Saturday, December 31, 2005

In Character or Out of Your Mind?

As an actor over the years, I have worked with a several people that remain "in character" from the moment they arrive in the theatre, through getting their costume and make up on, as well asevery moment back stage waiting for a cue, and remain so until they are out of make up, and even out in the parking lot after the show. They will not even respond to their own name, only that of the character they are portraying. To many people outside of the acting world, it is assumed that this sort of stance represents the pinnacle of the acting experience. However, I dare to say here in this blog that this total immersion in most cases is the more neurotic, and not to mention less effective way of doing things.

That is not to say I frown on being very focused and contemplative in one's preparations for a performance. (I myself am like that.) If, however, not enough of your mind is allowed to remain aware that you are in fact giving performance you invite a sort of mental absence. You abdicate a portion of responsibility to pay attention to the performance as a whole. You risk giving up the all-important total control over everything you do on stage.

Any dedicated actor can of course be moved at times by the drama and nature of a scene they are in. Many "lose themselves in a role", and this is a good thing. Yet there is a far cry between losing one's self in a role, and experiencing (or seeking to experience) a total possession of mind body and soul.

I remember my former acting professor frequently spoke of the dangers of allowing this. He mentioned a performance of a play (though which I do not recall) during the 18th century, wherein the actors portrayed patients in an asylum. So psychotic were they in their dedication to"feeling crazy" that the actors veered off the script, began jumping into the audience, and started a small riot. Whether or not the story is based on fact, the lesson is clear; remain aware of what you are doing. Do not abdicate your grip on reality just for the sake of a part.

Feel moved on stage. Weep, or laugh. Experience the joy, the tragedy, the grit and the magic of the endless worlds and the unlimited different characters the stage can offer. Certainly, make your performance come alive. Just be sure it is you, the actor, which holds the final reign over your mental faculties. Your performance will be better if you leave the door open at least a crack, on reality.

Plus you avoid being arrested for inciting a public riot. Everyone wins.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005


I hope everyone enjoyed Christmas, and other holidays still in progress. Mine went quite well.

In a few weeks, the Apollo Civic Theatre, (where I saw Two from Galilee) will be holding auditions. Not for one of its plays, but for a community talent show. I have for the last week or so been pondering the notion of trying out for it. Not that I am worried about winning prizes and such. I just like performing for an audience.

The show is open to just about any kind of act, so long as it is family friendly. This includes singing acts wherein those singing have pre-recorded background music. It would be in this fashion that I would try out for a spot in the show. (I do not have a real band at my disposal.)

Though I could potentially create some kind of acting performance for this show, I do not think it would suit the format very well. I therefore determined that singing would be the best route for me. It is not acting in the strictest sense, but it would be performing. I have a decent singing voice, and have been in several musicals already.

Not to mention it would give me a chance to perform at the Apollo. I think it is good to spread one's influence to more than just one community theatre in any given area. Being in this show would give me a chance to sort of ease into performing at another theater, and getting a feel for its venue before being in an actual play over there.

So I am giving it some thought, though I cannot quite decide yet. It takes about an hour to get to the Apollo from here. I also have to keep the "family friendly" standard in mind. Not that I usually sing or listen to vulgar music. Yet if the family label is strict enough, a lot of the classic songs I would want to sing may be too colorful. (Mack the Knife, for example.) I will have a better feel once I talk specifically to those in charge about how strict the standards are.

It also all depends on what kind of songs I can find the background music for on a CD.

So that is one of the ideas I am currently kicking about in my mind. Naturally when I reach a decision, I'll publish it here.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Feed Me!

Last week I offered advice as to how to gracefully perform through forgetting one's line(s). A comment by Playmaker to that entry got me thinking.

She mentioned how often it seems to be the one who jumps to the rescue of a lost cast mate that comes off looking like they have made the mistake. I realized this is often true. While it perhaps cannot totally be avoided, I thought this week it would be appropriate to speak on the subject of how to maintain grace under fire when you are the one doing the covering.

How do you extend a helping hand to a confused cast mate, while allowing both them, and yourself, to save face?

The truth is, it is much easier to do when you are familiar not only with your own lines, but with those of your fellow actors. I am not referring only to your own personal cue line, either. I refer to the conversation being had by the characters, and such.

Now, a verbatim memorization of 100% of the script is not needed. (That may even be detrimental in some cases, but more on that at another time.) Nevertheless, absorbing the nature of the scene, its ebbs and flows, its rhythms, instead of just memorizing cold collections of words that you are personally responsible for will increase your chances of bailing someone out before they drown.

Every situation is different, of course. In general however, a person's brain is naturally built to more easily recall temporarily forgotten information when they are presented with a question. Therefore, if you know the whole scene well enough, you can feed the struggling person the line that is missing in the form of an ad-libbed question.

Missed line: "I don't think this is fair."
Your ad-lib: "What's wrong? You don't think this is fair?

Notice how being familiar with the other actor's line allowed the ad-lib to contain as much of the missed line as possible? This will make it even easier on the actor you are assisting. Experience tells me that 98% of the time, your cast mate's memory will be jogged very quickly in this fashion. (Not to mention it helps keep the performance as close to the script as possible, despite an honest mistake.)

If you know that something has been forgotten during a scene, and you think you can stay in character and smoothly help someone out, do so. Even if some awkwardness does result in your picking up a little slack, remember nothing is more awkward on stage than unplanned silence.

As a little sub-note to this entry, Merry Christmas to all who may celebrate it tomorrow. Happy Holidays of all kinds to everyone else.---Ty

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Two From Galilee

Last night I went to the Apollo Civic Theatre, in Martinsburg, West Virginia, to see a few of my friends in their production of Two from Galilee. I wanted to post a little bit about it here in the blog.

It was indeed a good show. One of the obvious high points was the high class singing talent of many of the principles. I have worked with the person who played Mary before, and her voice continues to impress. (Trivia fact: It is the same woman from whom I received my first ever stage kiss, as described
here.) Not to be outdone, her counterpart as Joseph also has that nice clear tone of voice that is not always present even in decent community theatre productions.

Indeed, the singing was a strong suit for just about all of the principles and smaller parts alike.

It was a minimalist set, but no effort was spared with the costumes and props. A lot of the crowd scenes reminded me of some of those from the mini-series Jesus of Nazareth. Authentic costumes indeed.

Then of course, there is my good friend Gaby, who turned in her usual excellent performance as Deborah, cousin to Mary. I had to mention her by name.

All and all, an enjoyable experience for someone who has never read or seen the show performed before. I would recommend it, but as I type this, they are performing the final show of the run.

Still though, kudos to my friends at the Apollo, for bringing a good Christmas story to the stage.

Saturday, December 17, 2005


Human beings make mistakes. As much as some of us would prefer to deny it, actors too are only human. Forgetting a line happens. Drawing a blank happens. I will say, however, that this is actually not the biggest mistake an actor can make on stage. In fact, it is how a missed line is handled that separates an adequate actor from a good or great one.

When one forgets his next line during a performance, a natural reaction seems to be to stand perfectly still, stare at the actor you were last speaking to, and hope the line will come, or that someone else will save you.

Though understandable, the problem here is that it can draw attention to the fact that one has lost his place. Furthermore, it can also cause other actors on the stage, knowing something is wrong, to follow suit. The result, at worst, can be a collection of frozen silent actors on the stage, looking like a statue garden, as opposed to telling a story.

So what to do should a line elude you? The thing to do is so simple, many people do not think of it; keep acting! As long as you are on stage, you are in character, and that means, with few exceptions, the "deer in the headlights" position is not invoking any sense of drama, character, or story. Not to mention the fact that when you stand there desperately trying to recall what you are to say next, acting skills tend to shut down. You cannot beat your memory into submission, (see previous posts), and when you try, you cannot generally perform well at the same time.

Remain calm. Keep acting. Do something that is in character. Maintain control, and proceed to ad-lib something if you must. Repeat the last thing you said in a different manner, to emphasize your character's point. Or turn your confusion into a part of the character's delivery, depending on the situation. If he is sad, and you forget a line, start to say something, and cry a bit. If angry, use the loss of words to invoke a character who is so angry he has tripped over his words.

Continuing to act through a lapse in memory accomplishes two things. Firstly, 98% of the time the audience will have no clue whatsoever that something is wrong. They will still see a story unfolding, nothing more. Secondly, staying in character and carefully ad-libbing will more quickly bring your mind back into focus, so you can then remember your lost line much faster, and in a more convincing manner.

No one wants to make an error, least of all actors. But once made, extricate yourself gracefully. It can be done, if needs be.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Into the Sunset

It's a wrap, as they say in film. The Old Opera House production of "Miracle on 34th Street" is closed. Despite the final performance being a decent one, the expected sadness has sunk in a bit by now. (The morning after, as I was once again too tired to update last night. My apologies.)

The show has already received, via the office, many positive compliments from audiences. Some had never been to the Old Opera House before, and were surprised by the professional nature of the production. I could not agree more. With only one real exception, every single person in this cast was the type of person that believed totally in what was being done, enjoyed being there, and wanted nothing but success for the show, and for their fellow actors. It is not often you get a cast that large (43 people) consist of that many people who are truly that dedicated. 42 people out of 43 ain't bad.

Not to mention the Christmas aspect of it all. I got to take part in delivering an age old Christmas message. Indeed a message that goes beyond even Christmas. That message is simply, "Believe." The play itself is just one production. The message, however, is universal. I think that is why it did so well. Most people who came to see it wanted to believe.

On a personal level, I got to know some new people during this show, and got to know some more familiar people even better than I used to. I will not take up the pages of this blog with totally personal messages to such folks. However, I want it forever published into cyberspace that with the exception noted above, the cast and crew of this show, at this time, in this theatre was in just about everyway, exemplary. I would be most delighted to work with any and all of them again in future productions.

As an amateur actor, I have no idea how it feels to end a show when you are a professional. Yet I hope that the sense of joy mixed with sadness at the end of a run is still there. Though I would rather not be sad of course, that fact that I am at the end of a show indicates that a show worked; I was part of it truly, and it affected me. Whether I stay an amateur or by some twist of fate end up a professional, may most of my casts be as magical as this one was. Furthermore, may I usually feel the sadness when a good show comes to an end, as I did last night and tonight.

They say auditions for the February show are this coming weekend, and more than one person has asked me if...

But that is another entry entirely.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Final Evening Show

I would say last night's show (Saturday) was not quite as good, audience wise, as Friday, but was better than Thursday. It was a very large and decently receptive crowd. Some of my friends were in it, so that makes it particularly special for me either way.

It did have that ominous feel of the show coming to an end, even though there is one more performance today. I suppose the very last night performance for a show can have that effect, since matinees tend to feel a little askew anyway. Do not get me wrong, I have every intention of turning in a great final performance this afternoon, as I am sure everyone else does. Yet to me there is always something about matinees. (Tune in tomorrow when I plan to post a little article I wrote about my general feelings on matinees.)

Interesting thing I learned last night. Though this is in fact impossible given that the stage will be being used by a special group next week, there was talk that the show has done well enough for the theatre to otherwise have warranted a third weekend being added on to the run. Now, due to various other reasons it would not be practical to do this even if the stage were free next weekend, so it was only a pipe dream anyway. However I would be willing to do it. I would also be willing to come in and perform a day show for school audiences, as the theatre was apparently asked to do last week. (Again for practical purposes this cannot be done.) If however something like that could be done, I would be all about it. To be in a show that needed to add days by popular demand. It happens alot in the professional world, but as an amateur I have not yet experienced that. Perhaps one day.

Honestly, I always felt that three weekends, at any community theatre, would be ideal. The first weekend is the first weekend. The second is often somewhat better. Yet often times just when the show is starting to get air under it's wings it is time to close. I do not mean to say there are never any good performances second weekends. I just mean an occasional three-weekend show would, in my view, be an excellent experience for all involved. (Though I realize that is a large time commitment for many community players.)

I should also mention that last night before the show, one of my cast mates and a crewmember got together and bought me what turns out to be my very first Christmas gift this season. A toy ray-gun, in case I had any frustrations I needed to take out on things. I love it. It lights up and everything. Sadly it makes noise, and cannot be silenced. Firing it backstage during the show is therefore impossible. I imagine, however, that the cast party tonight should be interesting.

And so, one more show. I wonder what miracles remain for the last day...

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Saturday Morning, Coming Down

No, I did not do drugs or get wasted or anything. I was just out quite late last night and therefore did not update when I got home. I just went to bed.

The short of it is, the show was excellent last night! (Friday) The audience (about 290 people) was very warm and receptive. They laughed in several places that no one else had laughed at since opening night. Maybe even one or two places where no one else had ever laughed. They clearly enjoyed the show. We clearly enjoyed the audience.

All of the little hitches I mentioned yesterday were gone tonight. At least for me, I cannot speak for anyone else. Judging by the pleasant audience reaction, I would say nothing happened that ruined a scene.

However, an audience member nearly ruined a pivotal scene, it seems. I was not out there, but as I am told, just about the time our two leads are moving in to kiss, some kid starts going "ewwww" for like 30 seconds. The audience laughed at this more than they paid attention to the scene. The two performers said they almost laughed themselves. I guess the kid was not a fan of kissing. Not to worry though, as all still went very well.

Things went well afterwards too, as me and a couple of cast mates gathered for a little food and drink in the rec-room of the theatre. It's the first time any of us really got to just kick back together outside of the show, and it was fun. (Not counting one dinner out in public last week, where you have to pretend you are civilized, when clearly none of us are.) That is one of the things that I love about theatre, when it works well. The camaraderie you develop with a good cast and crew is like hitting a bull's-eye. Cheers to my friends.

I look forward to tonight, our final night performance. Two more shows remaining. Plenty of time to kick a little more ass and have a lot more fun.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Welcome Back, Kringle

So after three days of rest, (which honestly felt like more to me), the cast of "Miracle" returned tonight to opened the second weekend. I was not privy to every single moment, but overall it seemed to be a good show, despite some problems.

By problems I do not mean disasters. "Hitches" is a better word for it. A few awkward crossings, some very minor line miscues, and some techie stuff. I myself was not immune to it. I did not forget any of my line, but twice I physically did not deliver them with the ease I prefer. Got a little tongue-tied. I have no idea if these things are because we were off for three days, or it was just coincidence. Either way I have been in shows that did far worse after a three or four day break. The cast should be proud as usual.

I cannot deny that tonight's audience was better than last Saturday's. More responsive and warm. Still nothing like opening night, but a nice audience courtship with the cast nonetheless.

All and all, as usual, I was excited to get back into the swing of things for the second weekend. Plus with this show we get one more day than we usually do for a non-musical. This makes me happy as well.

Something else I need to mention, simply because I threatened to do so, and I always make good on my word. There is a cast mate of mine, let's call her B.E. In addition to her regular duties portraying several characters, B.E. has taken on the added responsibility of tormenting yours truly. I have no idea if she is like that with her other cast mates, but when I call her out on it, she laughs heartily. She has called me a child, and has written, "Mara Sucks" on a piece of paper she uses as a prop. (In her defense she later wrote "not really" on the same paper.)

For those keeping track, this is the same individual who cheated on the Skittles bet with me, as mentioned in this entry. Incidentally, when I pointed out to her that I have always treated her quite well, she heartily agreed and laughed some more.

I warned her it was unwise to take such joy in giving a blogger a hard time, as such antics are likely to get posted about. Her reply to this was, "at least I will get posted about".

I had absolutely no counter-argument. (Quite rare for me.)

I hope she is satisfied.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Review: Walk The Line

I went and saw Walk the Line. I had not originally intended to go see it in the theatre, though I thought I might rent it when it came out on DVD. Yet my mother and sister were going, and I saw no need to turn down their invitation.

I am not sorry that I went.

The movie will almost certainly be an Oscar contender this year. While I have seen better biopics, I felt throughout the film that a lot of care and hard work went into the making of the film. There was a great amount of respect for the material being presented.

There would have to be.
Johnny Cash was without a doubt a legend. His unique look and even more unique voice were a timeless tribute to the downtrodden, the sinful, and the out and out bad-ass in us all. A poor portrayal of the Man in Black in his life story would have enraged a lot of folks. Luckily, Joaquin Phoenix, as usual, delivers.

I admit I felt some skepticism when I first heard Phoenix was to portray Cash. He looks nothing like him (though who really does), and when I heard he would be doing all of his own singing, I felt even more doubt. Yet the portrayal, as well as the singing, are actually quite convincing. In truth, when you close your eyes, you still know that it is not Johnny Cash. In all fairness though, no one can duplicate Johnny Cash's sound. The best one can do is to recreate the spirit with which he performed songs such as "Ring of Fire" and "Folsom Prison Blues". I felt Phoenix attained this most of the time.

Hands down, however, the best performance in the movie, (and indeed the best performance in any movie I have seen in years) is that of
Reese Witherspoon as June Carter. I have not seen many things from Witherspoon's body of work. (Legally Blonde movies just do not intrigue me). Yet, I feel very safe in saying that she has turned in the performance of her career in this movie. I know even less about June than I do Johnny, (which is not much at all) but from an acting standpoint, she is magnificent. (A word I almost never use to describe actors/actresses of today.) I have never seen possibly predestined love so astutely combined with soul crippling pain. Both were equally necessary to portray a woman obviously in love with a highly self-destructive man, while remaining strong enough to refuse to live inside the maelstrom of Johnny's early career and life choices. Witherspoon nails it, and she alone (along with the great music) is almost enough of a reason to see the film.

I also highly enjoyed a scene in the movie when a then unknown Johnny Cash is told by a record producer that he (Cash) was not believable when he sang. The speech this very small character gives to an auditioning Cash represents one of the finest in the film, and presents advice any entertainer ought to take to heart.

As far as weaknesses of the film, I would say it does tend to run a little too long in the middle, as we see a few too many scenes depicting Cash's personal problems with drugs and alcohol. I would have liked to see more from the life of The Man in Black after he evolved into same. That persona for which Johnny Cash is so famous only truly comes into existence in the final 10 minutes of the film.

I also think it tended to be a bit anecdotal at times. Seeing June yell angrily at Johnny, "You can't walk the line!", followed instantly by a scene wherein Johnny is recording that trademark mega-hit seemed a bit to "bake and serve" for me, even if that is what may have inspired the song. (I have no idea if this is true, or embellishment.)

In the end though, an honest film, with everyone working hard, and mostly everyone shining. Overall, deserving of the accolades it is receiving. Go see it.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Night and Day...

For a matinee, I cannot really complain about today. Well, I suppose I could, and in fact I will for a brief moment. I do think the audience was a bit cold. However, the caveat is this; they were better than last night's crowd in regards to responsiveness. At least in my opinion. Plus it was a huge crowd. Almost a full house. That is always nice, either way. (Unless they are throwing tomatoes and such.)

Now the by days. There will be no pick up rehearsal, so I will not be headed into the theatre for three days. This is always such a strange time for me during the run of a show that I am enjoying. On the one hand, it's nice to have a break. On the other hand, I sometimes feel I am just getting into the groove of showing up every night and doing the show, when we have to take a break and not do it.

I think second weekends are often better than first weekends though. There is this sad feeling that it is all coming to an end, as you pass the half way mark of the run. Yet if you can put that out of your mind for the first few nights and just enjoy the show, the break during the week can provide for a fresh take on many things. Hence, excellent performances. Hopefully that will be the case with this show.

I always wondered if three weekends would be better. Most community theatres do not do them. However if I were in a good show, I would gladly do it a third weekend. That would kind of be wild.

Yet it is not to be for this show. We are exactly half way through the run. Good news is, there are just as many performances left as there are those that are over.
Fellow cast mates reading this, get your rest, and go over your scripts, as I plan to. Come Thursday at 7:30...let's bring it.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Saturday Night Fever

I know I did not post last night. For those throngs of readers who awaited anxiously for a report last night that never came, my apologies. But I was quite tired.

The report on last night's performance is this; it was quite a tough crowd.

Much like the previous night, the audience had it's moments expressing their enjoyment. Yet such moments were fewer and further between than Friday night. Their ovation for us in the end was encouraging, but there were times during the show where it felt like I was performing for a panel of judges as opposed to an audience. Despite my good friend being in the crowd, it had a cold feeling to it. I actually felt veryt good about my performance. In some places I think I did my best w0rk on the character yet. Just not sure it broke through to the audience.

This happens, of course. As many of my cast mates said after the show last night, it is important to remember the large ovation we received at the end of the show, when thinking of the final impact we had on the people.

True. Yet I cannot deny I love that warmth you can just feel from some audiences. Some think we will feel that again today. It is a matinee, but a sold out matinee. Like I said previously, size does not always relate to attitude. Yet this is the holidays and most people who come today should be well rested. Perhaps that will be the magic combination.

Just as a side note, after the show last night me and some of the folks from the show went out to eat. I ordered mild chicken tenders, but I feel fairly certain they gave me the hot version. I did not finish them, and I did not send them back, because it had already taken an hour to get our food anyway. Had I sent them back, (along with the sauce that must have been squeezed from rocks found in hell, it was so hot), I would have never gotten home.)

Strictly speaking, the chicken tenders thing is not theatre related, and probably does not belong in a blog. Yet I had to share my disillusionment with someone. Besides, I was eating with theatre people. That was close enough.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

No Correlation?

Audiences are such strange creatures. Any performer of any kind can tell you that. The uninitiated may assume that the bigger the crowd, the better the crowd. (And indeed, the theatre loves to fill the seats, and that is the point.) Yet I am willing to believe that 90% of actors would disagree with this notion. They at least would not buy into it wholesale.

Tonight's crowd for example, was large. (About 280 I think, out of a capacity of 330. Not sure of the exact numbers as of this writing.) While there were a decent audience, they did not laugh or get into the show, outwardly, as much as last nights smaller audience did. This is not to say they failed to enjoy the show. They did, after all, give us a standing ovation at the curtain call tonight. It just was not as responsive as last night's. This concept has never once failed to amaze me.

Something else that has not failed to amaze other people, (or at least entertain them highly), is something I do in one of my scenes. I am reluctant to say exactly what it is, as many people who plan to see the show read the blog, and i would not want to give anything away. Suffice to say that it is a very simple gesture on my part at a key moment in the scene. I threw it in during our final rehearsal, at the director's request, to punch up the moment. Little did I know it would cause such a sensation. People in the audience, and the cast/crew seem to love it. I guess it really is the simplest of things that are best sometimes. (And believe me, the action itself could not be any easier.) I am glad it has gone over so well, and has managed to entertain so many.

Part of me is assuming tomorrow is the matinee, but thankfully it is not. The Thursday opening threw me. I look forward to tomorrow night. I find Saturday night crowds are usually better than Friday night crowds. We will see if this holds true.

Friday, December 02, 2005


"Boo-yah" (or however that is spelled) was heard being bellowed by one of the lead actors in the show after the close of tonight's performance. Though I have never used the expression myself before, I think there are fewer ways that would better describe our opening night. It was quite wonderful.

The energy, the creativity, the fun were at an all time high tonight for nearly everyone. It even started to lightly snow outside as we were getting ready to start. (I kid you not.) We all did very well.

I added some new ideas to my portrayal of Mara tonight. At one point I was so pleased with the energy in the scene that I wanted to laugh. I could have stifled it, but I asked myself, "why not use it?" So I did. Even Mara, in the end, is a believer, and the laughter (which I had experimented with earlier in the scene, but never at the very end of it) clinches the deal. It felt really nice out there this evening.

I added a thing last minute where Mara bumped into a table that I thought would add to his "what is going on" nature. Audience seemed to like it. I think I will keep it, if the director does not tell me otherwise.

Also, my walk on in act one went good. One foot in front of the other, from stage right to stage left. Quite a good feeling about my 8 seconds of stage time in the first half of the show. But then again, I feel good about just about everything involved in the show.

Indeed, I have not felt that good about an opening night in a while. I have been in some good shows over the years, but that opening night "eureka" moment is not present for every show. Sometimes it take one or two shows, (if it happens at all.) It was present for this one, however right from the start.

My last play lacked some of the joy I associate with being on stage, simply because it was at times a heavy piece, although billed as a comedy. "Miracle" is a holiday classic and you could feel the Christmas spirit from the audience. (Some of whom talked to the action as we were performing.) It was a crowd of 165, out of a 230 or so capacity house. So for a weekday opening of a non-musical, that is quite impressive for the Old Opera House.

The whole cast has much to be proud of. I am proud of myself and the production.

Just 7 more performances. As any actor will tell you, at this point the adventure is just beginning.

I very much look forward to a Friday night crowd.

Well done, cast mates, if any of you are reading this.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

A Walk to Mary

this is an audio post - click to play

The Final Countdown

So tonight was it. The final rehearsal for Miracle on 34th Street. Even though I did not enter the rehearsal process until halfway through, it's still kind of mind boggling that it is time to open already.

Our last practice was, however, our best in various regards. I will spare readers the details of what exactly went better tonight, save this; just about everyone seemed to be having a really good time tonight. I do not know what it was, but everything suddenly felt quite light tonight. Whether it was the chatter in the dressing room, or the increased energy of the scenes, or the compliments we were all giving each other, the entire production just had that extra something tonight. From the very beginning I have been happy to be in this show, but on my way home in the car I was particularly excited to get this show underway. I was very much on cloud 9.

That is until, I hit a deer for the very first time ever...

Hell of a note about that incident...minimal damage to the car, and the animal actually shook it off, got up and ran away. I had managed to slow to about 20 miles an hour, so I suppose somehow that helped prevent serious injury to myself and the animal.

I guess that will teach me to be happy about a rehearsal.

Yet happy I was. And am. It is going to be quite fun. This is particularly true because there are a few things I added tonight (at the director's request) that I had not done before, So they will be nice and fresh, even for me, on opening night. A few more gestures and such.

Another interesting change in my part that will take place for the very first time tomorrow night is...(drum roll) my very first appearance in act 1! The director wants one or two scenes to be a bit busier with various background people milling about, and he asked me to be in one of them. So on opening night in front of an audience, I will be entering the world of act 1. How will I fit in? What will they think of me there? Will life ever be the same? Of course in the end, I willk just be walking across the stage with a package. But it I will no longer get to wait until intermission to put my costume on. Oh well.

Not that I would have waited anyway. I would have wanted to be dressed and amongst everyone else as the build up to the show was happening. Indeed that is where I found myself today for pretty much the first time. (Previous posts will indicate I spent much of act one up the balcony watching.) Lots of hustling and kids and costumes all over the place in the green room. However it is mostly a fun, positive sort of chaos. It is nothing compared to the madness that was Scrooge last year, where about 60 cast people had to run about in the same limited space, instead of the 47 we have for this show. I am fine with it.

I noticed today one friend of mine, as part of her costume, wears a pin that says "Believe". That sums up quite nicely my feelings on various aspects of this experience. Not only believing in Kris Kringle as the crux of the fictional story, but believing in the show itself, and that we are ready. Believing in what a Christmas experience can do for the hearts and minds of the audience. Believing in each other.

Tune in tomorrow for a little pre-show talk, and tomorrow night of course for the wrap-up of the big opening night.

Hopefully no deer will be harmed in the process.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Mea Culpa

I jumped a few lines today. In my second scene. I was about one minute early. I did not even know I had done it until the scene was over. I attribute my ignorance of my mistake to the seamless cover the other actors put forth once it happened. I did not even get so much as a weird look. Or if I did, it was too quick for me to notice.

I wish my error to be acknowledged for all time. Therefore in my own blog I quote Martin Sheen as Robert E. Lee in the movie Gettysburg;

"Hear me, I pray you! It is entirely my fault!"

Aside from my blunder, I think it was honestly our best rehearsal so far. Lots of energy. Creative line readings. Smoother scene transitions overall. Act one only took about an hour and 15 minutes, they say. It can be shorter still, but that is much shorter than it has yet been. It was quite a pleasure to watch some of those scenes, even though I have seen them a dozen times now. There seemed to be a bit of new life to the show tonight. Well-deserved kudos to everyone.

I went through my costume change for the first time today. Zero problems there. (I love clip on neckties. Absolutely love them.)

I even managed to be louder in the courtroom scenes today. Will the wonders never cease?

Mainly though, people seemed to be having more fun tonight than the last few nights. I cannot speak for them of course, and I may be wrong. However if perception is anything, my great cast mates seemed to be enjoying themselves more today. I hope it is so. I know that I was.

This was the first full dress rehearsal with all costumes. I am thinking that the shot in the arm a show gets once all costumes are in place might explain why things felt so good all the way around tonight.

What ever shall tomorrow bring?

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Goodbye Doesn't Mean Forever

So once again a Saturday went by, and because of the timing of rehearsal, I forgot to publish my latest installment of my theatre advice article. Since I would probably forget again the next two Saturdays, the articles are on a very short hiatus. They are the backbone of this blog, and thus they will return two weeks from this coming Saturday. Until then, performance related posts will be found on Saturdays.

So if you were worried, please know that all will be well in your world again soon.

As per what I just said, a rundown of tonight's rehearsal.

We ran the show mostly uninterrupted. I did not watch act 1 as I had been doing the last few nights. Instead, I played on my miniature Pac-Man video game unit that I brought with me. (There is a small television in the theatre's green room.) This unit is something I have brought with me during various shows over the last year or so. It usually proves to be quite a hit with others as well. I may bring it again at some point. Hard to say.

As far as act 2, it felt good to me. The courtroom scenes had a bit more energy than they have had the last few nights. Furthermore, I felt a few new character nuances enter my performance tonight. I often find that some of the best acting choices show up in the middle of a rehearsal, without being planned. That is not to say that excellent choices and ideas for a performance cannot be planned ahead of time. More often than not, they are. Once in a while though, if you are open to the muse, a nice idea, that maybe only you will notice, will show up for you to make use of. Today, I added a small laugh as Mara sat at his desk after he lost the case. Not likely to be noticed by most, but I found it gave a nice depth to him. It also serves as a relevant prelude to his next line, in which he mentions how happy he is that things worked out the way they did for Mr. Kringle. Nothing mind blowing, but it's a nice touch, if I dare say so myself.

As I was leaving the theatre tonight, a cast mate mentioned that once again the director gave me a note that I would probably mention on my blog. He was correct; I still have to be louder. The director mentioned this as the only major problem with my scenes. It is not the first time I have encountered this problem. There is no excuse for it on my part, and I have every intention of making an extra effort to correct it tomorrow night. In my own defense, however, I have quite often found that this issue corrects itself once an audience is present. It should not take that long to fix such a problem, but knowing there are people in the back row tends to remind one to project, nonetheless.

Also worked on the curtain call for the first time tonight. Pretty standard. Nothing to worry about there. I will take my bow with those playing the judge, the judge's friend, the Baliff of the court, and Mara's son.

Three more rehearsals remain in this, a shortened tech week. (This show opens Thursday instead of Friday.) I must say, as far as the parts of the show that I am in, I still am pleased with the progress. (And not simply because I am in said scenes, though it may have appeared that that is what I was alluding to.)

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Wet Behind the Ears

I hope everyone had a good thanksgiving, if you celebrate that. Welcome to the Christmas holiday season. (If you celebrate that.)

Today was a "wet tech" cue-to-cue rehearsal. Took about 5 hours. This was due in no small part to the fact that we were operating with only about a third of the cast present. As a result, the stage manager would have to be managing her crew while also reading as many as three parts in one scene from back stage. A lot to juggle at once. But we got through it.

I was not that bothered by the rehearsal, actually. Naturally I would rather be performing than waiting for the lights to be fixed, but it has to be done. There is no sense in getting angry about it. Then again, my scenes did not require a whole lot of repetition to get the cues down, so easy for me to say, right?

I did not wear costumes today, since it was only a cue to cue. However, I now have the second suit available. (It was hemmed over the holiday.) So I should try the costume change during tomorrow's practice to see how it works. I do not anticipate it being much of a problem, as I have a slower dramatic scene, plus one other comic scene during which to change into another suit. It is the only costume change I have in the play. We will see how it goes.

Beyond this, not much to report from today.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

This Old Jackenapes and Stage Anesthesia

Stage anesthesia is a term I came up with back in college. I am sure many actors have experienced it. Your are injured, or otherwise sick in someway, and yet for the brief time you find yourself on stage, much of the ailment goes away. I contribute it to the fact that a good actor is generally not thinking about their pain or sickness when performing, and mind over matter is the result; you are not sick anymore.

That is until you are done performing, and come back home, as I did about an hour ago. Than your symptoms creep back to you. In my case, it is back and neck soreness as a result of some work for a charity I did earlier this morning before rehearsal. I was in bad shape, but forced my self into getting ready and taking the trek down 340. Then, as I entered the theatre, I felt a bit better. During the show, I felt virtually nothing. Nothing on the ride home either. But as I got settled back at home, the soreness is coming back. You gotta love the stage anesthesia though.

You also have to love the word jackenapes. It appears in this play, and I laugh every time it is said, as if it were new. The only other story in the world in which I have heard the term used was ironically another Christmas story...a Christmas Carol. It should be brought back into the vernacular.

Rehearsal itself tonight was much like previous nights. Nothing new particularly happened to report. The man playing the judge informed me he was cutting a line. I discussed possible cast party locales with a few adults. A photographer was there from a local paper, but did not stay for act 2. I was told I looked like a pickle in my green suit, and one girl dubbed me "Dill" as a result. Other than these brief moments of magic, a pretty straightforward rehearsal.

Now a brief Thanksgiving break, and then we pick up again on Saturday afternoon.

If I do not post before then, Happy Thanksgiving to any and all who read this blog.

Monday, November 21, 2005


The title applies to almost every facet of the show, in my view. Act one in particular was faster and more energetic than the last time I watched it. In all places. The show's potential as a Christmas experience really shone through in certain places tonight.

There were a few more people missing today than there were the last time, but still most people showed up. The scenes with crowds and stuff at the very beginning look pretty cool to me. I will not give away too many details, in case you live nearby and want to see it.

Kudos to the tech crew also. I don't mean to imply that they have nothing to do during act 2, but most of their complicated work seems to be in act one. There is more to keep track of in the first half of the show than during the second half. Still some snags here and there, but for only being on the job for a few days, I cannot complain.

Something else that will make it easier is that most of the furniture was spiked today. (That is to say, pieces of tape were placed on stage to mark the exact locations of where furniture is to be placed.) That always frees up some time, once people get used to the spike marks.

Tomorrow I need to look through the clothing for a man's winter coat. I did not even think of this until tonight when the costume designer mentioned that we were all supposed to be outside for the final scene. (The previously mentioned singing finale.) So that is on my to do list.

Another thing on my informal, less important to do list is to find a location to call my own when I am not on stage. Despite moving around quite a bit, I like to have a "spot" that I can go to when I am not on stage. It does not have to be the exact same spot every time, but I at least want a comfortable area to be in. This is for times when I want to pay attention to what is happening on stage. Or for times when I am waiting to go on myself. Or when the green room gets entirely too noisy for me. I have been watching Act one mostly from the balcony. Obviously once the show opens up to audiences, I will not be able to do that, as we have sold enough tickets for some nights to probably seat a few people up there. Too bad too. It's the quietest, most removed, and in some ways, best place in the house to watch a show. At least the rehearsal of a show.

The next rehearsal is scheduled for tomorrow. There was talk way back when of having rehearsal on Wednesday as well, if there were problem areas. Me and two other cast members had a little bet going as to whether or not the director would call for said rehearsal at the end of tonight. I said he would not. One said he would. The third in our little pool said he would make the decision tomorrow night. I won the bet, as there is no rehearsal that night after all. The other two tried to insist the bet was non-binding, and refused to pay. One offered a beer, and the other offered Skittles on a date to be determined later. That was acceptable in lieu of cash, until the second person took back the Skittle offer. how fair is that?

I guess the moral may be not welch on a bet with a man who blogs. (Laughter).

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Top to Bottom

I wanted to give a recap of last night's rehearsal, since I did not post it then.

Most significant about last night; it was the first time we ran the entire show in one night. If you have ever been involved in theatre you know that the first night this happens is always a long night for everyone involved. Last night was no different. I would say it took about 3 hours and 15 minutes to run the show, with some short breaks. That sounds long, but when you figure there were various technical aspects that were being run for the very first time, it could have been worse. (Indeed I have been in shows where it has been far worse than that going into the final few rehearsals.)

Previously I mentioned how different the atmosphere would be once the entire cast showed up each night. I was quite correct. Even though there were still several people missing, 90% of the cast was there, and it was quite packed at the Opera House. (Not to mention a tad too noisy in the green room for my tastes.) But such is life in a large show.

Frankly, it is not so bad. Sure I can get a bit edgy when I am in a very crowded noisy room. The temptation is also there to feel tired near the end of the night. Yet with all of the people milling about in costume (we added those last night), that first sense of being deeply involved in a production hit home. That sometimes-chaotic kinetic energy of a theatre filled with people (hopefully) doing the various things they need to do to be ready for the next scene. All part of the gig. Seeing that reminds a theatre person that they are once again part of the big production.

As for the rehearsal itself, I at long last got to watch act one. As far as scene/costumes changes, set movements and technical aspects, it is much more complex than act 2. It also contains a lot more people. It almost felt like I was watching another production entirely, so unfamiliar with the first half of the play was I. (I had read it of course, but did not remember the overall sequence of it.) The act one folks had their work cut out for them from the beginning, and they still do. That being said, I have no reason to believe it will not be ready in time. Believe me, I have been in plays where I doubted the readiness of the thing far closer to opening night than this show currently is. It needs some oil, but not a new engine, to use a silly metaphor.

As for me personally, one of my costumes I am wearing is one I wore for a previous show. So it already fits perfectly. It is a dark greenish suit. People seem to love it, as I got several compliments about it from people. I guess there is something about the green suit.

The director would like me to be louder during the courtroom scenes. Louder during my objections to the proceedings and such. I must remember to project more. It is not an uncommon problem I have depending on the show I am in. Plus, being louder will make Mara appear even more flabbergasted by the unfolding silliness. I will do so from now on.

The director did say everything I was doing was "ringing true", though. This I am thankful for. I would rather have to work on bigness and volume of a presentation, than having failed at being true. Being true to the character and his actions/words is an actor's first duty, in my view. If that is accomplished, no other note from a director is unattainable.

The next rehearsal is tomorrow night. Only 6 more practices after that.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Answer the Call

Sorry folks. This, my weekly theatrical advice article is late in getting posted. I had an early rehearsal, and forgot all about it. (I normally post at 1pm or so.) But if I were to forget to post for any reason, rehearsal would be the best one, right? Anyway, here it is now.
I separate "real" performers from the phonies by one simple barometer; the willingness they show to exceed their obligations even when ignoring them would be both easier, and seemingly harmless to the production as a whole.

One such theatrical obligation that may seem harmless to overlook is the time for call before a performance.

The theatre I currently do most of my acting for usually sets call time for about 90 minutes before curtain. (That is to say, show up at 6:30PM for an 8:00PM curtain.) I have known several actors, both during college and since, that simply never take this obligation seriously. Unless they require 90 minutes of preparation for their entrance onto stage, (rare), one can expect them to arrive at the theatre anywhere from 30 minutes before curtain, until sometime after the curtain, but before their own personal entrance on stage.

You may not see the need for you, who plays the spear holder in act 2 scene 5, and has 5 lines to show up an hour and a half before curtain. After all, you can stroll in during intermission, grab your spear while wolfing down a sandwich and a Starbucks blend of some kind, and be physically all set by the time your moment comes. This, however, is just the problem with it. You are concerned only with being prepared for your own personal moment. The moments for the production itself become secondary.

Come in later during call, or after it, and the rest of the cast/crew is in performance mode. They have adjusted themselves to the climate the audience has presented, done their personal preparations, and stand ready to give a performance all they have. (If they are dedicated.)

You, on the other hand, when you choose to ignore call take on the aura of an outsider in your own show. Others have had their leisurely build up to curtain time, when you were taking your nap, or making your calls, or whatever it was you felt was more important than easing into the start of the show you agreed to be in, with the rest of your cast mates.

On a more practical note, live theatre is wrought with unforeseen circumstances. Why should a stage manager or cast mate spend their precious final ten minutes before curtain filling you in on what you missed, when they should really be focused on something else at that time?

It is easy to blow off a call, for any number of reasons. However, to paraphrase a line from a baseball movie that I find often applies to theatre as well;

"It's supposed to be hard. If it wasn't, everybody would do it."

Answer the call.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Troop Depletion Report

I promised earlier tonight, (in my very first audio post, hoozah!) that I would write an overview of tonight's rehearsal. As I always deliver on my promises, here it is.

In all honesty, there is not much to report on tonight though, despite the build up to it in the audio post. There were many people missing, and one can only progress so far when a stand in is reading the missing parts. Not that we got nothing done. Indeed, I experimented even more, (and successfully) with the courtroom scenes. It is just difficult to gage how well a scene is progressing when two or more main players in it are not there.

There were actually a decent number of people there for the first hour of practice, since we were going over the song again. After the song, (which in and of itself suffered from diminished personnel), many of the act 1 people went home. Unfortunately, I think there were more act 1 people tonight than there were act 2 people. So overall quality is hard to discern.

However, tomorrow afternoon we are running the whole show in one night for the very first time. The director warned that anyone who is not present for that would be found. (Or did he say hunted down.) So it begins...the rehearsals in full. And with costumes. (Which is another aspect of tomorrow afternoon's rehearsal I am looking forward to, as previously mentioned.)

I wish it were a more profound entry, but that is really all that happened today.

But hey, you got your first audio post today, so I would not complain if I were in your shoes.

Very First Audio Post (During Traffic)

this is an audio post - click to play

Thursday, November 17, 2005

A Bit Late

I meant to add this last week, but one thing let to another and I never got around to it. So here it is now.

My friend Gaby has a new blog. You can find it
here. It is not strictly a theatre oriented blog, but she does do alot of community theatre. (That is how I met her in fact.) So you will find her talking about theatre and acting related things a good deal of the time. But she is cool even when she is not talking theatre.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005


Tonight's rehearsal was different than the last few. Nearly the entire cast was there. While I would guess that act one rehearsals usually have a fair number of people, this was the first time I had practiced with that many people present. (Tech crew included.) As I expected, it was quite a departure from the easy going run-throughs the act 2 gang has had the last few weeks.

Not that I mind that. In fact, I enjoy having that much kinetic energy flying around the place, so long as it is productive and everyone stays on task. Personally I feel pretty secure in my responsibilities. It is just that I am now doing my job with more people around.

This also means more people back stage to potentially talk to, which is a good thing sometimes. So long as we are quiet, of course. (I promise my stage manager that I will keep it down, if she should happen to read this.)

Spoke with a friend of mine, who I have been in several shows with. It was the first time I had really seen him since the initial read through, him being a mostly act 1 person. He echoed some sentiments that I have shared here on the blog already. For example, how odd it is to be this late into the rehearsal process having not seen half of the cast. Tonight was the first time we had seen each other do anything on stage for this show, actually. But as I reminded him, soon we will be running the whole show all night. That will add even more wildness.

As for what we actually did, most of tonight was spent getting the singing finale worked out. This is why most of the whole cast was present at first. It is only one song, but it requires the whole cast to be coordinated and such. It is nights like this when I do not envy the position of the director of a play. I am not sure I would want to play air traffic control for so much going on, when music is involved. And it is just one song. Sometimes it's a wonder I ever do musicals. All and all though, the cast sounds good when we sing, and I think the major kinks of the blocking were ironed out tonight.

I felt even better about my character tonight. I felt freer, and willing to experiment a bit. Nothing radical. It is just that now that I have the lines down cold, I have been toying with slight variations on certain inflections during the court room scenes.

I look forward to my next rehearsal, on Friday. The director said there would be specific attention being paid to the courtroom scenes on Friday. That is when I will really sharpen things up in my performance. I already have some ideas. I look forward to the chance to try them out.

The show is evolving. Now if the temperature outside would just dip below 60 degrees before the show opens, it will really start to take on a Christmas feel.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Hodge Podge Entry

All sorts of odds and ends tonight.

To begin with, I want to thank my various friends and colleagues for their comments here on the blog! For some reason, not everyone's comments are getting through, however. More than one person in the cast told me they tried, and failed, to post a comment. I am a bit baffled by this, but I hope no one is discouraged. Keep trying. If you opt to post as "Anonymous" you should have an easier time. You can always email me as well with any comments.

As for today's rehearsal, various things. To begin with, many people were missing, so once again, it feels like this little tiny show. So leisurely and laid back. I confess I love it. Yet I am certain that once the rest of the cast of hundreds shows up the atmosphere will be, to say the least, different. But a good different.

Missing people notwithstanding, we got a decent amount accomplished today. It was a little odd, because we did not go in order of the scenes. We started at the end of Act 2, to go over the scene with the song. (More on that in a moment.) Than we did some act 1 stuff which got skipped the last time act one was rehearsed. Then we proceeded with act 2 in order, getting about halfway done. So, as odd as it sounds, I ran through my last scene, and my first scene, in that order. Wild, isn't it? Kind of like filming a movie.

Some of the background set pieces were also up today for the first time. Walls, etc. They look good. Kudos to set designers.

Now for the previously mentioned music scene. I have mentioned before that the show ends with a song. Cast members off stage sing "under" the final scene where the little girl is all happy, and everyone falls in love. (You know, the miracle.) At the start of said scene, the director had various members of the cast come out on stage to begin the singing, including me. I am not sure if he did it on purpose or not, but having my character seen singing about the importance of faith in the unseen is quite poetic. Mara, being the man who declared there was no Santa Claus. You have to love the "redemption" factor of it all. Nice call, director.

In other news I ran into a friend of mine at the theatre, who claims she did not see me standing there until I said hello. A likely story, I am sure. She is a very busy person, but she reads this blog. So this paragraph was designed specifically to rib her.

Down town Charles Town was decorating its public buildings for the holidays today as I was leaving rehearsal. They are not finished yet, but it certainly serves as quite the reminder that the whole season is not far away at all. Which of course means our show is even sooner. From my humble perspective as Mr. Mara, act 2 guy, all seems to be progressing at a very excellent pace.

Don't you love it when that happens?


So you find yourself in a community show, and naturally in a few short weeks, sporadic, brief rehearsals evolve into nightly work sessions, (or ordeals) often lasting for hours on end. The closer one gets to the debut, the more tension there is. As well as more pressure and excitement.

Add to this the things from your life during the day that you bring into rehearsal. By the end of the night, the result as often as not is a highly charged, smoldering kettle of emotional soup. Just as frequently, there is someone else, who is working on their own emotional home brew during rehearsal. When two such people catch each other's attention back stage, something I call incastutation can take place. (Infatuation, with a cast mate. Clever, right?)

This is of course, human nature; attraction due to mutual difficulties with an outside situation. Theatre experiences tend to heighten this already acute programming in our minds. (Rare has been the play I have been in where this did not occur to some degree to someone.)

I blame the off stage drama, and the fatigue, and the excitement of the stage, and any number of other variables. Whatever the cause of it, the temptation to pursue such interests can become quite strong at times, understandably. Sometimes things can get pretty serious. But let's face it; that is not always good for your performance. (Falling "in love" and performing well are very difficult things to keep one's mind on simultaneously.)

And if things get serious and then go sour before the show opens...It can be less like an opening night, and more like an opening nightmare.

Just take it slow. Much slower, in fact, than you might otherwise take a budding "relationship." Stay friends during the run. You owe that to your cast mates, and the production. Remember the old adage "attraction means distraction". If there is anything there between the two of you, it will certainly be there after the show closes, and you can makes each other's heart flutter as much as you like. If not, imagine all the crap you spared yourself, and everyone else involved.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Do Pay a Visit

To a blog authored by Playmaker. She is an actress who lives in D.C. She actually makes money by performing. The real deal.

Not to mention, she has read and commented on this, my own humble blog.

What a world, huh?

Porn Purge

Holy moley. I just spent half an hour deleting "comments" from almost every one of my previous posts. By comments I mean porn spam.

I honestly thought I had the settings to alert me of when comments were made, thus allowing me to approve or reject them. Obviously I was wrong. I think I have corrected the problem now.

I sincerely hope I have.

My apologies to anyone who had to deal with that while visiting.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005


Tonight we had rehearsal for act 2, though we did not run through the whole act. We did make it about 2/3 of the way through, however.

I would say that I am pretty much off book now. (Which is just as well, as I am due to be off book by Saturday.)

Actually, I was further along tonight than I thought. At one point I had not thought to bring my script out with me when we ran the scene. Turns out, I had those lines down already anyway. I think that is how it works sometimes; you are ready, you just have to remember that you are ready.

From the costume department, I tried on two suits today before practice. One was darker, but a little small on me. The other was a lighter grey sort of color, and fit me almost perfectly. (The pants are just a tad too long.) It's a smart looking outfit, actually. Vest and everything.

At least it looked like it fit well to me, and it felt comfortable. The costume designer will have to confirm that for me next time I try the suit on. You see, I am not totally aware of what makes a good fit for a suit. I so rarely have had to wear one, (even on stage) that I am not even sure what size suit I am, or what the finer points of how a suit should look are. In my inexperienced opinion, however, the grey suit looked quite good. I look forward to seeing what it looks like with the previously mentioned eyeglasses.

Speaking of costumes, someone from the cast had tried to leave a comment on this blog, about costumes. For whatever reason, it never showed up on here. I am still puzzled by that, and am looking into it. Be that as it may, she told me tonight that the comment referred to how often the purpose of a scene, or the motivation of a character remains vague, until the costume is put on. Just wearing a certain uniform or outfit can bring out things one may not have thought of previously. I feel the same way. (Which is why I wore the glasses for rehearsal tonight, and will continue to do so.)

As for everyone else, it feels like a small cast, even though it is rather large. I think most of the crowd scenes take place in act one, and so alot of the ensemble, (which several of my friends are in) is not present when we run act 2. So the overall feel is of a smaller cast. Wait until next week this time, when everyone has to show up every night. It will be a little less, cozy, as it were. At least I assume so. I base that on the fact that last year, in Scrooge, there was a cast even slightly bigger than this one. You could not walk without stepping on a cast mate. Good times.

My next rehearsal is Saturday afternoon.

Monday, November 07, 2005

All Rise!

Tonight in rehearsal we ran through the blocking of the courtroom scenes (which constitute most of my stage time.) This is the first time we had ever run them. It went fairly well, despite having several people from the crowd missing from the rehearsal. There is plenty of time to work on that, however.

I do not move much during the three scenes that take place in the courtroom. When I do move, I have a table that is my home base, as it were, which I always return to. This means I have little blocking to commit to memory.

The director said I would have some leeway to walk around as I addressed the court, as well as those in the gallery of the court. I took some of that leeway, and felt very lawyer like, walking around, making statements, etc. I had not been in lawyer mode sense my old mock trial days back in high school, so that was fun.

The whole night was fun actually. In a very laid back way. Of course the rehearsals will get more hectic as we get closer to opening night, but tonight was a very leisurely run through of three scenes, and it was nice to be getting into the groove of the show in such a manner.

The director seems to view my character very much as I have viewed him. That is to say, that Mara is a decent guy, caught up in a lot of antics he views as silly and outlandish. A tad cynical, but mostly just concerned with the integrity of the court, Mara need not be played as a mean bastard, the director told me. I love it when a director and myself see eye to eye on such things. After that, I felt quite at ease with my characterization.

Another thing that helped me get in gear was eyeglasses. I did indeed find a pair, (several pair, actually) from the costume room. Not having worn glasses before, I mostly deferred to the costume designer as to what looked right. At one point during a break, she brought in one of the pairs I had looked at previously, sans lenses. I tried them on, and she liked the way they looked. Cast mates did as well. The glasses felt very comfortable and light on my face. Presto! New costume piece.

I am very glad the glasses issue worked out. It added more depth to the character, and if I may say so, the scene. I plan to wear the glasses for all rehearsals now, just to get used to them.

It's all starting to come together now. I think it will prove to be quite a fun show.
My next rehearsal is the day after tomorrow, when we will run all of act 2 for the first time. Hopefully enough people will be there for the crowded courtroom scene. If not, at least I have my eyeglasses. All is well.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Last Call...

The curtain call. I see it as having basically two functions, and only two. It gives an appreciative audience a chance to thank the actors, especially their favorites. It also gives the actors the chance to bask a bit. In the case of musicals, it also gives the band a chance to be recognized.

While it does have a nasty, and deserved, reputation for sometimes being ham feed, theatre is just not the same without a curtain call. What a moment a simple bow to an applauding audience can be. Particularly for small roles, scene stealers, and first time actors.

Theoretically, there are almost as many ways to present a curtain call as there are shows that they are designed to conclude.

So which is best? To me, this is basically like asking which restaurant is best. Everyone has his or her favorite, for whatever reasons. I feel the same way about curtain calls. There is usually no right or wrong. Only preferences of the director. That being said, how do I prefer mine to go?

Mainly, I think it is actors and actresses who should be taking curtain calls, and not characters. The concept of the "in character" curtain call is one that I have never enjoyed, as a director or a cast member. Once a play is concluded, the 4th wall vanishes.

This is one reason I am against them. When the 4th wall is up, and the characters are interacting, the audience is transported to that world. Yet when the show is over and the audience is waiting to recognize the players, how exactly does the actor playing a reclusive hermit stay in character, and still walk forth and take a bow? Not without astounding awkwardness, and clunky curtain call blocking.

Furthermore, when characters die in the course of the play, die hard advocates of the in-character curtain call, (whom I have worked with) will not allow that actor to even take a curtain call; the illusion of the death is shattered. That is a horrible thing to do to an actor who worked as hard as everyone else.

Which is, of course, in the end, the least appealing trait of this type of curtain call; it deprives the actor of the chance to bask and enjoy the moment. It also deprives the audience of a chance to applaud a performance that they were moved by. This is fair to neither party.

I have played some good guys, and honestly some I'd rather give the audience a chance to applaud for an exhausted Ty, than to make them squirm as I try to remain a convincing psychotic killer, while gracefully taking a bow on center stage.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Eye Spy?

Today I went to various places trying to find a nice cheap set of eye glasses to use as part of my costume for the show. The only place I really found any was at a local drug store. The cheapest pair I could find was about 10 dollars.

That seemed a little pricey to me, yet, the pair I found did look rather natural on me. They may or may not be the kind of glasses you would actually find in 1947, but probably close enough for government work.

And of course, they are not prescription glasses. They are simply the kind that magnifies things a bit. This pair was one of the lowest levels of magnification, yet I would still feel dizzy if I had to walk around in a scene wearing them. I would have to remove the lenses.

I did not actually buy them yet. I am tying to decide if it would be worth it or not. If I bought them and the costume designer did not care for them, I am out ten dollars. (That does not sound too bad, unless you are poor like me.) On the other hand, if they were acceptable, it would be a nice costume piece. I like to have that little something extra when I do a role.

I like playing around with costume pieces and such. There is never much I can do with my hair, since a role rarely requires a different style, and because I do not usually play a character that requires a particular style other than my normal one. I also do not get much of a chance to experiment with different voices and accents. Just one of those things, I guess; I have rarely been in a show that needed an accent. So I like to add different touches with costumes. The eyeglasses thing seems like the perfect thing to me. But ten dollars??

The sooner I get the whole thing settled, the better. I want to start wearing them during rehearsals as soon as I can, to get used to wearing something on my face while performing. (I do not actually wear glasses in real life.) I think I will probably double check with the guy in charge of the whole theatre to see if there is not a box of used eyeglasses floating around somewhere in the prop shop. If so, I will rummage through that. If not, the touch of wearing glasses for at least some of the scenes may be too nice to pass up, even for ten dollars.

Decisions, decision, right?

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Back in the Saddle Again

Had my first real rehearsal of the entire production so far. It was nice to be back in the groove of being on stage and going through blocking and such, albeit for only a very short scene.

I go back in about 5 days. That represents the last time I will have a hiatus between rehearsals of more than a day or so. The nightly or semi-nightly grind will begin thereafter. I do not mind this, as it is my favorite part of the rehearsal process. Things really start to come together for most shows during that time.

This whole show is sort of on fast forward. As I have mentioned here ad infinitum, not only do I have a small part, but a part that does not at all appear in act one of the show. (A very first for me.) So it was not until tonight that I showed up for my first review of blocking and such, and I was already on stage, which is kind of cool.

Normally, at this particular theatre, a show begins rehearsing not long before the current show opens for actual performances. This requires actors to run through scenes in a nearby rehearsal room, so the curent show has access to the stage. This rehearsal room may represent about 3/4 of the performance space on the actual stage, depending on the set. Sometimes less. It is always nice to reach the point in the rehearsal when we can leave that stuffy little room.

Yet because of the schedule, I am happy to report I did not have to have a single rehearsal in said little room. The show took control of the stage last night, and I was there tonight. Sweet timing indeed.

Even what little bit was run through today, I was able to get more of a feel for what I want to do with the character; his walk, his voice, his stance. I see him as mostly proper and professional, but not stiff. More on those particulars as I think more on them and experiment. Suffice to say for right now, my movements on stage, as blocked for the scene tonight, seem to mesh rather well with the idea I had in my head.

So, a good night for me tonight, simply because I was back in the saddle again; the smell of the shop, the light hearted coversation with colleagues, etc.

And because it was the stage manager's birthday free cake was provided. Not normally a cake fan, but free cake is almost always good cake.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Mask On, Mask Off

Just a moment ago, by total chance, I came across this article at a website called It refers to a method of actor training which involves wearing a "neutrality mask".

I will not regurgitate the article here, but basically, the argument seems to be that the mask, which covers the face and predictably has no facial expression to it, helps strip away certain mannerisms and traits in a performer. Without those "stories in the body" that we all hold, the actor is forced to create a more generic, universal, and hence, more powerful story telling persona through the use of body motions and such, while donning the mask.

All I can really say about it after reading this article is, I do not know what to think. On the one hand, I can see the great benefit of stripping away excess baggage and such, in order to create a more pure presentation.

Yet on the other hand, I wonder if a method like this is required, or even useful to most people, in order to obtain that mind set.

Indeed, when I hear some of the near life changing experiences some of the students interviewed for the article share, I am somewhat at a loss. I say that because the mask itself looks not unlike the thing I bought last week for 3 dollars at the Halloween shop, according to the pictures on this website about Jacques Lecoq, the largest proponent of the technique. Given this fact, having never donned the mask in a class myself, I am tempted to see it as a tad gimmicky. Surely there are more practical ways to attain the state of calm neutrality that can be of benefit to an actor before a scene.

Once again, for emphasis, I grant that I have never been enrolled in any classes which make use of the mask and the technique. If anyone reading this has in fact made use of this technique, please share your thoughts. Perhaps I would have a better notion of it then.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

A Kiss is Still a Kiss

Only a few months ago, (May, to be precise), I performed my first on stage kiss, in the musical, Baby. I had somehow avoided being in shows that required it up until that point. (Though one show in college probably should have included a kiss, I talked my way out of that one.)

My former acting professor once said to his class something alone the lines of "99% of all stage kisses at the amateur level look horrible on stage." I can easily agree.

Yet most people who saw me on stage in May commented on how natural my kiss with my stage wife looked. "How did you keep it from being cheesy", I was asked more than once.

Two ways.

Firstly, I never let it be awkward. I never joked about it with the woman playing my opposite, and we told each other early on that we would do what we had to do, without feeling weird about it. During one early rehearsal, we just said we were going to do it, and we did so. We did not make the mistake of many people in the same position; holding off on it until the last possible rehearsal. Bad idea. This just gives the day when it must occur an ominous feeling usually reserved for an impending tax audit.

Another reason I think it looked so natural was that both me and the person playing opposite me, did not do as many do; simply touch each others lips quickly in hope of it being over soon. Many people hope this passes for a kiss. (It doesn't.) Instead, my co-star and I were aware that the part that sells the realism of a stage kiss is the moment leading up to it, as opposed to the actual "point of contact". If that 2 seconds or so before the actual kiss has feeling to it, what comes after cannot help but look natural.

So if the script calls for a kiss, start doing it very early in the rehearsal process, and do not rush the actual kiss when that part comes up. Replace that awkwardness with a depth of feeling as you approach your cast mate for the kiss, and everything else will usually fall into place.

Friday, October 28, 2005

More on methods...

And those that teach them. Monique was kind enough to send along this link. (In her comments on my "Everywhere a method, method" post.)

It leads to a PBS page on American Masters, specifically, Meisner. From there you can find various links related to other acting masters, with concise biographies and explanations as to their methods.

Thank you, Monique.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Good writers write...

...great writers steal. So the adage goes. I suppose the same could be true for performers. I do not wish to steal from other actors, however.

What I do want to do is maybe rent some of the old classic court room dramas, and see if any of the actors playing lawyers have anything to offer me. (For inspiration not theft ;) ) To coin a phrase, I am thinking of looks, actions, and mannerisms that would appear "lawyerly"for the era.

Just as a reminder, I am playing Thomas Mara, an assistant New York district attorney in "Miracle on 34th Street". His job, near the middle and end of act 2, is to prove Kris Kringle is insane, as opposed to being Santa.

I already have one idea, that if a proper costume piece can be found, should work nicely. I plan to wear glasses, (with approval from the costume designer.) These make an excellent prop for a courtroom proceeding I think. Put them on to read papers, take them off to ask a question.

Those of you familiar with the story are aware, as am I, that it is not the most climactic courtroom scene in stage history. However, I always seek to be authentic. If I am not authentic to my part, my scene will ring false, small as it may be. Mara is a prosecutor from the 1940's, and that is what I want to emulate. (As much as possible at least.)

I frequently write a back story for a character to give him some depth, and I may do that for Mara. (Stay tuned for ideas I come up with on that one.) Yet right now I am not being so nuanced. I am just thinking of the much broader strokes,

I am not totally unfamiliar with "lawyerly" mannerisms. I was in mock trial club for a time back in the old high school days. Yet the more inspiration the merrier.

Dear readers, any suggestions as to good black and white courtroom flicks from which to draw "lawyerly" ideas consistent with the 1940's? Feel free to post some here.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Music to My Ears

Today was the first and, as far as I understand, only musical rehearsal for "Miracle on 34th Street". There is only one song in it. We don't sing it until the very end.

It's a decent song. A bit awkward to sing in some places. The lyrics are not especially inspiring, but it is a very nice tune.

There will be recorded accompaniment for the song. The entire cast, (except for the people in the final scene) will begin singing it from back stage, "under" the final scene. We will eventually come out onto the stage for the end of the show. Such is the plan at this point, anyway.

It was a bit of a flashback for me today. The musical "director" for this one song, (let's call him J.C.), is someone I have worked with a few times before, as a substitute. But a year ago, when I was in the musical version of Scrooge, he was the musical director for the entire show. Him being there tonight, as well as a handful of people that were also in Scrooge brought back the mostly fond memories from being in that production, which started about a year ago in the same theatre.

I taped the song today on my micro-recorder. This is standard practice for me, as I do not sight read sheet music. The thing is, J.C. had not been over the piece before, and he played it for the first time at the start of this evening's practice. Near the end of the evening, we played the CD that will be our accompaniment in the actual performance. It ended up being about 2 times slower than we had been singing it. Ooops. Adjustments were made, and all will be fine. I am usually pretty good at picking up songs like that, so long as there is no harmonizing. (A skill I have yet to master, despite being in several musicals in the last two years.)

I don't report to rehearsal again for over a week. It is a strange sensation, as I have addressed before, to be at rehearsal so infrequently. It will not be long, however, before there is a sort of whirlpool effect, and I will be going in there all the time. Until then, more time to learn lines. And of course to blog about community theatre.

Monday, October 24, 2005


An interesting post on a blog I recently discovered. It is written by one Joshua James, professional playwright. It pertains to among other things, actors paraphrasing lines from a playwright's script. Though I had not planned on addressing this issue today, the post got me to thinking.

Warning: Minority Viewpoint approaching!

Please bear in mind:

1) I am responding to the ideals behind his post, more so than to the specific situations mentioned. Truth be told, if I were in his shoes, I would probably freak a bit in those situations too.

2) Compared to Mr. James, I write from the much less confining (but no less passionate) position of an amateur actor who usually performs an already established piece; written by people I will never meet. Mr. James mentions stories wherein he was working directly with actors trying to bring a brand new piece to life.

3) There are unions and contracts and copyrights and all that sort of fun thing out there that would make several of my ideals impractical in the highest echelons of the theatre world. But they are just ideals, and maybe someone shares them at heart, even if not in practice.

4) Despite my views, I take every play I am in very seriously. I come to my unpopular conclusions based on my love of theatre and acting. They are not based on wanting to stir up a hornet's nest, though I am sure many professional actors and playwrights will view me as low life theatre trash after reading this post. (Hence the title.)

That being said, behold my heresy.

Shakespeare or Sophocles have earned the right to verbatim performances of their work by centuries of staying power that no one alive today can lay claim to. (Though even those works are sometimes edited.) Even if contemporary playwrights do view their scripts to be as "sacrosanct" as those of the Bard, once their works are mainstream, some things should be considered.

Paraphrasing of lines, in the personal absence of the playwright, simply has to occur sometimes. Sometimes it's intentional. The director makes a call. An actor makes a request. Locally, such decisions are made for the betterment of the specific production, if not always for the betterment of the play itself. This is the sting I wish more playwrights were willing to withstand, once they hit big. (Though I acknowledge it to be a sting.)

As often as not, a departure from script is unintentional. In the heat of the moment, a "could" becomes a "should", and no agenda is responsible for said change.

As abhorred as the notion is to many playwrights, as an actor I have found the performance of a play often is different every night. Not a different show every night, but the same show is often different in subtle ways. A fine line perhaps, but a line nonetheless, and one I think adds to the magic of theatre.

Of course, actors, professional or not, need to make every effort to respect a script in its entirety. Whole plays, or even whole scenes should not be improvised on stage. At the same time playwrights, once their own personal influence on the performances of their works is exhausted, should be willing to trust actors to make respectable choices. Most actors I know who change a "would" or "could" here and there do not do so lightly. We are not, by and large, out to ruin a piece or screw with the cadence. But we, as actors, do have a cadence of our own we have to follow as well. 90% of the time, it matches the playwright's. The 10% however cannot be tossed aside as "bad acting".

Assuming a cue line is not altered, and the intrinsic meaning and theme of a line is not diminished, (which it clearly was in the stories mentioned by Mr. James in his post), I see nothing wrong with a simple paraphrase.

Let's face it, as a playwright, if you are a wild success, at some point your work will be performed outside of the world of professional contracts and unions. The day to day, local, small town theatres will one day take their shot at it. As unfair and grating as it must be on the nerves of a playwright, changes and edits will be made, in order to give the piece the life it needs to survive in a given venue. I for one, if I wrote a play, would make every Zen effort to accept these inevitable, but usually well intentioned changes early in the writing process. I will simply not be able to keep track of and sue every production on the road that mixes a few lines up.

And who knows? Such changes may allow for more spontaneity on the stage than I, with a computer in a dark room far away from a stage, could come up with on my own as I wrote the piece.

Just some thoughts. Feel free to quote me. Or you can simply paraphrase.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Getting Yourself Off...Book

Unless you are performing a play over the radio, or some other kind of reader's theatre piece, the most obvious required skill of the actor is memorization. Despite the title of this blog, I am of course, not always off book. So how do I get there, when faced with a new script?

There are of course as many
ways to do this, as there are actors. Some will read one page or one scene over and over again, for hours at a time, until they have it down by heart. Others will have someone read the other parts with them. I personally find that, when the scene has few enough characters, tape recording myself reading the script, and all of the parts and subsequently playing it back over and over seems to be most effective.

I like this method because it is by listening to a favorite CD or watching a favorite movie many times that I come to incidentally memorize lyrics and scenes, without even intending to. Regardless of the method employed however, you must have the right attitude about memorization.

The moral of the story is to stay stress free while trying to memorize lines. Too many times, actors I know strap their own memory banks into a chair, and try to beat them into submission. While this is going on, they are worrying about how much they have to commit to memory, and wondering if they can do so fast enough. This is ineffective, as worrying about forgetting something is no way to help you remember it.

One way to stay relaxed is to be in character even as you are reviewing lines. Know how they speak, what they are thinking, and how they may approach committing something to memory. This way your mind will associate the process of memorization of the lines with your character. Often you will find that knowing how your character behaves will lead you to more quickly commit to memory what it is that he says.

Do whatever is most comfortable for you. These are just a few suggestions. But by remaining comfortable and relaxed, instead of stressed and worried, you greatly increase your chances of being prepared for that day that appears on every rehearsal calendar; "Off Book Day".