Sunday, December 31, 2006

Not the One That What We Want

This entry will be short, but please do not confuse that for being something I care little about. Just that sometimes, it does not require a whole lot of discussion.

I will admit to a heresy..I think Broadway is losing its relevance in the world of theatre, if it has not done so already.

I know in the end the theatres have to make money, in order to stay open. In order to do this, they must attract people to the seats. In some instances, art suffers at the hands of commerce. I accept that, (though the balance is tipped far more towards commerce than it used to be in years gone by.)

However, when we start allowing people to have leads in Broadway shows, albeit a revival, based on a
popular vote of the American television viewing public, I believe it is only a matter of time before truly dedicated artists determine that the Great White Way simply isn't as stellar as it once was.

Art can still happen on Broadway. It does every year. But I reemphasize "American Idol, Broadway style"? Have we really come that far?

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Christmas Play

Today I went to neighboring Carroll County. There I saw the McDaniel College drama group put on a production of A Christmas Carol.

It was different to say the least.

Given that Dickens' original novel is now in the public domain in the United States, it invites countless interpretations and adaptations for stage and screen. In the case of this adaptation, though enjoyable because it was a Christmas show, and one of my favorite tales, a few choices were made that I think went over the top to some extent.

For example, there were many modern references and jokes. (Things such as the Beatles, folks songs, and in one case, Dickens himself, were made. ) There was also a seemingly out of context introduction which included Jacob Marleys funeral, which took a bit too long.

Perhaps most notable among its slight flaws was that it was too slap-sticky for my personal tastes...with lots of tripping over things, bumping into things, and the like. I would have preferred a bit more decorum.

However, I will not belittle the production. As I mentioned, there was a lot of energy present in the actors on stage. It seemed clear to me that just about everyone in the cast was enjoying themselves while in the show.

Even before the show, they stood out in front of the theatre, and wished Merry Christmas to passing motorists.

The audience, for the most part, seemed to enjoy themselves as well. Particularly when, during curtain call, as the actors were wishing the audience a Merry Christmas, Santa Claus himself made an appearance, and led the crowd in a rendition of Jingle Bells. A bit much for most shows and most theatres, perhaps. But here, on Christmas Eve Eve, in a small community based theatre, it was nice to see a theatre company do what it could to spread holiday cheer. Goofy, a bit extravagant, and at times, unnecessary. But such behaviors are all indicative of what Christmas should mean to those of us who celebrate it. While, as an actor I cannot give the production a perfect stamp of approval from a theatrical, it could not have been more successful from a Christmas Spirit standpoint. So, I salute the McDaniel College drama department for that. May we all be as willing to be that frivolous during the holidays.

To that end, a Merry Christmas to all of you, loyal blog readers.

Monday, December 18, 2006

General Update

I apologize for not posting my weekly advice column on Saturday. What with the holidays, things are a little hectic. I have them lined up, but I want to save them for Saturdays, so this Saturday I will be back in the saddle again. For now, I am just sharing some overall thoughts.

I have not looked at a calendar to confirm for certain, but I am 99% sure that at the moment, this is the longest hiatus from being in a show that I have ever had, since becoming an actor. (My last show being the one I also directed at the Old Opera House, back in July.) Speaking of getting back in the saddle, it is in fact time for me to do a show...Though circumstances do not seem to be cooperating with me totally for the moment.

I will not say my life flies apart when I am not in a show. I do however feel confident in saying that nothing keeps my mental and creative aspects sharper than being in a good show, with a cast that I like."Full use of your powers, along the lines of excellence", as the Greeks used to advise in order to achieve happiness in life. Though there are some other things in my life, when I am not in a show, I do not feel I honestly am making FULL use of my powers.

So, it will be time for a show soon, if things work out?

"Things such as what, Ty", you may ask.

To begin with, the Old Opera House is opening next year with a play that has no real positions for me. In fact, next year in total at the OOH will have fewer parts for me all the way around, given that men my age will not have many shows to choose from. (One even being an all emale cast.) There are probably one or two shows I would consider trying out for, just for the sake of being back at the Opera House. But their season opener is pretty much out of the question for me. Perhaps their second show of the season will have some parts for me.

Then, there is the sometimes mentioned, (here on the blog) Apollo Civic Theatre. I have had more than my share of problems with the ACT. I will not name names or anything, but let us say that I have a really hard time with the way that institution is run. While I have not sworn off giving them another chance forever, it would have to be a play I truly loved, with a director that friends of mine could personally vouch for. Neither of those things is the case for their next few shows. (Well, to be more precise, Shakespeare's Scottish play, which I do like, is on the docket for February, but it is a staged reading, and not a performance. I do not think it would be quite as enjoyable. Plus, a few parts have been as much as pre-cast, and I have already spoken on this issue with other theatres, here on the blog.)

So the A.C.T, for the first few months of 2007 anyway, does not seem a likely refuge.

Then there are the "others".

The quotations and emphasis is mine. I call theatres that I have little to know connection with in the area that because they seem so different from the nature of community theatre that I am used to that I fear I would be shell shocked to even give them a try. Again. (I have been turned down by various members of the "Others" at least 5 times. I have not once gotten into any of their shows. I do not know what is on their docket for the coming year, yet. I have not looked into it. I know that should not keep me from looking into them, but sometimes when your first taste of something is a bad one, you are thereafter unwilling to jump right in again later, even if years have elapsed. Such is the case with "The Others".

So there it is for now. A small amount of theatrical doldrums in my life of late. It has been taking a bit of a toll on my spirit during the last few months. The solutions would be to wait until something great comes along, or bite the bullet and try to get into a show that has less appeal to me, or at a theatre that has less appeal to me. I will probably end up doing the later, if the community theatres in the area do not render male performers in the 20's obsolete next year.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

The Ritual of Ritual

Many stage actors, on all levels, have specific rituals that they must go through in order to perform properly. Sometimes these are performed every night before a show. Others have rituals designed only for opening night. In. either case, you can never be certain what you might see an actor doing before curtain.

I do not mean thing such as running lines, warming up the voice, checking props, or prayers/meditation. While there may be a ritualistic nature to each of these activities, the reason for participation in such practices has a very obvious benefit to a performer. The rituals I speak of involve activities which, when observed from an objective standpoint, shouldn’t have any technical bearing on a performance, but have personal power for those who do them. (For example, walking around the building three times before entering, on a show night.)

I myself have several semi-rituals myself. I say “semi” because, although I can relate to the need for ritualized activity before a show, I do try not to let most aspects of my own routine become crystallized. In other words, I do not want to allow my performance to be negatively affected, should I be unable to perform all aspects of my ritual before a show begins.

Herein lies the potential danger or rituals. When taken in proper perspective, they can help an actor feel better, gain confidence, and get in the proverbial zone. The problem lies when they take on am almost magical quality to the actor. The potential for becoming dependent on the specific incantation, gait, song, or flavor of chewing gum is high. Unless you have more control over your environment than most people, there is no telling what could happen that would prevent you from taking part in such rituals any given evening. Panic then sets in, and your performance suffers.

However, if you find you simply must perform your rituals, my strong advise is to arrive at the theatre earlier than anyone else. I despise it when actors show up after call anyway, but it would be especially advisable to arrive ahead of time if there are things you feel you must do, that border on the superstitious, in order to perform. That way, with all the extra time, if something happens which prevents you from doing what you need to do, there is time to correct. Not to mention the fact that you lesson the likelihood of disturbing fellow actors once they arrive, with your rituals, if they are overt. (And I have seem some overt ones, believe me.)

The moral of the story is, try not to get attached to rituals, and you will not perpetuate the myth that all actors all superstitious neurotics who need their dressing rooms to be a certain color and temperature in order to go on that night.

And me? What are my semi-rituals? I cannot tell you…what if they would stop working after I mentioned them??? Perish the thought.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Monkey Doesn't Do What Monkey Doesn't See

Several times I have found myself in plays that either have movies based on them, or are themselves based on pre-existing movies. In some cases I have seen the movie long before being cast in a stage production. Just as often, however, I have not seen the movie.

So, do I then go see a movie, or review a movie I have not seen in a while, when cast in a stage version of it?

In general, the answer is no.

Though I do feel capable of seeing a character performed in a different way than myself, I do have a fear that I will subconsciously develop mannerisms of the actor that portrayed my character in the film. While “good writers writer, and great writers steal” may be an oft quoted adage, I certainly do not want to adopt that stance in my acting.

Another thing that makes the temptation very great for an actor is audience expectation. It may be a very alluring prospect to give audiences who are familiar with the film version of the story, an exact replica of the character they have learned to love from the celluloid rendition of the show you are in. Some audience members may even expect this. But do not succumb. Make the character your own. Add your own nuances and traits to who you are playing.

Why? It just makes practical sense.

Consider the fact that a character in the movie may often be a product of the story as told in the movie. The movie’s version of events may be quite different.

Than there is the idea of the rest of the cast. Many times in movie, especially in the older classics, character portrayals came about as a result of chemistry and reaction to other very specific performances. Performances that will not be present in your production. Your impersonation may be out of place.

And, in the end, its just not very creative to mirror someone else, unless the impersonation is part of the actual plot of the story being told in your show. So except for those type of cases, own your character. Be bold and brave enough to take a character somewhere that Jimmy Stewart or Katherine Hepburn did not take it. That is a far greater accomplishment for an actor; to make a role totally his/her own.

Unless you are in the Rocky Horror Show. I think you are supposed to look and sound like the movie people in that one. Or maybe you’re not. I honestly am still trying to figure that show out. But that is another entry.