Tag Archives: homework

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

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How To Cover Your Bases Like A Boss

10 Nov

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For the first time in…well…”awhile,” I’m showless.  Not only not tag-teaming ‘tween a performance for this one, while rehearsing another…but totally without a role at all. 

…No idea what “next” is, nor the “next, next” after that.  Which is not a norm for me, cuz I like to stack my plate. So, naturally, instead of taking time off to enjoy the break of not having lines to learn or blocking to run…I’m spending lunch the day after closing my last show, trying to find m’next three  jobs.

When you’ve no solid idea of which way things are leaning…no pre-casting already taking up some of the slack in that department…it means you’ve gotta go straight to the boards and start shopping.

…Which shows are being done where? With how long a rehearsal schedule… running which date to which?  It isn’t about just finding out what is “next,” it’s about making a combo of line-ups…one show which could allow a second to follow without conflict or too much mental/physical strain. 

…Cuz my working area is large…across three counties.  So it’s not just, “This show starts rehearsal and opens…then what?” It’s: “This show starts rehearsal here, and opens there, but that show begins rehearsal about three-quarters through the other one…can I do both considering they are in two different counties, and have enough recoup time from that super physical show and this super wordy one? Then, what’s the third follow-up option after the first closes and the second has begun its run?”

Scheduling even the hypotheticals can be tricky…not to mention the second and third-alternate options. And then, what do those alternate option shows do to the schedule following that?  This means basically three separate scenarios laying out in front of me right now: Option 1, which because of placement of performance dates means an only two-show set-up, ‘tween now and end of May.  Option 2, which gives three back-to-backs, booked solid. Option 3 which means no casting in first or second show preference,  leaving a third and fourth try open for others.

… Season set-up like this requires a lot of picking and choosing.  What are the roles you really want? Who do you want to work with? How do the shows fall on the calendar? Are you willing to chance it all on one, or all of them, to give up other show options? Or do you set up a fall-back alternate knowing how bad it would already suck not to get the roles you want, but even more so if you are also sitting at home with no job at all? 

…There is always a give and take in these instances. And even when you know where your heart lies, it means dick until you get the offer call.  It’s Lotto odds for an actor to get what we really want, to begin with. Even for the secondary and third choices, we’re damn lucky to be considered at all. Not to mention that sometimes the seasons are so banging, it’s like there’s nice, meaty fun just everywhere you look…and choosing at all becomes an agony.

…Which is all just an incidental to the fact that it is entirely possible you won’t book anything at all. Cuz there are like six zillion actors in this world.  And even Union odds are 1 job in 10.  So…good luck with that.

But you know what?  This is what an actor has to do.  To prepare every scenario of what-if and then book the audition slots, prep the pieces, and show up to fight it out.  And even if we nail it…it is entirely possible that hair color, height, weight, politics, size of any one piece of anatomy being too big or too small, or the casting agent or director being hungry, grumpy, or needing more caffeine, can still TOTALLY tank it.  Even if you don’t.

That’s show biz. Rejection option any time for any reason. At all.

…So, there’s always that to consider.

Which means, the ONLY POWER an actor really has, is to be “prepared.” For anything.  And everything.  Including winning the role. Or losing it.  And what comes after, is where the next adventure begins.

But it doesn’t start at all, if you don’t get out there and try.

…Which is why I’ve already booked 6 role option audition slots for just the month of November, alone.

Now, onto prep.

🙂

~D 

 
 

Good EEEEEEEEve’ning

11 Aug

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He never got an Oscar, but he’s m’top choice of subject for my final, 365th blog of the year.

…That’s right, tonight is IT, sweeties.  I’ve done did it.

A blog a day for one full year.

…Come rain, shine, sleet, snow…come crap-days or fine, during rehearsals and shows…two a.m., midnight, or noon-thirty…every day: a blog.  Something.  Prob’ly not great, but there…as I promised they would be. 

…And tonight, instead of focusing on what in the hell it all means in retrospect, I’ve decided not to.  Mostly because (in keeping with the trend of a lot of these entries), I haven’t the time.

…I’m studying, you see.  Up to my chin in show prep, I’m twenty films deep into the Major General of Maguffin: Mr. Hitchcock himself.  Taking notes like a good girl on all the intimate, insider details of his famous blonde Divas and their particular brand of “yum.” (Not to mention his love affair with the naughty villain Dames.) It’s not like I’m unfamiliar with his most famous of trademarks (second only to his profile)…but undertaking becoming three of them, requires a new swipe at the film stock, with a new filter in focus. 

I have always been a GIANT Hitch fan.  His sick little macabre sense of humor, his constant re-invention of the cinematic wheel, the thumbprints he uses on scripts he shoots…and how many ways he can manage to make “murder” and “suspense” one of the sexiest foreplays EVER, made him a favorite from day-one. 

…I’m already holding his early Hollywood classics like “Rebecca,” “Notorious,” “Spellbound,” “Suspicion” and “Shadow of a Doubt” snugly in my head from repeat-repeat viewings.  His golden years as well, with “Vertigo,” “Rear Window,” “Dial M for Murder,” To Catch a Thief,” “North by Northwest,” “Psycho,” “Rope, ” “Strangers on a Train,” “The Birds” and “Torn Curtain.”  When I say, “I love me some Hitchcock,” I seriously mean it.  I’ve twenty of his titles (well known and lesser) in my own library so far, with an Amazon wish-list holding the rest, plus every new bells-n-whistles Bluray and Criterion version of any already owned ones.

…Which made watching this show, “The 39 Steps,” IN London, IN the Criterion Theatre, with all it’s zillion Easter egg nods at Hitch “other” works, about one of the dork-coolest things I’ve ever panted through while wearing a shit-eatin-grin the entire time…in my life.

…Tonight, I’m playing with my old friend again.  Watching old favorites in a new light, with a goal in mind, and having a whole lotta fun while it’s happening.

So, excuse the lack of anniversary touting from a full year’s work come to a close.

Tonight, I’m just too busy to bother.  I’m on a date. With the Master of Suspense.

And it’s hawt 🙂

So ends this blog (and “North by Northwest.”)

…What, oh what, will come next???

~D

Next! (And, In German)

19 Jun

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Tonight, I start work on m’next script, as first read has now been settled for this Saturday before “Earnest.” For it I’ll be playing three rolls in fast-action farce: A German spy, a bookish British smart-tart, and a Scottish country lass.

Circa, London 1935.

…Currently (of course) I’m living in posh period Brit, 1895. So that’ll be a fun mind fuck once we really get running in rehearsals while still finishing “Earnest” performances.

But I’m totally good for it. 😉

…Homework right now is working on the accents so I have something decent to use for the read on Saturday. Never having done a German without Jewish or Dutch influence, means that’ll be a whole new bag to play with for me, as well as digging out a comedic Scottish that you can still actually understand.

Tons of fun ahead.

Tonight: am focusing on Annabella Schmidt…the German spy…the model for which I will (naturally) be using, being Marlene Dietrich. I want her vocal pitch so low she sounds like a man in drag, and her accent so exaggerated she sounds like any Noir period spy supposed to be based in Germany (having prob’ly actually been born in Jersey.)

…It will be awful-beautiful.

I almost can’t wait.

So I’m leaving now to go work on it.

First bus stop on the homework train is this:

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…All aboard!

~D

I Want To Eat You

28 Oct

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It’s something I say to a book, sometimes…so get your mind out of the gutter there, friend.

When I was a kid, I couldn’t consume a book fast enough to please me.  I’d spend ten hours straight, totally uninterrupted on a Summer’s day, and rip through “Gone with the Wind,” or “War & Peace.”  I’d plow through Bronte and Austen and Dickens every Holiday Season. I’d devour L.M. Montgomery and Twain in special closeted room seclusion.  On every car ride, on every vacation and trip…even at the breakfast table over Cheerios: there would be a book.

…For me, it wasn’t only the stories, it was the language that fascinated me. I would eventually begin introducing their speaking patterns and word choices into my own lexicon…which is weird to hear comin’ out of a little eight-year-old Latina kid.  I’d speak in accents for whole days…just because I could, and it seemed totally natural to me.  And these worlds and words became obsessions…I would always hunger for more, the more I read…wanted to consume them…to read them out loud and chew them. 

…To actually eat the words, and have them somehow make me a better, more clever, talented, funny, bold, and dramatic. To MAKE me into those specific characters…even if only for a little while.

…Which is a large contributing reason of why I love theatre.

It is your opportunity to consume and digest words on a page, and use the power that they give you via their interpretations, meanings and thoughts, to bring this character to life from a book’s pages, a script…with more choices involved being as you are now responsible for even their walk, stance, physical interactions, plot projections, and vocal choices.

Sometimes, just like when reading aloud from a Novel, these things come easily to you, free of thought really…the character seems to just “be” this way, in it’s most basic form, and you build from there. Sometimes you have to dig and dig to get the information needed at every stage of the character’s building…like an Archaeologist slowly resurfacing information, one tiny sweep of sand at a time, on who this person was, buried in this paper tomb and waiting to be reintroduced to the world again. Sometimes it volunteers you information, from places you are totally unaware of, and can’t quite explain…yet because of it’s insistence of “being” there, I always work doubly hard to justify the “choice” made in that moment. Because it was (for whatever reason) a gut instinct that just happened. And gut instincts are usually the correct line to follow, simply because it was a natural inclination. Not forced.

…Because of this long-time fascination with language and words, it happens most often that the “gut instinct” choices will first form with the words. If I read a script out loud (the only way they are meant to be), in time a natural voice for the character will emerge. And because I’ve done character acting for so many years, it tends to be often of some accented requirement. So this, then, becomes their voice…with changes here and there in pitch or cadence to fit them closer. What is really difficult for me, is when the voice is asked to change, halfway through the process.

…By now, it is so much a part of the character, that the lines just naturally cling to it…as much as the posture on stage, naturally falls into place. I am passed now, the point of thinking about those things…they were built and settled several weeks ago, and my head is now onto other specifics. It is a note, however, of wanted change, so I am now trying to retrace my step back to the root to retrain my brain, who is stubbornly wanting to be focused on other things. It shouldn’t be a difficult alteration…it isn’t a true accented issue (which was confusing me, until a specific clarification was made)…it’s a softening of the “r’s” mostly…sometime a softer “t” here a there…a more cultured and genteel sound, for the fact she is more educated, a Lady in Waiting, a certain status, not just a kitchen serving wench. And it also is placed to put more likeness to the stiffness of Malvolio’s regime over the house and his specific speaking style, to help bridge the gap between the two worlds of servant and master, that she pops in and out of…and what happens as she allows that mask to slip when in the company of Sir Toby. It is part of showing her struggle between doing the thing that is right and proper, and the moments when we see the total unabashed relief and joy, in saying, “Fuck it! I’m just gonna have a good time!”

…But if I am not explaining that enough with the action of it, or if it is getting in the way of the bigger picture, it has to change.

…Now, you can certainly pick and choose your battles with notes given, and though it is a major character choice for a reason to me, I also understand that it is hitting the Director’s ear and saying, “No.” So “no” is the answer. And my job: a new alteration, and justification. It’s what notes are for: to bring each character into the pack, as a whole, and to make one joint vision of this thing. When your instinct to fight a note pops up (and I’m stubborn, so I have to work extra hard on this point), you need to step back and trust that this thing is for a greater good aspect. At this point, we are all so tunnel visioned with our own work and characters, it is impossible to see outside of that.

It’s our job to focus, so we do…it’s our job to define and interpret…so we do. It’s our job to make specific choices, and put them out there on that stage. And it’s the job of the Director to keep all the plates spinning, the show as a whole, with all these individuals attacking words in print and flinging them about the stage with a thousand intents and purposes.

Now that certain concessions have been made on the Monologue From Hell, this is my new task to tackle. To change her language…how she eats her words, difficult because it was there in her first beginning of learning to walk and talk…like a child, learning that “this” word sounds “this” way, so “this” is how I will always say it…contributed hugely by the influences of those about them.

…Which is how, in even a non-accented situation, you get choices that delineate and are specific. The difference between “Ont” and “Aunt.” “To-ma-to” and “tomato.” “War-shing” and “washing.” “Caribbean” and “Car-i-bbea-n.” Vocal choices…we make them all day long in every conversation we have, not even knowing it, because it is so much a part of who we are at this point.

…Guys, acting ain’t for sissies. When you break things down to these kind of elements, and need to re-educate yourself, its almost like learning another language, on the fly, and justifying it, letting it alter the heart of your character as little as possible at a stage where we are soon launching into tech.

Homework is good…it makes you push to an end, to have a specific focus. Where this note is specifically difficult, is that it is sourced from literally my childhood. The way a person sounds, is just how they sound…and always have, to my ear. Like a musician ear caters to specific notes in succession, making music. I only really realized WHY she talked the way she did, when I had to study it in order to find the code to break it. Then once understanding why the natural choice was made, and realizing what that brings to the table, I learned so much from that discovery, that I want to keep it alive in some way, because it’s pretty straight-up legit.

…So between now and today’s run through at 3:30, my homework is to give Maria a new voice, with the old reasons still intact.

…This is just a long way to say: “I have a lot of work ahead. And what we do on a stage isn’t easy. Just so we’re clear on that.”

~D

I Totally Know That Guy

24 Oct

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A year before Christopher Guest’s, Waiting for Guffman, Kenneth Branagh got a bunch of his peeps together and created, A Midwinter’s Tale.  It is a black and white mockumentary of a group of theatre offcasts, mounting an entire production of “Hamlet,” location: the buttcrack of nowhere…in two week’s time.

…It may sound slightly familiar, yes?

…And It is also fucking ridiculous

Freakishly true in it’s characterizations of theatre people in general, you really can’t watch it without laughing your ass off and saying, “I totally know that guy!  I worked with someone just like that in (fill in the blank.)!!”

…The melt downs are beautiful, and totally realistic in both their timing, inappropriateness and largess.  Everyone becomes a shameless flirt, surrounded by sexual enticements at every corner, merely because someone with a pulse is standing right there. Bitchy comments are flung about at will, name-dropping is a favorite past-time, people become so tunnel visioned in their own characters and selves that nobody listens to what anyone else is saying until people start blowing up at one another.  Stakes are insanely high, specific, important and necessary as if life and death were constantly on the line.  Weird habits and traditions are catered to, fits and passions are excused on account of “artistic temperament,” and it is so full of buried and thrown away one-liners and Improv moments that you could watch it twelve times in a row and still not get all the jokes on account of laughing at the other new ones you just, for the first time, finally heard.

In short: it is perfect.

…And it was my “homework” last night, in study aides.

What I was reminded of, while watching it again, is that this entire process of “theatre” is almost nothing but a “constant” of manic urgencies and self-doubts, hysterics, excitements, depressions, anticipations, exclamations, fashions, foibles, habits, traditions and high-maintenance filled melodrama. Even the “mellow” shows are that way, at some point. What we do is a frustrating business of self-challenge, which is a major contributing part of why we do it to BEGIN with. So my little “shit-fuck-damn!” of yesterday, is mere water under the bridge compared to things like “First Dress,” “Tech Week” and “Opening Night.” In truth, I am actually a perfect example of every fucking character in that movie, and it’s only a matter of time before I hit every one of those points of biographic archetyping (if I haven’t already), and the same goes for every other person in the show.

The truth is: we are ALL “that guy.”

At SOME point.

…Even if only in the privacy of a bathroom freak-out, or tears in the shower, or arguments with ourselves in the car, or frustrations over that one fucking line that just won’t stick. Some will be more obvious with their “process”…with anger diva implosions on stage, or bitchy head-bites, or line blanks, or costume emergencies or any of the other zillion-million things that can and do go all to hell at some point during a run.

…Yesterday I was just mid-archetype, is all. In the: “for fuck sake, figure it out you damn idiot, it ain’t like it’s rocket science!” phase. And because I was forced to look at it square in the face, (via the mirror of a very lucky homework idea), today I’m much more calm and realistic about things.

Currently I’m residing in: “New idea, in a different direction entirely” phase…wherein I decide to stop forcing what doesn’t feel right and isn’t working, and just go with the gut instinct instead. Thanks to varied discussions with cast mates at the pub, after rehearsal.

…It’s a decidedly calmer world to live in, during this phase. I appreciate that. And I realize it will only last so long before some new “hell” begins to dog me in some other way. But that is part of the the FUN of it, for shit’s sake. SO HAVE FUN WITH IT. And get over your damn self!

So, thanks “KB.”

And the cast and crew of cuties I’m currently working with, who totally have my back 🙂

It’s like the OTHER part of the film that holds just as true as the rest, and keeps the “theatre family” (in all its myriads of dysfunction) afloat. We genuinely do respect and enjoy one another’s work and friendship. S’pecially when the going gets tough. There’s no one better to “go to the mattresses” with, in the world, than the people who stand beside you, on a stage.

For reals.

~D

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