Saturday, January 30, 2010

Extracurricular Activities (2 of 2) - UPDATED

I promised there would be a follow-up, issue 2 of 2, and this is it. A few weeks ago, while working up here in NYC, I went to the Mercury Lounge to see a friend of mine perform with his band. I had previously seen Stephen Lyons onstage in Philly, but I took my girlfriend after rehearsal, and we had a fun NYC night-out. Lyons was the first act in a triple bill, much different than his status as headliner in the Philly club where he last performed. But the show was still fantastic. Here is a picture of him and his band during the show:
I'm even punching up my level of technical prowess, because you can click on the picture above and be taken to his homepage. (Check out his free download!) Stephen is a good friend of mine, whom you may recognize because he played Dr. Jekyll in my recent radio version of "Jekyll and Hyde." He's also signed on to reprise the role in the studio recording, which I hope to be able to post some information about soon. He might also be writing and recording an original song for one of my short films, which is super-exciting.

I offer him free publicity on this site partly just to boost one of my friends, but also to commend someone who, quite frankly, inspires me every time I see him perform. He has a 9-5 job like so many of us out there, and he works tirelessly to make himself as a performer/musician. His work ethic is stunning, and I sometimes feel that he must not sleep to accomplish all that he does. Part of this business is finding folk who share your artistic rhythms, and I think Stephen and I can complement each other well. I want him to be a part of a new group that is forming as a part of Radio Hound.

But that group is the subject of another post...

UPDATE: So, I was told that the link is not working. So much for my technical prowess. So here is the link to Stephen Lyons music. I'll stick to the day job, don't worry.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Extracurricular Activities (1 of 2)

Usually, I spend a lot of words on this blog discussing my projects, my success, my failure, and all-around plugging whatever it is that I am working on. But for this entry, I'm going to change things up a bit. (And I'll do the same in another entry in the future, since this is part 1 of 2. See? It pays to read the titles of these posts.)

Since I started working on Jekyll and Hyde all those months ago, my online search led me to another company recreating broadcasts from radio's golden age. The group is Decoder Ring Theatre, and you can visit their website by clicking on this link. They started their podcast way back in 2005, and they currently run two different adventure programs - a superhero named The Red Panda, and a detective named Black Jack Justice.
Complete with commercial breaks and period music choices, Decoder Ring produces great old-fashioned radio excitement.

I stumbled across these programs by accident, but at this point I have listened to every audio back issue, and I'm now following along as the new episodes are released every other Saturday. I've been hooked. I do enjoy one program more than the other, but both are the perfect way to entertain myself on the train trip into Philly. In fact, their season structure and "monthly donor drives" are both something that you might hear from Radio Hound as we start getting our podcasts onto the web. But while you wait for that promised download of Jekyll and Hyde, I'd suggest you go check out Decoder Ring.

Tell them Radio Hound sent you. They don't know me, but maybe if enough people leave that comment, they will become interested and we can do a crossover.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Writing Elsewhere

I'm not sure why I haven't mentioned this before, but I am now also a featured blogger for the magazine Backstage. I am writing a monthly column about my adventures in Philadelphia, and the writing on this site was used as example pieces of my style and my voice. I'm working on another column right now (due tomorrow), and I thought I would take a chance to share the link with everyone. Check it out!

The less-generous of you out there might think that this just represents a new and fresh procrastination technique on my part. And to those, I say, let me tell you lots of reasons why you are wrong. I'll do it after I submit my article.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Backstage Left

[January 24, 2010; 4:12pm]

As I write this entry on my laptop, I am sitting backstage left of the second performance of “Brief History…” I’m half in costume, drinking water, and going over my lines one last time before our show. Two days off from this play is the most we’ve had before, so it was important to stay fresh with my lines and quickchanges. We are the second show on the bill, and the first show is going up right now. The show is two related one-act plays, and I am taking time during their first one to spend time on the computer. During the second play, I will finish getting dressed and prepare for my show.

Sitting next to me in the men’s dressing room, Aaron just asked me if I ever get nervous before a show. I thought for a moment, but I clearly still do. Sometimes the nervousness is justified, as sometimes happens when a show has had too little rehearsal time, or I feel personally unprepared for a specific performance. But even more generally, I still get that little twinge of butterflies when I have to go onstage. I know that it will partly keep me fresh and alive onstage, but it also reminds me of why I enjoy what I do. Without that little flutter in my gut, I might as well be sitting down behind a desk again to answer the phones at a gym or window center. The little bit of fear keeps things alive to a degree, and it’s something that I would never want to lose.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Why I Do

As just another piece of my jet-setting lifestyle, I was at rehearsal in Philly last night for GL. I really enjoy that I get to take one day off a week from Brief History to change gears completely and work on GL. Both shows are drastically different; BH is a romp through historical events and GL is a darkly complex character study. Different artistic muscles get flexed in each rehearsal process, and I'm very happy to have the chance to bounce between those two very different styles. I'm also glad these GL rehearsals can keep me connected to what's going on in Philly. Spending time out of my home city is often nice and refreshing, but there is a danger in losing touch with what is going on back in PA. These Tuesday nights give me a chance to connect with my friends down home to get the rumors around town, and also give me a chance to remind other theatres that I still exist.

Although, some of my friends are doing extra work tomorrow up in the Bronx, and I'm only slightly miffed that they didn't tell me about it. How did they get that gig, and how do I get on that list too?

Puzzle Pieces

Over the last week at "Brief History," we've been working to piece the show together into a coherent whole. As written, the show is a whole lot of short little scenes which make up the promised brief history of the title. But that structure means that a lot of our work early in this process involves figuring out traffic patterns and entrances/exits. Our writer/director Andrea is handling this element very well, but it is a tiring process at the best. We're dealing with all the traffic and the problems of who-wears-what-uniform-and-when. But since we only have two weeks to get the show ready, that physical stuff is probably the most important thing to learn. By the end of tonight's rehearsal, we should have every scene blocked out, so we will be able to start running the show tomorrow. I'm looking forward to those runs, since that's the only way to learn the flow of the play. Also, on a personal level, that is the best way for me to learn my lines!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Doing the job

On the train headed back to NYC, a quick little nap and a whole scene shot this morning. The assistant director picked me up at the train station and drove me out to the location, a local bowling alley that the owner was letting the crew use. We arrived to find the crew standing out in the freshly-fallen snow, since their contact person had not arrived at 8am like they had expected him to. Instead, we didn’t get inside until the owner himself arrived at 10. So after a quick set-up, Ashley took Tom and I aside to rehearse our scene while the camera crew set up. After rehearsals, we had a little bit of fun for the day when we had to share the bowling lanes with people who were actually coming in to bowl. Independent filmmakers can’t afford to close down a location.

The scene itself was only about six lines long, and we worked on it for a while in rehearsal. When we actually came to shoot the scene, the bulk of it was being covered in a master shot with the camera moving backward on the dolly as we walked toward it. Needless to say, that is a complicated idea and it took a lot of takes before we ended up with a shot the director was happy with. It was also interesting because I kept getting directions from her on how to play the ending of the scene. I kept trying to take her direction and process the final moment differently every time, but I started to get the feeling that I wasn’t “giving her what she wanted.” The leading actor and I are both theatre people, so we both felt like we warmed up as the takes went along. But I still was never sure if the director was completely satisfied.

After grabbing a quick lunch before rushing back for this train, the assistant director told me how much he really enjoyed my performance, and he apologized for the technical issues with the dolly shot. It’s one of those peculiar aspects to this job; no matter what the actors are doing, it’s really a little pointless unless the camera move works perfectly. Otherwise, they have to get the show again, even if the performance from the actors was the best one of the day. It’s a crazy way to make a living, but there is nothing else I would rather do.


At 7:01 this morning, I hopped on a train out of Penn Station on my way to Manasquan, NJ. Why, you may ask? It’s a good question, especially since I had to be up around 5am in order to make the train on time. And the reason is equally good; I have a day-part in a short film shooting there today. I have one scene, and then I’ll be back on the train heading to NYC for my rehearsal tonight for “Brief History.”

The movie today is a short film adaptation of “Offloading Mrs Schwartz,” a short story by George Saunders. I originally saw the casting call for this film on the Philly theatre website and was immediately interested since I had read this story in college. At the time, the writer impressed me with both his creativity and his actual wordsmithing. Ashley, the writer/director, even told me at my audition that she bought the rights to the story from the author’s agent. So I am in the official film adaptation of the story, and that is cool.

Unfortunately, my schedule for “Brief History” prevented me from being considered for the leading role, but I am very grateful that Ashley still gave me an opportunity to come out for one day and play the holographic bowling pro. Sounds exciting, I know, and I’m looking forward to the day. The long train ride home also ensures that I will be able to write an after-action blog, even if they will both be posted right around the same time.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

I didn't get up at noon to be treated like this...

Yesterday afternoon, I hopped on a bus to make my way back home to Philly for a rehearsal for "The Golden Ladder." I had previously worked on the show way back in December as a reading series as the playwright continually revised the script. But now in 2010, he has arrived at a somewhat official "final" draft of the script, which is the fifth draft that we have seen. But instead of working through different versions of the play, now we start to work on the show itself. You know, character, blocking, stuff like that.

After reading through the new pieces of the script last night, we pushed some of the furniture aside and started working through the play on our feet. We didn't bother getting uber-specific at this step, but rather just experimented with how our characters would behave physically in relation to each other. It was a cool exercise, because my physical impulses were almost at odds with my preconceived, thought-out notions about how the character would behave. Good stuff.

I also learned something interesting last night about my overall process. I felt that my energy was off for some reason, and I wasn't sure I was bringing as much to the table as I normally do. But at the end of the night, the playwright thanked us all for our hardwork and our energy, which he thought was really on-point at this rehearsal. It was because of his comment that I started thinking about what the night felt like to me. I had thought that because I didn't have a lot of outbounding energy I was a little light. But instead of being too relaxed, that energy translated into a laser-like focus that I could bring to the table. I've never thought of myself and my work in those terms before, but it was interesting to note.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

A Brief History...

Last night was the first rehearsal for the new show I am working on - A Brief History of Cross Dressing in the Civil War. It is being produced as a part of the Another Sky Festival at the Metropolitan Playhouse in NYC. My girlfriend wrote and produced the show, and she is also directing it. I am in her cast this time around, and I will be making my New York City acting debut in this show. It's somewhat of a romp through the historical Civil War, following five women who actually did pose as men in order to fight in the conflict. The show looks at the impact they made to the war, as well as what they had to go through in order to keep up their disguises in a world of men.

I am one of two men of the eight-person cast. This means that my fellow actor and I have lots of different roles to play, often switching back and forth as quickly as we can. For my part, it's been a while since I've been called upon to be zany in a show like this, and I'm looking forward to breaking out all of my ridiculous accents for different soldiers. The atmosphere for the first night was a fun mix of excitement and terror; we only have about two weeks to put up the whole show. It was also a supportive environment, and I'm hoping that we will really have the chance to cut loose and play around. Oh, sure, we may not have a lot of time, but I hope that won't prevent us from finding all there is to be found.