Friday, October 21, 2011

#6. USJesco

One morning I woke up and Craig (the guy from Craigslist) was like, "Hey, USJesco are auditioning for salespeople."

Sales? AUDITIONS?! Yeah! They basically want people to perform live, in-person infomercials. RETAILTAINMENT they call it!

The first round of auditions I'd heard about were at the BCA, not far from me, but I was doing Twelfth Night then. When I came back there was another round of auditions! In Woburn. So I borrowed my roomies' Jetta and headed out.

It was at the Hilton there. Two other people were there ready to audition. One of them was Cheryl. I think she was from Chelsea. We talked about Apollinaire and the No Name restaurant.

There was a side for us to read from with three paragraphs on it, each from a different pitch for a different product. One was a for a Sham Wow-esque item that came in unprecedented quantities, a lifetime guaranteed knife that would be replaced if broken - even if it's YOUR FAULT - and, of course, Mr. Sticky. Mr. Sticky is a lint roller than never needs to be refilled.

When I went in to read, the two fellas there asked which I wanted to read. They were all great, but I read the prompt for Mr. Sticky.

The guys were floored. "I don't wanna jump the gun, but that was fantastic," said the guy on the right.

"Yeah," said the guy on the left, "That's just the kind of tone you need for Mr. Sticky."

They invited me to callbacks at 5:30, but they didn't want me to hang around with the other actors, in case they weren't called back. I was like, "Uh, okay," grab my stuff and said Bye to everyone in earshot as though I was going to leave, and went to the TV room near the bar and played PSP for a while.

Then I got a call from one of the guys explaining there were too few people to justify a callback, so they were gonna let me know when they were gonna have another callback.

They didn't.

Best of luck, USJesco!

4 headshots remain.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Journey to the Screen: Cover Letter

Like those kids from Dino City, I am about to adventure into the screen. That is, contact local casting companies for the opportunity to audition for film background work, print work, and the like.

I'm not afraid to admit that I asked Google how I should write a cover letter to a casting director. I am a little ashamed by the results that came up, though.

I found a sample cover letter on from an actor to a casting director. It starts like this.

Dear Mr. Hireme:

This part is incredibly important! Always address your cover letter to a specific contact.

My name is Marcus Caparcus and I am a new actor to Los Angeles. I am interested in stage, film and commercial productions. My cousin Vinny Babarino mentioned your name to me as he remembered that you and I attended the same performing arts school. It is simply amazing to me that we both grew up in the same town and attended the same acting school.

See how short and sweet that was? I also managed to drop a contact name and a reference that makes a
personal connection between me and the recipient.

As for my recent work, you can see me in a guest starring role on 'The Office' next week and I also have a film being released as part of the Barleytown Independent Film Festival. I should also tell you that I will be starting a new role in an off-Broadway play called 'Where the Kitty Kats Are' and can easily arrange some tickets for you.

Let me stop right there and show you two specific things that make this sample extremely unhelpful.

As for my recent work, you can see me in a guest starring role on 'The Office' next week and I also have a film being released as part of the Barleytown Independent Film Festival.

If you're writing a sample cover letter for actors, you must in some way assume that the actors who would glean any insight from it have not written many cover letters to casting directors. And if they have had so little contact with casting directors, you must then assume that they have not had much experience in acting professionally for the screen.

What is so disheartening about this example is that it seems to suggest, before contacting a casting director to get work, you should first be cast in a prime-time, award-winning television comedy. Clearly the imaginary guy in this example doesn't need to Google "casting director cover letter". He would already know how that works.

Oh, and this is stupid.

It is simply amazing to me that we both grew up in the same town and attended the same acting school.

Okay. And what do you say if that's not true? "It is simply amazing that I don't know anyone that you know."

In my Google search I've learned that most websites called "Actor[Whatever]" or "Acting[Thing]" are silly and give really broad, vaguely sweeping advice.

But there is a good thing to take away from this example. An actor's cover letter seems to come in three paragraphs:

1. the declaration of intent (I am interested in auditioning for screen work)

2. recent work (I just finished [doing this] and I am currently [doing this])

3. Thank You (Thank you very much for your time and consideration)

If you can at least hit those points, I say don't sweat the rest of the letter. Just write what you need to say in the way you want to say it.

Another ActingBiz piece mentions that the cover letter should be printed on "top-of-the-line" business stationery, because it shows that you care. I mean, I get that. We're already paying for headshot prints, why not go all the way?

I'm considering it, it's just that... What the hell am I supposed to do with this stationery after I write my cover letters? Can I go somewhere I just buy, like, five sheets of it?

I guess keeping up appearances by making semi-necessary purchases is something I should be used to by now as an actor.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Twelfth Night

So this last month I was Malvolio in Brown Box Theatre Project's Twelfth Night.

The cast arrived in Maryland with their lines memorized, and we rehearsed every day for three weeks. Then we performed the shows for a week at public locations and schools throughout the Ocean City area.

Ocean City, being a resort town, mostly shuts down as the warm months draw to a close. Brown Box intended Twelfth Night to be for the enjoyment of those who lived in the immediate area rather than tourists.

Since those in the immediate area are all business owners, Brown Box was able to raise funds to such a degree that would be impossible in a town saturated with theatre like Boston. Not only was this show of kindness very fortunate for the production, it was very heartening to me. These people clearly wanted to us to do what we were doing.

The cast and crew stayed in housing donated by local business and the director's family. I lived in a trailer on their horse farm, where rehearsal took place.

Rehearsal was new for me. I'm often used to making adjustments and internalizing them over the course of time, often between rehearsals. Since time was short and rehearsing the show was the reason I was there, I had to make changes immediately. It was hard, and it was good.

I had only been in three Shakespearean productions; two of them were Much Ado About Nothing, and none of them were professional. For someone who doesn't perform Shakespeare very often it's easy to get stuck on the text - knowing what the words mean, saying them very pointedly, but still not believing in them entirely; wearing the words like a shirt instead of letting them slip into you.

The solution, as always, is listening to your companions on stage with you. Understanding where they come from can help you get to where you're going.

The set was designed by Cory Rodriguez to fit into a goose neck trailer and be assembled and disassembled on site (and, of course, to look bad ass), and the whole cast took part in the labor. In one production I got to act AND move stuff around.

We worked hard and we put on a good show for a community that normally doesn't get any theatre.

It is one of the coolest things I've ever done.

And Brown Box is moving base to Boston.

So get ready.


Oh, and also. Ocean City is the site of the now infamous

Yes, much like the Phoenix Saga from X-Men, the Smirnoff Ice Saga influenced the hearts and minds of a generation. Comrade challenged comrade in a thrilling game with no boundaries and one rule: if you see an Ice, you drink it. Well, there are other rules, but the first is the most important.

If you're ever in a closed environment with a certain group of people, icing is an excellent way to build an environment of camaraderie and fear simultaneously.

Most of the Twelfth Night Smirnoff Ice saga is accounted here. Though some icing occurred in unrecordable circumstances, the album gives an idea of how everyone fared. At a score of 3 Ices given and 10 Ices received, I was the worst player by far.

* Icing is not condoned or endorsed by Brown Box Theatre Project.
** Brown Box Theatre Project is not condoned or endorsed by Smirnoff.

EDIT EDIT (10/3):

Chelsea Schmidt was funny and convincing in her lead role as androgynous Viola. Laughs poured from the audience when Kevin Little and Joe Ruscio shared the stage as drinking buddies Sir Andrew Aguecheek and Sir Toby Belch. And Terry Torres stole the show as a quirky, animated Malvolio.
It's not the first time my name has been mentioned in a review, but it's the first time my performance has been!