Tuesday, March 29, 2011

#5. Company One: 1001

It's always rather exciting when Company One announces auditions. They always pick interesting shows - like this one, an interpretation of the Arabian Nights - they usually have roles in my age range, and they usually conduct mostly organized auditions with good managers, the kind of auditions that school teaches you to expect all auditions to be like; predictable, if slightly crowded.

This one was located in the artist studios at the BCA. I had some familiarity with the building while interning with SpeakEasy. I'm used to a ton of people coming and going at C1 auditions, but this one was a little more contained. I wasn't sure whether they had gotten better at scheduling or if they were more discerning about assigning audition slots this time around.

I was pretty nervous for this one, because I was using a new monologue that I had some reservations about. I believed in Lir, but I wasn't sure what everyone else would think.

I performed it along with the Candy Factory monologue - which was risky, because even though they had very different motivations their peaks were surprisingly similar when I practiced them. I played Lir with a lot of sentimentality. But the director asked me to bring out the pride hidden in him, to be more like the hero he tries to be. I gave it a shot, and she stopped me before I got too far.

I was genuinely amazed when I was called back, my first time with C1. Each of the roles in the play portray multiple characters, and they asked me to read for the role loaded with the oldest characters - the fathers, the viziers, designated as 30 to 40 years old. I thought it might have been a mistake, but I rolled with it. Maybe I had given off a mature vibe because I was unshaven, and spoke in a lower octave because of an oncoming cold? Maybe they were taking the characters in a different direction than the script suggested.

The callbacks were more crowded, it had been a while since I had to be in a room with so many people and not talk to anyone, aside from Chris, the guy who I read my side with. He thought he recognized me from Boston Casting, which is possible. He was a good partner. We read three times together, then both agreed to leave it till we were called in.

The director remembered me, which felt good. Chris stepped up his energy from our reading, a welcome surprise. I did not step up my energy, afraid I might look like I was trying too hard. Instead, I think my choices came off as weak.

As I was reading, I wondered again if my being assigned this role was a mistake, a clerical error. What if there was another role I was perfect for that the director would never see? I felt a little like I was pretending rather than acting.

Chris was given another side and another partner to read with. I waited just in view of the stage manager so that I would be ready to take a new side when it was offered to me. She stapled a copy of my headshot to my information sheet, and I wondered what happened to the print that I had given them. Then she thanked me and bid me adieu.

The script is really good, a lot of fun to read. I bet it'll be a really good show.

5 headshots remain.

Monday, March 28, 2011

#4. FishNet-Networks.net

I never heard of FishNet-Networks.net until I got an email from the creative team asking me to come in for an audition. They said they remembered me from my StageSource audition. That was nine months ago! Pretty wild.

The main problem with this one is that I took a shift to work out in Worcester for the morning before I was scheduled to audition. I had never been to Worcester, and its distance from Boston was sorely misrepresented by my superiors. On top of that I had taken a carpool out there, so my driver wasn't in as much of a hurry as I was. They did let me practice my monologue in the car for them though, and timed me to see if it was less than a minute.

Once we departed, my girlfriend offered to drive me the rest of the way to the Club Cafe on Columbus Ave. I called ahead to tell them I was late. They invited me, meaning they must have WANTED to see me, which means they shouldn't mind too much, right?

I was an hour late.

I approached the front entrance of the building and found a man on a cigarette break. "Not this way," he said, "Go around the side." So I went onto Berkeley and entered the building from there. The security guard pointed me down a hall that lead to the lobby before for the Club Cafe. I was now on the other side of the door that the smoking man didn't let me go through.

I spent about a minute wondering how I could get in to the Club Cafe when the door was locked. The thing I find about auditions in unusual locations is that they're inevitably difficult to find, and when you ask someone nearby "where the auditions are," they usually don't know what you're talking about.

Anyway, I found an alternate entrance into the Club Cafe by following the sign reading "Restrooms". I looked through a window into the adjoining event room to see a trio of people looking at something out of view. One spotted me. I waved. He gave me the "just a moment," sign.

A moment later she exited with a woman, handing sides to her and another man who was standing outside with me. "Terry, right? Just a sec."

In the time it took the two other actors to introduce each other, I was retrieved and brought before the creative team. "You were from StageSource, right? Do you plan on doing it again this year?"

Then they asked to name one great thing that happened to me. "I, well... my girlfriend drove me here."

Then I did my monologue, the only one I could fit into one minute like they requested. Despite all my practice, I remember coming to a palpable halt in the middle of it. It didn't help that I was sick with a cold.

Afterward, they asked me if I knew a joke. Fortunately, my girlfriend subscribes to the Old Jews Telling Jokes podcast, and I could remember one. I embellished a lot, but here's the essence of it.
Two elderly ladies are sitting on the front porch, doing nothing.

One lady turns and asks, "Do you still get horny?" The other replies, "Oh sure I do."

The first old lady asks, "What do you do about it?" The second old lady replies, "I suck a lifesaver."

After a few moments, the first old lady asks, "Who drives you to the beach?
After a few seconds they laughed. Then they thanked me for coming.

I walked past the two actors reading the sides and left. Through the Berkeley Street entrance, of course.

6 headshots remain.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Monologue: The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle

After watching the movie with my girlfriend, she gave me her copy of The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle and showed me a monologue by Prince Lir delivered toward the end of the story. Even though the monologue is not featured in full in the movie, I was drawn to it because of Jeff Bridge's delivery of an excerpt from it: "The happy ending cannot come in the middle of the story."

This is the first monologue I've ever taken from a book. It's not an uncommon practice, and I'm actually pretty sure most people think it's cool, because it's kind of do-it-yourself. And as long you're transcribing it, it's a good idea to tailor your monologue to your liking, making cuts or substitutions you need. You're the one auditioning, after all.

There is a lot of subtext here. Prince Lir has changed a lot for the sake of the unicorn, and there's a real sense of history behind each line. But it is dangerous to get caught up in the subtext of any piece as it relates to its source material. Decisions you make in regards to the original story mean little to whoever you audition for. Everyone needs to find a reason to perform the monologue that they choose, but intentions can get muddled without the proper context. You can't want something on behalf of your character because you think it's what they need. You must want it because you need it.

It all comes down to the text, always. It's what you use, and in the end it's what they hear. Is Lir a true hero? Is he proud to be a hero? Or is he pretending? Is he better than a hero? What was it all for?

My lady, I am a hero. It is a trade, no more, like weaving or brewing, and like them it has its own tricks and knacks and small arts. There are ways of perceiving witches, and of knowing poison streams; there are weak spots that all dragons have, and certain riddles that hooded strangers tend to set you.

But the true secret of being a hero lies in knowing the order of things. The swineherd cannot already be wed to the princess when he embarks on his adventures, nor can the boy knock at the witch’s door when she is away on vacation. The wicked uncle cannot be found out and foiled before he does something wicked.

Things must happen when it is time for them to happen. Quests may not simply be abandoned; prophecies may not be left to rot like unpicked fruit; unicorns may go unrescued for a long time, but not forever. The happy ending cannot come in the middle of the story.

Heroes know about order, about happy endings – heroes know that some things are better than others.

You were the one who taught me. I never looked at you without seeing the sweetness of the way the world goes together, or without sorrow for its spoiling. I became a hero to serve you, and all that is like you. Also to find some way of starting a conversation.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

#3. Boston Casting for Kevin James

I got a call from a casting company for the first time. They needed a high school student for the Kevin James movie Here Comes the Boom. So they called me, the hairiest man there is, presumably because I auditioned for a high school student the last time they saw me.

In order to get ready I had to shave. I don't like shaving. If you look at my headshot, you can see that I'm not shaven. I maintain a consistent layer of stubble to keep me from looking so goulishly pale, and because I think it's cool. For me to have a shaven face is like an affront to nature. When you audition you are basically conveying all of your best qualities in a short period of time. For me to audition with a shaven face is like someone announcing their candidacy for President while opening fire into the crowd they are speaking to.

But I went ahead and did it until my skin was raw, moisturized that, and trimmed the chest hair near my collar bone so it wouldn't peek up through my collar. I was late, and chatted with Grant as I signed in. (Time Called, 10:30. Time Arrived, 10:35) The next batch of dudes were called in, but I hadn't filled out the info form yet. Grant tossed some sides at me and told me to just fill it out inside.

I was surprised at the collection of dudes I was included with. We were all pretty different in appearance, varying builds, varying levels of attractiveness, though I was still the palest. Only once we started slating for the camera did I actually look at the sides together with the guy next to me.

1) Kevin James, a teacher, furiously shakes a vending machine and is rewarded with various snacks. He finds that a weird kid has been watching him the whole time, and tosses him a bag of cookies for his silence.

2) Kevin James stumbles onto school property through the sticks, where he is greeted happily by delinquents who presumably just finished a phat jay.

When each person handed their info and headshot to the Woman in Charge she asked if they had a background in comedy, which I had always believed to be a subjective quality, and nobody said No. She later revised her query to include improvisation.

Some guys were very funny, even if they were just pulling off mild reactions. Some guy went "too far" at some point and she reminded us that this isn't theatre. I was a little worried. I happen to think I have great reactions, but I know that my facial features are really huge... I didn't want to go "too far" by accident.

When my turn came up, the Woman in Charge shook an invisible vending machine, moaning, "No, not today!" The she tossed me a bag of nondescript sandwich cookies, "You didn't see anything, are we clear?"

A girl had come in during the start of my audition and waited until the end of the take to ask WiC a question. I feel more pissed about it now then I did then.

Once she was gone, we did it once more. She didn't ask me about comedy or improvisation, and she didn't have me test for the delinquent.

I'd make a much better weird kid, anyway.

7 headshots remain.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

#2.5 The Freedom Trail

When I left for Boston to study acting, my friends from home thought that I would end up in Shear Madness or working for The Freedom Trail. Or, wait, I guess they thought that it would be funny if I ended up working at Shear Madness or The Freedom Trail. I don't remember if they actually believed that I would.

So The Freedom Trail is a long red line that passes by and through a large amount of historical sites in Boston, or sites that represent famous things that happened in Boston's history, specifically from Revolutionary-era. Tours follow this line so that they may learn the most about each site from a tour guide who is dressed either as a famous American colonist or patriot, or a wife of a patriot.

Tour guides, somewhat like clowns, are often seen by non-actors as bogus or unwanted positions. In reality it's a rather palpable way to transfer the skills they've acquired in their training, and I've only heard of satisfying experiences from those that do it.

I heard from Chelsea that they were hiring for the new season - "season" being a business term meaning "some time to some other time". I contacted the Trail's creative director, an Emerson graduate like everyone else in the world, and he told me all about their deal. Very free-form scheduling that works for all of the guides, especially those who may also be in shows by night, but he also told me about the crazy busy time they have in spring because of all the field trips that school kids go on, when everyone would be required to work. It was exciting stuff.

Then he told me how auditioning would work: I would choose one particular site on the Freedom Trail (not the Boston Common, everybody does that), do some research and then essentially write a sample tour of that location. It would include, of course, historical facts about the location itself, but it was especially important to include a story of something that happened there.

During my stint at Opera Boston I read through a pair of the Freedom Trail's guide books very closely, waiting for one of them to really excite me. The really great ones, I think, are towards the end of the trail, the ones that have juicy war stories attached to them.

In both books I kept coming back to Old North Church, the site at which the signal lanterns were placed to warn which direction the British army was to set on Lexington - one if by land and two if by sea. I was very familiar with the tale because of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem "Paul Revere's Ride", which I was familiar with because of that episode of Animaniacs.

The guide books were a huge part of my research, which seemed oddly... cannibalistic, considered they were published by the company I was hoping to work for. They revealed that the guy who most likely hung the lanterns at the top of the church steeple was apparently a sexton who lived in his mother's house and climbed through windows to evade arrest on the night of his mission. That was very funny to me, so I made it the focus of my audition. Or I tried to, anyway. I had to fit some stuff about Paul Revere in there, too. I was proud of the work I'd put into it, but I'm not really sure how well it came together.

When I returned to audition at the Trail offices, there was a group of friends walking into the lobby, consulting their smart phones to find the Freedom Trail - the actual trail, not the offices they had gone to by accident. If was working for the Freedom Trail then, I could've helped them out.

I went up to meet with the creative director, he brought me to the "lounge" area of the office, where someone was still working. She said she would leave, but I didn't want to disturb anyone, offering, "What if we did it over there?" pointing to the wardrobe room where they kept all of their 18th century costumes. It was just enough room for the two of us and he was sitting rather close. I put as much room between us as I could, my back brushing against petticoats and three-cornered hats.

As soon as I started, I realized that it was really weird to pretend to be giving a tour in a location that wasn't where I was to a group that wasn't there, probably even weirder than talking to imaginary people in regular auditions. I directed 80% of my audition directly to his face. I assume that tour guides talk to the people they guide, so I did that, even though I know for a fact you aren't supposed to look at the person you're auditioning for because it is really distracting.

I sat in on a batch audition back in school when I was directing a play, and of the 30 people in the room, this one girl looked directly at me the whole time. At that point I was obliged to keep looking at her, listening to her, giving her everything she needed else she would break focus - basically, I had to start acting. When it was over I realized I hadn't watched the audition because I was in the audition, and I had no objective recollection of how she acted, and so I couldn't consider her for my play.

When it was over, he said I did a very good job and that I should be proud of myself.

And that there were a lot of people he had to consider.

Still 8 headshots remain.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

What the hammer, what the scale ruler?

I recently finished being an assistant stage manager for Opera Boston's production of Cardillac. Which is weird, because I didn't study stage management in school.

Well, that's not true. I took a class in STAGE MANAGEMENT while I was at Emerson, mostly because I needed more credits for my secondary emphasis in directing, but there were only two directing classes. I took playwrighting and stage management to fill in the blanks.

Though the class was mostly freshmen who had a DESIRE to stage manage, I sat in the back with Jon Ryan, mostly being actors, and seniors, and trying to learn sometimes.

I actually thought it might be cool to be a stage managing actor, a multi-class player, like a guitarist who's also a samurai. That way I could do what I like and am good at most of the time, and then sometimes manage stages.

I ended up doing a bit of this and that, and I was paid most of the time. Often I'd look at my paychecks, mind-boggled, thinking, "I'm getting paid for this?"

I guess as a rule no one gets paid for something they deeply enjoy doing. The responsibilities of the stage manager are so confusing that I assume there's a lot to cut through before you get to whatever you could call "joy". The things a stage manager does from the start of production to the end of the last performance are so wide-ranging; from formalities like reminders and paperwork that are at times convenient or excessive, to being the font of knowledge and pillar of communication that supports the entire crew through the show.

They have to deal with designers, actors, EVERYBODY reports to the stage manager, and the stage manager is at some point a part of all of their god damn problems.

It takes a very particular person to fill the role of a stage manager. Someone who can stay calm, organized, and friendly while everything around them is trying its best to make them crazy and enraged. I may not be especially organized, but my zen-like patience has seen me through every managerial role I've played.

The stage manager for this last job was very encouraging, told me that I had a good personality for this kind of job, that I could certainly find work in summer stock. And I realized it was probably true.

Does the six-string samurai have to choose between his guitar and his katana?