Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Matinee-ing

This morning was our first matinée performance for school children. Yup, Shakespeare at 10:30 in the morning. And not just any Shakespeare.... 12th Night. That's not exactly the kind of show that's easily accessible for anyone just coming to the party. But we were up to the challenge. The show went off without a hitch, even if it did go a little quicker than usual. A lot of my fellow actors were satisfied with the show, and they thought that today we had one of our best crowds to date. I, however, am taking a second to disagree. I've done a lot of shows for students, so I speak from experience. This was one of the most frustrating student crowds I've ever performed for. In my scenes, the kids were somewhat restless and it was slightly distracting. When we got to the final scene, however, I did get an "awwww" when I ended up with Viola, so at least some of the girls in the audience were rooting for me. But overall, I thought that the show was just about average, as the student crowd was a little frustrating to me. We have another one scheduled in a few weeks, and we've been told to keep a certain day open for another potential show. Bring it on, I say. But kids, please try not to talk to each other during the show...

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Fight Call

Before every performance of a show, actors will engage in a practice known as "fight call." This nightly ritual gives the actors a chance to rehearse all the physical moves and combat in the show, only hours before they are supposed to go onstage and do it for real. The idea is to just get it fresh in the body so that everyone remembers what they are supposed to do, and that there are no new surprises during each performance.

During my time with Chad Deity, fight call was a group bonding moment. All of us had some sort of combat in the wrestling ring, whether it be extensive or just incidental. It was great to have all the actors gathered round, watching what we would do. Donte and I would know how our fight was going based on nothing but the reactions during fight call, and it was always satisfying to hear our friends go "ooo!!!" (even when they knew what happened in the show). And Donte and I would be great judges on our own about the fights, able to talk to each other and discuss what had gone well and what we should improve on. Plus we felt like the coolest kids in school when we got to show off for the various women in the room, and the male-bonding that went into the fight call translated really well into the male camaraderie of the wrestling world that our show was portraying.

I'm sitting here watching the fight call for 12N, slightly glad that I do no fighting in this show. The fighters have been struggling with finding the correct speed for their combat, often running through things much too quickly for the director and the fight captain. Because of this, fight calls seem like full-on "actual" rehearsals instead of just a fresh reminder of something that they already have in their bodies.

I've had this moment in the past, and I'm feeling it again now. I miss being powerbombed... Here is a picture, right before I hit the mat hard.



Saturday, April 17, 2010

New Episode Online!

Folks, I just posted the fifth episode of the Stray Dogs Project over at the RHP homepage. Check it out! We had a great response from the crowd at our live recording, and I'm pretty sure that Boson Higgs, Science Detective, will be back for more adventures.

Here is the link, as well as a few photos.


Alayna Sands as Brianna Green, Lucas Nguyen as Boson Higgs, and Julia Frey as Veronica Drake

The cast rehearses while I work with Andrea at the tech table in the background.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Second Preview

Again, sitting in the dressing room for 12th Night, more than halfway through our second preview performance. The crowd this time around is not as vocal as the crowd last night, and our director popped her head (literally, just her head) into the dressing room at intermission and said that we needed volume and clarity. Well, that explained why we were getting very few laughs. They couldn't hear us and they couldn't understand us. Infernally logical...

Curio Theatre performs in a very unique space - the sanctuary of an old church. As a result, the high domed ceiling plays havoc with any sort of "big sound" that you want to give as a result of stage training. The bigger your voice, the more impossible it is to hear anything due to the echoes. But you also need to support yourself enough to be understood, as it is possible to talk too quietly. We got some feedback on the volume issue about a week and a half ago, and we haven't heard of any problems since, so I thought I was doing pretty well. I actually felt really on-point tonight in terms of clarity and focus. This time through is a valuable experience; I have some friends in the audience tonight, and I am very curious to know what they think of tonight's show.


Shooting a Commercial

Last Thursday, I went down to a production studio in Maryland to film a commercial. I had been cast a few days prior, and it just so happened to work around my somewhat crazy schedule this month. So at a time that is far-too-early for any actor to be awake, much less working, I was on the road for the studio. I arrived half an hour early, without any incidents, and I came inside ready to work. But since I was the talent (industry-speak for actor) in the commercial, I didn’t really have anything to do yet. At least, not until the camera crew was done with their rehearsals and the director decided they needed me to start getting into makeup. So I started my day with a break.

I ran through a few camera tests before anything else, with the crew just rehearsing how they were going to do their technical end of things. After that, it was time for another break. This break, though, also included me getting into wardrobe and having my makeup applied. My makeup artist Lorraine was very sweet and wonderful, keeping up a semi-constant stream of small talk and chatter, ample for the both of us. Then they called me out to the studio floor, and we shot a whole bunch of takes until they had a bunch that they liked. Another break for lunch, and then a brief series of still photography, and the day was done. It was literally that easy.

There was one thing during the shoot, however, that I was not prepared for. While I was on the (green-screen) set, the client and director were evaluating the takes on the other side of the room. I had to do some mental gymnastics to tune out of their conversations about me and my performance, since I think that listening to them would have given me all sorts of confidence problems. So I tuned out to focus just on the director when he came back to give me notes, and I essentially tried to ignore the client’s reactions. (Those reactions were mostly good, which was very exciting.)

For anyone keeping score, this was my first commercial where I had a speaking role. It was a pretty amazing experience, and I hope I get to do it again. Not only for the money (which is nice), but also because it’s legitimately a fun way to spend a day. Sure, it’s a crazy way to make a living, but I am constantly getting opportunities to prove to myself that I can survive this lifestyle, and I constantly come through those tests with flying colors. I have the abilities, and I’m starting to find all the opportunities.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Short little entry

As I write this, I am sitting in the dressing room at Curio Theatre. We just started the second act of the play, and I literally have about an hour before I appear onstage again. It's one of (if not the) longest break I've ever had between appearances in a show I've done. When we ran the play last night, coming out for that second entrance literally felt like I was coming out for a second performance. It's the next few nights where I have to figure out the best way to pass this time. Liam suggested that I do something constructive, so I have to figure out what can be constructive and yet not distract me too much to pull me out of the play. Some online work followed by a re-warmup might be just the trick. So that's what I'm trying tonight, and we'll certainly see how it goes.

We're a Hit!

After an exhilarating yet tiring of outdoor work on Monday that I’m not at liberty to discuss, I headed over to Plays and Players Theatre in Philadelphia to set up the equipment for the live performance of “Guilty=mc2.” I had to run pretty hard and fast through everything before the show, since I had to catch the trolley out to West Philly for a rehearsal for “Twelfth Night.” I helped Lucas and Andrea throw the equipment together, and then grabbed my bag and raced to my next port of call. Arriving only fifteen minutes late, I got into costume and participated in the sweatiest photo call I’ve ever been affiliated with. After the photos, we worked carefully and deliberately through the first act of our play, at which point I got out curious to know how the performance went over at Plays and Players.

The show went extremely well. Andrea told me how much everyone there liked the script, even laughing at the jokes that I thought were a bit of a stretch. When we got home, I listened to the live recording of the show, and I was super-pleased with how everything went. The actors were exactly on-point, the sound effects and technical mixing were perfect, and the audience was totally on board. I don’t often consider myself to be a funny writer, and so I was very happy to hear everyone laughing at my jokes.

This episode will be posted online this weekend on the regular schedule, even though I have no editing to do on the final piece. I’ll record my standard intro and outtro and mix them down into the episode, but the piece that goes online will be the unedited live performance. It went really well, so much better than I could have expected. So well, in fact, that it makes me consider doing it again for the sequel…

A Rehearsal Day of Firsts

On Sunday afternoon, I gathered with the cast for the first (and only) rehearsal for the next Stray Dog episode, a comedic mystery short called “Guilty=mc2” It’s the first adventure of Boson Higgs, a private detective who uses advanced science to solve crimes that are beyond the scope of the police. I rented a rehearsal space in South Philly, and the whole team assembled there. It was our first time working in a space other than the director’s living room, which was an exciting step up for the company.

Another first was the use of a new sound board, on loan from Rob over at Digital Reality Films, Inc. The script had three characters, as well as a few sound effects. We needed the board to properly mix and record all the different elements of this episode, the most technically complex one so far. But after only a little difficulty getting sound to come out through the headphones, we were handling the board like old pros. The sound quality was fantastic, and now I am definitely coveting one of my own.

Another first for the day: we prepared two different episodes in the same recording session. We planned to record “Guilty=mc2” at a live event on Monday night, but we also used our studio time to have our actress Julia record an additional piece that will be a part of the series in a few weeks. Talk about some wild time management skills there.

And yet another first on the list: I bought a mesh pop-blocker to record the short story, and I was thrilled beyond words with how well it worked. Not that I’m surprised; after all, I expect a product to do what it is supposed to do. I guess I hadn’t expected the improvement to be so drastic and so immediately obvious. I even asked Julia to say lots of explosive consonants into the mic, but it blocked them all. Sweet!

All told, it was a solid day of rehearsal and proved to up the level of our game on several accounts. What was perhaps most exciting was that each new element we introduced on Sunday worked seamlessly into our already-established rhythms. The whole Stray Dogs Project is intended to be a learning process, and we were successful this time in learning what we could add to our repertoire. Future experiments may not work so well, but these four Radio Hound firsts were all good for me.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

My least favorite part of the process

Over the last two nights at rehearsal, we've tackled most of Orsino's scenes in 12th Night. We have a multi-leveled stage with lots of stairs, platforms, and even a fireman's pole. Normally, this sort of things sounds like heaven to me, as I am a performer who usually likes to run, jump, and through himself around the set until he finds a physical choice that jives for the role. In this show, however, we are using those different levels to represent different places of the world of the play; this makes a complete amount of sense, but it also means that my possibilities of movement are severely limited right from the word "go." Those sorts of limitations turn this part of the process from the intriguing experiment-through-imagination into the where-should-I-stand routine, which is much less interesting to me.

This sort of challenge pops up every few shows I work on, and it's one that I haven't yet figured out how to deal with in way that interests me. This overly technical style of acting doesn't engage me as an actor, and I'm still looking for the best solution.