Friday, May 29, 2009

#3. The Fighter

Boston Casting held an open casting call for the upcoming The Fighter with Christian Bale and Mark Wahlberg.

I assume it's going to be something like this.

Specifically, Boston Casting is looking for:
  • Boxers and fighters in their 20s and 30s
  • Trainers
  • Women in their 20s and 30s with blonde or red hair
  • Anyone 18 years and older, particularly from Lowell and surrounding communities
They had me at "anyone"!

The Veterans of Foreign Wars Hall in Lowell, MA. A modest gathering space in a modest part of a modest town.

I got up good and early and met my good friend Joe Ruscio across from Emerson College campus, where we discovered a bunch of people lined up to tryout for So You Think You Can Dance? outside of the Colonial Theatre, practicing their moves and whatnot. We considered - in case can't convince anyone that we're fighters, could we convince anyone that we're dancers?

We were joined by fellow actors and friend Grant MacDermott, Andres Solorzano and Megan Reynolds. Our merry band assembled, we set off for Lowell!

And were immediately discouraged when we saw the sheer amount of people lined up for the call. The whole town of Lowell must have been lined up the street and around the block, and then the other block after that.

We considered turning the car right the hell around.

Grant, as a member of the Screen Actors' Guild, was like, "Smell you guys later!" and went over to the SAG line.

The rest of us chumps - joined by Joe Ruscio's comrade Joe Cisternelli - hopped onto the non-union line and stood in the sun with everyone else, shielding and fanning ourselves with our headshots. Grant had already gotten into the hall, dropped off his headshot and reunited with us before the non-union line even started moving.

Once it did start moving, it didn't take as long as I thought it would - definitely not more than an hour. As we got closer, some production assistants started handing out forms to include with our headshot.

As we all started filling the form out, along with "NAME" and "ADDRESS" we discovered a field reading "OCCUPATION" - we all exchanged glances and then wrote down "Actor".

In retrospect, we probably should've put "Fighter".

The line continued into the hall. On the far side, someone was telling a bunch of people - presumably those who had already been cast - about the workings of a film shoot.

Then we handed our headshots and forms to a lady who put them in a big box labelled "NON-UNION".

And then we left.

This was the first open casting call I had ever been to. Without any real way to differentiate yourself from anyone else, I'm wondering if it's any better than a lottery. Still, standing on a line early in the morning under the hot sun is kind of fun when you're with friends.

But is it worth the headshot?

There were all sorts of people on that line. There were more non-actors than actors. But it occurred to me that talent doesn't really matter if you don't look right for the part.

I'm just waiting for that casting call for white guys with brown hair.

7 headshots remain.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

#2. Fort Point Theatre Channel

Six short plays by Harold Pinter. Three men and three women play parts in all six plays. At the time, I did not know which plays where being put up. If I were smarter, I probably could've looked it up and read them.

Midway Studios, a space owned by the Fort Point Development Collaborative. Really nice. I almost want to say... swank?

As I write this, I can't remember how I found out about this audition. It must've been through Stagesource, but I don't remember actually SEEING the listing. Likely I forgot about it because I made the appointment while I still had my fever. I don't remember a lot of the things that did during that time.

For whatever reason, my friends had no interest in going out for this audition. So I set out for Fort Point on my own, with no one to catch me if I fainted. I was mostly over my fever, but the soreness endured in my joints and my head. I made a point to keep my chin up and my breathing even and continuous.

It was a really ugly day - the kind of ugly that could only be beautiful in a place like Fort Point. All of the big old factory buildings provided a comforting groundedness to counter the throbbing grayness.

Still, walking into Midway Studios was a welcome reprieve from even the most beautiful ugliness. It was so shiny and new, it was like an exit portal out of Southie.

I signed in with the stage manager, and then bugged her to unlock the bathroom for me.

An older gentleman came out from the studio and checked with the stage manager to see who was next.

"Hi, Terry," he said extending his hand - not for a handshake, but for the audition sheet with my information. "How are you?"

"I'm great," I said, handing it to him.

"Uh. Do you have your resume, too?"

"Oh, of course. Duh," I said, going to my backpack.

I handed him my headshot and resume. I was unable to staple them together because the stapler at Stapler was out of staples - go figure. Instead I used a paper clip, which he picked off like lint.

I followed him in, and said Hello to the two directors sitting behind the table within. Once my eyes adjusted to the lousy lighting, I was struck by how young the two seemed - attractive, barely older than me.

The gentleman handed my materials to them, which they looked over quietly. I looked at them, waiting for some kind of acknowledgment.

Then I looked at the door, which was still closing, ever-so slowly. I wondered if I should go over and close it myself so I wouldn't have to worry about anyone judging me from outside as well. Judging from its speed, I figured it would fully close in about twenty seconds. Hopefully - if the auditioners for Actors' Shakespeare Project were any indication - the two in front of me would be able to fill the time with banter.

"So what do you have for us?" one asked.

"Uh!" I whipped my head forward again. "I have a monologue from Red Light Winter by Adam Rapp."

I began. Two lines into my monologue, I felt the sudden, distinctly fuzzy sensation of oncoming sleep.

When I was a freshman in college, I played Leonato in Much Ado About Nothing. Now, Leonato is an old man. I am not an old man. But with the help of skillful direction and makeup, both the audience and I were able to pretend that I was an old man.

The thing is, in the real world - outside of college - people cast old men to play old men. I knew this, but the reality of this fact is more obvious with every audition.

For this audition, I wasn't sharing the waiting room with just college kids anymore. There were mature men and women sitting beside me - men and women who have auditioned for many more productions many more times than I have. Somehow being near them made me feel more... professional.

But when I entered the audition room to find that the directors were so young - I don't know what it did. It threw me for a loop for sure, but I'm not exactly sure why.

It was a similar feeling to when I stopped going to my 50 year-old pediatrician and started patronizing a doctor who was only three years older than myself.

It makes me twitch, is all.

No two auditions are alike. However, on going into an audition, it's imperative that you act as though you know exactly what is going to happen.

Now that I spent so much time and energy learning to be truthful, it's gotten so much harder to fake it. Thanks a lot, education!

8 headshots remain.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Monologue: Red Light Winter by Adam Rapp

I had a some problems with Red Light Winter as a play. The writing is pretty swell, but the relationships between the characters are so shallow as to be unbelievable, and I don't even really know what the ending is supposed to mean.

I did latch onto the character of Matt, though. He's a self-loathing romantic who has trouble making anyone understand him, especially when it comes to women. It's the part I was born to play!

Note: The monologue as I perform it is trimmed to make it more accessible, and as well as to make me seem more likable - that is, with less suicide and F-bombs.
Ever since we were together last January, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about you. I mean, it was easily the biggest thing that’s ever happened to me. I know that, like, sexually speaking at least I was this totally uneventful blip of antimatter for you. But I’m pretty convinced that despite my inept, like, desperate sexual brevity or whatever that something real passed between us.

I know you remember it. You have to. Because I’ve never known that feeling before. And when something like that happens, there has to be at least a shred of mutuality at play. Even if it’s, like, point-seven percent.

It was bigger than anything I could ever write about.

I mean – I spend a lot of time in my head. Like, trapped with my own terrible, spiritually corrosive thoughts. And sure, I know a lot of people suffer, and have constant nightmares and horrible crushing madness, or whatever. But for some reason it’s not easy for me.

I used to wish that I could make a painting of a dog eating spaghetti. Or write a haiku, or a play that would push all of those thoughts out of my head, but I could never figure it out.

But after I met you… I don’t know. I just sort of felt like I could be in the world again. And it made things in my head, I dunno, slow down for a little bit. And I don’t even know why. I mean, I hardly know you. But at the same time I do.

Something happened in that room in Amsterdam.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

#1. Actors' Shakespeare Project

Actors' Shakespeare Project's upcoming 2009-2010 season: that includes productions of The Taming of the Shrew, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Othello and Timon of Athens.

Boston Playwrights' Theatre. I had been there to see Daughter of Venus. It's a neat space, and not very far from where I live. I should go there more often!

My plan was to rendezvous with my friends - Emerson College BFA Acting graduates Joe Ruscio and Chelsea Scmidt - so that we could all practice our monologues before auditioning.

It was not to be. I woke up with my head full of mucous and fire and my joints not working as well I would've liked them to. And then I realized I had no headshots.

So I called up Dan, and he agreed to meet up with me at Quincy Adams Station. I took the train all the way out there - I had never before had a reason to go so far out on the Red Line.

I got off the platform and went downstairs to the gates, over which Dan handed me my 10 headshots (and my 100 free business cards! I wonder if I should call this blog 10 Headshot and 100 Free Business Cards?). I shook his hand, thanked him, then hopped back on the train and went all the way back to Allston.

Joe and Chelsea met me at Staples, where I was trimming my resume so that it would fit evenly to the back of my 8 x 10 headshot. It took me forever to trim the one resume. It took me forever to figure that thing out!

Boston Playwrights was in walking distance, so we hoofed it over there. Standing at the sign-in table by himself was Sean Garahan. We had taken Performance Perspectives together at Emerson College, and the last time I saw him was when he was in The Random Caruso. He let me know that the auditioners were on lunch break.

So I threw my name and phone number on the waiting list and Joe, Chelsea and I went a door over to grab a burrito. My old boss from Aramark Billy Butts was behind the counter. He gave me a discount. Great fortune!

When we went back over to Playwrights, we found Silas Lohrenz sitting against the wall with his headshot and resume in hand. I had directed Silas in my midterm for Directing II class, along with Joe and Chelsea. We rejoiced briefly at our reunion, and then went on to pace back and forth, mumbling our monologues to ourselves.

The stage manager called my name. "You're from Jersey?" she asked, looking at my phone number.

"Yep," I said. "Bergen County."

"I'm from Monmouth," she said. She opened the door to the theater, where the three auditioners were seated in the house. She introduced me: "Terry Torres from New Jersey."

"From New Jersey?" one asked.

"Yeah," I said. "Sorry."

"That's okay," another said. Then after a moment she laughed. "Oh, I get it. Because you're from New Jersey."

I smirked, shrugged, said, "Yeah, well," then walked in front of the stage which still had some vine-wrapped set pieces on it, wondering if it was okay to use it.

"Go ahead and hop on up there," the last offered. I did, and turned to look at them with my hands on my hips. All three were looking at my headshot. I felt unduly confident, given that I had a fever and never had a chance to perform my monologue before anyone.

As soon as I started, I could feel a twitch. I remembered every word - something I can't boast about my best performances - but it was completely mechanical. I pushed through, even though I was certain I already lost their interest."You dope!" I thought, "You're not acting, you're just saying words!"

Joe made a similar observation about his own audition. I guess we were cocky?

Just as we were leaving, Sasha Castroverde came in for her audition. She and I were in Spiro Veloudos' production of The Philadelphia Story at Emerson College. She was the lead; I was the butler.

She, too, decided to stay in Boston after graduating last year, and she told us that she had taken part in three productions around town since then.

It occurs to me, yet again, that Boston is a small town. In the day of my first post-graduate audition I had met Sean, Silas, Sasha, and even Billy Butts.

I, for one, feel heartened that I was able to recognize so many faces. I hope that this small town can foster a cozy camaraderie rather than compact competition.

9 headshots remain.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Monologue: Jacques from As You Like It

The realm of the Shakespearean monologue is pretty silly. Shakespeare wrote a lot of plays - like a whole lot. And you can find a bunch of monologues in just one of his plays. Multiply that by every play he's written, and you're swimming in monologues!

And yet, even a cursory web search yields repetitive results. Even critically acclaimed monologue collections are made up of material that someone who isn't particularly well-read - like me - recognizes instantly.

The main problem with Shakespeare and his contemporaries is that they're dead. As such, they can't write any more plays. And after 400 years, even the best material can get stale.

So the actor is left with two options: take a monologue that's already been done to death by other actors and perform it so exceptionally well that auditioners can listen to it without getting bored, or find a lesser-known one for yourself.

Now, me? I've long been a proponent of advancing new work by young playwrights and discarding the dead sentiments of old theatre. But I really like performing Shakespeare's writing. Once you get past the initial difficulties in comprehension, the depth and weight of his poetry makes it a joy to perform.

The thing is, because all of his writing is so dazzling to me, there are times when I'm not sure I can really judge what makes one monologue better than another.

Take this one below from As You Like It. Now, Melancholy Jacques is the character responsible for delivering the infamous "All the world's a stage" monologue. It's a brilliant monologue, but as audition material? There is absolutely nothing new I could bring to it, and I'm not confident/stupid enough to try.

Still, as a fellow crazed artist, I identified with Jacques, so I decided to look for more of his material. In this passage - which is much shorter than I realized, now that I've written out - he tries to convince Duke Senior to make him a fool so that he might use his wit to expose the follies of those around him.

It's not about murder or cross-dressing or anything that an audition monologue is SUPPOSED to have, but I think it's pretty funny.

I am ambitious for a motley coat.
[...] It is my only suit;
Provided that you weed your better judgments
Of all opinion that grows rank in them
That I am wise. I must have liberty
Withal, as large a charter as the wind,
To blow on whom I please; for so fools have;
And they that are most galled with my folly,
They most must laugh. And why, sir, must they so?
The 'why' is plain as way to parish church:
He that a fool doth very wisely hit
Doth very foolishly, although he smart,
Not to seem senseless of the bob: if not,
The wise man's folly is anatomized
Even by the squandering glances of the fool.
Invest me in my motley; give me leave
To speak my mind, and I will through and through
Cleanse the foul body of the infected world,
If they will patiently receive my medicine.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Mission Brief

My name is Terry Torres, and I am an actor.

"With the economy in this condition, why choose a profession where the unemployment rate hovers around 90% on a good day?" Without getting into a lot of psychology, it's probably because I'm immature and naive.

The fact is, I like it. And more over, it's what I went to school for. So, to validate my education, you better believe I'm gonna land a role of some kind - unemployment rate be damned.

And since I'm gearing up to be a real, professional actor, I have finally equipped myself with an actor's most important weapon: shiny new headshots.

Irresistible, wouldn't you agree?
I have received 10 complimentary prints of my headshot from my photographer, because he's such a nice guy.

10 headshots. 10 photos of my smiling face. 10 opportunities for employment.

This blog exists to help me answer a question.

Can I get cast before I run out of headshots?

Join me on my adventure through the casting process, as I detail my experiences at 10 different auditions in the Boston area.

You will meet my adversaries - the companies who challenge my spirit, as well as my own doubt and complacency.

You will meet my allies - my friends who provide me with valuable information and support me through my journey.

And hopefully, in the end, we'll all have learned a little something about ourselves.