Two Minutes, & A Title Card

30 Jan

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So I’ve an audition next Monday, the day after closing…and its the first time I’ve had to do the full process with a monologue et al, in about forever.

(Working with the same people over and over again, does have more than just one perk, you know.)

…Anyway, I’m having to start from absolute scratch on this, as my go-to dramatic piece has now been disqualified for use, by the happy circumstance that I am currently performing it on a stage at the moment.  And once you’ve done a role, it is faux pas to ever air it in an audition setting again.

Back when I started working at my first Union House and home theatre, I began primarily in Tech. The thing was: I loved theatre…LOVED it…and though I always knew I wanted to be an Actor…I didn’t want to be one of those hopeless ones who couldn’t so much as change a light bulb. I had this crazy idea that to train in all aspects of it, was to pay honor to it…to gain respect and understanding of all the jobs and respect and understanding from my peers. But what I DIDN’T know (at the time) was how much about my end-game craft, I would be learning along the way.

…I have very distinct memories, like a reel of home movies, with moments all strung together on one loooooong piece of celluloid, that I still play in my brain, to this day, which are the lessons I learned while being granted a behind-the-scenes peek at the world of what it is to be an actor.

For instance…when else would a 14 year-old be granted access to watch professional actors from all over the country (and sometimes world), undertake their process from first table read to final performance? How many hours of rehearsal, to be on book with just you, the SM, the Director and Actors as they work out bit-by-bit what this moment and meaning is really all about…and the fact that it is important to justify and work your actions and reactions and talk about “feelings” and fearlessly throw your emotions out there for just everyone to see?

…By 16, I was joining them on stage…only in bit parts and cross-overs, as I was still very much Teching my way through the jungle…but with notice in my level of dedication…and so was given even more responsibilities…with smaller casts…and more dramatic shows.

It was then, I was contracted to work with the biggest theatrical idol I’d ever had…a woman I’d seen work there years before, who as a child, I’d remembered as the person I wanted most to be when I grew up.

She was (and is) a devastating performer, whose work was so palpable it would make your hair stand on-end. A woman whose command of her vocal instrument could manipulate any characterization, her body movements meeting it with precise measure. A woman who would end a monologue to a pin drop, and a play in such silence…you’d forget to breathe, or clap. She was the kind of performer who would disappear five seconds after touching the stage, and not return back again until curtain call…so real was she in this other being that she was now living in front of you. And all I wanted my whole life (up to that point and for the rest of it beyond now) was to be like her. To hold THAT kind of power on a stage, to practice the art of Acting at THAT level.

…And I was going to be her crew now. It was almost too much goodness to be true.

It was a one-woman show, written expressly for her, and I was to work all of backstage…from cues, calls, light patches and any other incidentals. And with that, I was also given leave to sit in on evening and weekend rehearsals…(being in classes during her day-calls.) This, though not the norm for my crew station — until further into the rehearsal process — was granted me, I suppose, as by now the powers-that-be knew me, and how serious about all this I was…and what a hugely educational thing it would be.

…So of course I did…

…In the back. In the shadows. So as not to disturb, or accidentally fall in her sight line during expressly difficult moments.

And like with other rehearsals I sat in on, I would listen to the invaluable give and take between the Director and his Actor…their conversations and debates…the working and isolation of each specific moment…the dialing in on the emotions…the endless, endless futzing at this one line interpretation, or that movement there, or the emotional stakes at hand. She would beat herself up mercilessly…aggravated at what she considered a sub-par interpretation or presentation that only looked like perfection to my eyes (and I’d swear, anyone elses.) And she was often difficult because of it…because she WANTED to find it…and NEEDED to realize the moment, and other people’s assurances were not enough…not to fight the precise gauge of truth that she held herself up against to the point of sometime absolute, roaring, frustration.

…I learned a lot about “process” from that show, and even more about how much of an athlete a good Actor must be. You must stretch, and prep, and lift, and lift, and lift, and lift, and run, and jump, and dive, and lift and lift again. Emotions. Body. Mind. That woman did no less work than an Olympian, a Therapist, and a Theorist all rolled into one, in order to give an Opening Night performance, that shut everyone down and up…just before nearly tearing the entire fucking theatre to the ground with ovation-appreciation.

…And I had been given the opportunity to watch it all happen.

…Which (fast forward), graduated and grew with my roles on the stage, as I moved from Tech to one of the Chorus, to Supporting Characters.

By the time I left my home state (and my home theatre as well), I was 20 years old, and aside from Talent Shows and School Productions, had never done anything but Professional Theatre for seven years. I’d Stage Managed, been offered (and turned down) a Union Card, and won the respect of the the people I respected most…in prob’ly the whole damn world.

…And in that time I learned prob’ly a zillion-million little tricks of the trade. Sitting in on auditions from SF, LA and NY…the “trends” that Actors adopt that makes for mind-melting sameness in audition, after audition, after audition…the “shock value” every woman assumes will make them memorable by dropping the F-bomb as frequently as possible, or sobbing endlessly about being raped or having an abortion. The men that will come in and just scream at you, thinking that this somehow shows a visceral-animal rage. Ill chosen pieces based on age, or body type, or sex (believe it or not)…and a whole collection of other incidentals that one never really might think of as important but in the end, turns out to be all but essential.

I may have never attended University for this Acting thing…but I didn’t emerge into the world totally without training. It wasn’t until later…moving here, seeing how big the world was, how lucky a steady paycheck is, how snobby (on accident) I’d become to the other types of theatre, that I was slapped with a few stings and had to learn this whole other lesson about what REALLY makes you a professional and serious artist…then try to marry all these worlds together to figure out how to use what I’d been given and worked for, to work for me.

…And the fun (or not-so…depending on how you see it) thing is that Acting is an evolution-art. It never stays still, you can never “win” it or “conquer” it…even the greatest people who do it…ESPECIALLY the greatest people who do it…are forever learning how to evolve and push themselves into new directions with it…through the only way you can: good, hard, work. And no matter how many years you’ve been at it, this doesn’t change. Not if you want to move forward.

…And I do.

…So here I am: flipping through plays like a maniac…trying to remember all the little unspoken “dos” and “don’ts” I learned about a million years ago…to choose a new companion…a new friend…to join me in study and on a stage for a two-minute audition, while my old one joins me on stage in that one part in Act three for three more performances…before I say goodbye to her forever.

…’Cept in my heart…where she’ll always have a special place.

…Which is the longest way to go about saying: “I need a new monologue…and I’m having a hell of a time finding it. Cuz I know it’s not good enough to be ‘good’ for what I’m going for…it needs to be ‘The One.’ And that ain’t as easy to find as you’d think.”

That’s all.

~D

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One Response to “Two Minutes, & A Title Card”

  1. Kilted in Seattle February 1, 2013 at 4:26 pm #

    I love these little peeks inside the not-so-clockwork movements of your mind. Your passion and something else, detected so long ago along with a twinkle of your eye that few noticed, comes through so wonderfully in these small, seemingly innocuous, anecdotes.

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