Saturday, September 30, 2006

The Month to Come

Loyal Blog readers...

Next month marks the one year anniversary of Always Off Book! In celebration of this milestone, I will be doing things a little differently throughout October.

Throughout the month I will be posting stories, anecdotes, reminiscences, and the like pertaining to the my previous theatrical experiences. Many of them I have never mentioned or references here before.

Hopefully It will give all of you, my loyal blog readers, a chance to understand some of the more personal memories that I have of my brief theatrical career thus far. On the other side of the coin, I will be having a lot of fun culling through the scrapbooks of my mind, for things that will entertain, inform, and quite possibly in a few cases, inspire you, my great readers.

Bear with me, as many of the remembrances that I will be posting will require more space than the usual one page reflections and thoughts I put up here. So though the writing will be a bit longer as I celebrate October, I promise to work hard to make what I share with you all the more worth the time you so generous dedicate to this blog of mine.

So please, check back often this October, as I share with you some friendly ghosts of Theatre past. And just maybe, if the mood strikes me, a few visits from the Ghost of Theatre Yet to Come...

It's all happening right here, on Always Off Book.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Ask For the Butter

I have been watching the new NBC show, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. This is not a review for that show, but briefly I will say that I am giving it a try because it is Aaron Sorkin's new project. After two episodes, it is not bad so far, though not magnificent. Yet.

At any rate, it takes place in a flagging late night live sketch show. Two big shots are brought in as head writer and producer to save the show. Alot of talk of acting and backstage stuff will be present in the show.

Near the end of the second episode, a character who is one of the performer's on this late night sketch show, approached one of the show's producers. She had received a laugh during early read throughs when she delivered a line during a certain sketch. It involved her asking someone to pass the butter in some fashion. (The sketch in question is not shown during the episode.)

Concerned that at the first full dress rehearsal with a practice audience she received no laughs at the previously successful line, she asked the producer what she has done differently for the small audience than she had at read-throughs.

The producer explained that at dress rehearsal, she had asked for the laugh, and that is why the line feel flat.

"What did I do when it was funny," she asked.

"You asked for the butter," replied the producer.

Great line that I think every actor should think about. Play the character, know the moment, and be in it. Do not, as a large number of people in comedy these days tend to do, scrap in desperate fashion to make people laugh. You will, without fail, seem like a phony. In fact, if you spend all your time digging for the laugh only, you are a phony.

Enough said.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Technical Issues...

From the very beginning, I have set this blog up in such a way that new comments, waiting to be published, would be sent to my personal email account, from which I would review and publish them. Given that I have continued to get such emails on a regular basis, I have never had any reason to suspect there was a problem.

Yet it seems there was.

Upon checking the section of this blog that stores comments waiting to be published, (something I thought I had little reason to do), I found no less than four comments waiting for my approval; some have been there since June!

I went ahead and published them all, for what that may be worth. My apologies to anyone who left such "lost comments". I will now make an effort to check the comment publication cue on a regular basis, for those comments that escape my email, for some reason.

Saturday, September 16, 2006


In lieu of my advise column this week, I want to talk about a show I went to see last night at the Old Opera House.

I went to see several friends of mine perform in, obviously, Picnic. It isn't often I get to just sit and watch a show over at the OOH, so this was a nice change of pace.

It is a drama, with adult themes, as any of you familiar with the play already know. But, unbeknownst to me (I had never seen it before) there are also some funny moments. I think dramas with funny moments sprinkled in tend to make for better drama.

All of my friends did well. In some cases I saw them performing against type, which is always exciting to observe, especially when it is done so well.

I also have to give some respect to actors who must kiss passionately on stage. I have covered this topic before here on Always Off Book, but it bears repeating. It is not often an easy thing to do, even if you know the person ahead of time. The lead man and woman did not know each other ahead of time, (the woman is a friend of mine, so I know this.) Given that, I must applaud the comfort with which they were able to convey it on stage.

The set was nice, too. For whatever reason, 90% of the time I am in a show, there is no, or minimal set. I usually do not get the chance to perform on complicated sets, but it is a treat to see them. This set was not overtly insane, but obviously took some extra time. So I give kudos to that also.

The show run tonight and tomorrow before closing. If any of you loyal blog readers resides in or around the Charles Town area, call and see if any tickets remain, and take in the show. My friends will appreciate it, and so would I.(You could tell them Ty sent you, but you would still have to pay, so, there is probably little reason to do so...except to sound cool...they know me over there.)

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

A Little Cross-Blogging

Loyal Blog readers...

Another blog, known as the Mystic Philosophy Forum, is maintained and moderated by a friend of mine, Alexus McCleod. I contribute to it on occasion myself, with thoughts on various topics. Recently, however, he has written an interesting piece on television actors/writers, to which I have submitted a response. Feel free to check it out. Check back with it often. Go for the acting comments, stay for the philosophy.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Reminder to Remember

You do not have to be an actor yourself to realize the importance of memorization. Blocking, cues, dances, and most importantly, dialogue is, I feel safe in saying, a deal breaker in the world of the stage. If you cannot memorize anything, you chances of finding a place to perform are rather nil.

It is, therefore, not surprising that I advocate working on the skill as often as you can. Memorization, like a muscle, can strengthen with usage. Also like muscle toning, the maximum benefits are achieved when the type of exercise if varied, as opposed to always consisting of the same thing.

This translates into the world of memorizing by opting to work on committing more than just monologues, and scenes to memory. Memorize poetry, rhyming, and free verse. Memorize famous non-theatrical speeches. Memorize various types of Scripture. Drilling such things into your head, word for word, will not jolt your neurons into action, but it will give you a chance to perform and recite passages which, though not intended for the theatre, will in fact enhance your performance skills.

If, however, you really want to give your memorization center a super work out once in a while, memorize things that are not intrinsically beautiful or even interesting. By that I mean paragraphs from textbooks, advertisements, and even the ingredients (in order of course) on the side of a cereal box.

Why on earth would I advocate learning such a diverse, (and in some cases dry) assortment of things by rote? As I have already said, variety is the key to any good work out. By memorizing verbatim words and collections of sentences that were not, by their nature, intended to be theatrical, we flex the memory muscles to their capacity. Without that very slight crutch that the language of a playwright or screenwriter unconsciously blends into their work, we have to work a little harder, and a little long, to emblazoned what we are looking at into our minds. Ergo, our brains are all the more ready to memorize that which actually is poetic, or theatrical, or paced perfectly for the stage.

A little of doing this can go along way. So once again, a parallel to working on physical muscles; exercise in moderation and do not burn yourself out. I think you will discover, however, that Shakespeare, or Miller, or just about any playwright├é’s script will flow freely through your mind and smoothly off your tongue after a few disciplined days spent memorizing the exact position of polysorbate 80 on your ingredients list.