Saturday, June 30, 2007

Opening night!

Our opening night went very well! The audience was a bit quieter than they were last night, but most of us actors felt that we delivered a better show. They rose up out of their seats for us again, and we took three bows to thunderous applause. Then we had a wine and cheese reception, followed by a great bonfire that lasted until 1:30 in the morning. It was a great time, and a perfect way to celebrate a job well done. It was only two weeks ago that we started working on the project, and to have come that far in such a short amount of time seems rather unbelievable. But now it's time to run over to the theatre for our first rehearsal for Man of La Mancha, so I imagine the unbelievable-ness will just continue...

Friday, June 29, 2007

Wine tour

Okay, so it's not a very creative subject line, but some of us took a tour of a local winery today since we had the time off. It was a lot of fun, even though our tour guide was less-than-knowledgeable about everything. She did really well on the presentations, but whenever she asked for questions, she fumbled around with the answers and really couldn't give us anything that we wanted to hear. We did get wine tastings, which were a lot of fun, and they have some excellent wines that they bottle there. My favorites were a semi-dry reisling and a top-shelf sherry. Both were a little too expensive for me to take home, but I'm smelling an idea for something my mom can do when she comes up to visit next week...

Tonight we have a dinner at Karin's house to welcome the incoming cast of Man of La Mancha, and then we have our official opening night tonight, followed by a lobby reception and the second bonfire of the year. And then tomorrow morning at 10am, we start rehearsing Man of La Mancha, so this blog is going to be covering two shows soon. Add to that the fact that when I return to Philly, I'll be in Red Light Winter followed by Romeo and Juliet, not to mention Tony N Tina's Wedding; so at the moment, I am currently committed to and involved in five different productions, and that's not including my online TV series.

It's fun to be a working actor, even though none of these jobs can pay the bills....

Thursday, June 28, 2007

25 years of vaudeville

FANTASTIC! We had our first preview tonight, and it just incredible. The audience was laughing at everything, as if they really wanted to laugh and be entertained by us. They were with us from the beginning. We also started cracking each other up, and as unprofessional as it may be, there were several moments onstage where David and I were just losing it. It was all we could do to bite our cheeks and continue. The audience loved these moments too, and when we came out for a curtain call, the entire audience rose up as one to give us a standing ovation.

Dom smiled during notes at me, saying that there was one moment where I showed my 25 years of vaudville, as I "played them like a violin" for the perfect amount of laughter following a very funny exit. I let the moment hang, letting the laughter ride over the audience before I continued. Dom loved the moment, and he said he could literally see me feeling the wave of laughter, trying to find that perfect moment to cut them off. I'm glad he noticed how I was really working the timing - I feel that comic timing is one of my strengths as an actor, but it's something that is so hard to find without an entire crowd there to laugh. Each crowd and each joke is different, so I'm glad that my director (and the artistic director) noticed what I can do.

We open tomorrow night, and the show is going to be incredible. We got such a great confidence boost from tonight, and then tomorrow will have even more people, and many friends of the theatre. It's going to be incredible!

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Invited Dress

Fantastic! Tonight was our invited dress rehearsal, still technically a rehearsal for us, but attended by various friends and members of the community. They loved it. We got a very healthy amount of applause for such a small crowd, and they were laughing at all of the right jokes. On a personal note, we re-designed my makeup this evening, and I really like what we are doing it with now. My hair is slicked straight back, I made my beard fuller and darker, and then I add twinges of grey to it here and there. It makes me look older, and it's still realistic. Tomorrow is our preview, and then we open on Friday. I'm excited!

Tech rehearsals

Since I last wrote, we had two days of technical rehearsals in the space, on the set, with the costumes for the very first time. Our spacing rehearsal went very well on Monday night, where we learned where we had to stand so we we're blocking any doors, as well as when and where to move to see how long it would take to open and close the doors. Dom was running over the theatre all night, checking the sightlines, and it was a very technical and detailed kind of run.

Then on Tuesday, we went through our cue to cue, running each one for the light and sound people so they could write the cues and then practice the timing of them. That took the better part of the afternoon, and then I got my show-required haircut from one of the girls in the cast. We then had our costume parade, where we showed off our wardrobe under the stage lights so Dom could make suggestions and comments about it all. My gold suit looks even better under the lights, although I'll be getting a different shirt with it; Dom didn't like the dark purple. We then took another break, and last night we had our technical run. It was the first time we put everything in the show together - set, costumes, makeup, lights, sound. It went very well, and we only had little technical glitches at the beginning and the end of the play.

We have another run today at 2pm, and then we have our invited dress rehearsal tonight. We've very excited for it tonight, since Dom said the only thing that we really need at this point is an audience, and we'll have a small one tonight. Tomorrow is our first preview, and then we officially open on Friday night. And fresh from the success of opening night, we start rehearsing Man of La Mancha on Saturday morning at 10am, so you'll get to hear all about that one in a few days.

I'm about to have much less free time around here, but I'll be working on two shows at once. How much fun is that!

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Couch Gags

Rehearsal for me tonight was all of 15 minutes. Nothing was really different, except the back of the couch was a lot higher which made leaning on it much easier. I walked into the room, and everyone seemed like they were just walking through it, making the rehearsal as easy and as technical as possible. Since we're going into our tech week, I suppose that makes sense.

When I stop and think about the fact that we put this entire show together in just under a week, it still amazes me. But it shows what talented actors can do when they know they are under the gun. If we had had another week for this work, we would have used every day of it. But knowing we only had six days before the basement show meant that we would only need six days before the basement show to put it up. Crazy, huh?

Good grief

We had a runthrough this morning, and it went very well. Jokes started to be funny again, and we're still discovering new moments and "subtext" even though it's a farce. There is a moment in the second act where Tommy and I are zany, then we're calm, and then we do an immediate shift back into zany again. Dom really loved our shift today, saying that we actually do the thing from the Peanuts cartoon strip where the characters spin in the air before they land. He's not sure how we do it exactly, but he's so glad that we figured it out cause it's hilarious.

We have another rehearsal tonight, but it's apparently just for couch gags. We've been working for the last week with a rehearsal couch, a stunt couch, a big blue and purple comfy sofabed. But the actual couch, the show couch, is apparently smaller, studier, and not as "fluffy." So tonight, while the technical crew builds the set in the theatre on the floor above us, we will be working out all the business on the new couch, to see if those same bits are going to work. Dom said we'll be ending early, which is a good thing, and then on Monday we get to venture onto the actual set for the first time so we can practice slamming the doors.

I can't wait

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Basement Show

Our designer run/basement show this afternoon was a complete success. We rehearsed before it, working through the end of the show as well as a few trouble spots or new bits that needed some attention. And David and I figure out just how funny it is to have someone say a line while a cigar dangles from his mouth. (that would me be.) Some folk are going back to see the previous show tonight before heading out for 25 cent wings, and I'm not yet sure about my plans for the evening. I picked up some movies and a collection of short stories from the library, so I might sit outside on my deck and read tonight. I've been a little too busy to really soak in the beauty of the nature all around me, even though I've been a witness to it all.

After that first rehearsal, the basement show went very well. We had maybe 15 people in the audience, and they all laughed at the right times and had a lot of fun. Some of the laughs were for moments that we, the ensemble, knew would be hilarious, and some were for moments that we hadn't expected. And there were also plenty of moments where the ensemble laughed from the corner where we sat, but the audience itself only smiled. But all fears aside, we do have a funny show, which I'd imagine would be important for a comedy...

Friday, June 22, 2007

Tomorrow is the big day

We spent all of today on another work-through run, cleaning up some spots and working out better jokes and staging for others. All along, Dominic is trimming some lines out of the script to make our production cleaner, crisper, and to use his favorite word, "zanier." There are some new bits we're working in, including a moment where I fiddle with a cigar and I'm just about to light it when I hear some bad news that makes me pause. It's a really great joke, and it means that we'll have both champagne and cigars that we will have to finish from the show every night. It could be worse.

Tomorrow afternoon we have a run for the designers, what is referred to here as a "basement run." It's basically just our first run off-book for an audience, and so I need to dedicate some time tonight to being off-book. It's not going to take me as long as I feared, since I did the entire first act today with only a few problem spots. The second act also has more fast-paced lines, which are always easier for me to learn. I slowed the pace on my speeches down a whole lot based on some direction from Wednesday, and it has made them a lot easier to remember. It's a conscious effort to think through the specific ideas in each speech, and then make them logically connect. In a sense, it's what acting is all about.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

A day off

I had the day off today. So I slept until 11am. The next day I will have completely off is July 16th, so I figured I would enjoy it while I can. I had ideas of getting some things done today, but all I did so far is watch a movie, have lunch, and catch up on some emails. I did call a few friends today, trying to keep in touch with others, and I spent the early evening working on a sample ghostwriting project for a potential freelance job. It took far longer than I thought it would, but I decided to put in the extra effort to make the sample really excellent so I can land the gig.

I also learned today that some of my friends are going to come see opening weekend of "Man of La Mancha" in July. They will visit just as I move to another house, one that sits on the edge of the lake. I'm very excited that they will come up to see me, and I think I'll even get to spend some time with them over that weekend, since my schedule will open up as soon as "La Mancha" opens. I couldn't be more excited....

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Clothes make the man

I had my costume fitting this afternoon. A little reflection first; for me, clothing and props are important parts of creating a character. They should be consistent with the work that I have already done, but I always achieve a deeper understanding when I see my wardrobe. I have a mental image of my character in many cases, and I always hope the costumer can see it and then translate it into clothing. I remember a few shows where I've been put into a costume that didn't match that mental picture at all, and my rehearsals suffered for it until they put me in a more appropriate outfit. It's an organic thing for me, as it takes the clothing for me to really understand someone.

That being said, our costumer Sammie knocked it out of the park. We went through a lot of variations on the "casual day suit" look, but we narrowed it down to a wonderful eyesore of a wardrobe. He's dressed up, but it looks like he sent his daughter away when she tried to help, and he did the whole thing himself. His formal attire for the opera is even more hilarious, and it is what Sammie referred to as a "mid-life crisis suit." He's trying to prove how young and up-to-date he can be, but all he is doing is physically manifesting his lack of understanding and calm. It's truly a great wardrobe that I can't wait to wear, and I will be sure to post pictures of it once I get some.

We have four hours of rehearsal tonight, followed by a day off tomorrow. I don't enjoy doing work on my days off, since it is work after all, but this day off should give me a perfect opportunity to learn all of my lines in preparation for our run on Saturday for the designers. I'm doing pretty well so far, but there are some massive speeches that I still need to learn.

Life is a cabaret

The cabaret last night went very well indeed. I had decided on six of my poems, along with a special introduction I wrote yesterday afternoon to set up what I would be doing. I was very nervous waiting for it all to begin, and I realized that it was because I would be sharing work that I had actually created. Other people sang songs, but I was the one who was actually offering something new into the air, a manifestation of my own creativity and mind. It's also something that I've never publically shared - I presented poems in writer's group, submitted them to magazines, or had friends read them in private, but it was the first time I got up on stage in front of people I didn't know in order to read my poetry to them.

As intimidating as it was, it also turned out really well. People laughed at the jokes, smiled with familiarity at other sections, and they were talking about them when we went to the bar afterwards. All in all, a very successful night.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Marathon Rehearsal

Today, we finished the play. We started the morning jumping into Act 2, and we finished it completely at about 5:45 this evening. The end of the play, as with all farces, has all the characters rush back on stage, giving the director the headache of trying to decide where they all can stand. That took quite some doing, but we ultimately have made it all work.

Earlier in the day, we also did all the rampant sex bits, where people are constantly jumping into bed together, and then they are surprised by a knock on the door. I, sadly, only get to be the knock on the door in this show, but it was a lot of fun to watch them rehearse and figure out little bits of stage business. As much as I like having time off when I'm not working, I also really enjoy watching other actors work on their scenes. I can never seem to study my lines or do something else in those times. I like watching other actors come up with ideas, and then refine those ideas with the director until they are even better. It's a healthy appreciation for their talent and craft, and it's something I really enjoy.

Tonight is the theatre's cabaret, and I've decided on reading a few of my poems. I have vague ideas about which ones, but I still need to order them and get them performance-ready. Some might say I'm not leaving myself a lot of time for it... and they'd be right.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Act I

Over the past two days, we've blocked the entirety of Act 1. We even had time enough to run it today twice. The first was straight-through, just to see if we remembered everything. And then we took our time on the second run, stopping now and then to work on very specific bits as they occured. It is a very funny production, and it is the kind of work that repetition will only make better. Some jokes need to be a little cleaner to be as funny as they can be, but that is just the work of doing it over and over again. We've been doing a lot of heavy work on the first act, and then tomorrow morning we're going to start on the second. As it is with most theatre, the second act is about half the length of the first, so the director is actually hoping to finish it tomorrow. I think we stand a decent chance of it, actually.

Tomorrow night, Bristol Valley Theatre is holding a cabaret performance for those of us who are up there for the summer. They like to give their company the chance to show off other skills, which may not be used in their productions. While a lot of my fellow performers are looking to sing something, I've decided to read some poems or short stories that I've written. I haven't quite decided on specific pieces yet, but I figure I will do that tonight. Every actor sings, but not all of them write.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Spit-takes are always funny

Although rehearsal today only lasted for about an hour for me, we did my first scene with my assistant Max and my daughter Maggie. In the course of the scene, I pop a grape into my mouth, and then immediately spit it across the room (into the audience) when I discover that it is wax fruit. Dominic (the director) and I spent a good five minutes figuring out the funniest place to both pick up the grape, and then what to do with it once I've got it in my hand. The script wants me to have it in my hand for about six lines, including a big speech of mine, but we held it off a bit. Otherwise, I'm performing an "Alas, poor Yorick" speech to a grape.

I've got the afternoon off before I go back to work at 6 tonight, so I'm enjoying the sandwich and coffee of a place called The Grainery. It's the popular spot around town, apparently, but the biggest disappointment is that it closes at 2pm. That's the frustrating part about towns like Naples, or Bloomsburg; as pretty and friendly as they are, no businesses keep the kind of hours that actors require.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Meeting and readthrough

It's always amazing when a bunch of talented performers are assembled in one room together, and then they get to read the show they will be doing. Although I've been reading LMAT for months on my own, hearing another voice say the lines with me is a breath of life. I find myself paying more attention to what is happening when I have to read the words out loud, and I like hearing what the other actors think is funny. I have my own personal sense of humor, but I enjoy learning what they like and the kinds of jokes that really tickle them in the right way.

We also had a designers presentation today - they showed us the designs for the costume and set, which are going to be really cool. The play is set in the late 1930s, and we will be in a used and very-aged hotel room in Cleveland. The period costumer sketches are very impressive, and I'm excited to see all of us decked out in 1930s tuxedos, including my character, who they tell me will be conspicuosly overdressed.

We start our real work tomorrow on the blocking of the show, and we have the rest of Saturday off so the other cast can perform two matinees of the show that runs before Tenor. I'm thinking about exploring some of the area, and maybe taking a little trip to the towns near us that are a little larger than Naples. There is lots of hiking to be done in the area, but I'm going to save that for a legitimate day off, when I can really devote time to planning and going. These little grabs of time in the week will be filled with reading, writing, or a selection of movies from the local library.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Welcome message

Hello, to any and all that are reading this. Some of you might be aware of another blog I was keeping in which I chronicled my adventures as a part of a national tour of Cinderella. Well, I'm at it again, only this time I've decided that this blog will be an ongoing one, and not only a show-specific one like last time. So to that end....

I am currently writing from the downtown library in Naples, NY (about 60 miles from Rochester.) I'm working for the Bristol Valley Theatre, where tomorrow I start rehearsals for Lend Me a Tenor. This company has been really chill so far, and they welcomed all of us new actors with a taco dinner at the home of the artistic director. We're going to go see the opening of the current show, and then have more social functions at the bar and a bonfire, before all heading home to start our own play tomorrow. We start with a readthough and dramaturgical presentation; that's what's on the schedule. I am excited to be a part of this community, although I promise that I will dedicate a future entry to describing the town itself.

Until then, I'm glad to have you along, and feel free to drop in and out. I've set this up to prevent myself from telling the same stories over and over again, and also to have a way to look back on just what it is that I do with my professional life. For those of you who are wondering what it's like to be a professional actor... maybe you'll find some glimpses of that life here.