Wednesday, June 27, 2012

#2.5 Mission Park Quinology

So a banner on New England Actor was advertising auditions for a series of super hero films. Why WOULDN'T I click it?

What was a little confusing about the auditions is that I had to sign a talent release prior to my arrival. Evidently, the production company planned on making a web series about the audition process for the films.

But wait, which production company? Who had plans to production five films at once, with reportedly 160 roles to fill? Only after I signed up to audition did I decide to do any research.

My talent release credits F.R. Perro, Inc. with production.

The Mission Park movie website links to Perro Worldwide Comics.

All of the movies are based on a comics created by Chip Perro.

Seems like there's a little world living between the lines here, and I don't just mean the alternate universe of Boston-based super heroes.

The PWC site looks a lot like some of my old ZIP disks: museum for a bunch of good ideas that haven't quite come to fruition yet. Rough drawings, a spin-off for a series that hasn't been made readily available to the public. Unlike my Final Fantasy VII fanfiction, though, Mission Park is on its way to achieving something greater.

What threw me off, besides everything else, was that a film with these characters was already made, even though auditions are currently being held to fill those roles. I guess that film was something like a prototype, a pilot. Or they're casting a reboot. You know how super hero movies can be.

Actually, what REALLY threw me off was that the audition would be in Framingham. So I borrowed my roomies' faithful Jetta to make my way to Molly Malone's Irish Tavern at the Framingham Sheraton Hotel.

To one side of Molly's dining area was a reception lounge, complete with armchairs and a fireplace. To one side of the lounge, on the other end of the camera, set up with two chairs, was the audition space. It looked like we'd all be auditioning in front of each other.

Auditions were done in pairs. Basically, every two people who arrived at the front table were made a pair and would read the sides together. I was not as timely as I could have been, and was in the last pair.

I watched every audition. It was quite a diverse crowd, especially in terms of experience. People seemed friendly, but since the camera was rolling there wasn't a whole lot of carousing, so most just watched and grabbed some cheese and crackers from the side table. Yeah, snacks! THAT'S how you hold auditions!

Finally, I read with Curtis. He was cool! We read two sides, switched roles for each, for a total of four reads.

I wasn't sure I showed enough dimensions between all of my reads. The sides were actually pretty cool. A more realistic super hero story, something between Mystery Men and Watchmen.

Afterward, I found out from the producer that the our auditions would be put online. AND THEN, the half that received the most votes online would go on to the next level of auditions. Yeah, it turns out their doing this tourney style.

The voting would only be for leads. Having auditioned, I could be considered for any of the 160 roles across the five films.

If I win, I get a chance at being in five films.

If I don't, I don't have to drive out to Framingham again to audition.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

#2. Whistler in the Dark Season Auditions

Heard of Whistler? You should've! I've written about them once before. And lemme tell you, they're great.

Auditions were for "a play" by Caryl Churchill and "a play" by Timerlake Wertenbaker, and that any actor's audition materials should be in the style of one of these plays. Even though the plays haven't been decided yet!

That was a little frustrating. However, I do appreciate the level of effort being request on the part of the actors. No use falling back on some old monologue, they seem to dare!

So I worked on an all-new monologue from Shaw's Candida. I figured, "Hey, these playwrights are British, sometimes write period pieces, and deal with feminist ideas!" Or in Shaw's case, anti-feminist, but still very penetrating looks into the relationships between men and women and how men-ness and woman-ness can get in the way of that.

The audition place was Charlestown Working Theater, which I'm pretty familiar with now having seen and assisted on a couple of Theatre on Fire. Nate Gundy, a Whistler regular and fellow Freedom Trail player, pointed me upstairs. The actor pen was right next to the audition room, so even though many people wanted to talk, they could not. I said Hi to some familiar faces, including Dakota Shepard and Caroline Price who were in Fresh Ink's phenomenal production of Priscilla Dreams the Answer. Phenomenal because I stage managed it.

When I stepped into the audition room, the directors of the two productions, Meg Taintor - who is also a prolific promotional photographer for many fringe productions - and Mac Young - who I was in Imaginary Beast's Dracula with - both gave me a hug. And then I did my monologue.

AND THEN, Jennifer O'Connor, Whistler co-founder and another Freedom Trail player, stood up and acted as my scene partner when Mac asked me to do the first half of my monologue again, with more of an emphasis on driving my point home and "winning" the argument. So I went again. And it felt so much more natural, especially with someone who - Jennifer was good at this - would let their attention drift if I was not catching it, forcing me to push even harder.

I was disappointed in myself a little for not achieving that level of realism on my first go. Nate Gundy assured me on my way at that at least I could take direction. Thanks for saying those words, Nate Gundy.

Looking back, I realized this is how my first audition with Whistler went as well. I LOVE this practice of doing the monologue again with a new direction and someone to talk to, like you would be doing if you were cast in a goddamn play. It's a brilliant way to deal with the monologue problem -  That is, the problem of everyone hating doing monologues - just make them dialogues! Even if the other person doesn't talk.

This is one of the most pleasurable experiences I've had at an audition. And maybe it's partly because I knew so many people involved. Maybe that means: I'm doin' it?

8 headshots remain.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Monologue: Candida by George Bernard Shaw

So this is how I work on a monologue.

With a new monologue, I get it down on paper.

I used to write out monologues by hand, but I typed this one because I had to do some serious editing with it.

This one's from George Bernard Shaw's Candida. It's not commonly known from my understanding, but it was part of a Shaw collection I'd bought a long time ago. I happen to like it quite a bit. The character of Marchbanks here is professing his love to the wife of a preacher and political leader, telling him that he is unfit of his wife's love.

HOWEVER! Most of this monologue is actually from quite a bit of dialogue between Marchbanks and the preacher. Most of the line breaks represent dialogue that was cut. Thanks to Shaw's writing, Marchbanks' point still makes sense with the cuts.

There are a lot more words crossed out. That's mostly for the sake of timing - this should run at about 2 minutes. I cut anything that didn't support that main point of the monologue.

And then, y'know, I underlined some lines. This is mostly placebo-esque voodoo nonsense, but I pick the words in a sentence that are most important. It might seem really obvious, but going through the monologue underlining words that strike you as you speak them aloud, I think, is just another way to bring you and the text closer together. And really, that's what this is all about.

/'s help me indicate beats shifts, where my objective changes.

The big shift in this monologue is right in the middle: "Stop! Morell: if you strike me, I'll kill myself: I won't bear it."

This is a direct reaction to something that the person being spoken to does physically to the speaker - something that doesn't actually happen. It's a tough sell, but the beauty of this monologue is what changes in Marchbanks before and after this altercation - how self-assured he starts, and how incensed he becomes. I've never done anything like this before in a monologue, but I think it works.

I'm also told this, being written by Shaw, is what we would call a modern monologue, as opposed to a classical or contemporary monologue. From the way I understand it,

Classical: Like Shakespeare and those guys.
Contemporary: You could talk to the child of this writer, or the person if they are still alive.
Modern: Whatever isn't the first two (The writer has been dead for a while, but not like SUPER long).

Once it's all written, I just go through it, taking each phrase off the page. That is, whenever I say the words aloud, I never look at the words on the page - I always looks elsewhere. Otherwise, the words will just stay on the page. If you take them OFF the page, they'll float into the air and then into your brain. Seriously, try it.

Once I've got it memorized (and this is the hard part), I go through the monologue and as I speak each word I perform a gesture to go along with it. Like, everyone word, even "the". You don't have to think TOO hard about each gesture, you just have to make sure that each one is different from the last. For a two minute monologue, it might take 10 minutes or so. But it's worth it. I'm told this is one of those Meisner techniques? Whoever THAT guy is! Anyway, it helps me figure out how I REALLY feel about the text.

After that, I go through again, instead I perform it with my arms at my side, looking straight ahead, super-minimalist. Kinda like a "cool-down" from the previous exercise. It also helps me figure out which times I'm driven to move my body, when I'm real excited and I just wanna DO something.

After that, I do whatever. Might go through at half volume as I walk about town. I might do it again in a public place, like a hill in Boston Common, where people will think it's funny.

And hey, dudes: do your monologue for at least one other human being before your audition. You may not be crazy into the idea, but it almost always gives you useful insight. Well, as long as you know insightful people. Anyway, you won't truly know how a monologue works in front of people until you do it in front of people.

EDIT (6/21):

Something I just realized is that all of this editing of an existing work, you might think, "Well, why not just write your own monologue?"

The thing about writing your own monologue is don't write your own monologue. Editing is one thing, because you can still say of this monologue, "It is from George Bernard Shaw's Candida."

However, if you were to introduce your monologue in an audition by saying, "This is a monologue I wrote," you're conveying that you could not find an existing monologue that you could make work, so you wrote one for yourself.

Acting is interpretation. In an audition, a director is asking of you, "How well can you interpret text, and how well will you be able to interpret my direction?" By doing a monologue you have written, you're saying, "Nope, I can't do any of that shit! I'll just audition with this thing I already know all of the subtext for because I wrote it."

So, yeah. I don't think that's actually a thing too often, but don't do it.