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!

Go Round and Round

Before I write and update about the biggest and coolest new thing happening right now, I want to take a moment and just comment that I'm on a bus right now to New York. Yup, you heard me. On the bus. The Bolt Bus features free Wi-Fi, as well as power outlets on the bus for you to plug in your electrical gadgets. More leg-room, $1 fares, convenient bus terminals, and the commercial goes on and on. I travel back and forth from NYC a lot, and this has very quickly become my favorite way of doing so.

I am on my way up there today for an audition for Proof at a theatre in North Jersey. A friend knows the director and speaks very highly of him, so I'm excited to get the chance to meet him and audition for him this morning. It's also convenient that the role of Hal is one for which I am very appropriate. I read the play again over the weekend, and I'm confident and cool with the monologue that I'm now rocking out in auditions for modern plays. The director is also going to give me scenes to read, which is where I think I really shine in the audition process.

After lunch in NYC, it's back home to Philly so I can work on finishing up some films, including the long-delayed indie horror film Preservation. Rob shot the movie a few years ago, and now I'm helping him with some post-production consulting as the film approaches its scheduled release date. We also still have to finish my own short "No Reason" which was completed last September, as well as a few re-edits on old projects that we're hoping we can give some new life. Stick with us as we get that stuff released, as well as all the new projects we're hoping to work on this summer.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Zombie rehearsal

I had so much fun tonight at rehearsal, that I had to write about it as soon as I got home. I'm in a short play that is part of a larger, zombie-themed play-reading series. The performance is of three original plays that feature zombies in different storylines, selected by a theatre that is currently performing a zombie play itself. In the show, I play a discerning zombie with taste, frustrated by the mindlessness of his friends and loved ones. It's a pretty hilarious script, and it's just wacky enough to be a lot of fun. We blocked the show tonight and ran it until it was more-or-less solid, and we meet again on Wednesday night to work on some more elements for the first performance on Friday.

But instead of taking you on a play-by-play and joke-by-joke tour of the evening, this post is taking another direction to look at why the whole night was so much fun. Four actors, writer, assistant director and director were the assembled crowd tonight, and after introductions and get-to-know-you-moments, we all got along really well. Finding comedy and cultural touchstones so quickly meant that we were very soon joking around like old friends. And that worked out to be a really strong group of people that our director assembled.

Since the show is about zombies, there is a lot of physicality in the script. People trying to eat each other, people feeding each other brains in sexy ways. People making out zombie-style. That sort of thing. So we were very lucky that our four actors were willing to dive into the work on the script. So there I am, being attacked and almost eaten by two people that I've only just met an hour ago, and I'm trying to fend Chris off with one hand while Dawn claws at my ankles. Everyone involved was willing to go into the work at 100% percent right away, which made the entire process so much fun.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Why I (would) get paid the big buck$

A colleague of mine works as a theatre reviewer for a local newspaper. She also works as the press contact for a local theatre company. As such, she doesn't write reviews for the shows that she is publicizing, but all this year has been subcontracting me to do the reviewing for this particular company. I'm happy to do it - I get to add to my portfolio of writing, I get articles published in papers with my byline, and I get to see the theatre for free. Of course, I know most of the people who run this company on both a personal and professional level. The first two shows of their season have been great, and both got enthusiastic reviews from my digital pen. But when I saw their newest show this past Friday night, I dreaded writing the review. It wasn't going to be as glowing as previous reviews. I could see what the production was going for, but I didn't think that they did a good job with it. Granted, it's a hard play, and I didn't like the play. But the production I saw did not overcome the problems with the play. I spent most of today writing up the review, and I sent it in to my colleague for publication tomorrow. It's not that I expect any followup on it, but it's just a hard line to walk between keeping my writing work honest and wanting to say good things about my friends.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Nailed it, again

My audition yesterday in New York City was to play King Arthur in "Camelot." I had been preparing the material and the character for the better part of a week, and I went up there on the early morning (i.e. still dark morning) bus full of ideas on how to play the role that might be new and fresh to the auditors. After singing both songs and doing most of the monologue, I knew that I had nailed the audition. I had done exactly what I wanted to do with the audition. I figured that most people would go into that audition and play the imposing, self-important regal figure of England's mythic king. Since most of the material they asked us to prepare was from the beginning of the play, I decided to honor the scenes and play Arthur as a young man who was unprepared for the greatness that had been thrust upon him. Far from being the confident king, he was still a young man trying to make his way in the world. So I played up that nervousness, that unsure quality, that element of feeling uncomfortable in his own position, trusting that I would allow my own sense of inner nobility to shine through underneath. It was a layered audition in which I was actually playing the role for a very short time. I wasn't showing them how good I could be playing Arthur, for those ten minutes in a cramped little room, I was playing King Arthur. It was fun.

I also lucked out that the artistic director knew a former professor/director of mine from college, so we talked about him for a minute and then also discussed the Thursday night at-the-buzzer antics of the Villanova basketball team. (Go Wildcats!) I should know the results of this audition by the middle of April after the artistic team has a few more weeks of auditions. But I hope that I'll get the chance to be king.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Price of Doing Business

I'm sure that no one needs to be reminded of money on this, the very day that Bernie Madoff pleads guilty and faces 150 years in jail. (150 years? I swore that sort of vengeful prosecution only happened on episodes of Law & Order. On that subject, God bless Jack McCoy.) But at the risk of being a downer, and without mentioning any specifics, this blog is about some of the economics of being an actor. Specifically, the economics of my audition tomorrow.

My audition is in downtown Manhattan. I live in the burbs of Philadelphia, so I'll have to take the train into Philly. From there, I'll have to take a bus to NYC. Then of course there is the four bucks for a roundtrip ride on the NY subway. The return ticket on the bus and the return ticket on the train get me back to my car, but there has to also be some sort of lunch in there tomorrow if I don't want to pack a brown bag sandwich to take with me. (I don't.) So you can see how all these tickets can add up.

But wait, there's more! If I did not have an audition tomorrow, I would be going into the office to work for my daily bread. So while I'm not technically spending that money to go to the audition, I'm giving up the paycheck for the chance to play Arthur. Such are the crazy demands of this business.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Audition Away!

Yesterday I headed off for an audition out near Yardley, brought to me by my agent. It was for a car dealership, and they were seeking an on-camera spokesman for their TV campaign. There were some script pages that I had to prepare, and then when I got into the audition room they asked me to do a few exercises, then had me read the scenes. They gave me some direction and had me read the scenes again, and then thanked me for my time and sent me on my way. In addition to the employees of the production company, I think there were three reps from the client there in the room for my audition, and they were nodding their heads as they were watching me on the monitor. They all seemed to like what I was doing, and I thought I was doing it pretty well. Overall, I was very pleased with the audition. As I was walking out to my car, I thought of a few other things I could have shown them on-camera, but the nature of this business just forces me to hold onto those ideas for the next audition. I threw the script pages away on the way home, since the best thing to do about auditions is to forget about them.

I have another audition coming up on Friday morning. A theatre in the Pocono mountains called me in to audition for the role of King Arthur in their production of "Camelot," running this summer. That's funny to me, because I had made the decision a week ago to give up musical theatre and focus on drama and comedy. Days after I made that decision, I got this call for Arthur. At first I wasn't excited, but after I listened to the CD and read the script for the musical, I got excited about the role. So maybe this will be a last excursion into musical theatre (if I'm lucky enough to get the role), but maybe the musicals will keep pulling me back in.

What a crazy career.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Final shoot

Last night, as the snow was falling and the roads were icing over, I was down in Philly on the set filming the last few scenes for "I/He/She." We had a handful of scenes to do, but there were some of the bigger ones in the film. I got to meet Aubrey, the other actor in the film, and the three of us had some good times while we were relaxing between setups. The shoot started with a scene between Lesley and Aubrey, both seen here as Kelvin is giving them some direction. Now, Aubrey has to be at least 6'3", and Lesley is all of 5'2". So it was a pretty comical pairing live on the set, but we were able to figure out a rather complicated system of chairs and stools that he could sit on so they would be closer in "film height" to each other. Their scene involved a few kisses and a change of position, and then it was my turn to pop into the chair and have Lesley kiss me a few times. In the film, Aubrey's character turns into my character halfway through the kiss. Once it was my turn to take the chair and get ready for my close-up, Mr. DeMille, Lesley and I started giggling and laughing about the idea of playing the scene. We've known each other for a few years, but the idea of kissing each other made us laugh. Granted, we're both professionals. So we didn't have any trouble actually playing the scene, but as soon as Kelvin called "Cut," we both cracked up. We kept pulling it together in order to film the scene, and then we would laugh just at the end of the take. But the important part is that we kept it together through the entire shot. People always have the idea that all the kissing and love scenes in films are really fun for the actors involved, but it's a very strange thing to be asked to do. There were four people watching us, cameras and lights all around, and it was about trying to look passionate and intimate without really being passionate or intimate. I'm very lucky that Lesley is such a good actor, and that she's so much fun to play with.

There were one or two more scenes for me that day, and they all looked really cool on the little playback screen. I'm excited to see this project when it's all said and done. I'm going to miss my time on the project, just the way I miss all those projects that are a lot of fun. I can't imagine what it's like for those actors who are lucky enough to get a part on a television series, so they get to work on a great project for years at a time. I have another audition on Thursday afternoon through my agent trying to get me on-camera work, which is a step toward making this my only career. But more on that later...

Sunday, March 1, 2009

In like a lion...

As incongruous as it might be to watch the the snow fall outside and the Phillies play exhibition baseball on TV, that's just what the area has in store for March. Today it's a little chilly, but by the end of the week it could be in the sixties again. Who knows? I've spent the last week or so being pretty sick, which accounts for both the lack of updates to the blog as well as the three updates to the blog that were made yesterday. Okay, those updates were also a shallow and blatant attempt for me to match some of my monthly posting quotas that I set for myself. But since February is shorter month than all the others, it'll just have to suffer a little bit when it comes to number of postings. Sorry, February.

Since I've been sick with very little to do except putter around my bedroom, I decided to turn some of that restless and rammy energy into something useful. Since I was laid up in my room, I decided to clean it. Empty boxes and old paperwork was either filed correctly or thrown away, and I cleaned out a lot of my "clutter." I expected this work to make my life much easier and my room much more inviting of a space. But what I hadn't counted on was how much more focused and dynamic my whole life feels. I sat down this morning at my desk and wrote a few emails to catch up with friends. I browse jobsites online, then checked out the films that friends had made. I work at a computer every day at my office and I normally don't enjoy spending time sitting at my own desk doing it when I get home. But now that my home office is a much more efficient and enjoyable place to be, hopefully I'll be able to find a way to get even more work done.

Go March!