Tag Archives: audience

The Screaming Over-Compensator

13 Jun

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So, we had one of those mostly smiley Preview audiences, who…I am sure…prob’ly enjoyed themselves just fine.

Occasional laughter by all, was heard. Occasional booming ones selectively, from others.

…But we learned quickly, that it would not be quite at the frequency that we were hoping. 

…Which bothered some of us. (Me)

…Which is dangerous in comedies, because sometimes that influences the knee-jerk reaction to amp or over-compensate in some way: An Actor version of poking the audience with a stick in order to hopefully arouse the desired response.

…As if that has EVER worked, in the HISTORY of the theatre, in ALL OF TIME.

(It doesn’t.)

But, Actors are stubborn assholes, who (by the time you see them do what they do to entertain you) have already vested a pretty huge fucking amount of time and effort into a thing.  And so, though we KNOW that over-compensation isn’t going to do a goddamn thing to achieve the kind of endgame we were hoping for, a lot of us will try it anyway.  And for a lot of us, it is an automatic switch that flips, running on it’s own little generator.

Actors have different compensation mechanisms, I find.

…Mine is screaming.

Something in me assumes that if the reactions are slow or silent from the seated sections, it is most likely because they prob’ly just can’t hear what is being said.  So my auto-pilot fix is to amp the volume. About 12 decibels.

…I also like to infuse an extra shot of energy.

…Which, when added to the screaming, is like slamming a 5-Hour-Energy shot, with a RedBull chaser.

Now: do it in an English dialect, while wearing a lot of fancy clothes.

That was basically my Preview performance.

Again, on auto pilot.  It would just kick in. No matter how much I had told myself not to let it, while pacing backstage, listening to one-liner after one-liner, fall into a pit of mostly silence.

I was determined to get up there, and be fine. And I was fine…until the first couple “dings” of missed opportunity hit. Then, I would begin to panic, and project my vocals suddenly with enough speed and power to kick a train off it’s tracks.

…Have you ever attempted a love scene while being intimately yelled at?

Earnest has.

…And it was not one of Gwendolen’s more evocative moments.

Somehow, between tonight and tomorrow, I have got to just calm the frick down.

Nobody is going to get everything that we do.

Nobody else spent a month pouring over and interpreting the text, like we did.

This does not equal failure.

…Nor the need to panic.

For some: it will be the physical comedic angle that’ll get ’em. For others it will be accents and costumes. And for probably fewer than I was anticipating: it will be the actual language content.

It’s period.  It’s British.  It’s an acquired taste to a contemporary palette.

I suppose it would behoove me to remember that.

…And maybe also, to watch the auto-indicator when the anxiety levels start to rush.

Center. Focus. Delight.

I charge myself in ink, to enjoy the hell out of my castmates tomorrow night…to work my ass off…to think of delicious, decedent Gwendolisms, and receive any output by the audience, as a garnish perk.

The end.

~ D

The Madding Crowd

12 Jun

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The Pilates ball has been yelling at me for the past two days. 

…I haven’t had even ten minutes to give it so much as a second glance in that time.

…In fact, the only reason why I’ve even gone into the living room (where it rooms and boards) since then, is to plug in my phone for juicing. So it’s been quite easy to ignore the bubble gum pink elephant in the room.

Look:  It’s been a long two days.

Numbers at work were huge this last weekend…giant, in fact.  We were number one sales in the Nation.  Us.  The shitty little no-man’s-land that is our office (of all things.)  Which is weird. It’s like Twilight Zone, weird. It’s like Alien invasion, weird.  It’s like 120 new contracts weird.

…So I’ve been doing that. Non stop. 

…And yesterday’s rehearsal call was early: so, zero leeway there.  And tonight’s moving to 6:30, with no lunch, meant I needed to uber schedule some serious dinner carbs, or I’d either be falling over or falling asleep only slightly after tonight’s curtain.

…During which time, it became painfully evident that WE NEED A FUCKING AUDIENCE. 

The poor bastards stuck watching us night after night, have done their duty above and beyond in trying to feed our egos with laughs, but lets face it: nothing is funny the 500th time.

…Except if pain is involved.

…And it isn’t yours.

…But this isn’t that kind of show.

…So that is where we were.

If I wasn’t so poor I would personally pay people off the street to come and fill the house for tomorrow’s Preview.  We are in desperate need of reactions…to anything…at any point…for any reason, really.

So if you’re in town: it’s Pay-What-You-Can, which equals “Free” if you want it to.

Curtain is at 8.

I will eternally love you.

…Or at least, owe you a drink.

~D

Super Sneak Previews

5 Jun

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Tonight: a super secret, undercover, special preview audience.

…Like our version of an out-of-town-Preview…a week before costumes, tech and set.

Mdm. Director decided it would behoove us all to have premature laughter in order to gage how to deal with the absolutely every-other-line zinger we will be faced with in respect to the audience, and the timing it alters in the comedy.

…So each of us, one week out (to the day) of our actual Preview, were given leave to ask ONE person to tonight’s first off-book run.  The rules were that they would not judge it as the final product, and would promise to come back and see it when we had one.

So tonight we had new butts in the seats.

…For most, they were people who knew what was coming from running lines with us anyway, but the laughter and sense of urgency certainly helped, and we collectively grew two-fold tonight.

Detailed notes, are email-pending.

I invited Ma to come.  She has always been a particular fan of Oscar, and it’s been eeons since she’s sat in on rehearsals.  Thought it might be fun, and her face hurt from too much laughing and smiling, after…so that is a very good sign.

…She’s very particular about Oscar.

We chatted on “funnies” over a couple Long Islands, post-rehearsal, and I am now home in time to commit my last conscious thoughts to blog, before wafting away to dreamland.

A good night.

Learned alot from the responses that were fed mid-run.

…And a lot from working the thru-line from one act to the next.

I think I’ve found my Gwendolen. 

Now: to polish.

~D

A Preview

11 Apr

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Tonight, is Preview.

…Some like to call it the “Final Dress,” which I have consistently thought is BS, for as long as I’ve been doing theatre. 

If there are people not associated with the production out there in the seats, and I am acting on a stage for them, that is called a “performance.” There is nothing “rehearsal” orientated  about it, unless as merely a formal nomenclature and sort of pacifier to the tech team.  It certainly isn’t one for the actors.  If all hell breaks loose during a Preview, we are just as far up shit-creek without a paddle, as if it was Opening or two weeks in. 

When eyes are watching you, eyes are watching you. 

…I would move to liken “Previews” to a “Soft Opening”…like retail stores and restaurants do.

…There is no compunction that you are open for business, and servicing the function you are supposed to be, but with the option that a few alterations of the performance might take place due to patron responses and feedback before hoisting onto the final blueprint mapped-out performance. 

…But make no mistake: we are still naked up there, acting, changing, fighting, crying…we are still 100% at the level we are at. 

Never, in all my years of theatre, in all the houses I have worked in, has a performance ever halted for a dropped line, a missed light cue, a sound mishap, a late entrance, a missing prop, on a Preview night.  This is what the safety net of a “Final Dress” is supposed to provide you, but I have never once seen the option picked up.  This isn’t to say the mistakes don’t happen, they do, and will, throughout the rest of the run.  It’s LIVE THEATRE, people.  That’s just part of game.

…Would the option be in actual use, I would back the “Final Dress” ideology, as much as the next guy.  But it ain’t. It doesn’t. It won’t be.

…Though it is (oddly enough) the absolutely essential final piece of the performance puzzle that we desperately need.

Before the Preview, a production has no idea how the show is going to actually be received.

What is funny?

…Frequently NOT the things you think, and other things it never occurred to you: are.  

What is the right timing?

…An inch here, a beat there…slight, slight alterations based on the audience response you have never had, are suddenly provided to you, requiring experimentation (improv) on your feet, in the moment.

What hits home?

…Reading the silence, the shifts in seats, the murmurs in the crowd, and using them to complete the circuit of emotion between you, your acting partners and the audience in the house.

It takes, on average, the bulk of your entire first week of performance to find and balance all of that information and get it working for you…which can make it awkward that reviewers frequently show up on Opening (or at the very least sometime within that week,) judging the entire performance run on a still growing muscle, before it has fully developed.

…Which is often not at all the fault of the performers, merely the lack of a full Preview tour on the road, like a Broadway Opening would get…taking the opportunity to test out material on the audience, and learn from them, before setting the performance into final form, educated and ready for it’s Gala Opening Night.

Instead, regional theatre’s get one day. 

One shot. 

…One single performance to learn all they can before critics, and the general public, arrive for champagne receptions and pencils posed above notepads in expectation. Ready for the sentence to be passed.

…Hows the show?

I can tell you one thing, that I know to be true: No matter how fine the performance and artists involved, the first performance will never be exactly like the last, or the second or the 12th. Theatre is a constantly changing organism, and if you are willing…you can every show learn something new, try something different, discover another truth. All of which enhance your performance, and the production as a whole, making tighter bonds with your cast and characters, and enlightening the message of the work to the unsuspecting audience in the house.

That is the awesome animal that is theatre: It’s ability to adapt, and evolve.

…But it is also, on days like today, our biggest challenge.

…As we all separately finish our “day jobs,” (the end of work-week still to come), and get to the theatre…make ready our hair, makeup, costumes, props, and go out on stage for the first time with fresh eyes oogling our every move…we will attempt a near impossible feat: evolving from caterpillars into butterflies, within the span of 24 hours…in one performance…just in time for Opening Night.

May the theatre Saints be with us.

…This’ll be a tough one.

~D

They Have An App For That

16 Nov

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At the moment, am working from my bed, whilst laying on my tummy next to a bottle of pain pills with a heating pad on my back.

…Mrs. Johnson strikes again.

…But I’m really productive in bed.

–I mean…I still work well on my tummy.

–I mean…aw, fuck it.  You know what I mean.

Thanks to the cloud world of remote office-ing, (and Apps), I did all my batches, closed out just over $10k, and popped out contract paperwork reminders for $12k…all before 9:30 AM…and all while in the horizontal position.  Really, the only thing not being in the office limits me in, is “being in the office”…which just proves that Boss could be doing all the things that need doing in a day, if he really wanted to…he just chooses the “not” option.

In Other News: Last night’s performance was an epic-filled slog for several casties, due to the apparent silent adoration of our audience.  I say “apparent” as we are told they were at least smiling…while we felt that they were flatlined beyond all resuscitation.  We all know what that means to the Actors.  So we’ll be leaving it at that.  I (strangely enough) was not in the least affected, outside of the initial frustration of silence. Prob’ly cuz I gave up on them early and decided to just have fun playing with m’buds. Also, I was busy babysitting my cleavage…

…But I would like to state for the record, that seeing dear friend L.M., (and post-show-hang times with her and the cast), was totally worth wearing a corset over my bloated form all night.  And making sure that the ten obscene gallons of extra boobage this time of month encourages, didn’t accidentally overflow out into the audience, changing our viewership rating completely. (It was pretty close, a lot of the time.)

And now, after posting: more pills, more tea, then maybe a short nap.  Then onto a shower, and into the office…because I feel like I should, though I am technically done for the day anyway…and travel thence to the theatre.

Come on, Friday night audience!  Help us out with a little extra boost tonight, would yuh? I’ll even breathe extra heavy in the direction of the house that gives us the most verbal love. Heaving bosoms await your participation!

Thanks, sweeties.

~D

Next!

11 Nov

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First weekend in the can, and our audiences mercifully gained in participation presence more and more with each performance. 

…Today’s matinee (a usually notoriously quiet crowd) was all in on the hijinks and drama…our best house yet.  And with the closing of our opening week, also finish the reviewers…hopefully good write-ups in all, and put in ink by Friday at the latest, in order to help boost ticket sales through what is now projected to be a cold and wet stretch into Thanksgiving.

…Meanwhile, the next show on my audition docket began today with open calls, and should be cast before next Monday, a week from tomorrow.  A hell of a drama, with lots of meat to chew…and a good balance, after a comedy like this one.

Could be a busy winter, with some interesting theme-play. 

…Need time ‘tween now and Thursday’s show to review the other script again and study up a bit.  Switching gears, switching time periods, switching head-space.  It’s a good exercise.  But will mean I’ll have to do some line-runs of “Twelfth” before show time, just to keep m’brain clear on where we are in the current game.

Meanwhile: to rest from last night…a cast gathering into the wee smalls, where we eventually dropped like rag dolls to the floor until the smell of Starbuck’s coffee and bacon grease revived us to the land of the living, in time for our first matinee.  Our Fabian graciously hosted, we graciously ate, drank, played and laughed until our bodies gave out.  Five cups of coffee later, I can feel me coming down off the high now, post show, and hitting those four hours of sleep like a brick wall with little buffer.

…Which reminds me that sometimes it’s not the greatest idea to sleep on a floor the night before you wedge yourself back into a steel-ribbed corset for the ninth day in a row. 

Good to know.

Tonight: I’m back home. The heater blaring on high, the fish fed, the Shakespeare infusion of DVDs…having done their job…now being put back into their places on the bookshelves. I’m done feeding the beast of royal obsession on all things Bard, and am now free to move onto other things…like “Once,” (as Marty seems very insistent about.)

And tomorrow?  A free day off in the name of Veteran’s everywhere.  As if what they’ve already done for us wasn’t wonderful enough.  Think I’ll clean house, and fest some War flicks in dedication.  Maybe read that book I keep meaning to start.

…For now, some hot cocoa, I think. Snuggle up in m’blankets, and play with some Netflix streaming, until I zonk out.

Good plan.  Wonder how far I’ll get before I…

— Zzzzzzzz…

~D

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