestling match to open the second act. It was a textbook match that actually got the crowd cheering for us to finish it off with the powerbomb. And it was a great powerbomb, too. All in all, it was a very solid show and an absolutely perfect one to finish with.

That led to the party afterwards. We bowled two games as we got progressively drunker and drunker, although some of our bowling games actually improved. Mine did, even if the cheap beer started wearing off around the sixth frame. All the time we're bowling, it didn't really hit us that this was the last time this group would be together. So we kept bowling and drinking until it was time for the drunken cheese steak run, which we ate with glee. Then it was time for the goodbyes and the see-you-laters and the promises to all hook up when we are in NYC. And I will miss this group of people very much. I don't think I will miss the constant physical abuse, but I will have to wait to see how I feel about that in a few days. It's entirely possible that by Thursday I will be jonesing for some wrestling, and I'll have to ask all of my friends if they can powerbomb me.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Day/Night Doubleheader

Today, the penultimate performance day for EECD, is actually a two-fer. We had a special added performance at 2pm, and then our regularly scheduled evening show at 8pm. This show only had one other two-show-day, which occurred five weeks ago during our first weekend of previews. For such a physically taxing show, I'm not ashamed to admit that doing two of these shows in the same day is absolutely the last thing in the world I want to do. I barely want to do one of these, let alone two. Add in the show tomorrow, and that will have been three performances within a span of 26 hours. At least it's the final weekend of the show and not one somewhere in the middle. That's gotta count for something.

Normally I'm never a fan of added Saturday matinee shows, especially when there is an already-scheduled Saturday evening show. More often than not, the added show just fragments the audience in half, so the actors end up doing two shows to small crowds instead of one show to a sold-out house. But the crowd this afternoon was pretty big, all things considered, and it included some friends of mine who would not have otherwise been able to see the show. And it was a really good show, the powerbomb served up as an almost perfect example of the move. I'm starting to feel a knot developing in my lower back and my shoulder is acting up again, but I'm ready to go. Put me in, coach, we have two more to go.

Powerbombs remaining: 3

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Thought-provoking questions...

Yesterday, my costar asked me a question that both made me think and gave me pause. As we approach the last week, he said, what injuries do you think are going to be permanent ones? We thought about it for a while, and I think that my only problem down the road is going to be in my shoulder. Not a major one that will affect my everyday life, but now I will never be a pitcher in the big leagues.

But that question got us into a more interesting discussion of the sacrifices that we are willing to make for our job (our art.) Both he and I like this element of physical dedication to the job, working out, eating right, treating our bodies to a whole lot of stretching every day. And we both agreed that the physical is a little easier to do every night than a whole lot of emotional dedication. Going to scary places on a night-by-night basis is a little more intimidating than just throwing out bodies around.

As I was stretching yesterday, I compared my work in this show to an athletic event. I stretch and prepare as if I'm getting ready to run a race or play a baseball game. Most of my normal "actor" preparation isn't as useful in this show since the performance itself is so physical. I'm essentially a stuntman in the play, so the preparation is all to keep my body safe and healthy for the rest of the performance run. In my next show I'll get to talk, but not this one.

Powerbombs remaining: 9

Saturday, November 14, 2009

On Deck

A director friend of mine recently emailed me and asked if I was interested in being a part of a workshop production for a new play. I have done several projects with her now, including both of my last Fringe performances. This new workshop would have a minimal time commitment each week, but the project extended over two months. I expressed an interest at first, but then begged off the project as I wasn’t sure what my schedule was going to look like for the time in question. I wanted to work with her, but I didn’t think that this was the right project for us.

Then she came to see EECD, and over a few beers and a mad dash for the last train home, she told me a little bit more about the show and the role, and asked me if I would reconsider. She really liked the script and wanted to do a good job with this up-and-coming playwright; I was flattered that casting me was a part of her doing a good job. She sent me the script to entice me into accepting the part as well as sparing her the hassle of having to audition a whole bunch of white guys for a single role. That really is how things are done in this industry.

So she sent me the script, and I sat down with a cup of coffee to read the play and see what her excitement was all about. After reading no more than ten pages, I immediately sent her a text message that read “Not even done the script yet, but I’m in. No one else is playing this role but me.” The story and the characters made such an instant impression on me that I was willing to rearrange my schedules to be a part of this show.

It is a great role, and it has everything that an actor could want. It feels, paradoxically, that the role is both written for me and unlike everything I normally play. The character is going to sound like me and look like me, but there will be such a change in energy that he is not going to feel like me. Wonderful depth and complexity fill the script, and now I am super-ready to be a part of the show. And all of this from an opportunity that I almost passed on. I know that Cara (the director) and I are going to rock out on this, too! Just goes to show that sometimes it takes a little bit of stubbornness (on Cara’s part) and a little bit of luck (on my part.) I’m glad this all worked out, however, and I’m looking forward to working on this piece.

And on the best side, I don’t have to get powerbombed.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Stopping to Smell the Powerbombs

When the show came back Tuesday night, I was both anxious and ready to submit my body to that kind of punishment… again. Sure I was excited to be back at work, but I would have just as gladly taken another day off when I didn’t have to throw my body around. But coming into the ring at the top of the show, I was greeted with a whole row of people cheering for me. Turns out a lot of the cast from my Philly Fringe show D&S had come to EECD in a group. They had taken a row to themselves, and they proceeded to spend the bulk of the play cheering for me in all of my various roles and appearances.

When I came out to do the complicated, intense match at the top of the second act, they were cheering up a storm. But I forced my mind to tune them out, knowing that it would take all of my concentration on the physical moves I was about to do. Knowing that if I let my attention wander, there was a very real chance that I could seriously injure myself. So I went through the first few moves, but a small part of my brain was aware of them cheering on every one. So when I had a little lull in my part, I let my ears focus on them, and I let their cheers and their support give me a little smile inside. Then I got powerbombed.

I shared this story with one of the actors in the dressing room after the scene was over. I explained to him how I tuned them out at first in order to focus on what I was doing. But when I tuned them back in, I understood exactly why I was out there. Sure, I’m probably not going to have a career in professional wrestling. (Replace “probably” with “definitely.”) Nor will I ever get the chance to be a major sports star standing at home plate with 50,000+ cheering my name. But for this little moment onstage, I was a rock star. And I let that seep into every part of my mind and me being, and I grinned under my mask because those cheers reminded me just a little bit why I was out on that stage in the first place.

And then I got powerbombed.

Monday, November 9, 2009

How does my body always know?

Tonight marks the end of a lovely day off smack in the middle of the run of EECD. Well, we are technically a little past the halfway mark of the show. We crossed that hurdle with the show on Wednesday night, and now we have only 13 performances remaining. (Two shows next Saturday.) The show is going along really well, especially now that I've finally learned how to do it without seriously hurting myself on a nightly basis.

But one of the best parts of the whole process is hearing how the audiences are reacting to the show. And I don't mean the laughs, cheers, applause, and/or standing ovations that we receive. But rather the comments that we get from people who come to see it. A friend of mine asked me how I felt being in the "most important show in Philly right now." For an actor who is used to doing summer stock, children's tours, and classic mystery/thrillers, I wasn't entirely sure how to answer that question at all. Aside from humbly smiling and saying that we just try to focus on the work, I'm not sure how I feel. I am very proud to be a part of this show. Kris wrote an amazing play for us with great words to say, and the cast and the crew have done an amazing job.

I'm very proud to be in this show, to know that my name is going to be connected with this show as it develops. Sure I'm not one of the big stars nor am I one of the movers-and-shakers in the play. But everyone in the play needs someone to beat up on...

Sunday, November 8, 2009

A good streak to be on

After my last blog posting, I went back to basics with a whole lot of stretching, a whole lot of topical mineral ice, some Icy Hot strips (TM), as well as an Epsom Salt bath. I can't remember the last time that I took a bath, but that one this past week felt awfully good. Anyway, since that night that was not-right-at-all, we've done four shows in a row that were completely pain-and-injury-free. I've found a nice new training/stretching regimen that seems to be working really well. My recent goal was to find a strategy that worked for two shows in a show and then see if I could extend that streak to cover more shows. My streak is now running at four shows in a row. Doing well so far.

It also occurred to me that we were getting back into a groove with our major match in the show. We were spot-on for our first week of performances, and then it seemed like we got off our game a little bit. Our timing got a little bit off, and we were taking our bumps a little wrong. But this week we got back on the right track, and by the matinee today, everything was feeling just like it used to. Two more weeks to go, and then we get massages provided by the theatre. Best job ever. (Aside from all the hurting.)

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Stinger!

After being very enthusiastic about Tuesday night's show, I went out last night confident in the show. Perhaps a little too much, since the first bump I took in the centerpiece match knocked the wind of out me. I landed completely wrong, and I'm still feeling it. It's somewhere between a nice bruise and a muscle pull, and very few things I've tried today have gotten rid of it. On the whole, it's not too terrible. But I know I have to go back into the ring tonight to take another crack at it. And then three more this week, followed by another two weeks of shows.

I'm not saying that I'm not enjoying myself. But the show is kicking my ass, and, frankly, I think I'm getting a little bit too old for this kind of work. Where's my stunt double?

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Swing of Things

We went back to the wrestling ring to start a third week of EECD, and it actually felt really good to start working again. Sure, we had to throw ourselves around after a very relaxing day off, but it wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be. It's pretty wild how accustomed your body can become to something. The physical work is rooted deeply in our bodies now, so it's easy to pop in and out of. Sure, it still hurts a little on my back, but I'm getting better for sure. I'm not making any new bruises, but I'm still landing on the old ones.

We also had our first casual "coffee conversation" talkback after the show, led by our director Seth. Some of the patrons were calling him by his name; they clearly have long-standing relationships with him. It was wonderful to be involved in a theatre with such a devoted subscriber base. They asked very good questions about the wrestling moves and about the larger issues of the play. I like that we have so many post-show discussions during this run. I love answering questions from the audience, and I also really like hearing what the audiences think of this show. It's a show that confronts people, and it is fun to hear the reactions that people have.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Self-motivation is not my strong suit

I recently got a gig as a freelance writer. I've always thought that freelance writing would be a good gig for me, something to fit into the acting/performing schedule. I could freelance by day, and then perform by night. I'd be some sort of artistic superhero. However, there is a key factor of freelance assignments that seems to be eluding me at the moment - the self-motivation. I've spent most of the day sitting at my desk, trying to force inspiration out of my fingers, but nothing came forth. I kept working into problems, I generated a whole lot of words, but I'm not sure if any of them are good to keep. I haven't yet found the right point of view for any of my writing assignments, and that's the real key for me. If I can find that "way in," then the words generally flow. I need to figure out how to force the creativity a little bit more.

Two weeks down

It's getting to be a familiar phrase lately, but I'm sorry I haven't been writing very much. It's been a busy two weeks over at EECD, where I have been getting my ass kicked on a near-daily basis. That is an accurate description of my job for the moment, even though I'm very exciting to return to a job that has more "talkie-acting" than my current gig. It's primarily a a physical role in a heavy physical-driven show. And thus, as a result, it hurts a little more than I would like. Sure, we had a pro wrestler come teach us how to do everything correctly. But that still doesn't stop us from getting occasional muscle pulls and other small little injuries. I've been banging up my shoulder in the last few days, and now I've got a nice little pull in the muscle under my left shoulder. I'm grateful for a day off today to rest and stretch and help myself get back in shape, but then it's time to go back out there tomorrow and do it all again for a six-day work week.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Tech-tech-teching....

We are now finished two days of our three-day technical rehearsal process for EECD. It's a slow process because our show is so tech-heavy. There are complicated light cues, sound cues, pre-recorded video cues, live video cues, plus the actors running around and doing stuff. So it's no wonder that the show is taking a while to work through cue-by-cue. But so far, there have been no major headaches or trainwrecks from my point of view. Sure it's going slowly, especially since I don't really have a whole lot to do in terms of actual stage minutes, but I never really mind sitting in a rehearsal and watching other folks work.

One thing I really enjoy about working in this company, with this group of professionals, is the chance to sit and listen to what they talk about and how they work together. When I'm trying to be a smart actor, I always try to listen to what everyone around me is saying. Being around so much talent is a great opportunity to pick up tricks and little hints and things that will help me in future projects and future auditions. I can help other auditions in the future, as well as impress my current director/co-artists with my talent, energy, spirit, and general awesomeness. So much of this business is making connections and fostering those sorts of friendships, so that the next time this director needs someone, he will think of me.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Not too shabby....

Another afternoon rehearsal tonight, and only our second full run-through of the entire play. For only our second time, we did a great job. The timing was just about the same as it was for our first run, and we're just going to get stronger and better with every run we do. We're learning our lines, our fights, all of our everything, and it's going to get leaner and leaner by the time we start performances next week. Tech is this weekend. I know, this weekend, and that's a little crazy. But we did learn tonight that the theatre doesn't believe in those long "10 out of 12" tech days, where the actors/crew literally work 10 hours out of a 12 hour call. That was some pleasant news for us.

I had a little bit of fun tonight during our initial fight call, though. When we were working on the powerbomb, my partner and I started to go up into the lift, we lost our timing and our grip, and I ended up falling back onto the canvas. I landed on my head, clocked myself good, and then rolled down onto my back. I'm not going to lie, it hurt. The stage manager was down to take care of things in a heartbeat. I took a minute or so to just lie there on the canvas before I was ready to get up, and then I spent the rest of the day trying to work it off. I kept stretching, took some medicine, and just took care of myself. Now, sitting at my desk, it feels much better even if I'm not all the way back to 100%. But even with that little injury, we could still do the match sequence and make it look great. It only gets better from here.

After-action (brief)

So, last night's rehearsal wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be. While I am involved in a lot of the physical work, there is enough without me to keep things interesting. And the sequence we worked out for the first time yesterday isn't as much of a "match" as it is a "rehearsal." So it's nice to have a low-impact, low-tension action scene right at the top of the show, since it just wakes the body up without really being too brutal.

The brutal one is the beginning of the second act, which ends with me getting powerbombed. We worked on that last night, and I learned how to do the move in isolation. We did it perfectly twice all by itself. But then when it came time to actually run the whole match with the move at the end, but it didn't quite work. That's the biggest thing I now need to focus on. Sure I have style points to earn with the rest of the fight, and acting points to earn with my other characters. But the powerbomb is the only move that I still need to practice to get to the point where I can make it perfect every time.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Office days?

In my current show, EECD, I play several professional wrestlers who get their asses kicked in a variety of ways. We spent three days last week working with a former pro wrestler who taught us all the basics that we were going to need to learn - how to fall, how to take a punch, how to throw a punch. It was an intimidating few days, especially since I'm the general punching bag of the show and have to do most of the "heavy lifting." It was hard on my body and hard on my mind, but after the three days I was starting to feel a little tougher and hardier. Course, a few days later I pulled a muscle, but that's another story.

Tonight is our second round of training and fight choreography. I still have to learn how to do the powerbomb since the wear-and-tear on my body was standing in my way last week. I'm not gonna lie, it's a scary thing that I'm not sure I am capable of doing. But the alternatives scare me even more, so I'm really determined to get myself into shape to do it. I worry that this is my last chance tonight, since we'd have to find an alternative if it doesn't work. Time to use all my energy and power. I'll let you know how it goes.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Dropping off the Inter-map

Folks, I apologize for not being more on-the-ball when it comes to blogging lately. Which is really funny, ironic, and counter-productive, because for the last two weeks I've been producing my first play as a part of Fringe Wilmington '09. Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde was a big success for Radio Hound down in Delaware, and our artistic team is going to be meeting soon to discuss our next project. There are several theatre festivals coming up, and we also have a chance to rent out a theatre space in Philadelphia to produce a Philly-premiere of one of our projects. Plus, I'm currently rehearsing EECD, which is going to be a wild ride of a show, and I will try to keep up-to-date about that. I promise.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Opening weekend

Last Thursday, we opened D&S and then had two more performances on Saturday. The opening went very well, and we finally got a sense of what people think of our show. It was something of a relief to know that it was funny and moving and effective in all the ways that we think it is. One of my scenes was funny at the reading, and then funny in rehearsals, and then the jokes started feeling a little flat. It was because the director/staff had heard them and seen them so much, but the audience that had never seen the scene before laughed long and hard. I got off stage and smiled at the woman in the scene with me.

The Saturday matinee was a little off, maybe either because of a lack of focus, an abundance of drinking, or the sunlight streaming through the windows backstage. We had a little meeting before the evening show to talk about focus and intention and actor-things like that, and then we nailed the second show. We have a line-through scheduled before our next show on Thursday, and then another double show on Saturday that we should be better prepared for. And that's the run. Ah, Fringe.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Once more....

Tonight is our final dress rehearsal for D&S. We had a very good run last night in the theatre, and we have another one tonight. Our director said that last night we put up a very strong skeleton framework for the show, and so tonight at rehearsal we need to work on pulling more of the heart and spirit into everything. We are also having line problems. It's an interesting problem to have this late in the game, but there is it. We are working on such a language-heavy play, we have spent months now focusing on the language and making sure that we are getting word-perfect on all our lines. As the shows get closer, though, we are still focused on getting all of our words correct, the director noticed that we are sometimes leaving the immediate world of the play to "fix" a mistake that we've made. Or else she can see us concentrating on the words that come next.

When I do talkbacks with student audiences, one of the questions that always comes up is "how do you learn all those lines?" Every actor has a different answer as to how they memorize. But the more interesting problem to me is - how do you make those lines feel like realistic speech and not just the words that you're saying? Personally, that is always a step that comes very late in the process for me. I will usually always focus on the blocking first and then the text second. Once the lines and the moves are firmly in my body, it is a lot easier for me to engage my imagination and let the words live as natural reactions in my body. It's usually then, once I've mastered all those technical details, that I can really let myself live in the moment. Lucky for me, that usually happens in the week before we open, and I'm able to play in those moments for the run of the show.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Q-2-Q

So it's a holiday Monday night, and I just got home from the cue to cue working run of our show. After we loaded everything into the space yesterday, tonight was the night where we went slowly through the show working each moment and writing in each lighting and sound cue. It's something of a long process with any production, but trying to do a complicated show like this in only a matter of hours is going to be a challenge. As it was, it took about an hour and half to set everything up before we were ready to start, and then half an hour spent around the top of the show ate into our time even more. It was very quickly apparent that we would not be out of there early.

After we got started, though, it went pretty smoothly. The hardest parts were toward the top of the show, and once we passed them it all handled much more easily. It took until just before 11, but we're in good shape to go into our last two rehearsals before people actually come to see this show on Thursday for the first time. We got that little reality check this evening, too, but I do feel really good about the work I'm doing in this show. I will need to find the best way to focus myself before the performances, but I'm excited to play the role.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Philly Fringing

This weekend marks the beginning of the Philadelphia Fringe Festival. My current show, D&S, is a part of the Fringe, as well as about 100 different pieces of theatre. And that doesn't even include all the music, dance, improv, comedy, or Live Arts pieces out there. Some of my fellow castmates broke in the Fringe last Thursday night with a late night performance of a live-reading of a comic book. The book was from the 1940s, and so it was pretty trippy to hear all of that old-time dialogue again. There are three different comic books that are a part of the reading, and after seeing the Wonder Woman installment, I am going to check out the Batman reading. They aren't doing a Superman one, or I would have felt very left out!

Most of my Fringe festival this year is occupied with either performances/rehearsals for D&S, or with rehearsals for my upcoming J&H. I do have a few nights in there off, and I am going to be able to see the shows that some friends are putting up. One of the most amazing parts of the Philly theatre scene is the overall support and feeling of community, so I'm going to go out and encourage that spirit.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

New Month, New Plan

I’m sitting in the back of rehearsal at the moment for D&S. I’m sorry I haven’t posted more on this blog, but as always happens, whenever I am really busy with work, when the postings would be the most interesting, that’s always when I can’t find the time to write on here. So far, tonight has been our first full runthrough of our show which opens next Thursday. I have a mini-arc of scenes within the show, and I think that I brought a whole lot of really interesting stuff to my first three appearances. I found new stuff, and some lines finally clicked into place to make sense.

But the next two scenes felt a little out of place and a little wonky. I came out with a slightly different focus and tried a whole bunch of different stuff, and some of it didn’t work so well. It’s always a crucial thing to know that, though, since it is only through finding those choices that don’t work that you know the right ones. Sometimes I make the best choice right off the bat in the process, and so rehearsals are a chance to explore around and find different colors for that choice. I like that my instincts can be right on sometimes when it comes to those such choices, but it often makes the process a little anti-climactic for me.

Catching up will be done piece by piece, as I have to fill readers in on the details of this rehearsal, as well as the production of CDD which I just directed in New York City. We are also two weeks away from starting rehearsals for J&H for Fringe Wilmington, which is a journey that I will chronicle very closely. For the memoirs, you know…

Friday, August 14, 2009

Working in the Office

As I type this, I'm over at the DRF office with Rob and Rufus. After we looked at the timetable to finish up the horror film we're working on, we started going through the different composers that we want to consider for the upcoming movie. I posted an ad on Craig's List about the opportunity, and I sorted through 40 composers to find the best dozen to pass onto Rob. He is going through some of the websites and sample tracks now, since it is ultimately his decision and his deal that he has to make with the composer. I'm the Internet middle man who pulled the people out of the web and put them in front of the director so he could make a choice. I guess that's sometimes what real producers do. We're doing all the work cooped up in the office, all three of us working away at our laptops. It's just a question of finding the way to make money doing this.

Some light marketing

I've updated the "Behind the Scenes" information on this blog to include some new links. First, I took off some old projects and old websites that are no longer operational. Second, I have added two different websites for the current projects I am working on.

This month, I am again directing "CDD," an original musical for the NYC Fringe Festival. The link to the show is on the right, which has all the info about performance times and performance locations. We go into the rehearsal process for it next week. The cast has spent some time in June working on the show before we lost one of our actors to another summer theatre season. So now that we get her back, the rest of the rehearsal process is about remembering what they did in June and just sharpening and polishing all of the work. It should be a smooth process, and it's just about working things through.

Also, I've recently launched the website for Radio Hound Productions. Fittingly, the web address is www.radiohoundproductions.org and it has information about the company and about all our projects. I've included some of the past films that I've produced under the banner of Radio Hound, and I'm going to post all of the upcoming "Jekyll and Hyde" production on that site. The design is still a little basic, but it is something that is up and running so that everyone can find our online presence. Which is important for any business to have.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Up and running

I am now full-swing into my rehearsals for D&S, the Philly Fringe show in which I am performing. It's sometimes a strange process for me since my character is only in isolated scenes throughout the show, but all of them are with the same actress playing my wife. Everyone else is in large group scenes, they play multiple characters, and they have all different kinds of energy bouncing through the room. It's bizarre to only have five scenes to play with, but there is also an excitement to that as well. My character has a very clear story-arc that moves well from scene to scene making clear and distinct points. The lead character, my wife, goes through a lot of other scenes as she moves her way through the play, but it's very fun to get to play my entire show scene-to-scene.

These rehearsals, of course, are just one of the things that I'm working on at the moment. I'm about to start directing CDD for the NYC Fringe Festival again, and I've just completed the second draft of my audio drama of Jekyll and Hyde. And like all good little actors, I've been keeping up the audition rounds, and I've had a few exciting things happen lately, which I will post about in the next few days. I promise.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Local on the 8s

This is a really quick entry. I just wanted to point out how wonderful the weather has been. And us MNDreamers were just lucky enough to have a summer of very calm and clear weather, before the heat of the summer descended on us. We had some really nice weather for our shows, which all got performed before the weather really broke 90 degrees. And that's a very lucky thing for us.

I told you this was quick.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Shakespearing out of doors

Over the last two evenings, I've been to see two different companies perform two different Shakespeare productions out-of-doors for summer crowds. Well, one of the actual performances was moved to an indoor space because of weather-related situations. But the other was outside in a little gazebo in a nice park. Adding in the outdoor Shakespeare that I did this summer, that's at least three different companies running concurrent productions. It used to be that the summer season in Philly was a little slow, but now outdoor productions seem to be kicking it up a notch. It's nice to see the scene developing around in local communities, local organizations that bring these companies out to perform.

The company that I just worked for has spent the last five summers building their relationships with the communities around the parks where they perform, and we were like small rock stars in those places where the company has been going for years. It's a great feeling to know that you're a part of such a great cultural event for a community that is looking forward to your visit. It's a great thing to be a part of.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Some time away at (Skywalker) Ranch

My parents have a house up in the mountains near Hazleton, and I spent the last few days there on a mini-writer's retreat. I took my computer and my research materials and went away for a few days hoping to force inspiration to strike. I also took a stack of DVDs with me, the exciting part being that this all qualifies as "research" for me too. The first day I watched a lot of those movies, including making the brave choice to watch "Psycho" when I was alone in a cabin in the woods. But I suffered no ill side-effects, and even took a shower the next morning without having to lock the door to the bathroom. I was once again in awe of the performance of Anthony Perkins in that movie. It's both subtle and creepy at the same time, and you can understand why Marion Crane doesn't run away from him. As dangerous as he might be, he's still harmless and ernest. Great performances all around.

Then I checked another off my AFI100 list with "Treasure of the Sierra Madre." It's been on my to-watch list for years, and I've even checked it out of libraries before, but this is the first time I actually got to sit down and watch the whole thing. Another great movie with some terrific performances, including a little clip of Walter Huston doing the "happy prospector" dance that is so often copied. But this is the film it's actually from. Not to mention the line "We don't need to show you no stinkin' badges." There is something wonderful about all those old films, films that are made fast and relatively cheaply, and then they stand the test of time as "classics." I hope to someday be a part of a movie like that, although it's so hard to identify those movies before they have the 50-year history to be a part of.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Closing up

Tonight is our final performance of MND, performing live down at LOVE park in Philly at 6.30. By then, hopefully, all the traffic noise will have died down. But at least we don't have to contend with raccoons and bears, as recently reported by Ellen Gamerman in a recent article in the Wall Street Journal. Surprised I read the WSJ? My dad pointed it out to me.

Her article looks at the various natural and man-made disturbances that occur in some outdoor venues. The raccoon incident apparently happened while Anne Hathaway was playing Viola in Twelfth Night with NYC's Shakespeare in the Park. With CCTC, we haven't had to handle a whole lot of that this summer. The company has moved upward in the last five years since their creation, and our use of lighting instuments and microphones has helped us out lately. For example tonight, at Love Park, we'll be able to use the microphones to help the sound so we won't have to blow our voices before we hit the bar to celebrate afterwards. Then we can blow our voices because we don't have to do anymore outdoor Shakespeare.

It's going to be bittersweet to see this show go. I have a lot of other projects coming up, and I'm excited that I will be able to dedicate time exclusively to them. But this has been a really great cast to work with, and I will be disappointed to say goodbye to them. Casts aren't always as wonderful and supportive as this one is, and it will be a shame when all of us have to go our separate ways.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Church basement theatre

Last night was our rain date performance out in East Falls. Since it had rained all day yesterday as well, the production was moved indoors to our alternate performance space... in the basement of a nearby neighborhood church. It was lovely and generous for them to give us a space on what was rather short notice. The space, however, presented a new set of challenges because of its size-or lack thereof. Instead of one open space, we had a two-level space, including the tiny stage that is a part of numerous church basements. We had only a little bit of time to adjust to our new space, and then we were thrust into the performance.

Overall, the performance went very well. There were a few times when we did some business on the stage, and as soon as I exited I thought to myself, "Now, I could have done that differently..." But on the whole, we as a cast did a great job of making some on-the-fly adjustments to the situation in which we found ourselves. Tonight is a much different space, in the sense that we are now going to be playing on a large grassy lawn. The amphitheater is lovely (we were there last year), but it does take some serious vocal heft to get your voice past the first thirty feet of incline. Only three shows left.

Monday, July 20, 2009

The results are in

We recently submitted a short film to an online contest. You can see the film at this link: It's only 8 minutes, so please click on it, watch our movie, and then vote on it and leave a comment. Thanks so much!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b-FEdjLoYGo

In any case, the judging happened over the weekend and the results of the contest were posted today on the website of the sponsor. We ranked fifth overall, but we were in the top three for almost all of the individual categories. We were the number one ranked film in terms of production design, which is a major feather in the cap. The webseries on which the contest was based has a strong comedic flair to it, and our piece was lacking that sense of humor. We were always convinced that we weren't going to win the contest, but we were rather using the contest as a way of forcing ourselves to have a finished product of this vampire movie we had in our heads. So there will be no money coming into our wallets as a result of this project, but it is a really strong short film on its own. Now it's a matter of finding some more contests where we can get our investment moneys back.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

500 People and 6 Dogs

That was our audience on Saturday night out in West Goshen for MND. And what a rowdy and smart audience it was. The crowd was laughing very early on at all the text-based jokes in the first scene in the Athenian court, so we knew they were just going to laugh even harder when the rude mechanicals came out and started to fall all over each other. Our act-ending four-way fight scene was really cooking, and we walked away from the scene with another round of applause for our work. Some of the pieces of combat were the best that they had ever been, and the audience was more than willing to go along for the ride. The community out there is very supportive of the theatre that this company brings out there, and it really shines through. When we ran out on stage for the first time, we could feel how much the audience was with us, and we were being pushed along by their support. It was a wonderful performance to end the week with.

And now we have two days off before we come back for our final week of shows. We have a show Tuesday night (a make-up performance from one that was rained out), and then Wed, Thurs, and Saturday shows as regularly scheduled. We are also heading off into a venue that we've never been to before, as well as some of our largest and most challenging spaces. Saturday at Love Park in Philly, we'll have to compete with street noise and traffic noises. But then after that, we've got two different cast parties planned on the same night, and then we all go our separate ways. It will be sad when it happens, but for now we still have four shows left where we get to play together.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Writing the Credits

Now it's 6:52 am on Friday morning, and we've just finished typing up the list of credits for the film. Which is a good thing, since we've just lost our editor. We've been working on this movie for hours and hours and days and days and weeks and weeks now, and we're all a little loopy from being so tired. But the credits are now firmly in place, the movie is rendering itself. We still need to "code" it for the interwebs (whatever that means), and hopefully we can submit it to the contest before noon today. The night has been pretty long and tiring, but now we're rapidly reaching the end of the road. It's always this post-production work that takes such a long time....

Final Mixing

So it's 4:37 on Friday morning as I write this entry, and I'm sitting at the DRF office working on the final sound mixing and recording session for "E.D.E.N." We have to finish this for the contest deadline, and it needs to be posted to the Internet tonight so that the judges can see it. For such a short little movie, at only 8 minutes, it's taken a serious amount of work. Between all the sound work, the visual effects work, the music composition, and then the general editing and sound mixing time, I think it has taken far longer to finish this project than anyone thought it would. We can't leave tonight until it's done, but the sun is about to come up and that is challenging all of our creativity to solve the problems and not just let our brains fizzle away. It's now 4:45am.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

And the Thunder Rolls....

Well, perhaps my last blog post turned out to be prophetic, as our show tonight in East Falls was rained out with extreme prejudice. We set up the show in a rapid-quick rush, since our truck with the costumes and set was about an hour late to get to call. Then as we were changing, we started seeing the lightning and hearing the thunder rattle in the distance. As the show approached, the sky got continually darker and darker. The rain started to drizzle down upon us when our director walked out to announce that we were postponing the show until the rain date. No sooner had he made than announcement than the heavens rumbled. Within seconds it was raining, and within minutes it was pouring. We ran around as best we could, grabbing our clothes and bundling the set into the van as quickly as we could.

We lifted a whole lot of heavy things into the van, and by this time all of us are soaking wet from head to toe. I was coiling up some extension cords and XLR cable when the pouring got even more intense. I have never seen rain that was falling so thick that I could barely see through it. We grabbed everything and pulled it all over to the truck just as the rain stopped falling. We paused for a moment to do a photo shoot while we were soaking, fulfilling all of our 'wet dream' jokes, and then took a little breather and re-packed the truck more correctly than we had before. Heading out to bar to start all of our drinking early, I hung around for a quick pass at the free chips & salsa, and then ran back to the office to finish up the final edit on "E.D.E.N."

Bringing the Thunder

Last night, we were out in Lansdowne for another performance of MND, and it was strong right out of the gate. We had two days off, the cast had dispersed into their own various projects and lives, and then we had to come back together to rock the ground with another performance. The show rocked, and it didn't have any rough patches that I was expecting it to. The four-way fight between the lovers really cooked, and there was only one moment in the entire show that I blanked out on my next line. Lucky for me, it only took about a second to find it again, and the show continued without even a hiccup. But now I know the part of the lines that I should review before every show, whether or not we've had two days off. And what really shocks me is that it wasn't that part I thought I was going to forget - it was something completely different! We have three more shows this week, and then three more next week, and then it's on to the next show.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

A First Weekend

So I'm a little late at this, but we opened MND this weekend, and it all went really well. We had great audiences all four nights of performances, and the show has really been cooking along. We've done shows both on grassy plots and on concrete slabs, and now we have another two weeks coming up. But now that the show has opened, it also means that a lot of my time frees up to work on other projects. It's always funny to me that the performances time involved with a show is never as long as the rehearsal time. Going from six nights a week, four hours a night, now we have three or four shows a week, and the show is only two hours long. Of course, this timetable is completely different is it's a touring show we're talking about, since that means that the performance time will also include a whole lot of travel/hotel time. So now I'm going over the script for D&S, the Philly Fringe show I will be a part of in September. I start rehearsals for that almost immediately after MND closes, which I always think is the best way to keep working. Have a day off or two, and then go to the next project.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Coming out of Tech

Over the last two days, we've massaged all the technical issues out of MND. We worked with the set for the first time on Monday night, solving all of those problems of where we are entering and how we should play the different scenes. My scenes aren't all that complicated, so there was just a matter of figuring out how to make different moments work now that I'm actually running through curtains and not just pretending to run through curtains. It's also much more challenging to work my puppet through a split in the same curtain, but it's something that I was working to figure out by the end of the night. Then we started working on the very first truck-pack, and then I was off to listen to the highlites of the Phillies game on the radio. (22-1? WTF?)

Last night, we went out to a lovely park in West Chester, and we did a full run of the show outside for the first time: costumes, sound, lights, set, the works. Everything went very smoothly for the most part, even if we had some "rust on the works" as the director put it. We've got another run-through tonight, and then we open the show on Thursday night before running for three weeks. I'm excited to get on our feet and get this show going. I've had fun working with this cast through the process, but I really think that we need to have an audience soon to get all the best next step forward.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Going into Tech

I've been a little bit absent lately, but that is always a sign of being very busy on different projects. In this case, MND. We've been rehearsing and working every day for a few weeks now, and we are getting ready to go into the tech process with the show. Tomorrow is going to be our first day on the set, where we get to figure out all of the details about scene changes and entrances/exits. We've been pretending to move around the set so far, and tomorrow we will learn how to actually move around the different columns and curtains that we have been imagining up until now. And then once we get all of our clothes and all of our props, we'll be good to go for our opening on Thursday night. I'm excited to really start running this show to see what we've got once it gets in front of an audience. Now if I can just drop this Philly accent of mine....

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Stumbling thru

Last night at MND, we tried stumbling through the first half of the show. We have almost the entire play blocked, and now that we have a framework on which to play, Josh (the director) encouraged us now to start experimenting with our characters. That first week as we work on staging the show can often be fun but a little limiting, and now with the overall structure in place, we can really start tightening up comedy bits and make everything as funny as it is supposed to be. It's also an interesting part of the rehearsal process; we've spent a week putting everything together, and now we have to spend another week taking it all apart in order to put it back together again by this weekend. When all this process happens organically, it's the sort of work that is hardly noticeable in the final project. It takes a lot of work to make something look effortless, and that's the stage we are entering for MND.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Puppet day!

At MND this afternoon, we finally got to play with our puppets. Let me explain. The show features four fairy characters - Moth, Cobweb, Peaseblosson, and Mustardseed - who are usually played by other actors in the show in some sort of costume. For this production in the park, the designers have created four puppets to play these characters, and I am one of the puppeteers responsible for bringing them to life. We met them for the first time today, so we had to figure out the best way to work with them.

The puppets require two hands to operate - one hand works its mouth just like a sock puppet and two rods control the hands of the puppet. The first challenge was to decide which of my hands would operate which part of the puppet. Once that was figured out, I had to figure out how long I wanted his puppet rods to be. We trimmed one of them down, then installed the handles on the end of the wire rods, and Mustardseed was good to go. I'll try to get one of the pictures we took so I can post it on the blog.

After we figured out how the puppets worked, then we had to figure out the best way to make them act. I had a leg-up based on my previous work with Enchantment, and I could figure out how to make him run and act. We took some photos outside for publicity, and all the puppets posed with their designer as well. I'm really excited working with this puppet in the show; it's almost as if any other work I do onstage will be outdone by a three and a half foot, floppy-haired puppet.

I love my job.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Project E.D.E.N. - More Rehearsing (#3)

Getting back on track with our other film project, here's another update on the work on "Project E.D.E.N." We had gone through our pre-pro and our first day of rehearsals, and then two weeks later we went out for another day of rehearsing. We didn't get the chance to try out everything that we wanted to when we were there the first day, so we took the ropes and wires back out to try things again. Our friend Adam was with us this time, so he was around to help with the rigging and to help strap Mason in. It was also lucky he was able to help us out, because when we went to unpack the bags, we realized that we had forgotten to bring our coil of rope. We asked Adam to use his, tied two of them together, and were lucky that we could make everything work. We were looking to try out two different rigs when we were there, one that would let Karina fly through the air, and another that would drag Mason along the ground. The dragging one went without a hitch, but it took a long time to work on the former. We kept trying things that didn't seem to work, and so when we broke for lunch we hadn't really solved any problems. This photo is of Rob and Mason checking a take.

After we came back from lunch, we tried a couple of other setups for the flying rig, but we never really got it to work the way we wanted it to. Something was always a little off with the stunt, and the action in the stunt didn't really look natural. We tried a couple more ways of doing it, moving the pulleys and re-rigging some of the rope, but we couldn't ever make it work. So while the last rehearsal day was productive and satisfying, this second day wasn't quite as satisfying. It was just as productive, however. We spent a lot of hours figuring out that our idea would not work, and those were important hours. It was much better to learn that on a rehearsal day as opposed to the day when we had Karina there waiting for us. We also spent the last hour of the working day looking for another tree to use for a stunt for her. After rigging something up on a larger tree, we spent the time deciding that we liked our first tree better. Overall, the day was very useful for our purposes. It wasn't as cool as the first day, but it was very important to us to figure out that our ideas would not work, so we could use the time to come up with other ideas. Filming is next.

Monday, June 15, 2009

First readthrough of "Double & Small"

Last Tuesday evening was the first readthrough "Double & Small," the Philly Fringe show that I'm in. Some of you may remember when I participated in a reading of this play. After that reading, the director offered me a role in the show if they were going to produce it at the Fringe. They even asked me which role I would be interested in, so I got to pick the one that appealed to me the most. As I mentioned before, the script walks the line between real and abstract, and it reminds me of the recent show I worked on, "Big Love." In the reading, it was fun to hear all of us trying to find the best way to balance the competing elements in the script. This show goes up in September, and even though we don't start intensive rehearsal work until July, but the director wanted to give us this basis for any work that we do on our own. We also have a few scattered days of table-work through June until we get back to the business at hand in the end of July. The process should be pretty fun, I'm looking forward to it.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

First readthrough for "Dream"

Last night, I headed into Philly for our first reading of Shakespeare's "Dream" for the summer production of CCTC. I had a great time working on a short scene for a preview performance that we never did, and working on the show itself promises to be a lot of fun. The first order of business was to say hello to a lot of old friends that I haven't seen in years. Then we heard saw the model for the set, and Josh the director discussed a little of the general ideas that he has as to what the show is about. We didn't see any design sketches yet, but we were told generally what the designers are working on. After that little meeting, we all sat down to get to the business at hand. We started at the top of the show, and we read through the entire script, pausing only for the intermission break.

Overall, it was a very good first reading. The last reading we did with Josh was an absolute laugh-riot, with each of us trying to find the funniest moments and lots and lots of trying to one-up each other with punchlines. This time, however, it was more about a group of actors exploring their characters and testing their relationship with one another. It was a calmer, less hilarious reading, but one that showed some of the potential for the summer. It was an interesting dynamic to be aware of as I read through the script, and I'm very happy to be a part of such a talented ensemble.

Project E.D.E.N. - Rehearsing (#2)

In preparation for our short film, Rob, Mason, and I went out to scout the location twice before we brought our actress and film crew out to the woods. We wanted to make sure we knew what we would be doing before we had to use the time to film, and both days were very valuable. The first day involved location scouting; we had to find the best set of trees where we could hook up our wires. Mason scouted a field we wanted to use (but didn't due to bug-related reasons.) We also wandered around back in the woods, finding a lot of cool locations, but none of them were very accessible from the house where we would be staging a lot of our activity. So we had to keep looking, and we eventually found a great set of trees near a relatively well-kept path. The lawnmower and the saw cleared out a lot of our space, and we were ready to start the rehearsals for the wires.

We headed out to the local hardware store to pick up some chains and wires and the other stuff we'd need, as well as the burgers and dogs for our BBQ dinner, and then we headed back to do some work on the actual rigging. It took some work to figure out how to rig up some stunts, and on the first day we got two of our rigs fully operational. Here is a photo of Mason, stunt coordinator, rigged up in a harness with his fall mat beneath him. If you look really carefully, and I mean really carefully, you can see the two wires coming off his hips and stretching into the rope over him (out of camera.)

Each rig that we set up is for a specific action sequence. And not only that, but each sequence requires a different harness on the stunt man, and different padding to keep him safe. Unlike theatre, where everything has to be designed to be strung together, film stunt work relies on different setups for each individual stunt or camera angle. That's going to take up some time on the day, but that kind of time is not something that can be avoided. We also set up two cameras while we were out this day, both to check some camera angles for the actual shoot, as well as to record some behind-the-scenes footage for any bonus features that may be on the disc.

This first work day was productive and satisfying. We managed to set up two different rigs that we are going to use for several different stunts, and we got some test footage that looks great. The schedule gives us another rehearsal day before we go to the filming days, and I have more stories and photos from that too. Stay tuned.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Project E.D.E.N. - Preparation and Casting (#1)

Recently, I have been the executive producer on a short film titled "Project E.D.E.N." that we are producing for an upcoming film contest. The film involves a fight scene between a female vampire and her victim, but they are both unaware that the fight in being monitored by a high-level executive with plans of her own. Co-producer Dave Mason is playing the guy in the fight sequence, and I was cast as the technician in the room with the executive. We had a set of auditions a few weeks ago, and we found two wonderful actresses for our project. Playing Lillith, the vampire, we cast Karina Croskrey:
To play the calculating executive, we cast Jensen Bucher:


The schedule had two days of rehearsal and practice for the stunt crew, so we could figure out how to rig the wires and ropes without using up any of our filming time. I have behind-the-scenes photos from all of our work days, and I'll be posting them online as I go through them and release the press kit. Reports on the rehearsals and shooting days will soon follow.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Making Plays

Last year, I worked in Trenton with the Passage Theater on a project called Playmaking, where professional actors and directors perform shows that have been written by students. I did the show last year, and I had a great time. Last year I played a globe that wanted to be a singing star, and this year I was a Superbot that had to save all the other robots in the world. I was foiled by a Superbaby, however, since I was afraid of babies. The shows this year were even funnier and stranger than the ones last year, and there were some truly amazing lines that could only have been written by someone under 10 years old. The audiences generally had a good time, and we the actors had great times saying such crazy things that you couldn't imagine. Below is a photo of me and Jeremy as Superbaby and Superbot. Crazy, huh?

I knew a lot of the people involved from last year, and the new additions to our group fit in perfectly. Everyone was there to perform for the kids and work for the young playwrights, who obviously took such delight in the show they had written. These kind of shows are not the ones we do for our own glory or the amazing scripts, but rather for the joy of working with kids. They got such a kick out of seeing their words come to life, and our playwright actually told us that it was "exactly" how he pictured it in his head. Now, I'm not sure that I believe him exactly, but I certainly believe that he now imagines it exactly as we appear. And then after the kids really enjoyed their shows, the actors really enjoyed themselves out at the local saloon. So everybody wins.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Commercial Shoot

Yesterday morning, I headed out into North Jersey to shoot a commercial for a toothpaste company. I had auditioned for the production company earlier, and I was one of the faces that they chose for this particular commercial. So I let a few days go by without shaving, then I was down there yesterday morning ready for some '8os hair and clothing, and that was all I knew. When I arrived, I was super-impressed with everything. We were filming in a production studio, rigged up with lights and dollies and sound and monitors. After they gave me my rock star '80s hairstyle and put me in a lavender linen shirt and a tan jacket with the sleeves rolled up, they had me sit at a desk and pretend to work on an old boxy computer. Ken, the director, gave me some direction and they clients/producers had me try a few more things when it came to really selling the idea of the commercial. After I did the shot for what felt like twenty times, they released me and I could hit the road. All in all, I was there about four hours, and I had a lot of fun.

Also, in confession time, it was my first commercial shoot. Spending time on LAB has given me a sense of what it's like to be on a working professional set, but on this one I was one of the stars. The crew set everything up and did the lighting with a stand-in, so I was only called into the set when they were ready to tape. Until then, I ate some fruit at craft services and hung out with the on-set photographer. Ken gave me some great direction on how to convey the idea of the commercial. It was about the computer, so I had to make acting choices in order to show off the computer. The unique challenge was exciting, and I'm glad that I now have some on-camera commercial experience to bring to any future auditions and projects.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Really doing this...

This past Tuesday, I was part of the team holding auditions for the next project from Digital Reality Films. Mason, Rob, and I are writing and producing this short film project for an online contest, and we raced from TLA into Philly in order to make our scheduled audition. We saw about a dozen women for two roles, and we were left with a tough choice to make for the film. It took a while for us all to get comfortable with what we were doing, but we had turned it into a nice routine by the end of the night. The next time we have to hold a call for our films, we'll need to sit down beforehand and figure out the best way to talk to the actors. We stumbled now and then over describing what the movie was about, and I think we talked a little too much to the actors when we tried to give them notes and adjustments. But we came through, we've got our cast, both of them are signed up, and I'll post the photos online with the next blog posting. The auditions went really well, and it was fun to be on the other side of the table.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

A busy day

For my fourth and final entry of the day, I'm back at home writing from my desk. After the callbacks, I spent some time going over the email submissions for the short film we have coming up. After arranging everything and catching up on all that correspondence, I'm now kicked back with a beer watching the my tape that has the final two episodes of this season of "Smallville." There is a big surprise in the finale, and I'm getting excited to see what it is.

Tomorrow, Rob, Mason and I are heading out toward the Harrisburg area to scout locations for our upcoming short film. We had hoped to get an early start, but it turns out that our location won't be available until closer to 1pm. It means that we'll have a shorter day than we wanted, but if we plan correctly, we still think that we can finish up everything we wanted to finish. We'll be racing both the clock and the weather, but we still think that we can do some good work. I'll have my camera and I'll try to post some pictures, but tomorrow is finally going to give us the best idea of what this movie is going to be.

Rockin' the Callback

I'm writing this entry from a Panera Bread Company, having finished the callbacks for the Philly Fringe show that I'm a part of. They called me in to read with some other potential cast members, and it was pretty fun. It's always good to see Cara, the director, again, and I even ran into a friend I made on the set of Airbender. And since we were trying to get in touch with her anyway, it was a lucky strike in everyone's book. I was really grateful to get the chance to do a callback and read for the show, since it gave me the chance to work on a brief little scene with Cara before I show up for the readthrough. This way, I've gotten a little taste of what she's working on with the show, and I'm going to be in a similar boat to all the other members of the cast.

I expected to read with several different actresses for the role, but I only read with one who they had seen a few weeks before. She was really nice and very sweet, and I'm curious to see which way Cara goes with the casting. I also knew a bunch of people who were there before me, and I was trying my best to put in good words for them. I'm always exited to meet new and talented people, but I'm even more excited to work on new projects with old friends.

Superrehearsal

I write this entry from the student center at Drexel University, where I just finished rehearsal for a project I'm doing up in Trenton. Passage Theatre runs a program that encourages and mentors young kids to write short plays, which are then produced by professional actors and directors and performed for one weekend in their theatre. I was a part of the project last year when I played a Globe who wanted to be a singing sensation. This year, I'm playing Superbot, out to save the robots of the world. The show is a lot of fun, and I'm having a much better time than I thought I would. We met last Thursday to block out the show, and now we just worked on it for an hour or so. We ran it through, got notes, ran again, got notes, ran again, talked costumes, ran again, went home. The script is only four pages long, so it's a really easy one to fly through.

I had a good time doing it last year, because a lot of the people that I know from summer Shakespeare are also involved. The kids get a huge amount of joy to see their words come alive on the stage, and it really is a great thing to be a part of what might be their first creative experience. They really do a good job writing the plays, and part of the challenge as an actor is to really honor their words and find the honesty behind what they've written. I always love being a part of new work, and this is new work that is done in a educational setting. It's a great thing to be a part of this project, because everyone involved is really doing it for the love they get from it. I know that sounds a little geeky and overly-romantic, but it's true. This is not a project to do for the money (believe me!), but it's one to do out of generosity. Actors only have so many ways they can make the world better, and performing with young writers and for young audiences is one of them.

Putting myself out there

As I write this, I'm sitting in the lobby of the Philadelphia Airport Hilton, having just finished an audition for a short film called "White Chip." The director sent me a side from the film "The Truman Show" to prepare, which I did, and then he had me read a scene from his own short film script. He complimented me both on my performance and my diction. He could tell I had a Shakespearean/classical background because of how well I spoke, which he said was a benefit because I could bring a believable nature to a lot of different roles. We spoke about the project and about which roles I felt that I was the closest to, and whether or not I had any life experience that would let me play one of the roles. After a brief discussion about the schedule (which I am very busy for), he thanked me for coming in and I left.

I felt really good about the audition, even if my schedule conflicts mean that I won't get a role. It's always good to get out there and put yourself up for something, because then the odds will be much better when the chance comes around to audition for something that you really want. And I saw three friends from Airbender at the audition, and I know of at least two more who will be there this afternoon, so it's really quite a small community here in Philly. I'm writing this before I head off to my next rehearsal of the day. For a Saturday, I'm keeping myself pretty busy with work-related tasks....

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mirroring the Mirror

I spent most of Friday working over at Rob's office, working on the newly restored and remastered version of an old short film I made in college. The film was produced over the course of a single night, with the entire small cast and crew moving all over the college campus to get all the shots we needed. We then cut the movie together at the Villanova TV station, and the movie played on the campus cable channel for a short time. I've always liked the general idea behind the movie, which was based on one of my classes. We were discussing early British romantic-era poetry, and the idea about separate identities and personalities interested me. So I called up some friends, we discussed the idea over dinner, and then spent the Friday night until 2am filming the movie, which you can see at the link.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z8ihtjrdTAg&feature=channel_page

I've always wanted to get the footage out again and go through it with Rob, giving it that digital upgrade that makes it look so much better. Plus, we had a little problem with the tape losing quality, so now the film won't degrade any further over time. Plus, we found some great new music and created some great new title cards for the movie. The title cards make me rather giddy, actually, especially the little detail that we added the "RHP" in the lower portion of the card. Silent movies used to have the studio logo on the cards, and I love that we found that little details and put it on our own cards.

It was fun going back into the archives to work on this film. I was very happy with the original work that I did eight years ago, and I think that we've added nice new touches to that work with our new digital toolbox. We made some effort to edit the clips like the old version, taking the same takes and shots, but we trimmed some scenes down to make the movie shorter and better. The film isn't too much different, but it's much better.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Finding a Jewel

I've recently been criticized for only seeing movies that are based on comic book characters. But I have some movies sitting on my shelf that I picked up cheaply in DVD sales and that I still haven't seen. So this morning I pulled one of them out, popped it into the DVD player, made some coffee, and sat down to watch Breckin Meyer and Anna Paquin in Blue State. I expected it to be a light-hearted comedy like Garden State, but I was instead rewarded with a much more complex story. Meyer really brought the goods as the leading man; I was expecting a high-energy comic turn from him, but he really found depth and soul to his character. I usually think that Anna Paquin plays things a little too... juvenile... but I was impressed by her work in this film. Again, she finds subtle and complex shades to what could have been a straightforward role. The film is only laugh-out-loud funny in a few spots, but the whole project walks a great line between comedy and drama.

For me, the film is even better because of the sense of finding that diamond in the rough. I picked it up at a local comic book store(!) that sells used DVDs, and I only got it to take advantage of the "But-One-Get-One-Free" nature of the sale that was going on. The movie sat on my shelf for almost a year before I got to watch it, and now I know that I'll be pulling it out more often. It's a beautiful, almost perfect indie film, and I would consider my filmmaking career a success if I could make just one movie like it.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Two... At once!

No sooner did I publish that previous post about hoping I get some more work from LAB, than I get a call from Veronica over at the casting office. They've scheduled me to work this coming Friday, and they hope that I'm free. Uh... YES! I'm seeing a show in Philly on Thursday night, so I won't be able to come into the set as-fully-rested as I was last week when my body forced me to go to sleep around 9pm due to exhaustion, but hopefully I won't have as killer a busy day on Friday either. A rumor has us working next Monday, too, and I will welcome the work.

M.I.A

I have no excuse. No excuse for not writing anything for two weeks, and I'll be up front about that. It is rather hard to say anything about LAB, though, since I signed multiple confidentiality agreements saying that I wouldn't say anything about LAB. To speak broadly, however, it was a lot of fun and a lot of work. I had to wake up around 4:30 every morning, and I wouldn't get home until 7 at night or so. And that was the early days. Most of my full days on the project are now over, although there are rumors and reports that we might have a little additional work here and there on it. Additional work means additional money, so I'm all theirs.

But more exciting stuff has also happened in the last few weeks, not related to LAB. I attended the performance of "*" up in Allentown, which was the show I helped write and create. I auditioned for a won a role in "A Midsummer Night's Dream" with an outdoor Shakespeare company I've worked with before. Rob and I have been working hard on his horror film Preservation, our upcoming feature version of The Chrononauts, and even going deep into the vault to pull up some projects from my college days so we can take a look at making some special editions of them. All in all, it's been very busy, and I will try to go back and catch up on some storytelling from the last few weeks as we go forward.

I promise.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Current excitement

So as many readers will already know, I'm currently working as a background artist in a major movie that is shooting in Philadelphia. I had to sign a confidentiality agreement to work on the film, which is killing my writing habits. They've prohibited us from sharing anything that we're doing on the set, as well as anything that we learn about the design of the film or the plot of the film. I'm taking it very seriously, to the point where I'm not even tempted to say that I'm working on LAB. But put the clues together, maybe click over the link, and you'll see what I'm doing.

I've had some of this week off from work on the film, but I'm heading back for more work starting tomorrow. I've liked having some time off, but I'm ready to start working and making some money again. The constant need to find work is one of the worst aspects of this business. It's a challenge to line things up always looking 3-4 months in advance, trying to line up theatre gig after theatre gig and just string them together. Easily the worst part of acting.

Friday, April 10, 2009

*Sparking*

Hey everyone, remember that show up in Allentown that I'm working on? You know, the one where we were creating the piece ourselves based on faith and belief? Well, the school had a break and then a trip, so today was the first rehearsal for that project in a while. Since we last all met, we confirmed our performance cast, as well as finalized the rehearsal draft of the script. There might be some minor changes to be made, and I spent an hour or so re-writing one of the scenes that I had worked on months ago. We were racing the clock to finish the rough draft of the script, so the scene never quite came together like I wanted it to. But after talking to another cast member last night, I got a very clear idea as to what the scene needed to be. So I wrote it while everyone was rehearsing, and now that sequence is much stronger.

When I first started working on this show, I was excited to perform in a play that I would help write. But now that I'm not going to be onstage due to my other work, I'm finding a much different excitement in writing a show that others will perform. Much like directing in NYC in January, it's a strange thing. I'm not going to be onstage, but the actors will be speaking my words. It's something new for me, as I've never really written a play before. Sure, I've written movies that I've produced, but it's different to know they are working on this without me there. I have a hand in a film at all stages of work, but this project I'm writing scenes and then turning them over to the director and the actors. I'm very excited to see what they come up with.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Story meetings

Last Sunday, I got together with Rob and Markus and we hammered out the entire story arc for the feature version of "The Chrononauts." We had long been working along two different lines for the concept of the feature, and I wasn't sure that we were going to be able to marry those two different ideas into one cohesive plot. But once we all got into the same room, it became pretty easy. I don't want to give away a lot of the details, but we did find a way to combine those two different approaches to the story and yet still find a story that makes sense. It's actually one of the exciting things about working on a movie that involves time travel, we can pull out things that seem to contradict each other and still make them both correct.

We based lot of the ideas on the short film as well. We're not trying to copy scenes or replicate plot points, but we're taking the moments and beats of the short film and just expanding the world that we created. We've got some exciting sequences planned and a nice entrance into the creation of a web-series based on the feature. The film stands alone as an exciting adventure, and yet it also links into a planned larger project. Stay tuned for updates.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Contract lenses

An actor friend of mine recently accepted an offer to do a summer Shakespeare festival, but she balked at the actual contract they sent her. It had an elaborate confidentiality agreement, as well as certain clauses in the contract that she wasn't sure about. She tried to discuss it with the company, but they told her that no changes could be made to the contract, and she would have to sign it as is. When she was telling me about it, I started thinking about previous contracts I had signed for different companies I had worked for. Most of the time, the contracts were simple one-page documents outlining payment and dates of employment, with almost no more specifics at all. But twice, they were long documents outlining all my responsibilities and expected code of conduct while employed with that theatre.

The first time I got such an elaborate contract, it was a very well-balanced deal, with protection provided for both company and actor in case of a difference between them. By signing it, I promised that I would behave in certain ways and perform certain tasks, but it also guaranteed that the theatre would behave in certain ways and be held to certain standards. It accounted for everything, and I signed it without further negotiation.

The second time I got an elaborate contract, it was much more heavily weighted in favor of the theatre company. I too balked at some of the provisions I was being asked to agree to, and I wanted to change some of the wording in the document as well as negotiate some of its points. I called the company office with a very specific request to discuss the contract. After trying for three days to speak to the correct people, I was eventually told that the changes I wanted were impossible, as they were not company policy. I didn't know if it was company policy to not change the contract, but I was forced to sign it with those less-than-favorable clauses intact. I enventually had a much larger debate with this company over contract matters, but that's an entirely different topic.

How much power do we actors have in these contract negotiations? In reality, the answer is not very much. There are a hundred other actors out there who are more than willing to play the roles that we give up because of contract reasons, and the theatres out there know this. That is one of the chief reasons to have an agent/manager, in my opinion. They can negotiate and discuss the specifics of employment without running the risk of alienating the theatre while they do so. The agent is simply looking out for the best interests of their client, which is something that all actors should be given the freedom to do. We need to learn how to ask for changes, negotiate, and not take "no" for an answer when we think the theatre company manager is just trying to sweep the problems under the rug. By and large, theatre companies do not take advantage of the actors that work for them. But if we run across that rare exception, we should have taken the time and had the courage to re-negotiate a contract that protects us.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Preserving

Rob and I have spent the last two evenings working on cutting his horror film We had done the opening bits of the film a few weeks ago, but over the last two days we tackled the real bread and butter of the movie. The middle of the film has some important exposition in it, setting up some of the characters and the history of the town. But this is already after we've had a high-octane sequence, so the challenge became crafting the calmer scenes to match the energy of the more action-driven scenes. It became about finding the best patter to put into those dialogue-driven scenes. We hit upon the idea of overlapping different lines, crafting a more dynamic and more cohesive performance than the actors actually gave. It makes the scenes stand stronger on their own, and they fit much better into the overall flow of the narrative.

It's always the thing that's the most strange about editing a feature is that the editor can really craft the performance of the actors. The actors give strong performance that fit into the overall scenes. But some actors can not only give performances that fit into the moment of each scene, but also fit into the continuity of the entire film. Otherwise each scene takes on a full life but the overall film lacks flow. That is one of the real marks of a good film actor. Well, that, and an avoidance of something that I'm now calling "actor-time." In real life, we connect each action and movement into a single organic flow, but film actors sometimes give a performance that is a little too disconnected to feel truly "real." Working on this side of the editing deck has given me a secret as to what casting directors see, so I think of it as good on-the-job training.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Mmm.... Brains....

The blog police are after me. I can heard their boot'd tread on the stairway now; their fists will crash on the door, push it open, manhandle me to sit in front of my laptop and type, TYPE!, to put something new out into the interwebs. So before they have the chance to knock down the door and ruffle my t-shirt, I'll write.

Last Friday night marked the second performance of the Mmmm....Brains.... new play festival downtown. All zombie themed plays. What's not to like? My last entry was about the fun I had with the cast, and that spirit of playfulness lasted for the process. We had a performance two Fridays ago, which went very well. After that first showing, the playwrights were given the chance to make changes and re-writes to their work. Alex decided not to do another draft, so we worked on making the second performance more of a fully realized event. The first one didn't have costumes, and we only mimed the food props called for in the script. For the second show, we wanted to give a fuller look to the play by using costumes, makeup, and, yes, real food.

The script says that my character puts out a tray with two different kinds of crackers and a bowl of dip. Though the course of the show, I feed it to the other characters with my bare hands, and then the other couple roll around on the ground, covering themselves affectionately in dip and crackers. It took us a few tries to find the right prop to use as the edible dip - hummus was rejected when one of our company didn't like it at all. French onion dip made half of us sick - it tastes great combined with potato chips and veggies, but not on its own. At the show, our director brought a container of tapioca pudding, which worked perfectly. And it got everywhere. Nice.

The entire project was a blast from beginning to end. I always love working on new plays and new scripts, especially short plays about zombies. I also felt really lucky to meet all the folk who were in the company with me. Very cool people all, and people that I want to work with again in the future if I get the opportunity. One of them is involved in film festivals (the subject of a-still-upcoming blog entry), and so they are good people to know for my career.

But above all, it was a blast. Working in theatre is supposed to be fun, and this whole process was a very fun one. I hope to do something like it again soon.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Homeward Bound

One of the crazy and fun things about this life is that I am now back on the bus, headed home to Philadelphia after my NYC audition this morning. Sure, we're still in NYC downtown traffic, but we're on our way. The audition went very well. I did my monologue, and then I read one of the opening scenes of the play with the girl who was there to be a reader. I did the scene once, the director gave me some feedback, and then I did the scene again taking his notes. He was nodding and smiling as he watched me work, which I always take as a good sign when I get it. Then he complimented my work and the change I made to the scene (definitely a good sign), and we briefly chatted about the logistics of the rehearsal and performance schedule. But I nailed the audition. Again, like I say after all of these auditions, nailing it doesn't mean I'm going to get the part. This time around I was recommended to the director by a mutual friend, so it's great to make a good impression for both of our sakes. Plus, he's a very well-known and respected director in the New York theatre community, which is always a good contact to have. And more importantly, is always a good contact to have given a stellar audition for.

Also, this is my 300th post to this blog according to Blogger. Happy Anniversary to me. I guess this means that I'll have to start printing out the earlier pages from my time at Bristol Valley or my various shows with TNT over the years, and I'll be collecting them into a book copy of the blog. Some comments will be presented just as they are online, with bonus pictures and perhaps footnotes. Or endnotes. No, footnotes. Endnotes piss me off with the constant turning of pages. I'll call it the 300th post special edition, signed copies will be available. Look for it on Amazon!