Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Last-minute audition

So I was on the web at 6pm and I found an audition notice for tonight, so I got myself together, ran out the door, flew up the highway, searched for the theatre, and then found no one there. Either they had cancelled the audition or left early, so I was up in the Allentown area with no plans. So I took my time coming home, stopped at Borders to browse, only barely escaping hearing the secrets of the last Harry Potter novel. So now I'm packing for a trip to Atlantic City to do some performances of "Tony N Tina's Wedding," wondering what it will be like. I'll be sure to tell you.

An adventure good for the soul

Now, this all happened on Monday, July 23. It's being posted a little late, just because I didn't yet have the energy to sit down and write it all out.

I woke up on Monday morning, finished packing the car, and then headed to the coffee shop in Naples for one last breakfast. I ran into two friends on the way, and we had a nice chance to say goodbye again. Then I got directions from the internet, got a little more coffee, and I was off on my way to Niagara Falls. The drive was very nice, and my new FM transmitter for an ipod was working perfectly. Instead of heading straight to the Falls, I took another road that led to Lake Ontario and I toured Old Fort Niagara, an old military installation where Lake Ontario meets the Niagara River. For almost two hundred years, it was one of the most important military posts in the country, as it controlled virtually all access to the continent. The fort has since been rebuilt and "historified," and the film and exhibits are very illuminating.

I spent a while there touring and taking pictures, and then I got back in the car and headed over to Canada to see the Falls. It didn't take long to get there, but one of the hardest things was trying to find cheap parking once I got there. Sure, I could have parked within sight of them if I'd wanted to pay $18, but I didn't, so it took me a while to find more reasonable lots. Then I walked around, went to the horseshoe falls, took lots of pictures, and the only thing I bought from the gift shops there was a bag of candy made with Canadian icewine. (Look it up.) Then I spent the last of my Canadian money in a tourist trap called "Lego Brick World," in which an entire town is built out of lego blocks. For the most part, it was completely assembled and displayed kits, but he did have some custom builds, including the Taj Mahal, the Statue of Liberty, and an amazing Golden Gate Bridge. Some Star Wars ships circled the display, but they were just the special edition kits, fully assembled. It was fun overall, but a little too tourist-y.

From there, I had another adventure trying to find the way to the bridge back to America. It took me several tries, but eventually I gave up, found the QEW highway, and then drove south to the Fort Erie bridge. The customs official searched my trunk (I must have looked suspicious), and then I found the highways home. I was passing Naples again around 10 at night, and I made it all the way to my parent's house in Hazleton before I found that I was just too tired to continue. So I rolled in around 2:30am, slept on the couch, got up at noon, and then headed the rest of the way home.

It was a grand adventure, and I'm a little disappointed to be home. It's nice and comfy to sleep in my own bed again, but I miss the area, the people, and above all, the work. I made arrangements to return to my job at Pella windows, and I'll actually be performing in "Tony n Tina's Wedding" this weekend in Atlantic City. I need to get ready for that, look at my script for "Red Light Winter," and then also learn my lines for "Romeo and Juliet." I promise I will try to keep this blog updated and exciting, but I will do my best.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

I started packing this morning

Pushing dirty clothes into the suitcase, rounding up my bottles of wine, finding all the loose change I've collected while I've been here. I'm in the coffee shop getting ready for our last show this afternoon, and then we need to clean our stuff out of the dressing room and get ready to go. We're probably going to hang out tonight, drink some wine, before we all leave in the morning, but it feels like the end of the summer. We have to leave this beautiful area and go back to our homes. Truthfully, I hate to leave, but I'm excited about the projects I have coming up. I like being in the ensemble of a stylized show, like a farce or a musical, but I'm excited to do some scene-partner acting in my next few shows. I'll write a little more about this later, but I wish I was staying up here to do "Sleuth."

Saturday, July 21, 2007

A busy social calendar

Sorry I haven't posted in the last week. It's been crazy. I had two friends come up to visit and spend some time on the lake, and we have gone to party after party while performing shows. On Monday, some local wine experts took us on a tour of a few vineyards around Keuka Lake, and I bought four bottles of wine. But it also gave me the idea to go around some on my own, and I might pick up some more. I got a few whites, but I should pick up a red or two. On Tuesday, we saw the new Harry Potter movie, which was a nice distraction, and then we had parties for the last three nights at different houses. Tonight after the show, we're going back to the house on the lake where we partied after a "Lend Me a Tenor." They want us back.

And oh yes, the show is going well.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

First weekend

So the first weekend of La Mancha has come and gone, and suddenly I'm faced with only a week left in this town. Next Sunday afternoon will be my last show with Bristol Valley Theatre, and then on Monday I'll be setting off on my road trip adventure. My plans at the moment are to venture up into the Niagara country, maybe stopping by the falls, and hitting Rochester as I swing back south through New York to arrive in Philly again sometime later in the week. It'll be a nice and leisurely way to get home, rather than trying to rush home in a single day. I still need to submit my receipts for the travel up here, since I'll get the money back for gas and tolls, but I just haven't gotten around to it yet.

Tomorrow we're going on a special invited tour of some local wineries with a few wine experts who are patrons of the theatre. They are taking us out in the afternoon so we can compare, and I'm very much looking forward to doing it with people who are experts on the subject. It should be a good time, and I'll be sure to post anything I learn about the different types of wine. It's crazy that I get paid to do this, eh?

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Not the worst job in the world

So for the next week or so, I'll be getting paid to spend my afternoons hanging out, my mornings sleeping, and my nights performing. All in all, not a bad job. We opened La Mancha last night to a very appreciative audience, and I think we have another hit on our hands. It's a very funny thing, though, because since this show is so much easier than the last one on me, i almost don't feel like I have anything to do with the success of the show. Yes, I know that I am a valuable and integral part of the ensemble, but I don't do as much as I did in Tenor. But it's still satisfying, and a good show. Everything comes together at the end.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Another op'ning, another show

I'm called at the theatre in about half an hour so I can get into costume and be ready for mic check for Man of La Mancha. I'm very excited to open it today, but also disappointed that my friends from Philly aren't able to make the show tonight. There were last minute problems with work and such, so they weren't able to take the time to drive up here. It's a little frustrating since the plans had been set for so long and were changed at the last minute, but it's also something that traveling professional actors have to get used to. We're constantly performing for different communities, and sometimes it's a shame that our family and friends don't get to see our shows, but that's the way it is. My grandmother hasn't seen anything I've done in years, because it's always been too far for her to travel. That's one reason I would love to do more shows in and around Philly, so she can bring her friends, see my show, and then brag about her grandson the actor. Course, she'll brag anyway. But it's fun for her to see them.

Thursday, July 12, 2007


Now, I am one of the few actors who really do not mind technical rehearsals. I like hanging around while the technicians practice their own kind of art. But the rehearsals for this show have really gotten to me. It's a very simple play, but a very complicated tech. The singers can't see the musicians, which always makes the music very... interesting, since we can't see for cutoffs or entrances. We have to conduct ourselves or learn the timing precisely, and since we're all using body mics, it make it paradoxically harder to hear the pit or each other. The most complicated musical moment is, of course, the end of the play, and we aren't able to get it together, nor are we being rehearsed to do so. In such a short rehearsal period, it is inevitable that some things should fall through the cracks, or put into the "we'll work on that later" pile, and now that the pile is coming up, it's very tedious.

That being said, I feel very comfortable and confident with what I'm doing in the show. I'm able to play around with my acting intentions, trying to give a little variety, and I know all of my moves and set changes, as well as any costume or prop shifts I'm responsible for. That's really all any actor can do - make sure you know your stuff, bring it into the process, and then you're confident in what's going on when everything around you is getting more complicated. Play your part well, there all honor lies.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

After the first technical day

We had our day of 10 out of 12 yesterday, cueing the show for lights and sound. It went very smoothly, although it just took a long time. There weren't too many train wrecks, and it was just a matter of standing around and waiting for the tech crew to be able to run the show. My quick change came off without a hitch, which is good news, so we don't have to worry about that. The show looks amazing under the costumes and the lights, and I'm getting very excited about performing it. We knew Tenor was good without any of the tech elements, which just rested in and sat on top of the work we had been doing. But with La Mancha, as with all musicals, I guess, the tech elements are such a part of the show that they can't be separated out from each other. We run the show twice today, and then we have our preview performance tomorrow. It all happens so quickly it's rather insane...

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The worst part about tech...

... is standing in place, wearing the same pair of shoes for hours and hours at a time. Now, an actor's shoes are not exactly the most comfortable things known to man, but we also don't have to wear them for any more than 2 hours at a time during a performance, so to stand in them all day is rather hard. But other than aching feet, the tech for La Mancha is going well. It goes slow, but there are lots of light cues and specific timing and moving lights, so it's a mess to begin with. We just need to sit down and ride it out. I have a major costume change coming up after dinner, so much so that there is actually going to be a short demonstration on how to dress me before we try the change. It's lots of pieces that go together in a very specific way. Fantastic. I'll try to write a post all about my attitude toward costumes and fittings, making the blog contain a little more philosophical musings.

Preparing for technicals

At the moment, ten members of cast of La Mancha are sitting in the coffee shop in town, getting ready to head over for our tech rehearsal at noon. It's an unofficial rehearsal here at the Grainery, which shows how much actors like both gourmet sandwiches and coffee. It's going to be some long days....

Sunday, July 8, 2007

I No Longer Need a Tenor

[Sunday, July 8, 2007. 6:17pm]

Well, this afternoon we closed our run of Lend Me a Tenor with a fantastic performance that continued our only slightly-damaged streak of standing ovations. The show was solid, we found that we were continuing to find new jokes and better ways to make old ones, and we all agreed that we could stand to run the show for another few weeks. But such a thing is not to be, as we pack up the costumes and props, return them to the shop, and then make way for the theatre to start teching and running Man of La Mancha.

But the reason that I cannot post this right away is a freak thunderstorm here in Naples, which lasted all of ten minutes, but was responsible for cutting the power to most of the town. I sit in the lobby of the theatre, composing this, waiting for the power company to restore the power to the town. How rustic, indeed. It puts a crimp in the schedule for the tech crew, as they only have a certain amount of time in which to prepare the set for our rehearsal tomorrow night.

Listening to screw guns and hammers in the space makes me miss the quote-unquote glory days of Hedgerow Theatre, where Drew and I would spend all day building, rebuilding, and then changing-over that stage so we could mount three different shows. Even the Enchantment tour, with our continual set builds was a great deal of fun, even if it involved assembly instead of construction (and no power tools.)

We were all very sad to see Tenor go. But we don’t have the chance to miss it too much, as we are about to be knee-deep in La Mancha. We get a light day tomorrow while they finish building it, and we have a small rehearsal at night for spacing and staging purposes, but we don’t have our hardcore schedule back until Tuesday, when we start our ten out of twelve’s. And on another note all together, I’m moving into my second host house tomorrow – the infamous lake house with Skippy Raines. I can’t wait…

Friday, July 6, 2007

back in the saddle again

We had a fantastic show tonight, so we're feeling good. And our first stumble-thru of La Mancha went pretty well, considering it was the first time we ran the complete show in order. We have another stumble in the morning, and then in the afternoon we have our basement show. I have some work to do before then, however, as I really need to take a look at a couple places in my script. We ran Tenor so much that I learned the lines without ever sitting down to think about it, but there are so many scenes in La Mancha that I have to make a conscious effort to learn them.

Size matters not

While yesterday was technically our day off from Man of La Mancha, we balanced that out by having two performances of Lend Me a Tenor, at 2pm and 8pm. Although the crowd was small for our matinee, they had the time of their lives and they were howling with laughter at all the jokes. They were also the first audience to pick up on a couple of plot-specific jokes, which they could only have found funny if they were paying attention. We didn't get a standing ovation, which broke our streak, but they loved the show.

Between the shows, we all went to a place called the Brown Hound Bistro for dinner, which is one of the pricier but nicer places in Naples. The food was great, but it unfortunately made us all a little sluggish for our second show, which seemed to be just a half a second out of focus. I mean, the audience wasn't quite as vocal about their laughter, but we got applause and a standing ovation at the end, so they enjoyed themselves. But it just goes to show that a packed house, like we had in the afternoon, doesn't always mean a great show.

I have another costume fitting now for the Knight of the Mirrors in La Mancha, and then rehearsal all afternoon before another Tenor tonight. They certainly keep me busy up here....

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Too Many Cooks

As much as I don't want to use this blog as a forum for complaining or slinging dirt, I feel that any accurate account of our process and experience here for La Mancha would not be complete without a very honest look at the way that a musical differs from a straight play. With Tenor, the director had only to sharpen moments, create a logical traffic flow around the stage, and then help the actors fully realize the script. Musicals, almost by definition, are much larger monsters that take a lot more focus from the director, as there are few moments, if any, that can be simply categorized as "acting" or "natural." Karin (our director) has to plan out where we all are throughout the entire show, as well as worrying about finding the nuance of performance in the characters. The cast is also bigger than the cast of Tenor, and there are only so many spaces for us to stand on a stage that small.

That said, there is now also a musical director to contend with, who also has his own craft to work on, his own thing to rehearse with the actors, and his own ideas about how the music should be done. When all these elements are added together, the rehearsals become a little slower than the ones for Tenor, not quite as high-energy or exhausting, because we are finely sculpting moments from the very beginning of the process. It's going very well, all that being said, and we'll probably finish blocking the show either tomorrow or Friday.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Closing out a weekend

We ended this weekend with a great performance of Lend Me a Tenor. We kept the ovation streak alive, and a lot of the scenes today just really flew. We were "cooking with gas," as one of the cast members put it. Pretty cool, pretty great, and a nice performance to end on so we can take a few days off to do nothing but La Mancha and party. Today's performance was also our talkback with the audience, and the basic questions were about who we where, where we were from, and whether or not we liked living and working in Naples. It was very low-key, but I was thrilled to be sitting in a row of plastic chairs up on stage, answering questions. I love doing talkbacks with an audience. I feel that acting is such a unique and specific profession, I always like the chance to informally open up and just chat with the audience about what interests them.

Two of my friends came to see the play today as well, as one of the stops on their tour of the wine region and a trip to their old college. They had a good time at the show, and then we went out for pizza at Luigi's afterwards, before I had to hustle back to the theatre for some work on La Mancha. I'm catching a quick internet break, but I have to be back there in about an hour for even more work. It's a lot of time that we put it, and it's occasionally exhausting, but it beats sitting behind a desk for 8 hours a day.

Moments of brilliance

Last night for our third performance of Tenor, we received another standing ovation, making us 3 for 3. But the story I'm here to tell is about a "moment of brilliance" that the director said David and I shared. In the middle of the second act, David and I were in the middle of one of our great dialogue sections, very much like "Who's on First?" As we were going, I could hear the waves of laughter taking over the audience, and then when David and I stopped and looked at each other, we held that look for just a second too long, and I saw him smile, I smiled, and then the audience saw us smiling. We held position on stage while the audience gave us a round of applause for the little beat, and then we picked up the scene again after we had regained our composure. It was a little Carol Burnett show moment where the actors couldn't hold it together, and the audience was so completely with us that they were laughing along. It really was a great little moment.

We have another performance today which is followed by a talk-back with the audience, and then we have another rehearsal for La Mancha this evening. And don't worry, I will soon be posting about La Mancha as well, but as you might expect, my time is very divided working on two shows at the moment. So I'll do my best, but the focus may have to shift back and forth if I want to keep this blog updated in a timely manner.