Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Tumbleweed Blues...

Yes, loyal blog readers, activity has slowed down a bit here at Always Off Book. It happens from time to time. But I wanted to check in with everyone this week, regardless.

To begin with, I am in no particular theatre related project at present. (Which explains in part my slow blogging week.) The Old Opera House had its final auditions of the year earlier this week, which I opted out of, having never had the time to pick up a copy of the script and read it, as I am wont to do before auditioning for something.

There are a few other theatres around the area which I will research in the coming days, to see if they are producing anything that peaks my interest.

I also have discovered a theatre dedicated totally to new authors. One every other month or so, they have a staged reading of a one act play that has been chosen from many submissions to them. Sort of like a year round New Voice Play Festival.

Their recently hacked website indicates that they are often looking for new actors to participate in said readings. Seeing as how I have always had fun at the NVPF at the Opera House, I thought looking into doing readings elsewhere would be worth my while. So I will be contacting this little place in the semi-near future, just to see what is next on their agenda. Even if nothing is coming up, maybe they have a mailing list or something. Naturally I will keep all of you posted.

In addition, I am in the very early stages of a rather massive project that I will be spear heading. It involves acting, but I will not be acting myself, in all likelihood. However, it is not a theatrical endeavor. I am at odds as to whether or not it would be appropriate to blog about that experience as time goes on, here on my stage acting blog. What do you think? Does it belong here, or not?

It is a long term project, at any rate. I have plenty off time to make a decision on including those adventures here on the blog.

So that is where things stand now. The advice column every other Saturday will continue, even during this slightly subdued time, so fear not.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Walk It On

Laurence Olivier advised all actor’s to own a copy of Grey’s Anatomy, so convinced was he that total knowledge of one’s body was crucial to any performance. Given that I have a tendency to be a hypochondriac, I have deemed it unwise for me to study such a book.

However, I agree with Olivier’s assertion, shared by many professional actors, that knowledge of and care for the body is keen. I do my best to do so.

I am not a fitness expert. I am not a doctor. So I am not about to subscribe a specific exercise/aerobic regimen for all you actors out there. If you do not have a routine, you should get one. If you already have one, I have little to offer you in the way of advice, save this; include a lot of walking.

Walking has very particular benefits for the performer.

For starters, taking long walks helps to build endurance. Nothing illuminates an ill-prepared player on the stage than noticeable fatigue. The longer you can maintain a certain level of energy and poise while on stage, (even during long periods of standing or dancing) the better your stage presence is going to be. Long walks, gradually increased in length are perfect for building up this sort of stamina.

Walking also tends to direct one’s focus to one’s breathing. Lung capacity, and control of breath are valuable tools for the actor (in straight shows as well as musicals.) Without intending to, you will often notice the rhythmic nature of your breathing while walking. Simply paying attention to the inhales and exhales, and taking note of how much oxygen you find you need as related to the amount of energy you are exerting can teach you plenty about your own respiratory system.

Yet there are non-physical advantages to walking for the actor. Whether alone on a rural path, or walking down a crowded city sidewalk, walking is a perfect venue for conversing with yourself, assessing the world around you, and tapping into the collective imagination that is out there waiting to be utilized by us all. Walking is meditative as well as aerobic. To put it another way, it is a great way to become centered, which is a status every actor should seek to obtain. I take a walk around the neighborhood before every opening night.

So, lift weights, do pilates, buy that Bowflex thing if you must. They all serve a terrific purpose, and will certainly help keep the actor’s body fine tuned as much as anyone else’s. But for my money, nothing beats a walk.

Monday, August 14, 2006


Last night I was called by the stage manager for Gypsy. I was offered a part in the show, provided I did not mind it being a dancing part.

Since being informed I did not get a role, I had already begun to make other theatrical plans with my time in the near future. So I declined.

Not a very exciting entry, but an update is an update.It also marks the first time I have said "no thank you" to an offered role.

However, I wonder if it should count as an official turn down in my records books. Since initially they already told me I was not in the show, thereby causing me to make other plans, could I really have helped it?

What do you think?

Either way, no Gypsy for me. At least not this time around.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006


After waiting a slightly absurd amount of time to be called, I was told today I did not get into Gypsy at the Old Opera House, and neither did my niece. This is more than a little surprising on more than one front...but here is not the place to discuss that. I currently do not know whatmy next theatre endeavor will be. When I do know, it will of course be posted here.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

The Alternate Peanut Gallery

Most know what the peanut gallery in a theatre is. It's the seats farthest from the stage, often in a balcony. But there is sort of an alternate peanut gallery for some performances. It consists of the actors that find themselves silently in the background of really crowded scenes.

I touched on this in brief fashion during some of my entries during "Anything Goes". As the Purser, I would often have little or nothing to say during a longish scene, and for more than one of them, I spent much of my time far upstage behind everyone else.

Did that mean I broke character, or checked out? Of course not. But at the same time, I confess to not being as in character during such times as I was at others.

Before you all pass out from shock and awe, let me explain.

Do you remember when you were a little kid, and you would go to some function with your parents? I bet many of you were told something along the lines of...

"Whatever you do, do NOT stare at Aunt Gina's mole."

Naturally, the mole was all you could think about whenever Gina was around. And you looked at it as often as you could. It's human nature. If we try too hard to do something (or not do something) we often find we are fighting ourselves to obtain that very result The same can be said for the longer periods of "background" acting.

I could have said to myself during those scenes in Anything Goes that no matter what, come hell or high water, I am going to be intensely in character, and NOT acknowledge at all the fact that I have been standing here for ten minutes, seen by almost no one, simply waiting for the scene to get over with. I could have ignored my fatigue and boredom with every fiber in my being. I could have given over every cell in my body to the proposition of "hearing" and "internalizing" every single word spoken by the lead actors, and process them as a "dude in the background would in real life."

Or, I could have been good.

I chose to be good. In so choosing, I knew that to be that pretentious during long silences for my character would only increase my fatigue, encourage my mind to wonder, and in the end actually take me out of the scene. Standing on stage with a sign that read "Hey folks, I'm a fake!" would have had the same result.

So, I maintained character on the outside. His stance, his facial expressions. His aura. (One reason I love creating physical gestures for each of my characters.) But when I whispered to the actress standing next to me for said long periods, the topics would be anything from the stage lighting, to who was going out to eat after the show, to the gentleman asleep in the front row of the audience.

Knowing I had no cue line to pay attention to for that scene, and scenes like it, allowed me to be less rigid with myself. By secretly "socializing" with a fellow performer, I kept myself relaxed while on stage, which is always crucial. The overall effect was to combat boredom, present an outward representation of character that the 3 people who ever bothered to look at me could appreciate, and to be free of visible strain.

I know that there are some god like theatre figures out there who would argue with me, and would have the discipline to not let their real life slip in even for a moment. Bravo to them. But I have a sneaking suspicion that even professionals do it sometimes.

I mean come on...do you really think that all 200 non-speaking background people in a Wagner Opera avoid talking whispering about the latest theatre gossip when they have an uneventful hour or two to kill while on stage? I don't.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

What Might Have Been

Many of you probably are already aware of this website, but I just discovered it today. Since it is my blog, I am going to post it.

Notstarring.com gives lists of roles in movies that stars did not get, or were offered but rejected.

I have often played out scenes or movies in my mind starring different people, trying to imagine what it would be like if the other actor considered got the part. I often base that alternate outcome on information gleaned from DVD extras. This website will feed that little excercise in imagination even more.

The thing is, in 98% of all cases, I determine the movie in question would not have been as good had the other person got the role.Whether that is a sign of preferring what I am used to, or astute cast directing in Hollywood, I cannot say.

I can say that so far the most interesting fact I have found from the site is that J-Lo wanted the part of Lucilla in Gladiator, but of course did not get it.

Somewhere in that statement there is a joke involving the term "gluteus maximus". But I am not going to present here.