Tag Archives: character

Line-Dom, Character Actor: For Hire

13 Jul

I’m paid in wine and tacos, am only available post-walk and laundry-washing, and will task-master your ass, tight as a Drill Sergeant. 

… Or (perhaps more appropriately), a Dom. 

… Have taken up a temporary second existence as a line-driller, for all those assholes (whom I love),  who have off-book deadlines, unlike some people we know. It’s a bittersweet existence. Line-learning is the only part of the job I don’t enjoy, so I envy none of that sadistic frustration in cramming two hours or more of text into my brains. 

… But, the rest… 

… Dear God, I do miss the rest of it. 

… Character analysis, relationship discoveries in rehearsal, trying to get to the the bottom of a difficult moment, playing with the comedy to find its every button without breaking it… wresting out a shitty day in a good growl of anger or heaving sob, turning all of it to your supreme benefit and cleansing. 

Being an out-of-work Actor is as shitty as it gets in my world…(and it can get pretty damn shitty, so that’s really saying a thing.)  I miss my “out”  and coping partner like as if a part of my anatomy dropped off back there, and is just laying on the ground, useless,  depressing, and frankly,  not super functional. 

… Am trying to plug along best as I can, but instead of passing time making it easier, it gets more unsettling, my walks more intense and kinda anger-fueled (with nowhere else to filter daily frustrations),  and I’ve gone back to watching so much BBC programming, I have to actually think about not speaking in an accent,  as a natural default. 

This is my only way to cope. 

… And now, I’ve added other people’s scripts to the mix…drilling my poor theatre-family bastards harder than an oil rig in Texas. 

It is rough to be mid-30s, as a woman: period. 

… As an “actor,”   even more-so. 

… Even as a “character actor” … (which frankly has surprised the hell outta me.)  I thought NOT being an ingenue would have guaranteed me “roles for life.”  But, aside from Agatha Christie…no one wants you,  except as the very occasional spinster aunt, or  nosey neighbor. Hollywood states you’re too old to be a mistress anymore at this age…but, I’d even get those if they popped up anywhere on the boards around here…though, they seem to be “out of season,”  just now. 

… And though I am old enough to play early mothers and wives,  “maternal” and “submissive but supportive”  aren’t my specialties…I’ve done ’em, but only rarely with joy. And all the good “fucked up” delineations of these are in that 40s to 50s range. 

… What I’m built to kill at right now are shrinks, or lawyers, or P.Is ….hell, even a person in the throws of a nervous breakdown, or a junkie on  the street…where are those roles in the theatre cannon for women?

(…Outside of Miss Marple, and the cast of “Rent” types.) 

… Anyway… here I sit. Watching the boards and waiting. A perfectly good “that one chick” who can play just about anything needed,  provided someone wrote it down on paper at some point. And then theatres put it into their damn seasons. 

… It’s really about trekking the mountain, waiting for all the 40-something roles you get to at the summit, but meanwhile thinking, “How the fuck am I gonna stay limber on script reads and ‘town gossips’  when I’ve got Martha in Virgina Woolf waiting for me up there?!” 

… I dunno. Any other lady-actors out there feelin’ m’pain?  

Meanwhile: I’m on a severe FB diet, as I have long come to the conclusion that death and politics are stressing me out almost as much as my day job. Which means that almost any existence I have on it,  is me posting something I read from the Guardian on a theatre thing, an occasional blog about general nothingness, and/or how excited I am about this one show I’ve seen on Netflix. 

… In fact,  if I had money to put into stock or properties…(like for instance, had I won that last Lotto Mega Million) , I’d have invested heavily in Fitbit and Netflix, as they are my consistent saving graces. (Together with the revolving Repertory Theatre that is “English Actors In General”  c/o iTv and the BBC. ) 

… I just want to BE them. How is that wrong…? 

… Is it October yet? God, this” wait for vacation” thing is fucking arduous.

~D

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Stoppard Stasis

11 Dec

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You know how Hamlet is this doomed Prince? And you know how he had these semi insignificant University pals who show up a couple of times to cock his life up further? And you know how Stoppard took those dudes and wrote an entire play about what happens to them, during their “off stage” down-time? And you know how it’s patterned after “Waiting For Godot,” and nothing “real” ever happens per sey, you just watch two idiots waste time and space, waiting for life to “happen” to them, instead of going out and actually verbing “life” into an active state of achieved fulfillment?

…And you know how fucking confusing that show is, with it’s death and life, in boxes? But you still kinda love it anyway? Because somehow, the “watching life pass” bit, and the “waiting” bit, and the, “what is our purpose” bit, and the “fucking shit up despite all your best intentions” bit, sorta rings home…but at least now it’s happening to someone else, so it’s easier to laugh at it?

Stoppard has a way of freeze-framing characters and time and events into crazy broken shards of life, then piecing them back together with bits of string and Scotch tape, so you can chart their journey (often in screwed up time or perspective) to one another AND a variety of themes, spider-webbing to, from, through, and across each other like one of those theory boards made of stick pins and yarn that obsessive detectives always use in complicated murder mysteries.

….The bastard is SO smart, though, he ups the stakes by making sure you can’t find all the answers and connect on just a 2D charting field. He takes that shit sideways, and at diagnals, so you have to mentally pop the whole thing out into 3D to even begin to get to the bottom of things. Character relationships across 300 years of time and space, theories spun from the Greeks, then thrown into math algorithms. Clever word-play, comparing the change of meaning in language over time, class, education…and yet (much like Shakespeare), with all that fancy head play, can still cover the essentials of human existence on desire, sex, jealousy, hate, and frustration enough to satisfy even the most unread, lazy, gutter-thinker in the audience.

…In other words: Stoppard is fucking magical.

This is my second show of his I’ve worked on– “Arcadia,” far in my preference to “R&G.” Maybe because I sincerely click with this character, and the cast, and the three or four particular themes we’ve (thus far), uncovered in our massive 3D pin board of string-followings.

…I love History. I love hard work, and research and investigating. I love books and theories and lives who’ve come before us, paving our way. I love the basics of proof-searching, of accountability and the infection of wanting to know more. I completely understand learning-obsession, talent-crushing, head-against-brickwall-beating, and a sense of there always being more and more and more to know…about EVERYTHING.

…So…I “get” Hannah. However, being as she is a Stoppard character, I know there will always be more layers to dig under in more directions, than I would be able to exhaust in even a full six months of playing her. Because I already get this, my plan of attack at grid-reliefing her in excavation, (like an archaeologist), is my best bet to chasing her down. Which, even she would approve of.

…”This” finding, which leads us to “that,” connects “here,” and at last you have: why she writes instead of teaches. “This” piece, followed by “that,” minus a very distinctly missing other bit, explains why she has no significant other in her life. Control issues. Distrust. Obsession. Sex-antagonism. Anti-Romanticism. Science vs Faith. She’s left more broken shards of her-pieces buried all throughout this show, to keep me digging for ages. I’ll never find it all. But with each new piece I uncover and try to plug into that chart of her-theories, the more I understand not only what a hell of a job I’ve got ahead of me each rehearsal and performance, but also an affirmation of what I already knew before…and yet, am still surprisingly gobsmacked over…

Which is:

No matter how much I learn, there is more to find, regardless of how many hundred times I pluck through this script which never changes and yet with each new discovery, somehow seems to.

…And also:

Fucking sonofabitch, Stoppard is a goddamn brilliant playwright.

~D

Weird Shit You Do…

31 Mar

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…When You’re Prepping For A Show.

This usually means, “homework.” Not that we don’t do plenty of weird shit on stage as well…but right now I’m talking specifically about the alien feeling of being totally outside in the real world, alone, while attempting to get your brain prepped to be inside the show world.

…Because we, as theatre people, do crap that seems straight up insane to any normal person, on a continual basis, and our “safety in numbers” bit only works when surrounded by other theatre people, or marching through somewhere like Comic-Con, the Vegas Strip, or Times Square. Anywhere else, an individual talking to themselves in different accents while on a walk, just isn’t normal. And even in the free-style  Pac-NW, you get strange looks wearing 19th century hair with a tank top and jeans, while eating at Applebees. Explaining all those bruises gets long-winded, and from total outsiders may even include an embarrassing hand clutch and serious -faced, “I’m here, when you’re ready to talk or need anything”…when, “No, seriously! A 12-year-old kid did this to me!” Is all that comes flying out. Because: it’s the damn truth.

…Morning work days come where you constantly look like shit, because of staying up till all hours learning 15 more pages of text. You lack ability to talk about anything at all other than the specific time period/character type/production in general, that you are working on. You lose sleep running best prop usage scenarios through your head…over, and over, and over again, so that in three weeks when you pick up that fucking cigarette, light it, and inhale on this beat, it will look totally “natural.” Who the hell else does this kinda shit?

No one.

…Only maybe prostitutes will buy the super-sized, box of condoms every week from the same small-town retailer and keep the receipt for “work expenses,” which I did for an entire summer as an SM at age 18…because: mic packs.

…Only five-year-olds spend more time building artistic masterpieces out of scraps, play dough, macaroni, cardboard, food coloring, dollar-store items, and paint than a props person does.

…Thrift stores only exist because theatre costumers come through and regularly buy out all their estate-sale stock of 1960’s sequin “this’s,” 1950’s “that’s,” and 1940’s holy-crap-we-so-needed-these’s.

…Only a ten-year-old boy and a sound designer will listen to endless farting and snoring and blow-up noises for hours on end, to find just the “right” one.

…”Do: face-crotch hit,” “It goes: fondle, fondle, fondle, kiss,” “Grab her boob,” “Is there any way to make him more sexually uncomfortable? “ “Go at it all the way, and we’ll pull back later if we have to”…says every Director to their employees, in any comedy, ever. Fuck all the appropriate work-conduct laws in the land!

Yes.  Theatre people are freaks. We make out with strangers, get more excited about (retro) hand-me-down clothes, than a pair of Jimmy Choos, because: “that’s so my character!”…we spend days and days committing vast amounts of text and traffic control patterns in our heads, only to close a show and never use them again. Ever. Too many hours are spent on “bits” which maybe only 1% of people will even notice, and even if they do, will prob’ly never “get.” Instead of just really not liking the chick in the next cubicle at work, in our world, you still have to have a fake affair with her and sell it to 200 people a night, across two months or whatever. That sleazy creeper WILL slip his tongue in your mouth mid-performance, because there is nothing you can fucking do about it, and he knows it, and that’s just the way it’ll have to be for like the rest of the goddamn run. Until you knee him in the balls one night. None of which gets any kind of legal repercussion or write up because: we are the theatre.

…You can smoke in our workplace. You can drink there. You can even have actual sex every night, on stage.  With your significant other watching from the audience.

…Children will be awake and running blocking at 11pm on a school night during tech week because: we are the theatre.  Grown men will have total melt downs over having to wear a shirt they hate, because: we are the theatre. 

…Epic cat-battles one night, will become besties the next…real-life Soap Opera situations when “he” cheats on “her” with that other girl in a wayward “showmance”, will bring pounds of drama and gossip all-around…the props WILL break, which is possibly the only time ever that a single pencil can ruin an entire enterprise of something (certainly the best joke, anyway)…and sadly, it is often the case, that when an employee turns up lit, or high as a kite, not only aren’t they fired, they are encouraged to go speak in front of hundreds of people as a company representative…no matter how fucking sloshed they are…due entirely to the fact of: we have no understudy.

….Because: THIS IS THE THEATRE!

I have actually seen and/or been a part of ALL of those things. And I will be obliged to see and/or be a part of them all again, forty or fifty more times in my career.  Cuz it’s just the rules of the game as you play them in our fucked up little world…

…Which I’m really so used to now, that it only rarely occurs to me to be out of the excepted norm to everyone else.

…Until I go home from rehearsal, (after a long-ass day-from-hell-at-work), pour out some gin, and spend the rest of the evening  (11:00pm to whenever-on) youtubing Gypsy Rose Lee glove removal strips, S&M and tantric torture ideas involving said removed gloves, and segue (naturally) to how to keep play dough stiffer while building and manipulating phallic prop “bread dough.”

…And then try to think where to start in answer to WHS Pimp’s, “What’d you do last night?” The following morning.

…So, that was my Monday.

…Which for me is pretty normal, I guess.

…And you’ve gotta admit: that’s freakin’ weird.

~D

Tick, Tick, Boom!

11 Feb

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You know how in every spy movie there’s a point with a bomb detonator  clock ticking away, and Hero-person needs to cut the wire, but doesn’t know which one, and then while you’re yelling at the screen to, “Fucking do SOMETHING!!,” they finally do…it goes *snip,* but the clock still keeps ticking on…because that’s the rules…and they’re sweating and crying, and you’re sweating and crying…and then for no apparent reason but the magic of cinema, the clock ends up stopping at the one-second mark?

…Yeah.  That’s what this show feels like.

I have felt that clock ticking away since literally day-one. I prepared myself the best that I could for it, and I have been working my ass off. We ALL have. Yet, I have never had a day where the technical aspects settled down so that the acting could have a chance to happen naturally.  I’ve never had a day where the tech, the props, the blocking, the fight choreography, the rehearsal clothes, the sightlines, hasn’t been the real core of what fueled the scene, rather than the situation of the education at hand. And frankly, going into Hell Week, that scares the living shit out of me. 

This is the point already universally recognized as where the Tech takes over and goes center stage, adding the gloss and paint to the show.  Problem is, it’s been tech non-stop already for like two months, and now we begin piling on more.  I’ve already ripped petticoats, torn the soles from my shoe, de-boned my corset, broken a fountain pen, annihilated several chairs …eaten piles of cold eggs, potatoes, and bacon, and racked up 150,000 bruises all over my body.  We’ve had to stage and re-stage so many times for sightlines and set adjustments, that just remembering what version we’re in now is starting to soup up the mix as well, and some of our key-most props and set components are still pending.

Listen, it’s a monster show for everyone here, from Design Team down to the Actors. And none of us are Wizards.  Things take time.  But for every second that ticks away, my body sweats a little bit more, my mind fights to hold onto the things that I CAN control and am responsible for, and I wait…

…I wait, and wait, and wait…

…And fight, and fight, and fight…

…Mutilating this second pocket-sized copy of the script with excessive repeated reviewing…trying really, really hard to have faith that the Theatre deities are going to step in on that last damn second on the ticking clock from hell I have running against me right now…

…And that, for no apparent reason…other than “Theatre logic” …

…We will Open, in nine days…

…Without going, “Boom!”

Fight on Team-Miracle. Lets please live up to the name!

~D

 

 

Blue-Eyed Freak

20 Jan

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Have been watching a lot of Paul Newman lately. 

…A beautiful actor…and not just physically (though, he was that too.  Obviously.) I mean in “applied theory.”

Personally I always preferred Newman’s enviable ability to take all his work on a character, internalize it, and just “be”…unlike his classmate Brando…who acted through strange speech placement and physical ticks, with the specifics of an acting exercise deployment.

“Being” is the most arduous task an actor has to achieve, at the end of the day. Not everyone can do it, and it is frequently a thankless job, written off and underappreciated, because it lacks the flash and boom of sex, and rape, and murder and Hollywood mayhem.

…In essence, it’s taking all that table-work, and research…the inward exercises of intent and motivation, hours and hours of scene beat breakdowns, and workshopping…and trusting that somehow the work will take care of itself, informing your performance without forcefully pushing its agenda every second.  Learning all that, and trying to let it go so you can just “be” is – I think—the thing that keeps the artform of acting moving forward.  Because the challenge is so insane, constantly switching up on you from character to character, scene to scene, day to day, performance to performance.

Very few people win awards at this, but in my opinion, the actors who can just “be,” are the Masters of the craft. Not to be confused with the lazy, incompetent bastards who just “show up,” mind you. There is a mighty Mississippi of difference between a fella who arrives, takes up space, says a line…and a fella who has a reason, a past, a future goal, a hidden desire, an agenda, when he does.  But those things don’t mean he’s gotta hammer you over the damn head with it.  The intrigue is the fact that you can grasp a hint of what is going on in their heads…and you want to know more.

…The intrigue is: they make you lean in, and watch them…even without necessarily knowing why you’re doing it.

In theatre, this is a strange little animal to get ahold of because house size and lack of close-ups force you to use other active choices, and help direct the attention where it is needed.  There is a balancing act involved…and it’s a favorite tool, used by other actors, who I particularly favor.

…Meanwhile, though I appreciate the hell out of it, I totally admit my own limited capabilities, despite the recognition of the theory.  I can achieve it in a capacity of wryness, or the stillness of being “creepy,” but when excess energy is added to the mix, my already overly expressive face seems to run away with itself like a drunken sailor.

…Because I’m busy focusing on the inward information, listening to the others on stage with me, and forging through my own map of goals, I don’t honestly spend a lot of time thinking about what it all looks like while doing it.  My attempts to simply “be present,” inadvertently allow my face to run away with every thought that comes across my brain, which from half house in a 500-seat theatre, works for me.  From three feet away: not so much.

…The strange irony of this is popping out now, after two very broad and ostentatious roles.

I knew I would need to reel that shit far, far in, for this. Counting on the discipline of the corset to remind and readjust my bodily constrictions, I’ve been fairly concerned about what the frustration and bookwork exploding from this character, would naturally do with the rest of me.  But, what I wasn’t taking into consideration at the time, was the true size of a straightjacket I was being handed.

…The difficulty of battle sequences that I thought would render me completely physically obscene “expressively,” have been counter-challenged with an almost constant direct impediment: a pair of sunglasses worn for over 90% of the show.

…The discipline this is forcing on me has taken away the thing I’ve unconsciously leaned on for years as a performer, as well as forcing the development of one of the things I need most to work on. 

How do you spell out a thought process without eyes? How do you restrict the most essential communicable part of your face, while your body core is ensconced in steel ribs, and still tell the story? 

…I’ve got limbs, shoulder posture, neck rotation, knees, and a mouth with vocals as tools.  That is all.  Because of the rise of the circular rims, I haven’t even the browline to help me tell a story equally infused with fight and pain, hope and loss, anger and…at last…love.  I been made to drop the security blanket I’ve by turn counted on and been cursed by, for years, and am being required to learn another way to tell you, another way to show you, another way to “be.”

…And because I’m still working on finding her voice, that means I’m working on four fronts at the moment: The athleticism of choreography, the rise and fall, in and out of cadence…from neutral ground to flash-back nightmares in childhood, Simultaneous scene work: splitting any given moment between working with Helen physically in a totally different scene from the conversation-filled one being held with someone else, and dealing with a stolen security blanket…trying to trust I can do the job without it.

…In other words: “just fucking tell the story, and BE.”

Sounds easy enough when you say it. 

…But trust me: it ain’t.

Newman was a freak.

~D 

Tag-Teaming Murder & Education

8 Sep

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Dearest “Rita” is alive and well, warbling her free-association wisdoms at-will (and speed), and having a great time playing with her Professor…which ends our first weekend of performances, and ushers in today’s first rehearsal of the next gig.

From Liverpool to London, back to Liverpool again…and London…I’ll be splitting time for the next two week’s ‘tween our enthusiastically educating Scouser and a London society-dame, fighting to survive murder, Hitchcock-style. While we are on the same island, there is a good sixty-year era-difference, not to mention sizable pocketbook increase…which’ll be fun to bounce around between…cuz who the hell doesn’t love Noir and 50’s fashions, mixed with sailor-mouthed, punk, fuck-me shoes?

Yes to it all!

…And so with today’s first table-read, we pack away the Chekhov, Ibsen, and Forster et al (Sunday nights thru Wednesday), and bring out some epic Noir film-festing to put some meat on these ingénue bones facing me in print. 

Famously portrayed by Grace Kelly, in her typical perfect-looking-yet-boring-as-hell-to-watch fashion, the plan is to make our Margot in Dial “M”, more than that.  Something with smarts, bite, and maybe even some (god-forbid) sex…seeing as she’s blackmailed for schtooping who she shouldn’t, and all.  Which means I’ll be forced (dammit) to dig out all my Stanwyck’s, Tierney’s, Astor’s, Bacall’s, Davis & Crawfords…Turner’s, Hayworth’s, and Gardner’s (woe is me) to settle in for some one-on-one refresher courses, (hee hee) on how to be bad-girl-awesome…in general.

…Working against iconic interpretation is always a “thing” when tackling something like a “Hitchcock”…which is 50% fixed in this case by not casting a blonde, really.  The moment lights rise in scene one, I’m automatically given more freedom to fight against the character-as-played in pre-conceived expectation, by physical presence alone.  The other 50% is taking dated text and infusing new life into it…figuring out how to leverage a more realistic, suspicious, sexual, “human” being from a white-toast sort of role, as usually played. 

…I’m going mining for more in there…and it’ll be fun panning to find it 😉

~D

The Importance Of Being Busy

14 Aug

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The office is dead, the show is in work-runs, The Gnome has swollen up to three times her size, I’m on my 12th cup of Keurig, and Cecil just dropped off her application.

…This is what makes “news” for the week, aside from the depressing stuff.

…Depressing stuff that is slamming every news outlet and social media page, for good reason, yet there is only so much a person can take, becoming so saturated and consumed by it all.

I understand it.  I take it in.  I choose to process it privately. 

Two of my teachers passed this week, and it doesn’t matter if one had an active part in the decision and the other had lived a full and rich life…it sucks either way, when it is the creative-force of a mentor leaving the world-stage.

Period.

…So, I join in with others in celebrating their work through festing their films, and get on with mine…which is what they would want me to do. But with a little, “O Captain, my captain”…and “You know how to whistle, don’t yuh Steve?” playing in my mental background.

…A background consumed in constant line runs, ad-nauseam, in “Red Dwarf”-a-thons, to get Lister’s scouser cadence permanently tattooed into my brain…in reading Whitman and Ferlinghetti…in revisiting director’s notes, and blocking…and trying to decide which of the 36 monologues I’ll pluck out and work on today.  I’ve plenty to keep me busy…which is good as the office is supplying almost nothing to that end, for freak reasons during our peak season, that I can’t for the life of me figure out.

Meanwhile, the sweltering and suffocating heat in this Kennedy Administration building has been kicking our one little wall-unit-air-conditioner’s ass…even when turned on at 5am…which has us sweating by 8:30, despite all efforts, while in the lobby The Gnome melts puddles all over her desk and floor.

…Being this pregnant makes absolutely nothing look comfortable, and it makes heat and humidity look like fucking torture. This once tiny, tiny human, has even moved on from her basketball-bump phase, and started to swell up in the arms and legs to the point of near bursting, across this past week or so. 

…Worse timing ever, one could say.  And she does.  Frequently.  Not that I fucking blame her.  I’d be the worst complainer EVER, in this situation. Which is why: Don’t ever forget Mother’s Day, like EVER.  These people lived in a nine-month-long solitary-bodily-confinement, at torturous levels, for us.  One should at least score a phone call and card for that, yeah?

…And speaking of Gnomes, (or at least this one), we’ve gotten our clever back-up for her confinement and leave-time, which will put Cecily and Gwendolen together again…only this time in office adventures.  Which I’m super stoked about because not only is she an actually competent person who I won’t have to continually train and re-train to do the job she was hired for (as I frequently do now), but it’ll make for amusing FB status updates. 

…Things like:

“Cecil and Gwen + tacos, at tea.”

…Training sessions like:

“The good ended happily, and the bad: unhappily. That is what Customer Service means. In matters of prepping importance, style, not sincerity, is the vital thing.” 

…Not to mention endless chatting opportunities like:

Gwen: I am known for the gentleness of my disposition…
Cecil: –And the extraordinary sweetness of your nature–
Gwen: …But if I hear that woman bitch one more time, so help me god, it may necessitate murder.

…or…

Cecil: …Cute UPS guy!
Gwen: Mmmm. Has nothing, but looks everything…
Cecil: …What more could you desire…?

…The cheese whiz of possibility is endless…ENDLESS I TELL YOU!

And hells yes, I will be banking on it.

~D

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