Wednesday, February 28, 2007

What's the Name of This Blog?

That's right, loyal blog readers. I am officially off book for act one. I say officially because tonight I was able to run all of my scenes without having to call for a line. That is not saying I will never have to, but once I accomplish that first rehearsal of something without doing it, the odds of me needing to do so later on decrease a good deal.

Now I have never denied that I am less busy is act 1 than I am in act 2. Nor do I deny that at this moment I am still working on getting off book for act 2. But I try to celebrate every small victory in life, and this was one of them. I wasn't even required to be off book yet.

In fact, many of my cast mates are off book, or very nearly so. Every actor can tell you how much more fun, and productive rehearsals become once books start disappearing. We are not there 100% just yet, but based on tonight I have confidence we can be there by next week.

Being off book charged tonight's rehearsal. It never fails to do so. Maybe that is why other things started to fall into place. Not just with me, but the others as well. The blocking in most cases started to run smoother. Laugh lines are starting to liftoff into their proper timing, and an overall smoothness is beginning to shine through for act one. We did not have everyone here tonight, and we did do several things more than once, with some discussion between scenes. Yet, we covered all of act one in just over an hour of rehearsing. That is excellent pacing. It is made all the more pleasing by the fact that it is still in the earlier/intermediate sector of the rehearsal schedule. When all the rough edges are gone, it should be one slick machine!

Had an idea for a hand prop that I meant to ask the director about today, but forgot. I have a tiny travel Bible that I think would look good in the character's hand in a few scenes. I will ask the director about it next time. (Which will be Friday night.)

I also learned some people whose company I enjoy will be part of the tech crew, when we get closer to tech week. That will add some nice personality mixing.

Tomorrow is a night off, and I plan to really hone in on act 2 lines, especially my semi-long speech. If nothing else, I should be able to have that nailed by the time we convene on Friday.

Moving right along, are we.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Short and Sweet

We got out of rehearsal quite early tonight. In fact it lasted just a little more than an hour. Kind of an odd rehearsal in some ways. We blocked 4 or 5 scenes, but all of them were more like tiny vignettes. I never really put together how many of these little scenelettes there were in the second act until we ran most of them together.

And fewer people had to be at the rehearsals, as they were not in those scenelettes. So it was a different feel tonight, as it always is when the majority of the larger parts are not present. But sometimes I enjoy these more laid back, "obscure" rehearsals, as I call them. Rehearsals where we just take care of little corners of the script that by themselves are not much, but added together constitute a larger portion of the whole.

One of the scenelettes we "blocked" tonight was one which consists almost entirely of me giving a speech. More specifically, a monologue delivered to God. (Yes, God. I play a preacher, remember.) At the end of this speech I am interrupted in a very crazy fashion by another character. I will not give too much away though, in case anyone reading this plans to see it. It's funny though.

I, and the other actor ran the scene without any real instruction from the director. I would say we must have done a fairly good job running it cold like that, due to the laughter of the other cast mates, and the director's lack of any real changes in what we did. We ran it a few more times, before going on to another scenelette.

The purpose of these early rehearsals has not been to get into deep character work. That is next week. Yet the director has given us all some things to consider, nonetheless. I am pleased that, at least based on what I did tonight, he seemed to accept the way I was delivering the speech. (A speech which I am pretty much off book for, but have not tried to deliver without the book just yet.)

He did tell me to slow down a bit. Good call. Not because I could not be understood, but because the speech probably calls for a bit more pausing than I gave it tonight. I, like many, still struggle with the temptation to fill every silence in a scene. In this case, meaning giving the speech a little too fast. I am not unable to slow down during a monologue. It is just not my default position. But I have scads of time to work that out. Indeed, I am going to practice that speech and having cold in the next few days, so I can do more with it next time. No worries at all there.

I think I am finding I like my job and lines in Act 2 more than those in act one. Of course, in an ideal script, act 2 builds on act one, and punches everything through to the conclusion, and I suppose that is part of it. But my early impressions, (which may change with time) is that my character is just a tad more interesting in act 2 than he is in act one. He borders on cartoon in the first act. In the second he approaches a little bit closer to the humanity level of the rest of the characters, and I like that.

Aside from me there are several good things going on with the other characters that I did laugh out loud several times at today. This show has alot of in your face, double-entendre, knock you over the head jokes, which are ok. In general though that is not my cup of tea, and indeed, I do not laugh as much as my cast mates do when such moments are being rehearsed. Thankfully, however, there are also many subtle comic nuances, both in the script, and in the person performances of my cast mates which amuse me. That is where the lions share of great comic presences lies in my the nuance. Slipping on a banana peel will get the knee-jerk laugh every time, of course. But it is the comedy of personality which I love in any show. This show, in the case of most of the characters, has potential for that as well. I look forward to seeing how that develops.

Monday, February 26, 2007


Tonight was a productive rehearsal, despite the fact I had very little to do in it. Only 4 lines and two scenes for me. But the scenes were working really well. Everyone seemed to be hitting a nice rhythm tonight. Easy flow, even though we were still blocking the scenes as we went. I enjoyed being there. (In no small part due to the fact that there was no traffic this time on my drive in!)

We also have a rudimentary set built. The back walls of the room are up, with the makings of a sanctuary entrance. (It takes place in a church.) So That was good stuff.

I tried on some costume stuff before rehearsal. "UPSque" garb. Brown shit and pants, that qwill soon be converted to brown shorts and short sleeved shirt. You have to love tailoring.

One dilemma faced today involved a prop. In one scene we ran tonight, a character has to take a glass and smash it on the floor. We have plenty of cheap glasses at the OOH, so it's not a problem to destory real ones. The problem is that when the actress did so tonight, as a full test, the shards went everywhere. Obliterated the thing. No one was hurt, and we were all braced for the possibility, but it was still a cause for concern. Big pieces, sharp pieces. Really tiny glass nuggets. (Those are what worried me the most.) The director added business for one of the characters who is not speaking to clean up the glass as the scene progressed, but there was a lot left over. Plus, he was concerned about how far upstage the pieces had flown. (All the way to the extreme back.) So, we are pondering ways to get this action down, and to do so safely. If any fellow actors out there have any ideas, please post them, and I will share them with our people.

That was is for tonight. Tomorrow is a semi-big night for me. We will be going over the short scene which consists almost entirley of a monlogue that I deliver. I am going to try to have it memorized by tomorrow. I am not required to, but it will certainly go easier if I do. So I will be spending timeon that today.

I am almost ready to declare myself off book for act one.

So, I look forward to tomorrow night.

Saturday, February 24, 2007


Tonight I went to see my friend Gaby play Rizzo in Grease. As usual, she was excellent. I had no doubts.

Interesting factoid: This was the firsttime I have ever watched a show that I at one point had been in myself. I did not even realize that until tonight. I was surprised at how many lines came back to me with relative ease. I guess in some corner of the mind of an actor, a script is always there.

What was left of the script anyway. They elected to do the cleanedup Grease version. This supposedly more family friendly version excisesa so much original material that at times it is choppy. As a whole, not as good as the real version. I mean if you are going to do Grease, do Grease, right? But that is in no way Gaby's fault. So well done to Gaby. =)

Tomorrow rehearsal is scheduled, but a big ice storm is forecast for this area. That might put the brakes on that for me, we will see. Either way, I am almost off book for act one. (Which I admit is my smaller responsibility. But still...

Thursday, February 22, 2007


I have sort of an unwritten rule...being some place is almost never worth it if you spend less time in the place than it took you to get there. It was nobody's fault, but that was the case tonight. It took my an hour and a half to drive the 20 or so miles to Charles Town for rehearsal. It's pretty much the worst traffic I have ever been in on that road. Or at least very close to it.

Then rehearsal itself lasted just less than that amount of time, (but the time I got there.) I was 35 minutes late.

I am never late for anything if it can be avoided. Tonight was in no way avoidable, but I always feel off when I am late. Not just as an actor, per se, but in general, I always feel as though something is amiss when I arrive late to something I am expected to attend. But not much can be done about it, so I will not spend any more time fussing over it.

As for the actual rehearsal, it went well enough, I suppose. We have sort of a shadow set up on the stage. We changed it around a bit before the end of the evening, but it is sufficient to represent what sort of space we will have. Approximate of course. (Given that a kitchen sink is currently standing in for a piano.)

This was my first scene, and one of my shortest ones. So I am pretty much off book for it already. I still took the book with me just in case, but I pretty much have that scene. I should work more on it, and other scenes tomorrow during the day though. In truth, I probably have less time, proportionately speaking to get off book for this show than I have for any show in a while. I do not think it will be a problem, but I need to get on it.

In fact this whole process is accelerated for this show, I bet it will fly by. 5 weeks total to rehearse. Starting off on the stage right away. Tomorrow marking only 4 weeks until we open. It is a fast moving affair no doubt.

There is rehearsal tomorrow. (The second year in a row I had a rehearsal on my birthday.) I am going to leaves hours ahead of time to avoid more traffic messes. (It's always worse on Fridays). I would rather walk around town, or sit in the lobby reading a book for 2 hours, than spend two hours in stop and go traffic anyway.

Until then.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Second Read Through

I suppose the title of this entry leave little doubt as to what we did tonight.

It went well. Several of the people that could not make on the first night were able to be there today. Also, overall, I think there is a noticeably improved repartee within the cast, even since earlier in the week. That is a promising sign indeed.

We also received our tentative rehearsal schedules today. I will not have to report back until Thursday. When I do, I will be blocking on stage already. I love being able to get on the stage this early in the process.

I am glad the read-throughs are over, actually. It is not that I hate them, but for some reason I always feel a little less comfortable with what I need to do during a read through. I do not think it is because it is early in the process, because I have been through this too many times to be overtly nervous about starting a new show. (Thursday will still be early, and I know I will feel more comfortable.) I think its because physical movement; crosses, entrances, exits, and the like conspire to more efficiently consume my energies when performing. Energies that sort of reverberate back on themselves in the small confines of a sit down read through. I guess in that sense, it also feels like I am performing under a microscope somewhat.

But the point is mute. Read throughs never take up too much time in a rehearsal process, and they would seem to be totally over for this show.

I also tried on some costume pieces today. This character I am playing is a UPS delivery man, and so I will need a uniform of such. I learned something interesting and silly today, however. UPS uniforms an unattainable item.

Our costume person explained to me today that such uniforms cannot be obtained for any reason. Not for Halloween, or for theatre of for anything. Even if you work for UPS and quit, they confiscate your uniform. Seems there is a fear that it would allow strange people to enter home's they do not belong in too easily. There is also a terrorism threat in there someplace.

To add to the intrigue...uniforms of the United States Postal Service are readily available everywhere.

Go figure, right?

Friday, February 16, 2007

Archeological Find

Found this article a moment ago over on MSNBC.

I am buy no means an expert in ancient societies. It did however catch my eye, given the subjects connection to the origins of Western Theatre.

Boggles the mind a bit to think that the sort of things I do, and will be doing in this current play, had their very rough beginnings in such places as that. In some small way all actors these days owe thanks to the ancient Greeks, and structures like the one uncovered today, for their very craft.

On a side note, it must be a colossal pain in the ass to be a contractor in Greece. You can't so much as put up a telephone poll without the risk of damaging some obscure long hidden relic that just so happened to contribute to the formation of modern civilization.

Another Beginning

My thanks to those of you who have wished me well the last couple days in my new role. Your thoughts and readership are always appreciated.

To that end, allow me to talk about tonight's first rehearsal/read through of "Dearly Beloved".

The first thing to mention is that it will be an interesting cast. I do not mean that they are weird people, but the mix is interesting.

To begin with, I have worked with about half of them before, but in a very spread out manner. One of them was in my very first show at the Old Opera House, over three years ago. (Whom I had not seen since then until tonight.) Then one was in a show I did not long after my first. Yet another I have not worked with in close to two years. A few others, more recently, but still, quite a divergent time frame.

Added to the familiar faces are several new ones. Not just new as cast mates, but several people I have never even met before, or seen perform anywhere. So we are talking very new blood, from my perspective. One or two of them are even making their Opera House debut with this show.

And of course, I have officially worked with this director in more shows than any other director in my short career thus far.

The read through itself went well, despite the fact that bad ice kept two cast mates from being able to attend today. It would seem that all of the other cast members have been well selected for their specific parts, and will, as far as I can tell after one night, play off of each other rather well. It promises to be a fun, and audience pleasing little comedy.

I just enjoyed finally getting a script in my hand, and feeling the interaction with other characters. By and large my character does not do a whole lot of direct conversational interacting with other characters, though. Maybe in one or two scenes. He is mostly, I would say, a bewildered bystander. Yet this sort of perspective affords me the chance to do some things that I may not have been able to do with one of the larger roles. I feel I shall enjoy this part quite a bit.

As a brief overview, the play is a comedy about a wedding. A complex wedding which, despite the best efforts of the mother of the bride, goes down hill a little more with each passing moment. Add her husband and sisters, as well as a control hungry wedding planner, and things are bound to get better, right?

My character is a seminarian, studying to be a preacher. He pays his way through seminary by working for UPS. He is brought in, unwillingly, as an last minute replacement to officiate the ceremony when the first preacher become indisposed.

The play takes place in present day Texas, and the subject of accents was brought up. The director advised us not to worry about them tonight. Despite this, several people opted to give it a try. I was not one of them. Not because I was against it, but because I wanted to get a feel for the room more before I tried that.

I also wanted to wait for a final decision on accents from the director. He made a good point by saying that accent should only be used if all of the people do them equally well. If some excel and others struggle, it makes even those with good accents seem more phony. I think I agree with this concept, yet it is far to early to tell if accent are a go or not. Just an early tid bit to consider.

The next rehearsal will be sometime next week, I do believe, though nor schedule has been devised. One thing is certain though...we will be able to get on the stage earlier than in most plays. The current show will have closed by Sunday, leaving the stage clear. I love it when it lines up that way.

And that is my first update on Dearly Beloved. We have about 6 weeks before opening. All six of them, as usual, will be documented here on the blog. Check back often, and don't miss out.

Monday, February 12, 2007

I'm In.

Well, loyal blog readers, I received the call. I have been offered a role in the Old Opera House production of "Dearly Beloved". It is the role I expressed a mild preference for when I auditioned, so that is pleasing.

I have no idea at all who else is in the show with me at this point. I of course hope some of my friends who tried out also got in. But unless they tell me so, I won't know until the first read-through. (Which is tentatively scheduled for Thursday.) I will of course report on how that goes.

So begins a new chapter...and it will be covered from read-through to strike right here, as always.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Acting Singers, Singing Actors

If you would like to start a lively discussion (at best) or a semi-heated argument (at worst) amongst a group of theatre people, ask them the following question;

“Given the choice in a musical production, is it best to cast singers who can’t really act, or actors who cannot really sing?”

If both views are represented in the group, you need only sit down nearby and watch a whole different type of drama unfold.

On the whole, actors I have talked to fall approximately 55% in favor of singing non-actors, and 45% in favor of acting non-singers.

I am in the slight minority this time.

I have watched a musical come to a screeching halt after numbers are finished due to barely passable acting more times than I care to remember. You can enjoy each song, and each dance, thanks to the great voices the actors are gifted with. But as soon as they have to interact with other characters, or relate to the audience, they are lost. As though without music they have no sense of communication.

It is an awkward and painful thing to watch.

Some could the opposite as what I have said. They have seen shows where the acting was great, but when it came to the music, they could not stand tcaterwaulinging that broke their eardrums, and every window in the vicinity. Granted, that unpleasant. My.My argument, however, is not based on the worst cast scenario. It is based on the average situation, and on average, the plot and characters must be maintained by at least passable acting.

All and all, a show, even a musical, is about telling a story. A musical simply tells it with music. But to abandon the sense of character or story, (no matter how thin) in favor of total concentration on the music, is not drama. It is a concert. If that is what you are most interested in directing, that is fine. You need to be open about calling a spade a spade, however, if your attitude about a musical can be summed up by saying, “the scenes are weak, but screw it, the numbers are spectacular”.

With the assistance of the band, extra time with a qualified musical director, and altered pitches, most actors who are not singers by trade can, when dedicated, get through a musical relatively unscathed. Not to mention a good actor has to be quick on his feet enough to improvise if something goes awry. Those with beautiful voices that lack this ability, as well as the ability to relate to other characters, and touch the audience when speaking, or convey emotion without words, betray the conviction of the stThey mightmight as well wear signs that read “Hey folks, I’m a fake.”

And when talking, there is nothing in the world the band can do to save them.

None of this is to imply that if you sing well, you must be a poor actor. Nor is the reverse implied here. However, with the metaphorical gun to my head, I have no problem making the choice for actors over singers every time.

There will always be those who come to a musical just for the music, and do not care about the plot. So there will always be writers that write them just for the music, directors that pick them and have minimal involvement, and singers who flock to them for a chance to be on stage, without having to worry so much about the fact they canÂ’t act. It will always be this way, it that does not make it correct.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Latest Audition

About an hour ago, I got back from my first audition of any kind since August or so. As I have been mentioning the last week, the show is "Dearly Beloved".

I got there a bit early, as is my custom. A handful of people I knew, and have worked with before were already there. More people I knew, as well as quite a few I did not know, trickled in over the next 20 minutes. It was actually quite a turn out.

Especially for men. Usually women outnumber the men, but not this time. I will be facing some competition, that is for sure. (Even some men my age were there, which is often not the case.)

I was not sure who was directing the play until I got there. I then realized it was the director I have worked with the most out of all plays I have done at the Opera House. So at least I did not have to meet a new director. (Though sometimes that can be quite exciting.)

I happened to be in the first group called in to read. My, another guy (whom I have never met) and two women, both of whom I have worked with before. All three of them did quite well in their readings. I can see any one of them in a few different parts.

As for, I felt totally comfortable. I usually do at the Opera House, but more so this time for various reasons. One, as I said, I know the director quite well. Secondly, I had read through the script on my own several times before auditioning. (I feel that gives a person the edge.)

There are 4 male parts. I read some for three of them, including my preferred part. I will accept any role he wants to give, but I did express my preference on my audition form.

As for the actual audition, it went well. I cannot think of anything specifically that I would have liked to have done that I did not get to do. True, there was one speech I looked over and practiced a lot from the script which I did not read. But the director gave us a chance to read anything we wanted at one point, and I opted not to ask. I was just happy to have been able to read for all three bigger male roles. Asking to read more than he asked when he was satisfied seemed like overkill to me. So I declined. He knows my work anyway.

I saw several people there that I have enjoyed working with in the past, so if I do get cast, hopefully so will some of them.

He did not say when we will know for sure. Judging by precedent, I would say between a week and ten days. Until then, the waiting game. Wish me luck, loyal blog readers. I've been off the stage for a bit too long.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

All Miked Up and Nowhere to Go

“The body mike won’t make you sound better. It will only make you louder.”

The often repeated words of a great sound engineer I have worked with various times.

He is correct, of course. But it never ceases to amaze me, (nor, it would appear, said sound engineer) how often the proximity of a microphone seems to discourage high quality vocal performances. People who otherwise might be right on top of things from a vocal standpoint all at once suffer from poor inunciation and decreased projection. (Yes, you do still need projection, even when using a microphone.)

Perhaps that is only a problem experienced by amateurs, (and not all of them at that.) But I think perhaps that is part of the point I wish to make. I have to wonder if the use of audio enhancement devices in today’s community theatre encourages lazy performing, thus becoming a breeding ground for future professionals of less than stellar vocal quality.

I do not advocate a complete elimination of electric devices in theatre. General sound enhancement devices placed above the stage for overall volume increase are permissible. Allow me, however, to state the obvious; theatre existed, and even flourished, for eons without the aid of electronic audio devices, personal or general. Everything from opera stars performing at the Met, to diddy croakers in burlesque shows understood the importance of reaching the back row. The good ones still do realize it, but if you are dealing with anyone less than 100% dedicated to the work, personal body mikes have the potential to deaden many aspects unique to live theatre.

No doubt some would ask me why I should lament to end of needing to strain to hear a performer while on stage. I have two answers to that.

The first answer is that I often find myself straining to understand what a performer is saying, even when they are “miked”. That problem underscores my point quite well. If annunciation and diction are in the toilet, the biggest microphone in the world will not fix the problem.

My second answer to the question requires one to drop the assumption it is all about simple volume. True, that is the scientific function of a mike, to increase volume. But in the days without such paraphernalia, there was, by force, a more visceral quality to a performance on the stage. With the need to project, came also the need for big emotions, bigger than life moments of drama, exaggerated comic timing, and most important of all, huge energy. Unless an actor possesses all of those qualities anyway, they will not be encouraged to develop them if they have what amounts to a shortcut in many cases.

Microphones are tools, not methods of presenting. I work with many people who realize it. But just as many, if not more, do not. Or if they do, they are not inspired to take the extra step. True, a lazy actor would perhaps be a lazy actor in any era, regardless of available technology. However, if the presence of microphones instills laziness in just a few actors who otherwise would not have been, directors ought to be vary cautious in their use of them.