Sunday, December 28, 2008

Shots of the clumslethrough

Below is a little gallery of images from our clumslethrough of "Cock-A-Doodle-Doo" that we held a week ago. I got a new camera for my birthday (thank you, sister!) so I'll be able to take photos of our process on this show. I used it at rehearsal to capture what I thought were promising physical images, the sort of things that might be incorporated into the final production. For now, check out the gallery. No captions on this one, but maybe the next gallery will have some.

Being a Directing fly on the wall

Last weekend I attended two musical rehearsals in New York for "Cock-A-Doodle-Doo." They were wrapping up their musical work on the piece, and I was there to hear all the music and how it works with the text. I didn't have a whole lot of input in the show yet, but I was more just listening to everything to start getting my own ideas. I talked with the writer/producer and the stage manager about the general concept I have for the show, and they seemed to go for it. The story is not a straight-forward one, and it requires a bit of an abstract touch to really give the right atmosphere to it. I was a little concered that I was "dangerously unprepared" to direct a show like this, but after sitting through two days of musical rehearsals, I'm confident that I have enough ideas to put up something amazing on this stage.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Directing project

As some of the readers may know, I have been signed to direct a production in New York City in January. As a part of a festival based on the works of Herman Melville, I am the director of an original one-act musical based on the short story "Cock-A-Doodle-Doo." (Read the story here: ) The story is about a small-town farmer who is depressed by the world until he hears the crowing of a rooster that restores his spirits. He then abandons the rest of his life to search out and find this rooster, because having it would restore his spirits permanently. But he finds the creature in the hands of the poorest man in the town, and that challenges his perceptions even more. But, Melville being Melville, the story has a very bleak ending. The story is also a long dirty joke, since Melville never uses the word "rooster" and only uses the word "cock."

My girlfriend Andrea was in a musical based on the works of Mark Twain, and it was written by the same composer. When he again hired her to work on this Melville piece, she suggested to him that he talk to me about directing. Once I read the story and she sung me some the music, I was very interested in the gig. It's not an easy, straight-forward story, and it's going to require something other than a neat, traditional way of staging the story to convey it onstage. I started the process with only a few ideas, but as I've read the story more and more, and I attended two rehearsals last weekend, more ideas are starting to collect.

I will be living in NYC for two weeks in January to work on this project; Pella windows gave me the time off I requested. So I'll get a two-week artistic vacation, and I'll have nothing to do but experience the joys of New York, work on the show, audition, and play Xbox. But I also plan to blog either during or after every rehearsal we have, to provide as close to an "in-the-room" feeling as I can on this project. I say that a lot, but I'm going to try to mean it this time. I'll just make it part of my day.

Rehearsals begin again on Jan 3rd, but there is a lot to do before then. We'll have to get a final version of the script, we have to plan out our rehearsals, and we need to think about any technical aspects of the show that we'll need before we start. Also, I still have four days at the window mill, thinking about the show every chance I get.

So stick around and check back often, it should be a good ride. And feel free to post suggestions if you have any....

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

New headshots

Two Sundays ago now, I met my friend, co-worker, and long-time contributor to this blog, Mr Jeff Paris, over at Valley Forge National Park, and we took some new headshots for me. My current headshot is a few (5) years old, which is far too old in the theatre world. They say you should get them re-taken every year, but it's more important to have new ones every time you change the way you look. Well, I need new ones. Jeff has a photography business and a website for it, and he offered to take some headshots for me.

We met on a windy and stingingly cold afternoon at the top of a hill, and spent about an hour taking photos of me around a church on the hill. It was really low key, and a lot of fun to work with him. He freely admitted that he hadn't done anything like it before, so we were collaborating on things like locations and backgrounds, posing and lighting. We'd plan some things out, and then adjust our plans as we got different ideas. It was a good time, a good creative and collaborative afternoon.

I've since been able to look at some of the shots, and they look great. Once I really narrow it down to my personal favorites, I will post some of them up on this website for everyone to check out. And comment upon. And such things.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Working with friends

Yesterday I went to a reading of a new play. I had seen the posting on Craig's List looking for actors to participate in a reading, and I sent in all my information right away. I really like doing readings of scripts. There's no pressure to perform a monologue as an audition, the people in charge aren't really judging your suitability for the show, and there is always the chance that you can rock the reading to make the author want to keep you with the show. Secretly, that's what every actor hopes for when they agree to do a play reading for no money. They hope that they make such an impression on the produciton team that they are hired back for subsequent readings and stagings of the show.

Yesterday's script was an abstract one, reminding me a lot of the Charles Mee play I did a year ago. When I was reading it on my own, it was almost too abstract to really get into. I wasn't sure how fun it was going to be. But that all changed when I walked into the room and saw Bryan, a buddy of mine, sitting at the table. He and I used to do Tony n Tina's Wedding together, and we had been emailing each other earlier this week. So it was the craziest thing. But the hits didn't stop there, because one of the girls they had selected was my other friend Lesley, someone that I don't see as much of as I would like to. The jokes surfaced that Philly is such a small theatre community, that everyone pretty much knows everyone.

When it became clear to them that the other two girls they had recruited were not going to show up, the three of us took it upon ourselves to read all the characters on the script. I was tapped to play the other leading female role, which made for some very unintentionally funny scenes between me and Lesley. But Bryan and I also had our share as I played a photographer from Adventurous Male Magazine who was taking pictures of his character dressed up as an Eskimo.

When we started reading the script out loud, most of us agreed that it was much funnier than we thought it was going to be. And I was having a blast working with my friends. They are the sort of friends who make me excited to work with them. They inspire and motivate me to have fun, to push myself, and to do the best work that I can. Those are the kind of people that I always want to work with, because it means that I do my best work around them. I'm trying to recruit them both into my next film, if they are free.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Is brilliant too strong a word?

Curio Theatre Company is currently presenting a one-man version of "A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens. I was fortunate enough to attend the opening night performance and reception last night, recruited by their PR contact to write a review of the performance. A little piece of my review will follow on this blog, but I just wanted to get the word out that the performance was fantastic. It's the kind of show that I really think that everyone needs to see. Here is the website for the theatre. Tell your friends!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

In any other business...

I had an audition today for the world premiere of a new play. Although I was on the young end of the casting breakdown, I know the artistic director so I went down to audition. I gave a very solid audition, starting with a monologue and then finishing off by reading the scene provided. After my audition, the director was very complimentary. He started off by saying that I was a little too young for the role. But after that, he said that I was a very thoughtful actor, and that I gave a wonderful reading. He said I was the best actor they had seen all day. We talked for a bit, I thanked him for the compliments, and then I went on my way.

Now, in any other business, that would translate into the job. But in this business, I am not one of the three men called back. (They are all older, in their late thirties.) It was a very nice ego boost to hear those compliments from the director, even if it doesn't translate into the actual job they were offering tonight. He's a well-known director and playwright who does a lot of work in regional theaters all over, so he's certainly a good person to know.

More often than not, this career has a way of propping you up and pulling the rug from under your feet at the same time. Just as I had a few bad auditions and meetings that didn't go anywhere, I went to this audition literally on a lark, and I walk out feeling good about my career. Now, I didn't get the callback and I didn't get the part, but I got just enough support and encouragement to push me forward.

Monday, December 8, 2008

No news is no news

In spite of my stellar audition and my unique qualifications, I will not be a part of the Christmas Carol radio play. The director sent me an email saying how much she liked my work, how nice it was to see me again, but they were unable to use me at this time. They will, however, keep my information on file for future projects, which they will be having many of in the coming months.

That last sentence was seriously what was in the email I opened this evening. That's how we theatre people talk when we're on that side of the table.

I'm really bummed out not to be in this show. I was looking forward to a light and easy opportunity to get back into the world of performance, and this is one that I really had a connection with when I first saw the posting. The program will be broadcast live on the internet, so I'll be sure to listen to see what they do with it.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Outline twice, write once

I spent three hours tonight (off and on) creating a beat chart for my Jekyll and Hyde script. Here is a picture.
For those of you who may not know the term, this beat chart is what I will use to write the script. Essentially, it's an outline. But it's an outline that is created with index cards thumbtacked to a cork board, which makes it very easy to change things around. The writer and producers can see how the sequence works in miniature before it moves to the actual page. Sometimes when writing a feature film, each scene would have its own index card. Due to the constraints of both budget and space, however, I had to condense some of the longer sequences onto one card. But as the outline gets more and more precise, the cards will become more and more specific.

Here is another, somewhat closer, view of some of the cards.
I've never done this sort of major outline for a writing project before, but it seemed like this script was going to be a big enough endeavor that it would be a huge help to have this sort of roadmap for the story. It will be especially helpful because I want to play around with the order of events in the script timeline. For my first pass through the outline, the cards are set up to replicate the sequence of events as they occur in the novel. The next task is to look at the cards and put them in order for the radio script, which might be a different dramatic order. I've already started adjusting things, so those are the next steps in this process of adaptation.

And all our ships at sea...

Last night I auditioned for a local theatre company that was producing a radio play version of "A Christmas Carol." Those following this blog know that I am huge fan of radio dramas, and I am currently working on a few of my own creation for Radio Hound Productions. So when I saw this posting on Craig's List, I submitted my information right away.

The actual audition went very well. Not as well as I wanted, but very well. I had imagined myself doing such a better job, but I wasn't really given the change to read for a whole lot of roles like I had imagined. They had us read the opening narration from the book, encouraging us to use a variety of different character voices so that the director could hear how we could use our voice. I went into the room with some planned characters, and then I allowed my voice to be flexible as I was reading the text, so much so that I was shifting performance with every sentence as I got near the end. But always switches that made sense in the context of the piece, I made sure of that. I tried to balance a natural sense of speaking with a heightened use of the text, and I think I did pretty well. I also made an effort to not merely affect "character voices" or "impressions" as I was reading; I tried to actually give different voices to different characters. I tried to CHANGE my voice for every character instead of merely putting a mask over my voice.

After that first reading, they handed out sides, and they had me read the scene between Young Scrooge and his lady friend Belle during the ghost of Christmas Past sequence. In their adaptation, however, Young Scrooge had all of three lines, three short lines, and I had to do my best to generate a life and a character behind very simple sentences. I also got to do it twice with two different actresses, so I had a chance to try a different interpretation on the second time through. And, I won't lie, I kinda rocked. It's all the BBC Radio Adventures of Sherlock Holmes that I listen to on every long car trip.

I'll know about the audition by this weekend, either way. It was a fun time. I saw a whole bunch of people that I knew, I had a few free cookies, and I got some useful ideas for my own projects. After reading the sides, however, I wasn't as excited about their project as I was going into the audition. I had thought at first that they were doing an original script based on the novel, but since they had us read for a character named "Narrator," I'm guessing that's not the case. The script was more like a recitation of the book using actors as the character voices; that idea is cool, but not as cool to me as a fully dramatized radio play.

Either way, there aren't many modern companies that are doing anything like live radio drama, and I'd love to be a part of this show. You might say that I want to be on the actor side of the microphone before I have to be on the producer side of it. Which is, to say, the other side. The back side. The non-recording side. You get the idea.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Dramaturgy is not a dirty word

In preparing my adaptation of "Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde," one of my goals is to write a production that is faithful to the story written by Robert Louis Stevenson. Almost every stage or screen version of the story invents characters or subplots, and very few of them ever accurately portray Jekyll or Hyde as envisioned by RLS. So in my quest for a textual adaptation, I ordered the Norton edition of the book. That edition has lots of footnotes and explanatory essays, including a whole section about changes that are made to different performance versions. I've been reading and re-reading the text, and now some essays and notes are helping shape the direction I want to take with my script.

One striking thing about the book is that RLS carefully crafts a story that resists simple interpretations. It is clearly written as an allegory, but RLS was always very cagey to never say what exactly it was an allegory for. Interpretations have varied over the last hundred years as the times have changed, and it was always been co-opted for whatever purpose the writer wanted. The story has reflected the dangers of society, hypocrisy, science, and vanity. But I want my version to have all the complexity that the orginal text has; RLS didn't make the story as simple as a struggle between "good" and "evil," so I don't want my version to be that simple.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Doing it for a job

A few nights ago, I had dinner with a friend of mine and discussed a radio script that I am working on. I'm adapting a classic novel for the project, and by now I've read the story a few times. I've also got a unique take on the adaptation; I'm going to make it very faithful to the actual novel. When the book is usually adapted, the author's story is generally sacrificed to the whims of the playwright or screenwriter. I want the author's ideas to come through in my adaptation, to make this radio play truly Robert Louis Stevenson's "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde." There, that's the project. I think it's going to be the first official radio production of Radio Hound Productions.

I thought of something as I was working on the story beats for this adaptation. As I was talking about the opening scene, trying to decide how the story should start, I realized that I'm good at this. This writing thing that I do. This directing thing that I do. This producing thing that I do. This whole theatre thing that I do. I'm good at it, and I need to find a way to start/keep doing this for my job.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Studying Under

I spent two nights this week at my understudy rehearsals for "Last Night of Ballyhoo." I've never been an understudy before. I've been a replacement actor, taking over a role from someone who had already played the role. And I have also been a hired replacement, knowing that I would be playing a role for just a single night. But this is the first time that I was an honest on-call understudy. My first night on the job was a technical rehearsal, and I took blocking notes as they ran through doing cue-to-cue work on the second act. That was followed by a full run of the play, in which I got to take all the notes for the first act. I tested myself on the second act as I was watching, and I had already learned a lot of the blocking.

On Thursday night, I saw the preview performance of the show, just to see how the show responds to an audience. I was saying the lines in my head as I was watching the show, and I'm proud to claim myself off-book for a few scenes. Not to mention, I have a few ideas about how to hide the script in some of the other scenes where I'd have a lot of dialogue and a few long speeches. I'm not sure that I'll be called upon to perform in the play, but I want to be as well-prepared as I can be for my first understudy gig.

Friday, November 14, 2008

5-Day Contest Screening

This past Wednesday night was the public screening for the film festival that we entered. We invited everyone to attend, and a bunch of our WWII re-enactors showed up. There were about fifteen films that were a part of it, some of them were really good. Some of them were really bad. We were the third film shown, but the first that was any good. Everyone laughed at all the right places in the movie, and we got a nice thunder of applause when it was over. Our little "joke" ending was the single biggest laugh of the night, which made us really proud and happy. There were some really well-made films, including a pair of detective stories, a fun buddy film that had a really great twist, and a romance between a guy and a bowling ball.
We generated a lot of good buzz for our film, and when the awards section of the evening came, we were the first name called. We won an award for Best Production Design. Considering we had both a fully-garbed knight and a WWII Jeep in our movie, they really couldn't have given that one to anyone else. The bowling ball romance won the audience favorite award, as it should have. It was a well-made, really cute movie that seemed like it would be the perfect cartoon they show before a Pixar movie. The best film award went to a detective story called "Jenny," but I'm not so sure that was the right call. The movie had David Lynch-overtones and it was beautifully shot, but the story bogged down in the middle and the ending seemed tacked on and disconnected.
But still, we won! And all in all, it was a good night.

Friday, November 7, 2008

New Trailer

Rob recently posted the trailer online for the short film we made. Yes, the film is only five minutes long. But the trailer is only 40 seconds or so, appropriately sized. And the trailer has a lot of the coolest bits, including some lines that aren't in the movie. Everything a true trailer should have... Enjoy!

I've been having some trouble with the video not playing through blogspot, so here is the link to the trailer on the DRF website. Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

5-Day Film Contest: Day 5

After my six hours at the tiller at Pella Windows, I voted in the election, making my voice count. Well, making it count toward the electoral college. My voice counts for very little. At the most, it offsets and negates the vote of one of my friends who voted for the other guy.

I headed over to Rob's for the final hours of work on our short film contest entry. I got there and he was working on some visual effects while Adam was putting all the waivers and permission forms in order. Rob was exhibiting his traditional "stressed-out" posture of hunching over the computer screen while Adam and I went outside to film those last couple of pickup shots for the film, shots that ultimately went unused in the cut for the contest. They had worked on cutting down the film to the proper length during the day, so it was just the matter of finishing the effects and then fixing the sound and dropping in some sound effects. They were working on that, and I was sitting in the corner trying not to hurry them. They both have technical experience on the editing program, and there's only one computer. So it was a little frustrating not to be able to help very much.

Until photocopies were needed! Rob's printer ran out of ink while printing out some of the waivers, so I grabbed the originals and ran out to Office Depot to do some literally last-minute printing. Rushing back with the papers, I found them more or less done with the edit, just fighting with the computer to drop in the last few sound effects. Rob cut the sound and visual effects into our WWII battle sequence in about 10-15 minutes, which even impressed him later when he thought about it. We rushed over to the college where we needed to drop it (I drove like a maniac but broke very few traffic laws.) When we got to the school, Adam dove out of the car and sprinted across campus in order to get in under the wire. We later heard that he did make it in time, and the person at the desk advised him to relax now that he was in time.

After we could all relax, we went out for a few beers and dinner to celebrate the completion of the project. We talked a bit about some other projects coming up, talked about expanding our current idea into a longer project or even into a webseries. Lots of exciting ideas came out on the table, and I certainly hope that the three of us work on something else in the future. Of course, the most exciting thing on my table right now is the new script for "Reggie Donovan's Best Day Ever." It's due Friday, so I better get started. Better quit this job at the window place....

5-Day Film Project: Day 3

So I'm still over here at Rob's office, working on the last set of pickup shots for our film project. We did a bunch of stuff to finish out the missing pieces of the movie, and now we're waiting for Rob to test-fire a few of the greenscreen effect shots into the rough cut of the movie. We want to make sure that all of the effect shots are going to work before we move off to another location to get a few more scenes. It is kinda fun to be working on these different types of projects, and I'm watching myself act against a green background so Rob can drop me into other backgrounds. So far, they are looking pretty good. We're moving to another location now, so I'll try to write more on this later. Lots of fun behind-the-scenes.

Monday, November 3, 2008

5-Day Film Shoot Day 2 - UPDATED

Sunday marked the second day of shooting on the short film. I had a workshop to teach in the afternoon, so I was only around during the morning to finish my shots, but it was a lot of fun. We went out to someone’s house in Southampton, PA, and he is a WWII re-enactor. He has a basement full of uniforms and supplies, a working jeep, a machine gun emplacement, and even an air cannon to simulate explosions. Using a bug sprayer as a mini fog machine, we shot scenes for a little mini-action sequence on a French battlefield in 1944. The single coolest part was the air cannon. Adam and I ran away from the camera, we hit our mark, and then we jumped forward into the air and to the ground. As soon as we jumped, Mike set off the air cannon that blew debris into the air and a blast of smoke covered us up. When Adam and I stood up, we got a round of applause from the extras playing WWII soldiers. It was a fantastic feeling, even on such a small scale as this. Sure, I may have banged up my shoulder a little bit, but that's a small price to pay. The shot looked awesome on the little monitor on the camera, so I can't wait to see it on the big screen.

We had a little bit of trouble finding our location which led to a little time crunch while we were there, but overall it was a smooth day. The WWII re-enactors were really good about their part, setting up the machine gun and moving the Jeep whenever we needed them to. They had the enthusiasm and the energy to keep running up and down a little hill take after take. We were using a mosquito fogger to give the place a smoky appearance, the clouds of war blowing across the land.

One setup had us running behind the three American GIs, up a little path between two bushes, emerging into the main section of the backyard. The first time we did the shot, the GIs ran forward, Adam and I ran along behind them. As we got up around the corner and Rob called the "cut," the GI's all turned around to face me. I was looking at them through a heavy mist of smoke, all of them in full gear, breathing heavy, the Army Jeep behind them, the machine gun emplacement off to the right.... It was a pretty amazing sight, and it actually felt like we had travelled in time a bit (as per the idea of our movie.) On just this small scale, it was wild. On a bigger scale, it has to be exceptional.

Called out

For those of you that have been reading lately, I’m sorry that there have been no new updates posted. This is a funny thing, because the busier I am, the less time I have to write. But I’m busy, so any entry that I have to file would be that much more interesting. So it’s a destructive circle, and I will try to do better. I’ll also try to catch up on some Eurydice reflections, a photo gallery, and a report of the film I’ve been shooting this weekend. I’m working with friends on a five-day film project competition, and today is our last scheduled day of filming on the project. Rob is going to spend Election Day tomorrow editing the movie and getting it into shape for submission by the deadline.

The contest gave us guidelines for the film we had to make, including a genre, theme, prop, and line of dialogue. Rob was very interested in making something with an action-movie style for this project, so he and his buddy Adam came up with the idea of a chase scene through different time periods. Adam and I play time-travelers, and we are trying to prevent the bad guys from getting the capital-D Device. The project was ambitious from the start, and it was significantly hampered by our large group of characters but small group of actors. Some necessary rewriting and some creative filmmaking later, the project got a little simpler, but we did film the scenes we needed to film more-or-less on schedule. Another day or two of principal photography, and then a whole day spent editing, and then I’m sure Rob is going to sleep for at least a day when it’s done. Maybe until the official premiere…

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Industrial Audition + Extras

Yesterday afternoon I made my way into Philly for another audition for an industrial. My agent sent me in on it, so I knew that I had to say yes if I want her to keep sending me in for other auditions. (Note: I want her to keep sending me in for other auditions.) Unlike my previous audition, this one was more of a scene with real dialogue, and I was reading it with a casting assistant at the office. I knew that I had to go in and be very natural, not try to "act" the script at all but just let the words come out. I struggled with that style in my audition a few weeks ago, so it was part of my preparation for this one. I thought I did a good job with it yesterday, and the CA said that I gave a good read. That was encouraging, even if nothing comes from this specific audition. I don't expect to hit the ball out the park my first time up, but I do hope I continue to get better the more I try.

After the audition, I checked around in some local bookstores, and then found a sports bar where I could watch the Phillies in Game 2 of the NLCS. And watch them I did, having two back-to-back 4-run innings. The bar was cheering, I was cheering, the entire city of Philadelphia was cheering. I didn't get to see the end of the game, but I saw enough to have hope in my heart as I drove over to West Philly to see a production of "The Trial" by Franz Kafka. I know all the founders of CTC, having worked with them before, and it was really great to see them all agan. I was also there as a reviewer, and I'll be posting my review here on my blog as soon as I submit it to the paper.

I liked the show. I really did. The show was very heavily stylized in terms of everything: performance, lighting, set. I'm usually not one who enjoys that type of theatre; I like my plays a little more traditional. But I'm also a theatrical professional, so I can see what the production was trying to do, and I can see that they accomplished in successfully. So the play is a good one. It gets a good review, because I think it's fundamentally a strong production. It's not the kind of production that really connects with me, but it's still a good production.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Ports in Storms

Last week, I auditioned for a production of "Last Night of Ballyhoo," and I was not called back for the role I wanted. However, I got a call from the artistic director this week, asking me if I wanted to understudy two of the roles in the show. The offer wasn't to understudy one of the roles that I really wanted to play, but I felt like I shouldn't be choosy. I've auditioned for him a few times, for a few different shows, but he has never been able to offer me a role yet. So while this is still not a proper role in a mainstage show, I'll get a chance to have him see my work. I have wanted to work at this theatre for a few years now, so this is a good way to get my foot in the proverbial door. I don't really hold any of those understudy-type hopes that I'll have to go on and play the role one night (but let's face it. That would be cool.) But rather I see it as an opportunity to work with the theatre, and hopefully this opportunity will translate into a role in another show down the line.

Plus, I've never been an understudy before. When I was at the 'Row doing my internship, I had roles that I had to know in case I needed to go on. I also had roles in which I only had minimal time to prepare for a performance. Many of them were children shows or school tours, but very few of them were evening mainstage shows. This is much more of a professional setup for an understudy position, a much smaller time commitment, but much higher expectations. It'll be an interesting way to spend November.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

A Week of Work

Last week was a very tiring one in terms of hours worked. I spent six hours every day working at the office, I came home and had an early dinner/late lunch, I drove for an hour, rehearsed for three hours, and then drove an hour home. By Wednesday or Thursday, I was starting to suffer on that last trip home, and I definitely had to take a little nap in the back row of the theatre on Wednesday night. We don't have rehearsals on the weekends, which is both a bad thing and a good thing. It's a bad thing because it really does interrupt the flow of our process, and it makes each week almost seem like a separate event rather than just pieces of a larger whole. But it is a good thing in the sense that we're not worn out, and I have weekends free for either other projects (last weekend) or complete and utter relaxation (this weekend.) Plus, I could sit back and watch the Phillies win their division on Saturday afternoon, clinching with a great game at home. I had hoped to do some writing and work on a script or two, but instead I spent a lot of time sleeping, a little time cleaning, a little time shopping, and a lot of time watching sports on TV.

I've been feeling restless lately, partly because I haven't been going on many auditions, and partly because this is the first fall in two years that I'm not about to leave on a national tour. So it's a strange sensation that I'm not really used to, and I'm looking at other "real" non-acting jobs, and I'm thinking about going back to full-time at the desk job, making as much relatively easy money as I can for the rest of the year, maybe sneak in some dentist and doctor visits under the company's heathcare plan, and then head out to seek my fortune in the new calendar year. I've always been told that I'd have a good career if I stuck with the profession into my thirties, and that's an assessment that I've agreed with in the past. I'm not really one to play the conflicted young men, but I'll do really well when I'm finally old enough to play their fathers. It's just a matter of sticking around in the profession long enough to get those roles.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Rough Cut

Sunday night I met with Rob and we cobbled together the first rough cut of “No Reason.” It didn’t take as long as I thought it might, and it came together pretty easily. There were only two or three spots throughout the film where there were problems with either continuity or missing camera angles, but no problems that we couldn’t solve. We also figured out a couple of really cool transition shots that Rob has to work on some more, but even the rough versions of them work really well. We still need to edit the opening dream sequence of the film and put in the credits and titles, but everything looks great so far. There is still more work to do, but we’re now working from a strong foundation. The final shot has an amazing effect in it, one that we’re both proud is done with the lowest-tech trick in the book. Most of this movie was done with low-tech tricks, including halogen work lamps, makeshift lighting stands, and lots of gaff tape holding things in place.

But with all that technical craziness behind the camera, this project has turned out very well. Even better than I may have hoped, if I can actually write that out loud on my own blog. This film is very different in subject and tone from “Changing Lane,” and I was never fully convinced while filming that we were really finding that tone. But watching the rough cut of the film, it’s clear that we did in fact hit the tone beautifully. Some of the lighting setups are very effective, and the performances are simple, sweet, and actually rather touching. It’s going to be a good project.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Driving Miss Daisy - UPDATED

On Saturday night, I went to see a preview performance of "Driving Miss Daisy" down at Hedgerow Theatre in Media. I had never seen the play onstage before, and it was quite wonderful. The story is a very touching one, and the actors and the artistic staff handled the material very well. The actors worked the material with such a light and deft touch that they really did create fully realized characters. The set was simple and yet effective, and everything about the production was very good. I went out for a beer with the crew afterwards, trading stories and swapping memories until about midnight. It was a good night, and a good show. And for someone who doesn't always enjoy theatre, that's a big thing to say. "Daisy" really does everything right when it comes to a show onstage, with strong actors bringing a strong script to life under strong direction. The kind of show that makes me proud to be an actor.


Last Tuesday night was my callback for Arms and the Man, and it was a very bizarre one. They asked me to read for the soldier, a role that I'm not really appropriate for. But as I was going over the scene for the callback, I decided that I would have fun with it. I'd approach the show not as I thought the role would be played, but the way in which I would play the role. As I was excited to go in and play this idea, they told us all that we'd actually be reading a different side, reading for the older and crafty servant. And Nick, you'll be first. A little put off by this, I was reading over the new pages frantically before I decided that this didn't at all change the direction that I was heading. I knew that I wasn't appropriate for this role at all, but decided that I'd go in and play the audition with all the honesty and intensity that I could find. And as I was in the room reading with my scene partner, I really felt things sparkle and crackle. Even if I wasn't right for the role, it was a great audition. The director said that I did good work, and that he had seen what he needed. I felt very good about the audition, as strange is this one was. And for someone who often doesn't like the way he auditions, I was proud of this one.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

"Extra" work and extra "work"

On Monday night, I spent the evening working as an extra on a short film called "Sketches." It was produced by a Russian filmmaker who had worked at Drexel University, and we were filming the "sexy party scene" at a mansion in a Philly suburb. We were told to bring some "sexy" outfits and maybe a bathing suit, and we were promised gas money, alcohol, and entertainment. And while the alcohol was greatly watered down, and the entertainment was primarily of our own making, the gas money was handed out as promised. Having spent most of the summer being a leading actor in a movie, it was kinda refreshing and fun to just be an extra. I had no lines, no blocking, no nothing, and I was just sitting around a pool until the crew told me where to stand in the background of shots. I liked taking the filmmaking process from another point of view. A lead, a featured player, or a member of the ensemble, it really doesn't matter what sort of acting I do as a career. As long as I do it as a career, cause I know that I'm not really qualified to or interested in doing anytihng else.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Excitements and Challenges

Since this blog also needs some lists as well as paragraphs, I've compiled a list of some things I'm looking forward to about Eurydice. I might add to these as I go through the process, but this is what comes to mind immediately.

- working with Tim again, one of the best directors I’ve had in recent years
- doing a relatively “new” play
- a dual-role, getting to play two elements of the same character
- an ensemble based cast,
- working with younger actors, teaching and leading by example


- making an energetic and larger than life character both funny and frightening
- doing the above without playing him like the Joker from Batman
- taking the risks to push my performance away from the familiar and comfortable

Thursday, September 4, 2008


Earlier this week I started rehearsals for Sarah Ruhl’s “Eurydice” with Cedar Crest College outside of Allentown. I was in “Big Love” and “The Spitfire Grill” with them last year, and it’s very exciting and familiar to head back up north and work with a lot of my friends again. I’m jazzed to work with Tim again, our director, especially on another show that is somewhat “out-there.” I’m playing the dual role of the Nasty Interesting Man and Lord of the Underworld, and Tim and I have already started chatting about all the fun and weird places that this role can take me. I scouted out all those places in “Big Love,” and then walked a much more reserved and narrow line in “The Spitfire Grill.” But this time around I have a more central role that I did in “Big Love,” so it’s not going to be enough to just find those places. I'm going to have to go to all those places. But working with Tim and the rest of this cast, I know it's going to be a worthwhile trip.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

No Reason

This past weekend, I took a film cast and crew up to my parents’ house in Hazleton, and we spent most of the weekend filming a short called “No Reason.” The movie is a supernatural romance, and we spent a lot of time moving from room to room in the house. One of the fun parts of the weekend was trying to fit all of our equipment into the cars, and we actually had to use two cars instead of the one we had originally planned to use. But it was really a blessing in disguise, because it let us bring the camera dolly up to the shoot. We picked up two pieces of dolly track (aka PVC pipe) at the Lowe’s off the highway, and then we were all set to make the movie.

We didn’t have the same equipment this time around as we did for “Changing Lane,” which meant that the shoot had to be handled somewhat differently. We were using halogen work lamps to light the scenes, which meant that we had to improvise different ways to get them to the right height, and different ways to point them to get the right effect. There was also at least once that Rob had to block the light with his own body because we didn’t have shutters on the lights. We were also without the correct microphone this weekend, so we would record all the dialogue separately after the takes. We were using the mic in the camera as we filmed, hoping that it will of good enough quality to use. But I imagine that I’ll also be doing a lot of ADR on the lines I have to loop in this film. And as strange as it sounds, neither Rob nor I own a good quality tripod of our own. I borrowed one from Jeff Paris, a friend at Pella and a frequent commenter on this blog. It worked perfectly with Rob’s camera, except we found that we couldn’t really do any camera moves with it, so we split our shots between the tripod and hand-held shots.

And that’s where both Rob and I were excited that we brought the dolly. This film has a lot of dolly shots, including one where the dolly is coming down the stairs, and they all look incredible. The tripod was a godsend when it came to the dolly, because it made all of those shots possible. So without all the professional rented equipment, we had to come up with creative ways to get the shots that we wanted for the film. We actually had the chance on both shooting days to watch the dailies, which is an opportunity that I’ve never had before. The movie looks great, and some of the lighting effects are fantastic. We haven’t yet gotten together to go over the footage or a rough cut, but Rob has another project he needs to finish first. So I’m tentatively expecting this film to be finished in about 6-8 weeks, so a late-October premiere is probably in the works.

Then it’s time for the next one….

Monday, August 25, 2008

What lurks

So.... I haven't really posted before when I'm in one of "these" moods, and I was going to write something about it last night. But I fell asleep, so tonight's blog gets to see this entry. I have days every now and then when I think about my career, or I think about my life, and I just really have to question where it's going. And what's it doing. I'm not going to claim that I thought I would be famous when I was twenty five. Yes, I hoped I might be famous when I was twenty five. But I thought I might have a career by the time I was thirty, maybe thirty five. And I know that I haven't reached those milestones yet, but I still don't see those goals being met. In the meantime, I'm working on small movies and small regional theatre stuff, but I still can't see how that is going to push my career forward. So that's part of the darker side of being an actor, I guess, and of not having the slightest idea of what I want to do with my life....

Friday, August 22, 2008

How I Roll

My audition last night for “Arms and the Man” went very well. Although I thought at first that I was going to get stuck is some massive amounts of bad traffic, I remembered all the back roads down to the theatre, and I made it there just about on time. Just before I went in to audition, I saw the artistic director of the theatre. She was surprised and very pleased to see me, and she asked me which part I was hoping to play. When I told her, she smiled at me and said, “That’s the one for you.” She was happy I was interested in that role, which, truth be told, is a less standout role but a far more complicated and interesting one.

The audition went very well. I did a monologue from another Shaw play, which got a few laughs from the director and reader in all the right places. He then had me read a scene that I’d prepared, although not for the character that I wanted. He thanked me for coming in, said that it was very good to meet me, and that was that. I knew that I did a good job on my readings, too. I may have shown off some my actor “bad habits,” but I also know that I did a great job with being in the moment, finding the words, and using the language of the speeches. Not a 100%, but at least a 95%.

I saw the artistic director again, when I went back to hang out with her and the other ladies who were auditioning people for “Sherlock Holmes.” (Sadly, I can’t do that show, since I’m such a HUGE Sherlock Holmes fan.) She said that she would make sure I was called back for the role that I wanted, the role in which she said she could see me. She even started comparing me to past people who had played the role in the area, and while I know that I shouldn’t read into anything that she says at this point in the game, it was still great to hear. She told me the date for callbacks; I made sure to clear my schedule. It also gives me another couple of weeks to read the script a few more times and get a better understanding of the characters before I have my second chance to read for them.

I’m going to nail this one. I want this part, so I will get it.

But the fanboy moment of my night was yet to come. When a woman came in to read for a role in “Sherlock Holmes,” they asked me to hang around for a bit and read opposite her, both as Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. I was thrilled, giggled like a schoolgirl, and even jumped around for a moment before I put down my bag to grab the script. The ladies all started laughing, and I had to explain that being asked to play Holmes is like other actors being asked to play Hamlet. So I read two scenes with the woman reading for Irene Adler, and I had a blast! I know that role will be in my future somewhere, even if I have to produce the opportunity myself. It worked for Changing Lane, after all.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

That funny feeling

Tomorrow night, I have my first audition in a while. I haven’t been checking all the callboards and websites that I should have been, but I also haven’t been seeing anything that interested me. And then I saw an announcement for auditions for “Arms and the Man,” by George Bernard Shaw. I’m a big fan of Shaw’s work, going back to a wonderful experience I had playing St. John Hotchkiss in “Getting Married” with the Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble. It was a blast working with the ensemble members up there, playing around with Shaw’s language and ideas, challenging myself to be both as smart and as intellectually nimble as Shaw was. It’s the kind of acting that I fully embraced for four weeks, and the kind of acting that I would love to do again.

Since I’ve never read the play, I swung by the library after work on Monday to pick up the play, and I read it as soon as I got home. By the time I was finished reading the first act, I knew that I had to be in this show. The writing and the ideas were up there with “Getting Married,” and the opening scene is one that promises to be both touching and funny. The last time that I felt that excited about a show was the first time I listened to the soundtrack for "The Spitfire Grill," or reading the script for "Eurydice."

I've got my sides and my monologue prepared for tomorrow night, and I've been going over them every chance I get. I'm also trying not to over-prepare for this audition, and going to try to let myself live in the moment while I'm reading for it. Having worked at this theatre before, I know that the Artistic Director was always trying to get me out of my head when I perform. From other work that I've done, I know that I've learned how to get out of my head, so I'm working on channeling that in my audition tomorrow. Make it look easy, but make it look good.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Being awesome

Last night during our standing writer's group, Rob and I started talking about one of our favorite pet projects, some sort of film or trailer or short about The Shadow. Old pulp hero, old radio character, who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men. I've had a season of radio adventures planned for a year or so now, and Rob and I were talking about different effects for the voice of The Shadow. With a whole lot of excitement, we worked on the following audio clip. Enjoy a preview of The Shadow, from Radio Hound Productions and Digital Reality Films.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

TOS photo gallery

Here are some of the photos from my summer as Lucentio. I will be sure to post pictures from the movie when (if) I get any.
First, hatching the plan as Lucentio.

Second, Lucentio in disguise as "Cambio," with Hortensio in disguise as "Lichio." Good old Shakespeare!

With Bianca, laying the smoulder on thick.

In the finale, all is now right with the world. Check out the Clark Kent specs.
It was a really good show, with some really great people. Sad to see it go, but I like having those nights to myself again.

Now leaving God's Country

My last day of filming on the movie was this last Tuesday, and I have since promised that I'd post an entry talking about the whole experience of the film. Briefly, it was a lot of fun. Over the last four weeks, I spent 13 days of shooting on the movie. The days would rang from either all-day affairs where I had a lot of work to do, or a day when I was in only one shot that took just a few hours. This marks my feature-film debut, and I think it was a good one. Most of my scenes were with the film's lead, Sean, playing my best friend Bruce. We're both stage actors, and we had chemistry right away from the first (and only) rehearsal we had for the film. We're both trained improv actors, so we were always goofing around either in front of the camera or behind it. It was the kind of friendship that really made the performances on film work, and we finished every scene feeling that we had done a good job with it.

Part of the fun (read: adjustment) to working on a film as opposed to a play was learning when the camera was on me, and when it wasn't. It sounds like such a conceited actor-thing to say, but the performances matter the most when they are on camera. If you do all your best acting on the other guy's closeup, literally no one is looking at you. It's also funny to me to think that each scene will be a combination of all the takes, and that the conversations as they happen in the movie never actually happened that way at all. Yes, all the pieces happened at some point, but never all in sequence. And I'm sure I'll be surprised by what exactly is in all those shots, since I hardly got a chance to look at anything through the camera lens. I'll remember the sequence that was shot in the mostly-empty room, and on screen it will be a busy and hopping place.

And yes, this is all stuff that I know from working on "Changing Lane," "Preservation," and other films with my own company and with Rob's company. But it is quite an eye-opener to be experiencing it purely from a performer's point of view. It is really something to be working on a project this big as an actor. Makes me know that I have the stamina, the energy, and the talent to do this as a career.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Driving on Film

Today I had to drive on camera. At night. Without any crew in the car with me. And it is not as easy as it looks. I was very excited to do this for the first time, since I've never driven a car on camera before. It was our last shot of the day, and my last shot of the whole film. After we set up the camera and tried our best to light the shot, I took two spins around the parking lot before Steve was happy with it. The first time, I had some trouble driving someone else's car, and the shot turned out a little bumpy and out of focus. I didn't realize how many dips and bumps there were in the parking lot before they ruined the shot! Since today was my last day on the set, I'll try to post tomorrow about my overall experience working on the film.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Adventures on Set

I'm actually approaching the end of my time on the set of GC, and it's been a wild ride. It was a huge novelty on that first day to be standing in front of the cameras while the crew went through the whole deal of "sound-camera-action." Then I watched them change light setups, tape down marks, move equipment, etc. Over the last few weeks, however, the novelty of the adventure wore off a little, but I'm pleased to say that the excitement did not. The actual process of making the movie holds much less mystery for me than it did a month ago. It has also been a wonderful test of my own work ethic and ability to focus. More so than before, I know what it takes to be a working on camera actor, and I know that I have those abilities within myself. I'm always very excited to go to work everyday, and I'm also not getting bored with the movie or the role.

I've always suspected that I'd be a great TV actor, since I'd always get to play the same character and play in the same world, but I'd constantly be doing new scenes and new stories. Theatre bores me because I'm always working on the same lines and the same story, but it's not like that at all in film. And the schedule is certainly more demanding, but that's another personal struggle that I matched and proved to myself that I could handle. Onward to bigger projects!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Closing out the TOS

Last week marked the final performance of TOS, after which we went out to the bar and closed it down. Our next-to-last show was a small affair, maybe twenty people or so and a very calm performance. Fortunately we had another one later in the week, one that was actually rescheduled from an earlier rained out date. And it was a good show. A big and excited crowd was there for our farewell show, and it was a solid performance.

The show, overall, was a challenging one for me to be involved in. It was a long rehearsal process, in which we seemed to work on individual scenes over and over again. It wasn't until only a few days before our first performance that we did our first complete run of the show, which made it hard to get a sense of the through-line of the play until the very last second. As Lucentio, I also spent a lot of time standing on stage and watching what was happening around me. Playing inactive scenes like that are always a challenge. It was a good time, though, because I really enjoyed the actors that I was working with. As m Bianca, Krista shared a lot of scenes with me, and she was a joy to work with. We could always come to rehearsal together to play around and see what would work for our characters, making new discoveries all the way up to closing night. And as Tranio and Biondello, Dave and Andrew gave me some classic comedy moments and it was great to work through the comedy with them.

I also enjoyed the compliments that were heaped on me during the rehearsal process. My show with them two years ago had been a struggle, as the director was constantly making me push against and try to defeat my "bad habits" as an actor. This summer, he was very impressed with my work on this show, and that I had grown as an actor. That was great to hear, as he is an artist that I really respect and someone that I want to work with in the future. It was a very exciting way to spend the summer. I worked with a lot of friends, and I met a lot of people that I want to work with again. I'm about halfway through the filming of GC, the movie I've been cast in, so I'll be updating about that soon.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Now THAT'S more familiar

Remember that big dialogue scene I was excited to film yesterday? Well, the film crew was stuck in traffic on their way out to the film shoot. They were stuck behind an accident on Lincoln Drive, which meant that we didn't start filming until about an hour and half behind schedule. So while the director of photography and the crew were hurridly setting up the different shots, Sean and I were getting into costume, getting our mics set up, and running our dialogue. Technically scene 4, yesterday's shoot was for the opening scene of the movie, setting up our friendship and the stress that was between us. Steve was a little on-edge as we kept losing the light as the day dragged on and on. But later he told us that he is impressed by our ability to "act without pressure" as he called it. When the camera rolled, there was no hint of stress or strain in our performance. As he was complimenting us, I said thank you, but I also thought in the back of my head: Yea... that's what you hired us for. We're professionals, and that's what you get with professionals. So even when working quickly, working efficiently, and working under the deadline of mother nature, it was very rewarding to hear that compliment to my professionalism.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

A long, hot weekend

In addition to the hot weather and exposure due to outdoor Shakespeare with TOS, I also spent the days outside in a park near Media, filming scenes for GC, the movie in which I am starring. Saturday wasn't too bad, but the humidity and sunlight on Sunday were almost overbearing. We sit in the shade waiting to be called to the set, and the weather would still be fiercely oppressive. We all drank plenty of water, had some sandwiches and tomato pie, and finished the scenes we were scheduled to finish. It was also the first day in which I really had a scene of dialogue to film. It was a little strange not to get feedback and notes on my performance, but it was also a lot of fun to go through it several times and try to find something new and different in the words each time. I have much longer scenes coming up, including one that we're filming this afternoon, so it was nice to get a feel for the process with a smaller conversation. Sean, my major scene partner in the film, is a lot of fun to work with. He and I are both from theatre backgrounds, and we found a rapport right away. Not only do we have good chemistry as friends, but we both enjoy the chance to improvise some of our dialogue. The director, Steve, is very supportive of those instincts and talent, and so I think it's going to be very exciting and fulfilling to work on this project with both him and Sean.

Monday, July 21, 2008

First day on the film shoot

Last Thursday was my first day on the set of the film "God's Country," in which I'm playing Cole. Even though there were some tense moments as I struggled (and failed) to catch the train, I made it to the set just a little bit late for my call. But it ultimately didn't really matter all that much. I'm used to shooting times where people are starting as soon as everyone is there, but I had enough time to get dressed, put on makeup, have some coffee, and read over my script several times before the crew was ready for me on the set. I showed up, got a brief blocking rehearsal, and then did the first shot a few times. They moved to the second, then the third, and then we were done a scene. Another hour-long wait, and I had another 10 second shot to film. This continued most of the day until we had finished all the scenes that were on the schedule. Then I was released, given my call sheet for the next day of filming, and I went off for dinner.

It was a nice day. It took a lot of focus and work to focus on the scenework the way I needed to, since there weren't really opportunities for either rehearsals or warmups into the work. I had to act at a second's notice, and then be expected to do it again over and over. Making specific choices but letting them read in very small ways. It was a lot of fun to be just an actor on the film set, too, not worrying about the schedule, the next shot, or how long it was taking. I was there just to do my job and that was it. I'm really looking forward to the rest of this process.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Remember that time….?

Thursday's TOS in Love Park in center city Philly was marked by disasters both big and small. Small: an actress hitting her head on a set piece as she made her first entrance. Big: Our large backdrop scenic arch falling forward during the first scene, missing the three of us onstage by inches. Small: needing a crew member to stay in the dressing room during the show to make sure our stuff was safe. Big: cracking a piece of the stone ground after the set had fallen on it. Small: my hitting my own head as I went back into the dressing room at the end of the night. Big: very creepy fans who were far too interested in both Shakespeare and our female actors. Small: hearing a man nearby yelling at someone while we were running the show. Big: learning that he was yelling because someone else sat down on “Seymour” (his imaginary friend.)

Good times.

Apparently, there was also a controversy earlier in the set-up process about the security arrangements, parking arrangements, audience arrangements, power arrangements, flower arrangements, and table arrangements. It was a very challenging space to do the show, and the company isn’t even sure if they will be back there next summer. I also heard rumors that the theatre company wants to perform somewhere in the “Fairmount Park System,” but not specifically Love Park. The actors would all prefer the steps of the art museum, or even Fairmount Park itself.

We made our way to a bar/restaurant in University City, drinking and eating the pain away for half price. Can’t beat that! The whole evening was quite a way to cap off our performances in the city; we are all looking forward to hitting the suburbs again. It’s green out there!

Friendly Faces

On Wednesday night, TOS was up and running again with a performance at Penn’s Landing followed by a champagne reception on board the tall ship Gazela. It was our first show back after three days off, and we hit the ground running with a challenging space. We had the river behind us, a fountain just to the right of us, and a very shallow playing space in front of us. Barring the hazard of a small trail of oil on the stage (on which Petruchio and I took turns sliding), the space was a nice one. When the show started, we were practically blinded by the sun setting over the audience. After the sun went down completely, we started catching some of the breeze off the river. The temperature dropped, the air improved, and the entire cast could stop squinting like shifty disreputable characters.

When we squinted out into the crowd, we saw a lot of familiar and friendly faces out there. Since it was the first (and nicest) of our center city Philly performances, it was a popular one for our friends and loved ones. I saw people from the summer Shakespeare show two years ago, I saw people from Flashpoint Theatre, and I even saw a buddy of mine that I worked with almost six years ago when I was at Villanova. My parents saw the show last week, but since they came down for the champagne fundraiser, they were wandering around the edge of the audience for most of the second act. The group at the tall ship, I think, sponsored the whole event, and we lucked out because it was a really nice evening to be on the river. It was a nice night to be back on set with everyone, too. I’ve dreaded returning to some shows after a few days off, but with this one I was looking forward to seeing everyone again and playing around.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Walking the Red Carpet

Monday night marked the grand premiere of “Changing Lane.” I rented the theatre in a small video library in Mt. Airy, printed out posters for the movie, and we got dressed up for the party. Andrea made Clark Kent/Superman themed cupcakes and mint-flavored “krypto-bite” brownies, and I even assembled a “bonus features” book that had props from the film, as well as behind the scenes photos and different designs for the Superman S-shield. There was a little bit of a mixup with the reservation (they didn’t have any record of my payment), but we got it all straightened out in time for everyone to arrive. Lucky for me that they didn’t book something else in the meantime! I’d rather be lucky than good, after all. And when I said that at the premiere, Rob responded that he would be good if I could keep being lucky. Sounds like a plan to me.

I’ve got some pictures from the premiere, which I will post in a few days. It was a really good time. I had been looking forward to it for a while, and it was a lot of fun to spend the night celebrating the work we had already done. On the drive out to Mt. Airy, Rob and I decided that we needed to have more of these premiere parties, since we liked going to them so much. We were also double checking that we had the DVD every few miles, knowing it would be a bad idea to get to our own premiere without the movie.

Everyone enjoyed the film, including my family, Andrea’s sister, and the employee of the video store that we invited to join us. He said that they rarely get people showing original material, and he was very complimentary about the project. Everyone there seemed very excited that their library was being used as the site of a premiere for an original film. A big comic book fan that I know described it as “one of the best fan films he’s ever seen,” and that is saying a lot. It’s certainly a quote that is going to go on the back of the DVD release box! Some of the best feedback I’ve gotten on the film is for it’s writing, which has been described as “excellent” and “natural.” Maybe I should go in for a career in screenwriting, or in script editing. I wonder how one goes about finding a career like that…

Tame that Shrew!

Thursday night was our first opening performance of TOS at a park in Lansdowne. Well, it wasn’t really a park. It was more like a lawn. More like a back lawn, really. A big green space between two buildings and near a rush-hour heavy road. As the time for the show approached, we anxiously waited for the audience to appear and the traffic to disappear. Our first show started strong, although I completely misjudged how much time it would take to reach the stage in my first entrance. Although too early was much better than too late, and I was forced to spend some time spinning around on the stage as I waited for the music to end so I could start acting. But aside from that little mix-up, the show went very well. The weather was warm but comfortable, especially after the sun went down. I thought it was strange that the hottest and most uncomfortable spot was the backstage area where the actors were waiting to go on. It was pleasant onstage, and there was a nice breeze blowing through the lawn.

The audience was very responsive, laughing at all the jokes and in all the right places. I could hear the laughter of some of my friends very clearly, and it really made me proud to hear them laughing so hard at the jokes on which they had given me advice. Like it just made the whole performance pay off for those moments. My buddy also complimented me again when we went out to the bar, saying that he was impressed with the work I did in this show. He also expressed surprise at the power and strength of my voice, saying that he didn’t know I had “such a set of pipes.” I’m the first one to talk in the show, and he was impressed at first by the acoustics in the space. But when he had to work a little harder to hear some other actors, he realized that my voice was just that powerful.

We have a show tonight in a larger and nicer space out in West Chester, and then another on Saturday night in what is promised to be our “most challenging” space of all. Apparently, our performance space is going to be much smaller than the one in which we were rehearsing, so we might need to go out there early on Saturday before the show to re-block a few moments and walk through certain sequences. That’s always one of the fun parts about touring theatre.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Speaking the speech trippingly on the tongue

This weekend marks our first runs of pieces of TOS. Doing one of our acts a day, we figured out all of those moments in the play that still needed attention to make things a little clearer and cleaner. I seemed to be involved in a lot of those moments that needed cleaning, so I was one of the two actors who were working all afternoon today. Granted, we had some time off here and there, but I was stuck down at rehearsal until 5. Lucky for us, I spent some time with Krista (who plays my Bianca) before work yesterday, and we developed some specific and funny moments for the scene when I'm "teaching" her Latin. We hadn't quite found the funny in that scene, so we came up with some ideas that had everyone laughing. Our director was impressed, and he knew right away that we had done some outside work on it.

One of the things I like about this director and this process is that he understand what my instincts are and allows me to try all sorts of things as they come to mind. And while not all of them work, he is always able to explain why there is a stronger choice for any particular moment. His direction also focuses the moment for me, so that I can play the scene better. It's not just about taking out the bits and playing with ideas for business, but also about giving the notes that allow the real purpose and intent of the scene to come out and show itself among all the physical beats.

We go back to scene work for a few days, and then we have a run-through for all our designers before we go into tech rehearsals next weekend. It's hard to believe that our first show is coming up, and is only a little more than a week away. Feels like we have plenty of time, and yet we really don't have all that much time left. We're in good shape, though, and now it's just about making what we have even better.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Two weeks of Taming

I'm terribly sorry that I've been absent from my blog, and here is the proof!
I've been working by day out at P.Windows and rehearsing TOS by night down in Philadelphia. In addition, Rob and I are currently working on a feature screenplay in all the in-between times. I've even been taking my laptop on the train to Philly so I can write, scene-by-scene, as I travel through the suburbs. I'll devote more attention to each of these specific things in future entries. Well, not really the windows. Not much to say about them, really. Although a think a lot of people in the office are interested in coming out to see TOS this summer, which is awesome. We had a sneak preview of "Changing Lane" for my co-workers, and they got to see what I do for my "real" job.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

First few rehearsals for TOS

On Monday, we started rehearsing TOS. We've been primarily working on just simple blocking stuff at the moment, laying the seeds of the more advanced work that we're going to do once we get to our "work-through" periods. On Tuesday night, we were working on the opening scenes of the show, and the work was making us all laugh. There are some really talented people working on this show, and it's going to be a good summer. I also have a fun role in this show, one that is entertaining but not overly challenging. Lucentio is one of Shakespeare's more "traditional" leading men, although I am playing him with the idea that he's not terribly bright. And after a production like TMS, it's nice to play a character who is a little clearer, a little less conflicted, and just a lot more fun. It's also a beautiful thing to sink my teeth into the language again, and I realize that I'd really like to make a career of classical theatre. Yes, Labute was a lot of fun, but I really like the idea of going through the canon of Shakespeare's leading men.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Pressing some flesh

Last night ended our project down in Trenton, and we ended it on a high note. The two shows yesterday went very well, and it was another great time to see the looks on the faces of the children playwrights. After the evening was done, all of the other Philly actors went home, which left me as the sole representative at the party at the artistic director's house. I got into a long discussion about the morals and worldview of my last show, and also discovered that the guy in charge of the project out in Trenton is as big a fan of Sherlock Holmes as I am. He's a fan of Superman too, but not as big as I am.

I was also approached by one of their education coordinators about another project the theatre runs. Apparently, they have a new play festival, and they are looking to bring together an ensemble of actors for whom the writers can write the new plays. Apparently, two of their playwrights saw my work in this Playmaking festival, and they were both interested in writing characters for me in the set of upcoming plays. I told them immediately that I was interested in being a part of their ensemble. So again, working on a simple little project has set the stage for my involvement with the company on another level. Hope was explaining the project to me, and it's the kind of project that reminds me why I'd want to be an actor - working one-on-one with writers, working with a close ensemble group, and working on new plays. The kind of thing every actor hopes for.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Playmaking in Trenton

Last night was our first (of two) days performing the show in Trenton. The scripts were written by school students, and last night was the first chance they got to see the shows based on their work. I didn't get a chance to see all of the writers, but the ones I could watch were having the time of their lives. They all looked so happy and so proud, and that was making everyone involved just bust a cheek from smiling all night long. I also realized that all of the Philly-based actors had worked together in "Much Ado About Nothing," so it was like an old-home week when we all got together again. We spent several hours hanging out at the bar in the local Marriott hotel, which felt just like old times. I tried to blend over to hang out with the group from Trenton, since I'll be hanging with the Philly crew all summer. Met some cool new people, including the powers-that-be behind the theatre, who told me that they want to look at hiring more Philly performers. So if this is another job that can find me more work in the future, then it's worth it for more than just the fun.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Film audition

This afternoon I had another audition, but this time it was for a film that is shooting this summer in Philly. A writer for Paper Cuts told me about the gig, and I went down to meet with the director and read for one of the leading roles today. I was reading for a character named Cole, who was described as a good-hearted guy who has a tough and wisecracking exterior. Thinking that I knew this guy pretty well, I went to the meeting with a good feeling. Not only that, but the director was a fan of my work on Paper Cuts, as well as the various scenes I did for the evening of senior screenings. I read all of the sides I had prepared, and then I read them again after he gave some adjustments to my interpretation. I was there for about an hour, and it was a good audition. I'm not sure if I'm the best fit for the role, but I know that I did a good job with the read. Hopefully he'll look at the work, look at my experience in acting, and he'll take a chance on me.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

First read

After a typical PellaMonday, I headed into the city for the first cast meeting and group read of “The Taming of the Shrew,” my outdoor summer Shakespeare project. I’ve worked with many of these people before, both in “Much Ado About Nothing” two summers ago, as well as in other projects around the city. So to sit down around the table with everyone and hear the words come to life was very exciting. People brought their A game to the reading, and we were cracking each other up all the way through the show. It’s going to be a good performance, although the challenge is going to be finding a way to make the characters both broad enough to be funny and sincere enough to be engaging. I didn’t get the chance to do the homework and preparation that I wanted to, but I did have a chance to at least read over the script before I went to the reading. (I did not have that opportunity with TMS. The first time I read that script was during the initial read-through.)

With the role of Lucentio, I am again playing the “clean-cut, earnest young man” who ends up with the girl at the end. I’m making a career out of the Shakespearean straight men, since everyone else around me gets all the laughs. But this show is very subversive; I think there is the chance to make Lucentio a little something more. He is not really the most intelligent character in the show, and others consistently lead him around. So I think there is an opportunity to play up those qualities, as opposed to making him just a standard leading man. Part of his humor also comes from the fact that in his first speech, he speaks lofty ideas about studying virtue, and then three pages later he is trying to figure out how to get laid.

The show is set in the 1950s, and Damon, our director, said that he wanted to dig and find those moments in which this show connects to the 1950s. We will strive to make the setting feel like an integral part of the show, not just a concept that we have imposed upon the script. And I’m excited about that idea, because Damon and I share senses of humor. Lucentio spends a lot of time on stage without saying anything, so maybe we can fill some of that silence with little bits of humor. I’m excited for this project, and even excited to sit down with the script and do the homework on the text that I need to. It’s going to be a fun summer.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Shortest, easiest Tech ever

Any entry about our tech rehearsal today would be a very short one. Our show is only five or six pages long, so it doesn't have all that many light or sound cues. We ran the show twice to work out tech issues, and we also confirmed that we had something pretty funny on our hands as well. But the biggest challenge we faced today was Septa. In the mid-afternoon, my train broke down two times before it reached Center City. And then I was running an hour late by the time I got to Trenton. Good thing that it was a short tech process!

Tomorrow night I have my first rehearsal for TOS, our first readthrough down in the city. I wanted to have a chance to work over the script on my own before meeting the rest of the cast, but I have been too busy to do my proper homework. The rehearsals don't start in full force until next Monday, so I should have that chance I'm looking for. This week I'll finish my project in Trenton, and then move onto the next project of TOS. All the while working that part-time schedule at Pella windows, this is, truthfully, the life of an actor. And I fervently wish that I could be happy doing something else.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Bummer and bummer

So far, it's been a rather down-er week for me. On Monday, I learned that I lost out on the chance to do a show that I was really looking forward to. The auditions had been scheduled so they conflicted with a rehearsal for my upcoming show. And because I couldn't make it to the auditions, the director found someone else at his open call that he liked for the role. I was looking forward to working on that particular thriller, even if it was with a community theatre, so it's a little bit of a heartbreak to lose the chance. I will have to make up for it by making some opportunities for myself in that late-August time frame. And yesterday, I missed out on the chance to add a perfect Indiana Jones safari shirt to my wardrobe. I had seen it in a thrift store on Saturday on my way to the gala event, but I was running late to the call, so I didn't have the time to stand in the 12-people deep line at the counter. Like a savvy shopper, I tried to hide the shirt so no one would see it before I could get back to the store and buy it. But I was out of luck yesterday, and someone else had snapped up the shirt. Now, I will be the first person to admit that this is such a tiny and irrelavent detail of life, but it really bummed me out yesterday. So much so that I was googling those types of shirts all last night, looking for a suitable replacement for the chance I missed.

In short, this week has emerged as a series of small setbacks, which can often be harder to manage than bona fide disasters. When something major happens in your life, there is a feeling that you can get a handle on it, deal with the problems, and then move on from there. But when life gives you a small series of challenges, it can often be harder to deal with them. I've honestly been a little depressed of late, so I'm sure that I'm a little over-sensitive when it comes to these little... encounters.

I also know that I should always buy the shirt when I first see it!

Monday, June 2, 2008

Nifty Fifties

This past Saturday night, I performed in a gig with a promotions company up in Allentown. A rehab hospital was having their 100th anniversary gala, and the company had set up the event in which five different era-themed tents would represent the last 100 years of culture. I was cast as a greaser in the 1950s, complete with slicked-back hair, cigarettes rolled into the sleeve of the white t-shirt, and used Chuck Taylor Converse All-Stars. We learned trivia about the fifties, including what the hospital was doing around that time, and then we headed out into the event to entertain the guests. The first two hours was a lot of fun, once we got our jukebox working. (Up until then, we were singing various songs, offkey, with one delightfully drunk guest.) We spent time dancing, chatting, dishing out the trivia, and handing out Elvis stickers for the "passports" the guests were issued. While some people in my group were giving the stickers away, I required everyone to do their best Elvis Presley impression to get a sticker. People had a good time and we saw some really terrible impressions. I also started accepting impressions of women watching Elvis.

While they were serving dinner under the big tent, there was a torrential downpour. Lightening and thunder seemed to signal the end of the world, and all the actors were rushed away from their tents into the main building where a DJ and a dance floor would finish out the rest of the evening. From that point on, it was pretty much like "Tony and Tina" with a 50s flair. I got paid (in cash) at the end of the night, and I got paid really well for my amount of work. So much so, in fact, that I need to start doing some more promotional stuff with this Philly-based company.

I also met a lot of fun people while working on this, including a talented costume designer, the executives behind the company, as well as a couple of actors that I hope I get the chance to work with again. A few phone numbers and emails added to the list of actors available for Radio Hound Productions, as well as more people in Philly to have coffee and/or a beer with and see their shows. A few days ago I was wishing that I had all this time to myself. Now I'm really glad I went out to play.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Busy, busy - the show last night

Yesterday, I got out of work early to head down for another rehearsal in the city. I had spent most of my free time this week watching Michael Jackson videos to prepare for my role as a globe who wants to sing like the king of pop. (Yes, you read that sentence correctly.) So yesterday at rehearsal we worked through the show completely, and we worked some of those moves I've picked up into the show. We have a couple of rehearsals coming up in the next week before our performances in Trenton in mid-June, and we still have plenty of time to polish everything up.

We got out of rehearsal just in time for a costar and I to race downtown in time for the opening curtains of the shows we were seeing. I went to see the XXX's production of E. It is a show that I might possible be doing in the fall, so I was interested to see another director's take on the show. Especially from a well-funded theatre that has a reputation for excellent theatre. But the experience last night was very disappointing. The design of the show was amazing, and the most effective moments were the ones that were born out of the set and lighting. There was a moment in which the blue-washed stage was lit brilliantly by a wash of yellow. The effect was striking, and people in the audience actually gasped. There are also two sequences that are thrillingly theatrical, in which E's father builds her a room in the underworld made out of string. Such time and care is given to the moments, it is refreshing to see the director have the faith that the moments would play if given the proper space.

With all these striking elements, however, the production felt very hollow. Several of the leading actors weren't at all convincing in their roles, as if they were trying for something in high style and they never quite pulled it off. The scenes between father and daughter, as well as husband and wife, should have been touching and sweet, but they all felt forced. And with no emotional connection between any of the principle characters, I felt very little emotional connection as an audience member. Some characters broke out of the realistic mode, however, including the three-part "chorus of stones." Attired and interpreted as a trio of clowns, they were complete with baggy pants, oversized shoes, funny hats, and black and white make-up. They performed well as a trio, but I couldn't see how they connected into the rest of the world. And in the double role of "nasty interesting man" and lord of the underworld, XXXXX earns some of the shows more hearty and inappropriate laughs. It felt as though he were presenting characters from a standup routine as opposed to fully created performances.

The director of the upcoming show I might be doing was curious as to my thoughts. And as a result of the show last night, I think I can give him a very good guide as to the potential traps of this show. Our artistic sensibilities lie in the same directions, so I think that most of my thoughts would also be his. I'm glad I caught the show, even if it wasn't all that I thought it would be.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The biggest Hail Mary ever

I went down to Philly this afternoon for an audition with the Philly Shakespeare Festival. I've known about this audition for a few weeks now, and I've been meaning to find some new monologues, work on them with a coach, and really hit the audition out of the park. Needless to say, I was a little too lazy and undisciplined to do all of that, so I ended up sitting in the waiting room with two monologues that I wasn't crazy about. I hadn't really rehearsed them either, so it was a big Hail Mary play. But when I stood on the stage and the speeches came out, they came out really well. There was a sense of playfulness about them, a sense of discovery and creation of the text. So the hail mary turned into a play that was dead-on. We'll see if anything comes of it, or if it fades off into the ether, but it feels really good to have given a solid audition to a company that I'd like to work with.