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.