Thursday, September 20, 2007

I Could Tell You But Then I'd Have To . . .

Mon., Sept. 17 was a long day. Good, though, in that I was being an actor the whole time. I was exhausted at the end of it, partly because I hadn't had much sleep the two nights before.

7 am -- Video shoot for the Secret Service. Guess what? I can't tell you about the content of the script! Really! Can't you just hear the James Bond theme in your head right now? It wasn't all that exciting though, I mean, nothing you haven't already seen in Men In Black (I or II).

4pm -- rehearsal for the staged reading of Screen Play @ Rep.

7pm -- reading of Screen Play @ Rep. Went well, and fairly well received. Screen Play is pretty strongly political (A.R. Gurney is definitely no fan of GWB or neo-conservatives). In the post-show discussion with the audience, one thing we talked about was how different folks react to plays with political p.o.v.'s. One woman said that, while a person might not like a play like this, you don't learn anything if you don't keep an open mind. That's true, but . . . well, I didn't say it at the time (because usually it's the audience that asks and theatre reps and cast answering), but I wondered if the woman would have felt the same way if she disagreed with the play's p.o.v.

Would you? Easier said than done. I vaguely remember something from Frederick Douglass, I believe it was. He said that one should be able argue for the opposing point better than the opposition. Imagine that. If you can do that, not only can you understand their p.o.v., you'd be more able to counter it. Your own opinion would be strengthened or changed. That would require a lot of thought and a lot of listening, not strong points for a lot of people, it seems.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Let It Rain

Okay, positive news --

1) Sept. 17: I'll appear in a staged reading of Screen Play by A.R. Gurney at Rep Stage.

2) October 17 - 28: I'll play Dr. Armstrong in Agatha Christie's Ten Little Indians at Cumberland Theatre (Rehearsals start Oct. 8 -- yes, it's a crazy-fast rehearsal period).

3) April 9 - May 4, 2008 (with possible extension - May 25): 1776 at Olney Theatre. I'll portray Lyman Hall, a delegate from Georgia, and I will understudy John Hancock and John Adams. I'm as excited by the understudy roles as I am about my regular role, in large part because of the challenge. And I'm quite happy to have this new door open. I have to say, I do think being a reader helped in this matter. Rehearsals start March 18.

It's a start. I still have a long way to go. But I'm much closer to heaven now that I have scripts on my table.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Reading Is Fundamental

I have some positive news, but I'll announce that in another day or two.

Last week, Wed. - Fri., I was a reader for the 1776 auditions at Olney Theatre (I auditioned as well). If you don't know: when an actor auditions for a play, if they read from a side (a scene selected from the show), the theatre may provide a reader to read the other part(s). Readers can range from someone sitting a chair literally reading the lines without any value whatsoever -- which is agonizing for the auditioner -- to someone who gets up and performs with them, hopefully while also letting the auditioner be the main focus. Most actors, myself included, like this sort of reader, and that's what I tried to be. One auditioner even exclaimed, "Oh, thank God!" the moment I stepped up to read the scene with her. Here's the thing: a lot of acting is giving to and reacting off of someone, and it is hard to give and react to nothing.

Being a reader was also very worthwhile to me, and I strongly recommend it for other actors. First, the theatre powers-that-be can get more of an impression of you as a person than a 5-minute time slot can ever provide. Also, you can watch other actors audition and see what you think they do right and wrong. And so here's some unsolicited audition advice, for myself particularly and for my fellow actors as well.

1) Be Confident, Be Natural, Be Yourself, Have Fun and Play. Easier said than done, I know. I had the chance to see a lot of actors put on their "game face," that mask that attempts to hide the nervousness. So how to do you be confident / natural, etc.? I'm still working on that, but I think the idea is to think of the audition as part of a bigger picture -- read the last paragraph for more on this.

2) Don't Look For Subtleties From The Powers-That-Be To Inform You On How Well You Did. There's just too much going on in the audition room to read what looks and gestures may or may not apply to you. The director stopping you halfway into the scene is common, and doesn't necessarily imply lack of interest -- I now know for a fact that's often not the case. Also, if they don't call you back, it doesn't mean you did badly. I saw some great auditioners that didn't get called back, and a few lousy auditioners that did. It has to do with how they see you fitting into their production.

3) Be Decisive. Hoo boy -- some auditioners would bring a music selection, but wouldn't give the accompanist a specific start or stop point. Some, when given a choice of scenes, would say, "What would you prefer?" Some would give vague answers when asked about scheduling availability for further callbacks or rehearsals. It's tedious. If you can't provide a specific answer to a scheduling question, say, "I don't know, but I can call later and let you know."

4) Be Aware That Every Interaction Is Part Of The Audition. Not just when you "enter the room," but also when you arrive, you sign in, when you talk with a theatre rep over the phone or via e-mail, etc.

Here's the thing: the official "audition" is just one part of joining a theatre community. It is not the be-all-end-all, God-I-hope-I-get-it, that it seems to be. Sure, do your best at the audition. Realize that you might not "fit" this particular production for whatever reason -- but if you do a solid audition, maybe they'll remember and say, "You know, I think he/she'd be good for this production we have coming up later." The more in-the-community you are, the more indistinct the line is between the job and the rest of your life. The people I audition for and with are people I hope to spend a fair amount of my future with, as coworkers and friends, and I want them to feel the same toward me. This extends even to the audience -- I want their reactions and their applause, and I also want them to see my name attached to a show and say, Oh, Peter's in that, Let's go see it. They may also see me in public, at the bookstore, the park. So, in a way, I am auditioning at any (every?) given moment in time, which means I need to be the best "me" I can be as much as possible.