Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Golden Age

Merry Christmas, everyone! (And just about Happy New Year)

One of my Christmas presents this year was the complete collection of Superman serials from the 1940s. I had this box set on my Amazon wish list for years, so long in fact that I
had completely forgotten about it. I was very excited to open up the present on
Christmas morning, and I started watching it that afternoon. For those of you who don't have it, you can check out the trailer online, and I'm also sure that a little hunting across youtube will turn up most of it. The characterization of Superman is very much in keeping with his early appearances in the comic books, where he is known to carry criminals through the air, smack people's head together, and leave the villain hanging from lampposts.

Fortunately, this serial hits all of those wonderfully fis
t-pounding moments from the old comics. The movies were made in the late 1940s, they are Superman's first live-action appearance, and they are hugely entertaining. Each serial is 15 chapters long; each chapter runs about 15 minutes. If you don't know anything about the old-time film serials of Hollywood, you should click that hyperlink and go find out.
(Also, shame on you for not knowing.) Episodes were shown every Saturday morning at the mo
vie house, with the end of each chapter enticing you to return "next week, for the next thrilling installment of [INSERT NAME HERE.]" A fun sidenote, the film serials are the origin of the word "cliffhanger," because the cowboy-hero would literally be hanging from the side of a cliff at the end of one chapter, leaving the audience to wonder how he would ever survive! At the beginning of the next chapter, the cowboy-hero would climb his way to safety, and the adventure begins anew.

This discussion of cliffhangers allows me to provide a link to the best, most amazing, awesome, cliffhangingest cliffhanger of just about all time. It's this one.

But back to Superman.... To preserve the intended viewing style of the Superman serial, I've been watching one episode at a time. Sometimes more than one in a single day, but I always let a little time pass between episodes. Each chapter follows a very clear formula, and when you watch too many of them at the same time, the formulas become very apparent. But spreading them out over several days gives them the illusion of originality. And when I remember how they were originally meant to be seen, they are much more enjoyable.

The only other serial I own is a VHS copy of The Shadow, starring Victor Jory and Veda Ann Borg. I watched this when I was in high school, and I really studied its story structure and scriptwriting. I was very interested in the idea of a modern film serial, milking it for all the cheesy and repetitive goodness that it would offer. I put that project to bed for a long time, but now I'm starting to wonder if there is a way to produce it under the Radio Hound banner. It would be a fun retro project, if I could figure out a great way to market the finished film.

Monday, December 20, 2010

In another few years

I am a fan of the works of Noel Coward. I've only been in one of his shows ("Hay Fever" at Hedgerow Theatre), but I have enjoyed all of his shows that I have read or seen, and I've heard great things about the recent production of "Brief Encounter" on Broadway. So it was with a whole lot of excitement in my heart that I headed to Delaware to audition for a leading role in Coward's farce "Blithe Spirit." I saw a production of the show many years ago and I really enjoyed it. Coward writes very funny characters and very funny dialog, and I think that I'm very suited to play one of Coward's leading men. I can tap into the wit and intelligence of his characters, but also their senses of panic and desperation as things fall apart around them.

So I went out to the audition today armed with the script pages and a mug of coffee, and I had a really good time. I worked with a reader on a scene between Charles and his wife, and then I took a very fun crack at Charles' monologue where he is talking to the ghosts of his two dead wives. I had a nice rapport with the director, we talked about our mutual friends, and I think I did a decent job with the character. Coward has a way of writing comedy that I really enjoy and connect with. Sadly, his leading men are all generally closer to forty than thirty, so I might not be the right choice for the role this time around. But in about ten years or so....

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Avengers... ASSEMBLE!

I've never been a fan of either roleplaying games (like Dungeons and Dragons) or party games that involve acting (like Celebrity.) Because I'm an actor, games like that have always felt a little too much like "work" to me. I've always imagined it being akin to a bus driver relaxing by going for a three hour drive through busy city streets, stopping every few blocks. But my long-standing prejudices aside, I headed out in early December to join a dice-based roleplaying game that combines Marvel and DC comic book characters together in a shared universe.

I played Starman (William Payton), a minor character from DC comics circa 1990. He's essentially a normal guy who ended up with superpowers, including flight, invulnerability, and the ability to project heat, flame, light, and radiation. (Hence the name "Star"man.) When he realized he had these abilities, his sister Jayne helps fashion him a costume and he becomes the hero known to Phoenix, AZ as "Starman."

It's quite a costume, isn't it. God bless the early 90s in comic books...

After some chitchat and dinner before we started gaming, we hopped right in with the time-honored game of "screw with the new guy." I was the new guy. Starman was in trouble almost right away, and there were more than a few tense moments as he tried to figure out who everyone else around him. (Those people turned out to be Captain America, She-Hulk, and Deadman.) In fact, Starman is the only one of the heroes of our group who does not have his own wiki entry.

The game, which went until about 1am, was a whole lot of fun. It was a challenge to get into at first, especially since I was playing a character who was much more of a re-actor than a prime mover. But once we got into the story, acting the character became much easier, and I really started getting into a groove with it. And even past the "acting" part of the roleplaying, I started getting into the hang of how superhero characters behave and act. I was coming up with creative ways to use my superpowers, and also advancing the story in what I thought were very "comic book" ways.

We have more sessions scheduled for the New Year, and I'm looking forward to them. Far from feeling too much like the day job, it was a lot of fun to release my creativity and pretend to be a superhero. I was so into the role that whenever Starman was flying, I would actually lift my feet off the ground and sit on the edge of my folding chair so I could really "feel" what it would be like to be Starman in that moment.

Yes, I'm a geek. But an unapologetic geek.





Saturday, December 4, 2010

A Trip into the Past, Fashion-Wise

On Thursday morning, I headed up to Easton, PA to be a model for a photo shoot for historical clothing. A friend of mine works for Reconstructing History, a company that specializes in creating historical wardrobe for either re-enacting events or costume balls. They make clothes from all different eras and countries, and they hired me to be the photo model for some of the outfits that they sell on their website. The clothes themselves are all beautiful and completely accurate reproductions; they do amazing work. After an hour of driving and an invigorating coffee, I got to the storefront in Easton, met Kass, (who owns the company), Bob (whose clothing I would be wearing), and Chris (the photographer.) We talked, got to know each other a little, and then we got down to work.

Over the next four hours, we worked hard and constantly. I had to get out of there around 2pm for another commitment, so we were shooting fast and hard. And I was having a lot of fun as we were going. I'm the sort of actor who responds very strongly to wardrobe and costuming. Whatever decisions I make about a character are always informed, and in some cases completely changed, when I get the character's clothes. I've been very protective of costumes in the past, including taking care of my own uniform when I played Iago, trying to get the outfit as comfortable and as lived-in as possible. Clothes really do make the man.

The photographer was really great, and we worked on putting a lot of character into the still photos. I had to show off the clothing, but I had to do that by fully inhabiting and creating the character who would wear those clothes. We used props, different poses, and lots of hats poised on my head at rakish angles (because they didn't fit on my head.) The official photos will be posted on their website (www.reconstructing history.com), but they did allow me to take some photos of my own of some of the different outfits I modeled. This was in exchange for plugging their website. Did I mention that the website is www.reconstructinghistory.com? Go visit them now.

And here are some pictures. First up is a formal dinner outfit, complete with tails, hat, and legitimate stiff-front shirt.

Second, a morning suit from the early 20th century. I was tempted to sing "The Life I Lead" from Mary Poppins. I did.

Third, as Mr. Darcy, or Horatio Hornblower, depending upon your preference. I imagined myself as Hornblower. Hence the sword.

And finally, a piece from even further back in history. This one is affectionately referred to as "Little Boy Blue."
Go check out their website for all your historical costuming needs.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Co-Producing

Some time ago, I met Justin and Chris, some fine folks from NYC who make movies together as Hard Boiled Productions. We met at a networking event where people took turns showing the short films they had completed. I had brought The Chrononauts and they brought their short film Duty Noted. I was really impressed with their style and their creativity, and we've stayed in touch since then. In fact, Justin has written three radio scripts for Radio Hound Productions, including "Under the Lamplight," the recent finale to Scream Til You Die Shocktober. We grab drinks when we are in the other's city, and I just went out to support them in early October at Project Twenty1, a Philadelphia film festival.

But it was when I saw their latest short film, "Time In," that I sent them an e-mail telling them how interested I was in working with them. I had originally meant for them to consider me as an actor for whatever they were producing next, but Justin sent me a script that he suggested we turn into a co-production between Hard Boiled and Radio Hound. His script is set in suburbia (which I have access to), and focuses on the dynamic between a somewhat-estranged brother and sister who have to deal with each other during the Christmas holidays.

What started as a cool idea has been a very active e-mail brainstorming sequence. The three of us trade emails about the script, the film, and the details of producing it, and our brain trust of film making is certainly coming up with some fun ideas that are making the original script stronger. We have tentative plans to film the movie over a weekend in January, but we're still trying to work out some logistical details of the shoot itself.

I'm really digging the idea of working with them. I've admired their work for over a year now, and I've gotten to know them both as really awesome guys. I'm also used to producing the Stray Dogs Project largely by myself, so I enjoy having collaborators who are developing the script and the project with me. We're also trying to get the project going pretty quickly and wrap it up pretty quickly, trusting to momentum to carry us forward. It's still a little too early to announce anything for sure, but it's an exciting project that might be coming along. Stay tuned for more.


The In-Between Times

For actors, one of the challenges they face is filling the time between acting jobs with other gigs that can pay the bills. Some people work a 9-5 "day job" in order to rehearse and perform at night, some are lucky enough to have a flexible position with a temp company, and some are even luckier to be performing constantly. As I juggle temp jobs and freelance writing assignments, I am lucky that one of my friends is the production manager at a theatre in Philly. Whenever a show closes at his theatre, I can usually get a day or two of overhire work taking apart the old set.

Normally it's just a few days of heavy lifting and unscrewing flats from their supports. Sometimes we have to lower pieces down from the ceiling and then cut them up with the saw so that they fit in the trash can, but normally it's not very taxing work.

Not this time, however! This time they had put down an entire floor for the set, so our first day was spent prying up about a hundred pieces of fake hardwood flooring. Once that was finished, we had to pull up thousands and thousands of staples that had been holding that flooring down. And if that sounds terrible and difficult, it's mostly because it is. We worked for hours, only to find more staples that we'd missed. And when we pulled down more pieces of the set, we found staples in them as well. It felt like the entire theatre was put together from staples alone. Well, staples and wood glue.

I got four days of work out of this strike, which equals a nice little chunk of cash. I have a gig tomorrow morning as a model for historical costumes, which I'm really looking forward to. I'll try to snag some photos of my own to post and share, but I'll be sure to link to the official ones when they get posted. It's going to be a fun time!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Hamlet One-Shot

Nope, not the latest offering from DC Comics, Marvel Comics, or even Charleton Comics. It's the way I spent my Monday last week. After two weeks of intensive rehearsals and one school performance, we put Hamlet to bed until our touring starts in earnest at the end of February. But we had one show that was added to our schedule last Monday night, so we had a daytime brushup rehearsal before our evening performance.

Overall, the rehearsal and the performance went much better than I had expected them to. I knew there would be a certain amount of "oh, yeah, this is how it goes" as we stumbled our way through the show. Whether it was a forgotten prop or a forgotten character quick-change, we struggled our way through the play and everything really hung together. We took a quick dinner break, ran the fights again, and then did the show for the first audience in three weeks. Before we ran out onto the stage, I was actually a little nervous for the show, and a little excited to show off my work to friends that I knew were in the audience. The show went well, even if it didn't quite capture the magic of our afternoon rehearsal, and the crowd was very complimentary afterwards.

It felt good to get the wheels turning and run the show again, but even stranger knowing that we're not going to run the show again for another two months. But we slipped back into the show with ease, so I think that we'll be good to go when we start running again in February.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

NYC Play reading

The title of this post says it all. Last Sunday I made my way up to NYC to take part in the reading of "Julius Caesar." My friend David was hosting an informal reading of the cutting of the play he wants to produce, and he wanted to get some actors in the room so that he could hear the words out loud and bounce some ideas off of us. I saw his post on facebook looking for men who were available, and I sent him a message right away. I like working on small projects like this with friends, and it gave me an excuse to get up to NYC for a day or so.

I was pulling some multiple duties in the show, playing four characters through the script. All minor roles, I nevertheless had some fun as the soothsayer and one of the conspirators. David was very interested in the idea of how some moments in the play are presented for the public and other moments are private ones. He encouraged us to be aware of that as we read through the show, and to really play up the differences in those moments between the public face and the private one. It was a strong and clear interpretation of the show, and it certainly prompted a good discussion after the reading about the play itself.

I really like doing work like this play reading with friends. It is always fun to get actors together and have them do their thing. Even though I wasn't any major roles in the show, I had a lot of fun working with the other actors. It was great to work on a project where the stakes were low, the fun was high, and the companionship in the room was palpable. I enjoy play readings like this, and I really enjoy working with people that I know as they try to put something together.

I always do as many readings as I can, because you never know when the reading could turn into a full production. Not that I do readings hoping they become productions, but it's a nice side benefit sometimes. I actually met #1 director/collaborator because I signed up to be in a reading she was hosting, and she and I are now very good friends. In a business that is all about connections, play readings are a great way to make some quick connections.

"Beware the Ides of March...."

Six months later...

Back in the spring, I played Duke Orsino in a production of Twelfth Night. We ran for a few weeks, closed the show and struck the set, and then moved into other projects. Well, thanks to the magic of cameras, youtube, and the Internet, that performance has been both captured and released to the world at large. You can check the show out in sections on youtube, the first one of which is posted below. Check out our steampunk Shakespearean goodness.


Even more strange, however, is that I came across a review of this video. I was searching myself online to see what had been posted, and I stumbled across the article written by an expert on Twelfth Night who both discusses our show and also compares it to other productions of the play. It's a really great write-up, all the more amazing because it comes six months after the play closed. Ah, the world in which we live....

Dracula

After all those technical rehearsals for Dracula, the show opened and ran very well. The students had a really good time working on the play, and all the faculty that I met really enjoyed the show. The first performance had some minor technical glitches in it from a sound design point of view, but that was only because we really hadn't had many chances to run the show with all the cues before opening. But even with those minor goofs, the show was great. A few notes took care of all the problems, and the second show the next day was even better from the technical end.

I only got a chance to see the first two shows because I had to make a trip up to NYC to take part in a play reading with a friend. (More on that in a later post. I know I say that a lot, but I have the post written already and I just need to put it up.) Dracula was a lot of fun to work on, and I might get the chance to come back to the school to work on the musical in the spring. Working at SHHS reminded me of working up at Cedar Crest College when I did three shows for them a few years ago. It was a lot of fun to work with students and teachers on what were essentially low-stakes productions. Finance and support comes from the schools, which frees the artists to create some awesome art. It's a fun environment in which to work, one to which I would like to return now and then.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Technical Rehearsal, from the other side of the table

Last night was the first night of technical rehearsals for "Dracula" at SHHS. This is my first major experience working as a designer for a show, so it's the first time that I get to sit with the director and watch the show take shape as the technical elements layered into it. The sound crew is really efficient and on top of things, even if the head operator of the crew is a little unfocused sometimes. I had emailed him my sound cues on Thursday before I went on vacation, and he had modified them a little bit before I showed up against yesterday. That work he did is fine with me, since I'm not "really" a sound designer by profession. But I do think that I want to just give him a little warming about working with any professionals that he may encounter down the road. Better he get that lesson now than with someone who will really bristle at what he did on his own.

In any case, the first night of tech went really well. We made our way through a lot of the show, moving through toward the end of the play. Tonight we're going to go back to the beginning and working the first act of the show. Things have gone really well so far, so I'm not expecting it to be any harder tonight. I know that Allison (director) is a little stressed about the entire show coming together, but it's refreshing to me to only be working on the sound aspect of the show. And that sound is coming together nicely. We're going to have some cues to work through today, and we still need to figure out when the Foley artists get their microphones turned on and off through the play. Easy stuff, but just stuff that needs to get done.

Well, off to rehearsal! More to follow.






Thursday, November 11, 2010

Working... working...

I am currently sitting in a Borders store. I have a coffee on one side of the laptop, the script for Dracula on the other side, and I've spent the last twenty minutes or so working on a sound cue for Dracula's many creepy entrances in the play. I'm playing around with the cue to give the director a few more versions before I head off for my vacation this weekend. I'll be back at rehearsal on Monday to work the sounds into the show, and until then the director will be working with my Foley performers on the live sounds themselves.

I'm really enjoying this gig as sound designer, which is a theatre job I haven't done since 2004 when I was an apprentice. Back then, I directed a one play in a series of one-acts, and I was given the job of finding and selecting the music to play between the plays. That was the last time I was credited as the sound designer for a production, although a lot of what I do for Radio Hound would be listed under the job description of a sound designer. This case is different, though, since I'm working with a director who is giving me notes and suggestions on the sounds, as well as a sound team that will be performing the live effects and playing the pre-recorded ones. It's pretty cool to be working with a team!

Foley work Day 3

I'm now three days into my work as the Foley designer for "Dracula" that I mentioned in my last blog post. As we've been rehearsing, the set is coming together around us, and the show is coming together within the set. I've included a picture so you can see what things are like in this working phase.

Off to the right side of this picture is a black platform. When that is fully completed, the sound artists will be up there with their table and effects. Right now, you can see them on the floor in front of the stage (also on the right hand side of the photo.) We've worked out all the different live sound cues, and now the performers are getting a chance to actually perform the sounds as we do runs of the show.

The two students that I'm working with had no experience when we started on Monday, but they are picking it up really quickly. There are the normal amount of technical obstacles to hurdle, but they are getting very good at "acting the sounds."

Monday, November 8, 2010

Have Foley, Will Travel

I started a new job today. Allie, the stage manager of my current Hamlet tour, is directing a production of "Dracula" at a local high school. When she found out that I produce radio plays and work with live sound effects, she asked if I would be interested in coming in to work with some high school students on live sound effects for the production. Always interested in making contacts, working, and earning some money for my art, I jumped at the chance. My first rehearsal was today, although Allie and I had tried unsuccessfully to meet up over the last week to chat and get the script to me. So today I watched a run of the play while making notes regarding some possible sound effects. I gave the production manager a wish list at the end of the day, rounded up handfuls of wood, screws, and metal, and then headed home to research the sound of bat wings.

I love my job.

As of right now, I think that designing the live sound effects on this show should be pretty easy. There are only a handful of "sounds" written into the script that I need to figure out, even though they seem to happen over and over again throughout the play. Most of the work is going to revolve around two or three "atmospheric sound cues" that are going to create different moods for different characters. The idea I have is that certain characters are going to get sound cues to serve as their "theme." As the director, Allie can then decide when and how she wants to use those themes to underscore or foreshadow things happening in the play.

When I go in tomorrow, I'll start working with my actual sound performers on the rhythm, style, and cues for live sound effects. Having done so many live shows, Radio Hound Productions has developed something of a "house style" that I now have to teach to high schoolers and let them process it further. It is what I get hired for, so its what I get to do. Updates to follow.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Chemistry... Noir!.... LIVE!

Radio Hound Productions was live in Philadelphia last night at the Chemical Heritage Foundation for their First Friday event. We premiered the newest adventure of Boson Higgs, a live radio play called "Chemistry... Noir!" We set the equipment up and then had some time to wait before the first show, but when we realized that there were people literally waiting to come in and find some seats. We did two performances, and we had about 50 people at each performances. That makes "Chemistry... Noir!" the most successfully attended Radio Hound Production ever. Performing for that many people was great, and I was sitting in the back row during both performances listening to the assembled crowds laughing at the jokes I wrote.

It was a good day to be a writer.

But it was an even better day to be a producer. I got paid for the production, people signed up for the mailing list, I heard nothing but good feedback on the entire performance, I have a great episode that will be posted next week, and I've already been approached with the idea for future collaborations with CHF. After the show I went out for drinks and food with friends and costars, and we talked about future versions of Mr. Higgs. It was a great night, and I did a whole lot of producing for the win. It was a fantastic night! Here's a picture of the crew:

(L-R): Sarah J Gafgen, Matt Dell'Olio, Jensen Bucher, Nick Martorelli, Lucas Nguyen, Andrea Pinyan

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Chemistry... Noir!

Last night, I loaded up the recording equipment and went to the first and only rehearsal for "Chemistry... Noir!" a live radio play that I am producing on Friday down in Philadelphia. A friend of mine works for the Chemical Heritage Foundation, and when she and her colleagues heard the first adventure of Boson Higgs, Science Detective, they approached me to produce a new episode for them as a part of the First Friday series. I jumped at the chance, thrilled that someone was going to hire me to produce an audio drama.

As preparation for writing the script, I went down and met with reps from CHF, and I got a tour of the exhibits they are showing to see if anything would serve as a good basis for a story. There were a lot of cool ideas, but I attached myself quickly to the ideas of both poisoning and electroplating. A mystery started to form in my mind and I made notes and started working on the script. It proved to be slow-going, however, and two days before my draft was going to be due, I did a complete bait and switch on the mystery. Instead of a case of poisoning, it turned into a story about a theft in a museum.

The new script flew along really quickly, and I had the rough draft done in about a day. A few more days of editing and polishing, and then it was ready for our first rehearsal last night. With only one exception, all the actors had worked on the previous live show so we could fall right into a nice rhythm with the rehearsal. There were new jokes to work through and new science to explain, obviously, but it went very smoothly and we finished with time to spare.

I'm always delighted to work with very talented actors because they can really make the words on the page spring to life. Suddenly hearing it aloud, jokes were coming across really well, and they were even finding jokes that I hadn't intended to be jokes. And it was much more than just jokes - the actors found the relationships between characters that were only lightly suggested in the script. I love when that happens, because then I can tailor the script to support and reinforce what the actors bring to the table. That is one of my favorite aspects of writing, and it is even more amazing to be because it was completely unexpected when I started producing my radio series. It has been a natural discovery along the way, and it has been a fantastic one.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Five-Day Film Festival

Last weekend, I was a part of the cast and crew for a movie produced as a part of a five-day film festival. Rob and I entered this festival two years ago, and that's how we produced "The Chrononauts," which we are currently trying to develop into a webseries. This year, we produced a short film called "Rendezvous," and you can find more information about it over at the RHP website. The whole process was a lot of fun, as most of these festivals are, and we finished an entire movie in less than a week. I think we have a very good story and a very good script, and we have two lead actresses in this film who are heavy-hitters. Overall, I think it's a great project.

But let me tell you about it in slightly more detail...

On Friday night (last Friday), Rob and I were working on the story when we learned that the location we wanted to use was probably going to fall through. Stressed and panicked, since we had actors showing up in literally 12 hours, we scrambled to find a new story that we liked as much as the old one. After a few hours of this, we got an email that the location was going to come through after all. So now we had our work cut out for us in writing a script. We sat down around 11pm to start working, and I left his apartment around 1am with a fully completed script. We printed it out, emailed it to actors, and then tried to catch at least a little sleep before starting early the next morning.

Early the next morning, I was out the door bright and early so I could pick up Amanda, one of our actresses, from the train station. We arrived at the set around 9am so we could get into
costume and discuss the script, and then head off to get started with the filming. We had a beautiful day for it, although my wool costume did make it just a little bit uncomfortable. The first scene we filmed as the final scene, which was a big fight between the heroes and some Nazi soldiers that stumble across them in the woods.
We filmed the fight scene first, broke for lunch, and then hustled ourselves through the rest of the script to make sure we could finish all the scenes before the sun went down. As it was, we finished slightly ahead of the sunset, and we actually had to wait for it to get dark so we could film a nighttime scene and a dream sequence.

Our production crew dug a fire pit and made a campfire, and the actors made s'mores while Rob set up the camera and the lights. Then we broke out the fog machine and the air cannon to get shots of the dream sequence, and we ended the day by blowing me up. Rob's exact note to me was to "Die like Willem Dafoe." In Platoon.
It was a great shot to end the day on, too. When we watched it on the playback, we knew we had something awesome for the film. The black smoke behind me filled with pieces of debris makes it a great image, and it works really well in the film itself.

As we were shooting the movie, I confess to being nervous about getting the chance to finish the whole thing. Rob and I habitually bite off more than we can chew when it comes to shooting movies in a single day. I always panic a little bit when it gets to lunchtime, and I worry that we're not going to get everything done that we need to get done. But we always get everything done (mostly), even if Rob decides that he has to cut some setups in order to finish in time. And I know there have been times when we've had to run out of a location without getting some shots we wanted. But that didn't happen this time, and we got more done that I was expecting. We all went home happy with the footage we had, and now only needed to put everything together as a movie. But that's the next post.


Thursday, October 28, 2010

Trailer for "Rendezvous"

This past weekend, I worked with my partner Rob from Digital Reality Films on a 5-Day Film Festival. I'm planning to write a post about it, but until then I will direct you over to Rob's blog, The Cutting Room Floor. You can find that at filmrebel.blogspot.com

But until my blog post is uploaded, please enjoy this teaser trailer for the upcoming short film.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Working between the Panels

A few posts ago, I mentioned a fun project that I hadn't written about yet. Well, this is an entry on that project. A few weeks ago, I headed down to a photographer’s studio to be a character in a comic book. I’ve been reading comic books since I was six years old, and I am now an avid collector. I love those old newsprint pages from my youth, and they fire something deep in my imagination. So when a friend of mine sent me an email from an artist who was looking for actors to pose as character models for a comic book, I made sure to answer that email right away.

David, the artist, responded very quickly and explained the overall plot of the graphic novel he was illustrating. Based on actual events, the comic book would chronicle the series of nights when Lord Byron, Percy and Mary Shelley, and two other guests gathered around a fireplace to entertain each other with ghost stories. Each issue would be a different character’s story in which the storyteller would take on the role of “hero,” the final issue being the most famous story to come out of that party – Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein.” David cast me as Lord Byron, discussed some costume things, sent me the script for the comic, and then we scheduled the photo shoot.

I arrived at his studio not knowing what to expect, but thrilled to learn. When everyone had arrived and gotten into wardrobe, we moved into the studio, which David had decorated as small sets. I had read the script and so I knew the story behind each scene. But since David was shooting still images for the comic, it was an interesting acting challenge to convey the intent behind dialogue without getting the opportunity to actually say any of it. We worked out a system, though, where we read the dialogue for each panel, and then struck a pose to convey the intention. Without the use of my voice, I relied on body language and facial expression. David explained that he will use the photos as a reference when illustrating the comic, so I really tried to create the character in my eyes.

The entire group wrapped shooting at about noon, but David and I stayed for another few hours to finish up the first issue, which had a lot of solo shots of my character as he was telling his scary story. In this ghost story, I got the chance to play a Jekyll/Hyde character. And since Jekyll and Hyde is one of my favorite books, I was thrilled to play the part. At the end of the day, David let me keep one of the wardrobe shirts (which I have already used in another project), and he promised to send me the artwork when he finishes some pages. And you can sure believe that I’ll be posting some of that here if he allows me.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Hamlet (Week One)

So, we blocked Hamlet in four days. And that includes the fights. I’m going to give you a chance to think about that again. Hamlet is one of the longest and most complicated of Shakespeare’s plays, and we blocked it all in four days. Granted, we’re only doing a 4-actor, 75-minute version of the play. And if that sounds almost impossible, it’s because it is. The first set of challenges is learning how to run around backstage in order to make all your costume changes as well as play musical cues, and then still remember which side of the stage you enter on. Then acting happens on top of all that.

Because of how quickly we have to work to get ready for the show, the pace in the first few days was hurried and somewhat hectic. As we struggled to remember the lines we had learned on our own, the work on each scene was necessarily brief and perfunctory, consisting mostly of ideas of the “you stand there, then move over here, then exit” variety. While I understand that is the best way for us to start because of our schedule, it is a style of rehearsing that really doesn’t work well for me. When the process starts with detail work so early, I sometimes feel like a puppet. It robs me of some of my creative impulses because I feel that they aren’t really wanted yet.

Luckily, the fourth day of work did involve some work on quieter character moments, and we changed the blocking accordingly when we found something didn’t work. So our uber-specific beginning isn’t an insurmountable obstacle, but it certainly took some of the wind out of my sails right from the beginning.

Every artist (actor, director, designer, writer) invariably has their own rhythms and their own preferences when it comes to how they work on a show. One of the biggest and least understood challenges in theatre, however, is that those artists need to learn how to work together and allow those rhythms to complement each other, instead of letting conflicting patterns shake the entire production apart. It’s a challenge that each artists needs to address in their own way, and it’s one that I’m not completely confident with yet. I haven’t yet figured out a good way to deal with that sort of conflict, but I’m trying to figure it out.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Fan "Superman" trailer

I'm normally not one to re-post things that I've found online, but this one was shown on The Bitter Script Reader, one of the blogs I follow. And since I just played Superman, and Zach Snyder was just hired to direct the new big screen version, the subject here is at least topical.

But seriously, check out this fan-made trailer. (Fan-made!) This thing is epic. And creative. And exciting. Please, Mr. Snyder, give us a Superman movie that would also be described by those three words.

Pieces of the Puzzle (At Work)

So, I've talked about two Fringes, my upcoming "Hamlet," and I still have a day that I haven't told everyone about yet. And, of course, all the current projects currently on the drafting boards at Radio Hound. These include various upcoming Stray Dogs Project episodes, our miniseries "Scream Til You Die Shocktober," as well as another upcoming "Boson Higgs" live event. In the mean time, Rob and I have been developing the story for an online webseries that we want to produce. Originally we had hoped to have the script done by this time of year, but we have fallen behind due to some other projects that have cropped up.

We had some excellent writing momentum a few months ago when we were meeting once a week to work on story outlines and character backgrounds.
We had a multi-page Excel spreadsheet that charted the entire webseries, essentially page-by-page. With an outline completed, only the actual scriptwriting was left. Instead of splitting the writing chores, Rob elected to take them all on himself. We get together now and then and read our way through his first "scratch draft" of the series.

This work on the webseries is also matched by the work I am doing on a short film that I really want to produce. I had an idea for a single image of a film. I set a timer and challenged myself to rattle off the rough draft of the film that included that image. As I've been working on the script since then, it has taken shape. Strangely enough, that initial inspiring scene is no longer in the film, but the script is much stronger. It's a little eight page short film that I'd like to produce, but it's certainly sitting on the desk until at least November. It's not buried in a drawer, though...

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Hamlet begins

My newest theatrical project, as I think I mentioned in a previous post, is a production of "Hamlet" that will be touring as a school production. I'm returning to a previous realm of being the morning Shakespeare assembly for bleary-eyed high school students. But instead of touring the country as I did as Mercutio in R&J, I will be touring the Philadelphia suburbs as both Claudius and The Ghost in a 4-actor version of "Hamlet."

We met for the first time last Monday, where we read through the current version of the script, talked about the overall production, and got the first "how to speak the Shakespeare" lesson while we ate our lunch provided by the theatre. (Free lunch!) Then we were set
loose for another week before we begin our rehearsals this coming Monday. Even though we had been working on the script by ourselves, it was great to bring the whole band together and get everyone in the same room.

Because our rehearsal time is limited, the director has asked us all to come to the first rehearsal off-book, with all our lines already memorized.
This is not normally something that actors are asked to do, and in fact the performer's unions expressly forbid producers asking actors to do this. But, non-union as we are, I understand the request given the rehearsal time involved. However, it's not the way that I prefer to work. I've always found that memorizing completely in a vacuum limits my creativity and flexibility when it comes time to rehearse the show. A little bit of familiarity is helpful, but too much knowledge with them can actually be a hindrance as much as a convenience. For that reason, I try to memorize as I actually rehearse as much as possible. But to honor my fellow actors (and also not be the only delinquent member of the group), I am steadily working my way through the Hamlet script to beat as many lines as possible into my brain.

At the first rehearsal, however, we were told that our cutting was still 15-20 minutes too long, and we should expect more lines to be cut from it. A few days later an email brought a new draft of the script. Suddenly, lines that I had learned and lines that I had loved were no longer in it. This is one of the unforeseen dangers about cuts to a script after the actors have their hands on it. Over the last month, I have started to feel possessive of the lines I have; to cut them now invites question and concern. I have two or three lines that I am planning to ask to be put back in, because I've learned the speeches with those changes of thought. To suddenly take out a transition is to force me to stumble my way through the speech again, which in effect defeats the purpose of preparing it in advance in the first place. Tis a sticky situation, but a trap that actors need beware of.

Now if you'll excuse me... I have one more scene to learn.


Thursday, October 14, 2010

Where I've Been (Part 3)

Okay, so in the last two posts, I pretty much sped through everything that I've done since the last time I had an opportunity to post. A couple more projects are currently in the works, and I'll be sure to share information (and hopefully pictures) of those projects as they develop. But before we leap to the present, we have one more stop to make in the past. It's somewhat of a long stop, but only because pictures take up more space on this blog than text does. And so, here are some pictures!

First up, Jensen Bucher and Lucas Nguyen as Brianna Green, Detective, and Boson Higgs, Science Detective.

Michael McElroy as Charles Tuscany, a man with a problem... and a secret.

Jennifer MacMilan as Valerie Burbank, Charlie's fiancée, accused of a crime she did not commit.

Stephen Lyons as Mr. A. Leopold Burbank, Valerie's father. A man who has been wronged.

Rachel Gluck as Detective Jordan, businesslike and efficient, with a soft spot for Mr. Higgs.
And a final picture of the entire cast, including Andrea Pinyan (onstage director) and Nick Troy (live sound effects.)


I hope you've enjoyed our little photo album of "Boson Higgs," and my next entry will start delving into my current projects. But don't worry, Boson Higgs will return.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Where I've Been (Part 2)

In the last posting on the blog, I talked about two shows in the Philadelphia Fringe Festival. As I was working on these two shows, I was also writing and preparing The Peer-Reviewed Journals of Boson Higgs, Science Detective, a show I produced for the 2010 Wilmington Fringe Festival. At the first Fringe Wilmington last year, Radio Hound produced its first live audio drama, Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. This year, our show was a comedy adventure of Boson Higgs, Science Detective. I had done a previous episode about Mr. Higgs for a live theatre event in April, and the Wilmington Fringe seemed a good time to bring that character back for a full-length project.

I wrote the script over a stressful two weeks, struggling a little bit to get the entire script done in time to have it printed and ready for the actors at the first rehearsal. But I did it, and I went to the first read-through with a stack of pages in my bag. When the actors arrived, we read through the script and I took pages and pages of notes on things to adjust for the next draft. I was up into the early morning that first night, making changes and improving the jokes before handing out all-new scripts on the second day.

We had a week's worth of rehearsal on the show, and we were fortunate that our rehearsal space was made possible by a generous donation from Flashpoint Theatre.
This meant that we could inhabit the space, get comfortable with the nightly routine, and also leave our equipment and props in a safe space overnight. The actors went through the shows, director Cara working the script moment by moment and really finding all of the comedy as well as all of the drama. I love working with her because she always takes my scripts and finds meaning and depth to them that is admittedly unintentional on my part.

Fringe Wilmington ran the first weekend of October. The shows were not very well attended, but everyone who saw the show really enjoyed it. I was very happy with the work that everyone did, and I'm already working on the next live show for Boson Higgs. More pictures from the show will follow soon, as will up-to-date reports on the school tour of "Hamlet" that I'm now rehearsing.

(The first picture is Jennifer MacMillan, Stephen Lyons, and Lucas Nguyen rehearsing a fight in the radio play. The second photo is Jensen Bucher and Lucas Nguyen as detective partners Brianna Green and Boson Higgs.)

Monday, October 11, 2010

Where I've Been (Part 1)

Wow. Okay, so, no posts for the entire month of September. Wow. That whole month, just sorta lost to the expanse of the Internet. What was I up to all of that time? Why, I'm glad that you asked.
In the beginning of September, I played Superman in a staged reading of a comic book as a part of the "Superheroes Who Are Super" project done as a part of P&P Theatre in Philly. We performed two early issues of Action Comics from 1938, in which Superman is a tough guy going up against corrupt politicians and slumlords by throwing them through windows. Our director designed the show to resemble a 1930s show from the Works Project Administration, including homemade props and costumes. Hence the hand-sewn Superman costume in the picture above.

The show was a lot of fun, and we squeezed five performances into three days. We were a hit, though, and I had some friends come to see the show who were big comic book fans, and they really enjoyed what we did with the show. One funny moment of the process for me was when, as Superman, I had to pick someone up and fly through the air with them. Fortunately, the actor I had to "pick up" was also a comic book fan growing up, and we knew exactly how to pretend to do that. I grabbed his neck, we both looked up, bent our knees, and then straightened our legs. I looked all tough and flying, he waved his arms like he was in the air. It was simple, effective, and very funny.

After my time in the cape was over, I moved on to play Roderigo in a show I mentioned briefly on this blog, DdS. Here's a picture:

That's me, second from left, dressed in one of the nicest shirts that I've ever worn. I'm playing the young waiter at the restaurant. While the other three in the picture may have gotten more lines and more stage time--in fact, the two guys in suits were onstage for 45-minutes straight--I did get to end the show by drinking some wine onstage. According the script, my character lifts a decanter of wine to his mouth and drinks hungrily, greedily, until the wine pours out of the decanter and runs down his chin and down his body. Something like this:

I went home after every show smelling like grape juice. It was an amazing moment of theatre to have the wine running all the way down my shirt, and the director Aaron and I had a few discussions about what this moment should be. It presented a unique challenge, however, because we couldn't "rehearse" the moment due to the amount of liquid and the mess involved. So we would talk about the moment, I would do the big pour at the end of the run of the show, I would get cleaned up, and then we would talk about it again. A pretty strange way to rehearse a moment of a show, but a fun one.

So, that's what I was up to until September 18th? And what about after September 18th you say? Wait for a day or so, and I'll have a new post up about the next show. I will. Promise.

Friday, October 1, 2010

MIA

Folks out there, I have been lazy when it comes to posting lately, but I have been working on a whole bunch of projects that I will try to talk about and reflect on. But for now, just surf over to the RHP website and check out the project page for "The Peer-Reviewed Journals of Boson Higgs, Science Detective." And if you're in the Philly area, come see the show at the Wilmington Fringe festival.

Be back soon.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

DdS - Altar boy flashbacks

This afternoon was the second rehearsal for DdS, and the first one where we really got the chance to play around and look at any of the scenes in detail. The show opens with a choreographed routine in which the head waiter and I set the table in meticulous detail before the two leading men crash into the restaurant with a loud and rambunctious energy. So for the first hour and half, Aaron (director, but a different Aaron than Henry V), Jerry (the head waiter), and I played around in order to find the vocabulary of that first little beat of the play.

Jerry had been a waiter/head waiter in his time, so he knew how everything would be done at high-end restaurants, and he was bringing that knowledge to the table in rehearsal. While I've never been a waiter and don't have any of that experience to work with, I was an altar boy when I was younger (no jokes, please), and so I know a lot about ritual, procession, and following the lead of an authority figure. (again, no jokes.) So as we worked out stage business where Jerry sets the table and then I keep handing him plates, I knew exactly the sort of tone and spirit to throw into the scene. It was fun, it really worked, and it provided for some strange flashbacks and I thought about all those Sunday mornings spent holding the Bible for Father Joe.

After that, we worked on the first fifteen pages or so which involved a lot of standing around for me. Not waiting to work, but literally standing around as the waiter and... well, waiting to take their order and fetch the water pitcher to refill their glasses. I have to make sure that I have comfy shoes for this show... Then, for the last hour of rehearsal, we all got dressed up in our costumes (or pieces of our costumes) and then had a photo call for press photos to use to promote the show. I'm sure they will appear online shortly and I will link to them, but it's always fun getting clothes, playing dress-up, and getting my picture taken. After all, I am an actor.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

DdS - Read-through and first rehearsal

For the last week or so, I've had no rehearsals, only a few shows, and lots of free time on my hands. And let's not get crazy, I filled as much of that time as I could with drinking, hanging with friends, and working on upcoming scripts for some radio shows. But with the Phily fringe coming up, and my involvement in two different shows, that time off was only destined to last for so long.

I plunged back in tonight with my first rehearsal for DdS, a one-act play in which I play a young and somewhat impressionable waiter. And to top the list of all ironies out there, I am literally the only person involved in the production that has never spent any time in the food service industry. We talked about the show for a bit, read through it once, talked about it some more, and then we had just enough to read through the show for a second time. I am a supporting character in this show, but I realized today at rehearsal that I love playing supporting roles. As much as any actor wants to be the leading man, I have the most fun when I'm embracing my status as a character actor. And this role has a little bit of the character part blended into it, which I enjoy. The cast and crew are a fun group, and it should be an exciting rehearsal process.

My other Fringe show, SWAS, starts with a publicity event on Monday night before rehearsals start on Wednesday, and you can be sure that you'll be hearing about playing Clark Kent a lot.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Closing up shop

From three shows to one show.... In the last few days, I closed my run of Henry V as well as performed my last children's show in the AM for the kiddies. So from having a schedule where I was running around like crazy, I'm now in the temporary position of only having shows late at night on Friday and Saturday. And this has left me with a whole lot of free time for about a week or so.

And while I am trying to use this time to make myself buckle down and work on my upcoming projects, I'm also trying to find/make time to hang out with friends that I haven't seen in quite a while. Balancing personal time with professional time is one of the hardest things to do in my chosen career, but the schedule has given me some free time, and I plan to take advantage of that.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

New Episode Online! - "CC'ed"

The 14th episode of the Stray Dogs Project is online, and you can listen to it at the usual site here: http://radiohoundproductions.org/Stray-Dogs-Project.php No pictures to go with the posting this week, as all of the recording was done backstage of my recent production of Henry V. In fact, the episode stars the entire cast of Henry V (myself included), and it was all recorded when I asked actors to show up early before the last three performances. In fact, I specifically wrote the script for these actors.
Because of all the craziness going on this week, I knew that I wouldn't be able to schedule a full-on legitimate recording session with all the actors. So I wrote a script in which everyone is alone when they speak, and then their individual speeches were edited into a longer conversation. It's another episode that experiments with the form of audio story-telling, and I think that this structure works really well and tells a good story.

And if some friends and frequent comment-writers on this blog (JParis, for one), notice some things that he thinks are based on my previous experience in an office setting.... Just let me tell him that "all similarities to persons living or dead are purely intentional."

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Once more, dear friends

After a week's worth of performances that have sold out in less than an hour, I only have one more performance of Henry V. But it's going to be a great show; the whole nature of our play is the final exam of a high school class, and tomorrow it will literally be the FINAL exam of our class. And not only that, but a high school teacher of mine is planning on coming. He'll see me play a high school English teacher, and I am excited beyond words for this to come to pass.

Dr. Fles taught me Honors English in both the 9th and 11th grade. I remember his classes vividly. One time, he made us learn speeches from Julius Caesar. (I actually did a second one for extra-credit.) I read Huck Finn with him for the first time, and a lot of other classics that I still re-read. And Dr Fles was legendary for his quizzes and tests that had the most complicated instructions of any teacher I've ever had. Sometimes, each question would have a point value attached to it, and we would have to answer exactly 100-points worth of questions or risk losing other points. He also gave us the best/worst extra-credit questions, where you would gain points if you got it right, but you would also lose points if you answered incorrectly. (It completely eliminated guessing; you could do more harm than good.)

In any case, Dr Fles is one of those teachers from my past that I look back on as being supremely important in my overall life. He read plays I wrote, encouraged my love of The Shadow, and was always in his office if I just wanted to chat during a free period. And now he's coming to my show, where I am essentially playing a character that I have loosely based on him. I think this is one of my most personally-anticipated audiences ever.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Catch up - looking forward

So, I know the title of this post might be a little strange. Even contradictory. But whatever. It's my blog, and I'll write whatever I want. So there. Anyway, now that mirror universe Nick has shaved off his goatee, I wanted to take the chance to write about some projects that I have coming up in the next few months. Since I just caught you up on my last few months, I guess it's only fair.

My late night show, "B," runs for three weeks, so that journey is just starting. (In fact, I'm sitting backstage right now as I write this entry.) But as soon as Henry V closes, I start rehearsals for DDS with CCTC, and you can find dates/times/information for the show at this link. The production is being presented as a part of the Philly Fringe, and will run for a week in mid-September. But in addition to DDS, I might be a part of the Superhero project done at P&P in Philadelphia. Details have yet to be finalized, but I'm hoping that it will all work out and I'll get the chance to play one of my absolute favorite superheroes. And if you even need three guesses to figure out who it is, you must not know me very well.

But in addition to all of these (and, truth be told, after a lot of them), I am also producing two new live radio shows for different companies. Radio Hound Productions will be back at Fringe Wilmington 2010 with a new live show, a mystery/comedy adventure of our series character Boson Higgs, Science Detective. But wait, there's more! I am in negotiations with the Chemical Heritage Foundation in Philadelphia to produce another new Boson Higgs mystery as an event for one of their First Friday celebrations. This marks RHP's first official commissioned new work, which is a great step for a company that is less than a year old.

Directing Focus

At tonight's sold-out performance of Henry V, I actually experienced something that our director had previously commented would be perfect if it happened. During a lot of the play, I am hanging around the edges of the stage watching the action taking place. I leap in, narrate a little bit and inspire the actors/students, and then I fade over to the side again to watch the action as it develops. During one of our first rehearsals, Director Aaron said that whenever he looked over to me and saw me watching, I served to direct his attention back over to the scene that was playing out onstage.

So at the performance tonight, a man wearing a very obvious blue shirt was sitting in the front row. During the opening scene, he kept glancing from the action onstage over to me in the corner. But I just remained engaged with the scene, and I always felt his head swivel away from me and toward the action. Even though it kept happening through most of the scene, he would always look away form me and toward the action that I wanted him to watch. It was a very clear and very immediate example of how powerfully an actor can direct the focus of the audience. Pretty cool.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Catch up

I hate playing catch up and letting this blog go by without updates for long stretches, but I also know it happens often enough that I always feel like I'm apologizing for it. In any case, since my last post, I have opened my summer production of Henry V. The whole process was a great learning curve, working with a director I admire and a cast of very talented actors. We have gotten a lot of good buzz, as well as some great reviews that you can read here and here. And also here and here. I told you we've been getting a lot. We have another week of the show to go, and there is even talk of a possible extension week of added shows.

I've also been working on a late-night show, "B," that will run for three weekends at 10:15 in the evening. I have a small walk-on cameo role, so the rehearsals haven't been all that busy or frequent for me so we can work around the Henry V schedule. We had our technical rehearsal last night, and now I have four straight nights where I will be running straight from Henry V to B, getting ready for 10:15 performances after my 7pm one. It's going to be a fun week.

And, on top of all that, I've almost finished the morning performances of a children's show I'm involved with. We have two more shows next Tuesday morning, and a possible added show later in the summer. It's been a good run in terms of finances and meeting people, but the show can be a little exhausting at times. It's a lot of early mornings, and sometimes we get groups of children that are much too young to really appreciate the script and the show; they just like looking at goofy people in funny hats.

Next update will chart ahead and look at the projects I have coming up.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

New Episode Online! - "Please Hold the Line"

The newest episode of "The Stray Dogs Project" is now online! "Please Hold the Line" is the twelfth episode of our series, and it marks the first time we've tried something a little crazy - there is only one speaking character in this episode. We were kinda behind the gun on this episode, and I had one actor available, so I wrote the script specifically for her. It was a fun experiment, and I have another idea to try something like this again, but I am very interested to hear what the fans think. You can post a comment on the blog, or you can email me directly at radiohoundproductions@gmail.com to share your thoughts on this show, or any other. Thanks, folks, and enjoy!

Check it out at the usual link to our homepage, either www.radiohoundproductions.org, or you can look on the sidebar to the right of the post. On the website, go to the Projects Tab, and then The Stray Dogs Project.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Henry V Begins....

No, it's not the latest summer blockbuster attempt to reboot a sagging franchise. But rather it's my current theatrical project. In downtown Philly, I just started rehearsing a production of Shakespeare's Henry V in which I play the Chorus. Generally, Shakespeare uses the character of the chorus to communicate a lot of history and backstory. But the Chorus also interacts directly with the audience, asking them to use their imagination to help tell the story that the "flat unraised spirits" of the actors will perform on-stage. It's Shakespeare way of literally telling the audience to imagine the horses, the armies, the tents, the battles, because the stage will not do justice to the real-life history of King Henry V.

As of right now, we are a week into the process, and we've blocked out most of the show. There are sections that we know better than others, and some of our scene transitions are so rocky that they are comical, but the director Aaron has assured us that there is a lot to like in the show, and now we just need to go about finding a way to bring it all out. But we have a few weeks left before our preview performance, and so the journey is now about trimming, tucking, and expanding.

Aaron presented us all with a clever and compelling setting/conception for the show, and now we're all taking turns to throw our ideas into the pot to see how it can all come together. I won't spoil the idea so far before the opening night, but it's a neat concept that lets the show work on several levels. We had a discussion the other day about finding ways to make the concept service the themes of the play, and not just have our concept be a little trick we just play on the audience. We want our theme/modern interpretation to be clear.

And although I don't use this blog to pimp out my own projects anymore, this one I'll pimp a little bit by saying that it is FREE. You have to reserve your tickets in person the day of the show (the theatre wants to think it's NYC Shakespeare in the Park), but it's possible to pick those tickets up and see this show for literally nothing. Air-conditioned theatre, Shakespeare, drinks afterwards.... why say no?

Thursday, July 8, 2010

For the kids

Last week, I started performing in a touring children's show. I'm the substitute actor for the other performer who has a lot of conflicts with the schedule, so I take over for her for a few shows here and there throughout the summer. I had a few rehearsals, memorized the script, and then was thrown into the first performance so I could find my "show legs" as I went. The first show was a little rocky as I tried to remember all the lines and make all the jokes, but the next two have gone progressively more smoothly, especially the most recent one for a roomful of entertained five-year-olds. I've got another month of the show to run, and my co-actor and I still need to work out some of the comedy bits, but it's going to come together over the course of time. In this case, the performing is the rehearsing, so it's a constantly evolving process as we work our way through the summer.

I've never really been an understudy-slash-replacement before in any significant way, so this is a mostly new experience for me. The lack of rehearsal time was a strange thing to deal with; I'm used to the more expansive timeframe where I get the chance to work out all the bits in the rehearsal process. But instead of "working on scenes," I really only did "full run-throughs," where I had to process all the notes, props, and costumes as I raced through the show. So this idea of working elements out through the production is a little difficult to digest at first, but it's a good thing that I'm up for challenges.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

New Episode Online! - "Countdown"

The newest episode of The Stray Dogs Project is now online. "Countdown" by Justin Muschong is the eleventh episode of my series, and it is the first one that was recorded on a field trip to another city. When I spend last weekend up in NYC, I brought the recording equipment and we spent a hot night squeezed into a hot apartment recording the show. Check it out at the usual link to our homepage, either here on along the bar on the right. Go to the Projects Tab, then The Stray Dogs Project.

As usual, here are some photos from the recording session.
Andrea (Voice), Chris (Baker), Kelly (director), and Tara (Able) have their first readthrough of the script.

Tara and Chris perform a scene in front of the microphones.


Writer Justin Muschong gives us his opinion on the recording session.


The Hard Boiled Production boys go for a walk with Radio Hound.

Thanks for listening.

Friday, July 2, 2010

More inspiration (and a little more theft)

Recently, I wrote a post in which I discussed seeing a show that inspired me, and I talked about the things that I was planning to steal from it. Thanks to a buddy of mine, I've also recently discovered "The Guild," a web-series that you can find on youtube and on the web at their homepage. In fact, I've embedded the first episode in the post below. So take four minutes and watch it. I'll wait.




Once I found it, I tore through the first season in less than a day. The episodes average out to be about six minutes a piece, and I would watch them as I took breaks from writing or searching for auditions. The show is produced so simply and so elegantly, that I really admire the work that Felicia Day does. She writes and produces the show herself, and certainly a success story in the ranks of how-to-make-youtube-work-for-you producers. The entire series is online, but you can also buy the official DVDs at amazon.com and through their own website. It's a great business model that seems to be serving them well.

As Rob and I sit down to produce an original web-series, I'm trying to borrow (steal) a lot of the ideas of things that I like from this series. From the length of each segment to the overall construction of the series arc, "The Guild" is setting a great example of how to produce entertaining and quality internet programming. They aren't just producing a television series, but they did a fantastic job of tailoring their project to suit the medium through which they would distribute it - The Internet. The show is clever, well-made, funny, exciting, and everything else entertainment should be. I recommend it highly.

And so after gushing about the web-series and, essentially, giving them free product placement (if you're reading, you owe me a check!), I will end this post by saying that I plan to steal a lot of their ideas from them. If not all of them.


Opening day (....and after)

I have literally just gotten home from seeing a Thursday night screening of The Last Airbender, in which I was a featured extra.

Wow.

Just Wow. But not in the good way.

There is nothing for me to say about the movie that hasn't been said by the Associated Press, The New York Times, or Pajiba.com, so instead I will talk about my own personal connections with the movie. At first, I found it a little difficult to get into the movie, only because I was a part of it. I saw actors that I had met, I saw props I had used, and it was a good ten minutes before I could relax back into the seat to try to enjoy the film. I have never had that problem with a movie before, so it was a really interesting problem to have for the first time.

There were at least three major sequences that I was involved in the filming of, and, needless to say, I was looking forward to seeing those sequences. And generally, I had the same reaction every time. At first, it was amazing to see what the "sets" looked like as actual "places" in the movie. The digital set extensions on the Water Tribe city were beautiful to see, and for the most part all the designs of the film really lived up to what I was imagining on the set.

However, the second step was one of disappointment. I remember seeing actors work, watching extras fight, and seeing stunt men do amazing things as they flew through the air. Seeing it all live was really exciting, but the actual film tended to flatten things out and make everything much less "intense" than it was on the actual shooting set. Not that there aren't cool things in the movie; I just think that some of it looked even better live.

It was also fun to sit through the closing credits and see a whole lot of names that I recognized, from production assistants to the first assistant director. We cheered whenever someone from Philly came onto the screen. I will spend the month of July sharing some stories and pictures from the Airbender set along with the normal entries, since I can talk about the film now that it is out.

If only it were better.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Opening day (before...)

Today, July 1, is the opening day for the feature film release of "The Last Airbender." While I normally don't write about movie premieres, or even about movies a lot in general, this one is an important one because I was a featured background performer in the movie. (For those of you not in the biz, that means a glorified extra.) I spent four days in North Philly doing military and combat training, and then I spent almost a solid month last spring shooting large scenes for the film. I had a kick-ass costume, got to wear a helmet that almost killed me more than once, played with a sword, and pretended to fight my friends for money.

The shoot lasted a lot of long days, where I had to get up around 4:30 in order to make it to the set by 6:00 for my costume/makeup call. Then we'd usually sit around for a few hours while the crew arrived to set up the equipment and get ready for the first shot. Then we'd work until 5 or 6 at night, and maybe even until 9pm if we were really lucky. Most of our days were sitting around and waiting to be put into shots, and then we'd work for about half an hour doing different takes, before sitting around again.

I was also lucky enough to be working with some good friends on the film shoot, so I was spending all this time with people I liked hanging out with. We played cards, talked, discussed our careers, and even created and wrote a short film. It was a good experience, and we're gong out tonight as a gang to see the movie. I'll write more about it when I get home from seeing it, and I'll also try to post some entries this month about what it was like working on the set.

Go see the movie!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Inspiration and Theft

Spending the weekend in New York City to record an episode of Stray Dogs, I went and saw a matinée performance of The 39 Steps. Based on an early Alfred Hitchcock film, this show re-imagines the story as a sort of high-concept comedy, with four actors taking on the roles. Actually, it's one actor in one part, a woman playing three characters, and two other men (listed as just Man #1 and Man #1 in the program) playing countless other people, male and female, throughout the play. I knew it was a comedy. I knew it was Hitchcock. But I didn't know I would laugh as hard as I did.

The very first sequence of the play hits the theme of the show perfectly, as we get a straight-faced performance of a side-splitting monologue, as the intrigue/adventure plot is off and running. In addition to wordplay and clever references to other Hitchcock films, the play is solidly rooted in physical comedy. All four actors use their bodies fantastically, both to create character as well as find humor. There is a sequence where the leading man climbs out of a train car, then across the roof, and then climbs down a bridge. The whole sequence was beautifully rendered on stage, as well as being hilarious.

Since I am in the process of writing comedic scripts based on film noir detectives, The 39 Steps was a great bit of inspiration for me to write some more comedy detective stories. The show also did a great job of blending the comedy with the actual mystery, and that's a lesson that I want to be sure I take into the Boson Higgs episodes. Comedy and plot don't have to be exclusive of each other. I might also steal a few of the jokes from the show. They say the sincerest form of flattery is imitation, and I really enjoyed the show. I recommend it highly, and it made me start itching to sit down and write again.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

New Episode Online!

Folks, surf on over to www.radiohoundproductions.org and check out "Lesson Three," the tenth episode of The Stray Dogs Project. This series has now been on schedule for 18 weeks, and I want to take a second to thank all the actors, directors, writers, and producers who have helped out since we started this in February. We have some exciting projects coming up over the summer, so stay tuned for those.

Here are some pictures:

Chris Braak and Dori Langton performing the scene.


Director Adam Danoff takes a note on the script.



Chris rehearses the scene.

Happy Father's Day!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Office Hours

Over the last few days, I have been sitting in a new desk chair at my desk. Listening to music and podcasts, I've had a lot of business work to do. From writing 6(!) different scripts and treatments to scheduling the last-minute recording session for our newest episode, it's been a lot of desk work lately for my career/business. It's very hard to motivate myself to work from home a lot of the time, so I've recently instituted a policy of "office hours." I hold myself to a schedule as if I were actually at an office job, sitting at the computer and working on the different projects I have to do. I close down all my Internet tabs, turn off the TV, and just listen to some generic rock n roll as I write for at least an hour or two every morning. I finished a short film like that last week, and I'm rolling along on a feature film synopsis.

It's a challenge to keep these hours up, especially when the idea of either sleeping in or goofing off is so much more appealing than sitting in front of a computer working on my daily script pages. But writing involves muscles just like every other endeavor, and those muscles are improved through exercise. The new desk chair is making my desk a much more pleasant place to be, and I'm excited to go to work each morning.