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.

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