Monday, December 28, 2009

Quick Update

I hope all my loyal blog readers had an excellent Christmas Day. Remember to hold on to the festive spirit through New Years! Keep the music, egg nog and movies going!

But as to relevant things...

"It's a Wonderful Life", as you all know, was scheduled to be broadcast over local radio on Christmas Day. I was out of range, but I kept up to speed through the Facebook comments of my friends in the cast.

And sadly...the first of the broadcasts did not happen! That's right, through some automated glitch, regular programming for the station resumed after a mere few moments of our show. Highly disappointing.

However, the second broadcast, in the evening, went off well. (Being interrupted once, only briefly, for a severe winter storm alert.) So while I lament not being able to hear how it all turned out, I am glad that at least one of the broadcasts worked properly. Perhaps the radio station will allow some of us that lived out of range to listen to the master recording at some point.

One other note of interest for right now; auditions are already set for a July performance of "A Midsummer Night's Dream", put on by The Bard's Men. This is the new company with whom I did Romeo and Juliet last summer. (Check the entries in this blog for last summer to follow that adventure.) I don't think I have ever seen an audition notice that far in advance, but the director is also a student, and would have no time between now and summer to organize anything. So, though it be a long way off, I thought I would mention my initial consideration of that production here.

That is all for now. This time of year does tend to be slow for theatre. I am going to look for some winter productions though, as nothing picks up January through March as much as being in a good show.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

How Deliquent is My Post...

As I have so often allowed when I am tired and busy, I left a whole weekend of a show unwritten about. So, I will now have to provide you with accounts of all three nights of "It's a Wonderful Life: A Radio Play", that I didn't share with you before. I will break it down into days.


A mostly solid night, but with some noticeable sound mistakes, and line fumbling on various fronts. No crash and burn moments, but it was rough there for a while. Not as good as the Thursday night benefit audience, and not as large. Our singing of "Auld Lang Syne" at the end was pretty much botched. There is no other way to put that, honestly.

Yet odd as it is, I actually hit a bit of a stride that night. Not just the position of where to stand at the mike, or how to hold my script, either. That was the night when the cadence and feel of the entire radio play structure just came together for me. Not that I had major problems before, but it seemed as though I wasn't quite getting the click I needed for this style of performance. Friday night, it finally did. The reason, if I had to guess, was that was when began to treat the whole thing like a radio broadcast, as opposed to a play about a radio broadcast.

Sounds like the same thing to many of you, I am sure. But consider that with the former approach, I was trying to be a character who just happened to have all of his lines delivered while being "On-Air" within the context of the story. But with the latter approach to the show, I tried to see the entire thing as a bunch of people who really were in a radio station, and I adjusted my performance accordingly.

That means I didn't play to the live audience as much as an actor normally does for a stage show. I didn't orient as much of my energies directly towards how I looked, or how I would be perceived. I directed my performances to the mike itself, in a way. I stopped trying to interact directly with the other actors as much as I had been. Instead, I treated it as something that was being done, to which a few people were invited. Oh, i was still very much aware of them, and knew when they were enjoying themselves or not. I even got a little nervous in front of them a few times. But I was at last able to stop trying to make it a play, and just let it be "radio". That seems to have been the key to hitting the stride I was talking about. If I do it next year, I will keep that in mind from the start. But that approach on Friday continued into...


Our best night. No question. With very few exceptions, both sound and lines were spot on for most of the night. Word of mouth and an article in the local paper pushed out previously weak numbers for Saturday up to a near full house. And it was one of those crowds whose electricity you could feel even before the show started. You knew they were going to be responsive just be listening to them.

And they were. They laughed a lot. (Again at some things I didn't think were supposed to be funny.) They really got into the commercials, (especially my Duks Toilet Guy, if I may say so myself.) And the ovation at the end was sustained and enthusiastic. We didn't do a curtain call for this production, but we could easily hear everyone from backstage. And, unlike all the other local theatres that i have been involved in, the WLT encourages actors to go mingle with the crowd. Something I had not felt totally free to do since college. I am not a mingler, but I do like to hear how we did. And I received several compliments.

The best compliment, in fact, was a lady who told me I had done a great job at differentiating my voices. That is high praise indeed, because the success of something like this show rests very much on such a skill. I was very gratified to learn my hard work on that aspect of my performance really paid off.

I slipped on one word during one of my Toilet Cake lines. A mistake I oddly repeated the next day. But as I said, they loved it, and I loved what we all were able to do that night. It was not only the show's best night, but I feel it was my best night as well. Particularly for the Peter Bailey scene at the beginning.

Our director mentioned earlier in the week that it was one of the voice roles that wouldn't really allow alot of caricature , or funny voice tricks. I hadn't given that much thought before, but he was right. Peter has to be played deep, and straight forward. It has to be the performance, m ore than any voice, that sells him. And indeed, I used 90% my own voice for Peter, and I am happy to know what I did with him had the desired effect.


My mom and sister were in this audience. So were 25 local Boy Scouts, as part of a full house. (A fact which really bothered a lot of us actors when we heard about it, but which turned out to be not so bad. They were surprisingly well behaved, if not that entertained by the show.)

The best thing to say about Sunday is that my mom and sister said they didn't think it went too badly from the audience perspective. Which is good, because there wasn't an actor in the show who didn't think act one on Sunday was something between pathetic and disappointing.

It did not go well for us. Not as many line flubs and mistakes as Friday night, but some of the mistakes that were made with both sound and lines left rather large holes in scenes. (Especially when the ice did NOT break at first, to let Harry Baily fall into. A key plot point that, when missed at first, required Harry to yell "yippeee!" for what seems like 3 minutes, until the situation was rectified.

Yet, as I mentioned, the audience didn't seem to notice most of those sort of things. Again, a very responsive group. Not as much as the night6 before, (Though they still loved Dux Toilet Cake, despite me flubbing a word AGAIN), they nonetheless enjoyed the show a great deal, and said so to us with their generous applause.

Act 2 went far better than act one did, and by the end, most of us felt better about the note we would be closing the show on.

Now the best moments of each night will be spliced together, it seems, and sent to WINC AM to be played twice on Christmas Day. Which is exciting in a way that of course other shows can't be.


I am glad I took part in this unique experience. I am willing to try again next year if I am not in anything else. It was a great cast, and I finally feel I have established a memorable presence at the Winchester Little Theatre. I made some new friends, and took part in something I had never done before, on various levels. Now that I have my feet wet with it, I will keep my eyes open for other chances to do radio oriented plays.

There is talk of trying to do War of the World for Halloween at the WLT. Perhaps I'll look into that as well. But in the mean time, despite some unavoidable difficulties, and a sadly short rehearsal/bonding time for this show, (two weeks, basically), I got more out of being in this show then some shows I have been in, and consider the small pains in the neck worth the out come.

I hope what Clarence said is in fact true;

"No man is a failure who has friends." I now have some more of them, so, that is an inspiring notion.

Merry Christmas.

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Opener

Oops. I totally forgot to blog about how the last rehearsal went. But there wasn't much more to report, really. The only big difference being that we practiced throwing our scripts up in the air at the end of the show, as sort of a send off.

So I'll just talk about the first performance.

It was nearly a full house. But, it was a benefit performance. Meaning that a company bought up all the tickets, and sold them on their own, with the proceeds benefiting a charity of their choice. ( I don't recall the name, but it was an affordable housing organization in the area.)

It was a warm crowd. They certainly seemed to enjoy it quite a bit. Though they did laugh at odd places. A cast mate reminded me that every audience is different, and that is true. Still, sometimes I couldn't help but wonder why they found certain things so humorous. Mary screaming to get away from George in the alternate life sequence, for instance. That's funny?

They also laughed when I said, "Alright" as Mr. Welsh, when I left the microphone and went back to my seat. That one baffles me as well.

But overall it went well. The last 5 minutes, however, hit a snag. We have never perfected when to break into song at the end, and we came in late. And by doing that the energy was low, and never to me felt quite right. The audience was already clapping, which was ok, but I don't think they understood what we were doing there at the end.

I threw my papers up about 3/4 of a second before everyone else, and for a moment thought I'd be the only one to do so. But everyone else followed suit.

My roles went well. The extra polish that tends to show up when an audience is present was there. (And not just for me.) I really don't have any idea if the previous problems with me being picked up on the mike were solved or not. I guess we will get techie notes on such things tonight.

It's really a different kind of "nerves" for this show. At least last night. Maybe because I have not yet gotten totally into the rhythm of holding pages and using a mike. I didn't freeze or anything. After all, the script is right there in front of me. But there is just that little something extra; a real tiny bit of something when I walk up to the stage with an audience there for this show that isn't there when it's a more standard show.

I hope that the publicity from the newspaper article last night will drive up ticket sales for tonight's show. At last check we were at about half house. We'd like more than that. (Though there are several Christmas shows running tonight, which will cut into our numbers.) But if you are near Winchester, Virginia and want to check us out, go to the Winchester Little Theatre site, and reserve a ticket!

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Marked Improvement

Last night's rehearsal for "It's a Wonderful Life" went much better than Monday night. We still have some rough patches with sound here and there, but nothing like before. It is coming together well in spite of those patches.

Due to the fact that Act 2 had given us the most trouble previously, we ran that first last night. Just in case we needed to work on problem spots. (Which we did here and there.) After a break, we moved to Act One.

Act One of course is where I give my largest single performance, as George's father, Peter, in two scenes. I take all the roles seriously, but that is the one that I feel will leave the deepest impression. It is the one with the most character work required, as compared to the other roles.

"Peter" is coming along well. I feel I give him more depth each night. The director is very pleased with the tone I am giving him. (In particular my successful implementation of a note he gave me on a specific line on Monday.) From a technical standpoint I am told I am still "popping the 'p's' " when I do Peter. (An audio term referring to overloading the mike when one pronounces the letter "p". I am not really sure what to do about his, as it is something I fear when I was further from the mike. I made a concerted effort to be more direct with the mike, and that problem showed up. Maybe there is something that can be done with the setting. Or maybe I can find a way to stay within the range of the device, but at an angle. I suppose we will talk about it tonight.

I admit that I am having some difficulty with these sort of moments. The technical aspects. I feel my acting is sufficient, but I admit I could be somewhat less inhibited in a more traditional setting. There are so many other things to worry about that you do not have to worry about when in a standard play. Or even in a standard reading that is not going to be recorded. As mentioned, there is closeness to the mike, and angle. There is volume. There is how to stand at the mike. The idea of where to hold the script, and how to hold it, while still being able to face the mike properly. All of these worries, (none of which I have mastered just yet) tend to sometimes take over the forefront of my mind while I am trying to perform. I must work extra hard tonight (full dress rehearsal) to iron out some of these problems. They are not huge, but they will require specific effort. (And questions for the director.)

I don't seem to have as much worry when playing the other parts. Probably because they are of shorter duration. One or two lines at a time, whereas Peter is a "lead" if you will in the two scenes he is in. (It is just he and George for those two scenes, for the most part.)

So I have things to work on tonight. I hope to avoid two non-theatre related things as well. I hope to avoid driving home in a horrendous surprise winter storm last night. And before rehearsal I was ask to rid the theatre office of three mice. I hate vermin. But since they were already trapped in a basket, I was able to (barely) take the thing outside to the parking lot, on behalf of those who didn't feel they could do it. But I do not want to do it again.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Miked Up and (Not Quite) Ready To Go

I made it to rehearsal last night, thankfully. (Though I took what has to be the 7th different route to get there that I have found so far.)

The set looks good. Painted and stock with props and such. Plus the audio system is now up and running.

Mostly. The day I couldn't make it to rehearsal water had been dripping in some of the equipment. It seems that it escaped mostly undamaged, but that a few tiny problems may have been caused by the (now fixed) leak in the ceiling from the other day.

Those are just the mechanical problems, however. Issues of timing certain sound effects, and making sure the right mikes are on at the right time are another issue. It's a delicate balance that requires several people to coordinate their efforts. Given that we had not run some of these moments until last night, there were several snafus and issues to be worked on. But much was learned and I have every reason to believe that tonight will be better, and Wednesday better still.

As for me, I did mostly all right with the mikes. Early on I was told that I was outside the range of the device. I think I know why that may have been though. I have always had a strong voice. One that carries very well. (Sometimes to the point of annoying family members in my younger days.) The vast majority of mikes I have ever spoken into have been set at levels that were not prepared for my full speaking voice, let along my full acting voice. (As a child, I drowned out other people during a show, and refused to use a mike again for years because of that.)

The point is I have adjusted over the years, and spoken into a mike not only slightly askew most times, but from a greater distance than most people do. But given the nature of these mikes, and the fact that trained audio technicians are running them, I need to get used to the idea of delivering my lines directly into the mike, and being at close range when I do so. I need to lose that timidity when working with the equipment. I was more used to it by the end of last night's rehearsal, so I am certain things will be smoother tonight, and for the rest of the week.

The trick is to be able to hold the script in such a way that it can be seen, yet still speak directly into the mike. Not always an easy position to be in when there is somebody else standing on the other side of the mike where your script should be. But that is why we rehearse.

I am proud to say that at least last night, I never got called out for rustling pages; that was something that the audio guy was pointing out to people when he picked it up in the headset.

From a performance standpoint, I am happy with the progress I have made with my largest character, Peter Bailey. The director said that despite the mike problems, the scenes with Peter "played well to the house", so that is a plus. As mentioned I have given him a somewhat more serious tone. Not a brash tone, but a serious one. It seems to be working with the character quite well. Maybe stronger is a better word for it. Yes. Stronger. Before I think he sounded like he was deferring too much. Now I am playing him as more of a force.

A little confusion as I went to give one line...someone who had not stood there before was there last night. I guess his position was changed. Not a big deal but I have to make sure I am close enough to give those lines now, when before it was just me at the mike at that time.

The costume parade was also last night. I wore black pants, and a white shirt, with a mostly black sweater over top. (It also has one gray stripe and one white strip.) With all of this, I wore a darker multi-colored neck tie. (No bow tie I am sad to report, though I looked all over for one.) It is mostly red, to go with the holiday season. I got the ok from the director on all of that, so my costume is set.

I also started parting my hair in the middle last night, just to get it trained to do so for the show. Looks more period that way I feel.

One down and 6 to go. (Half rehearsals, half performances.)

Sunday, December 06, 2009

The Week Ahead

Will consist of doing "It's a Wonderful Life" every single evening.

Which is fine by me, despite the fact that it will be a somewhat tiring week. I always did say my favorite part of a rehearsal process are the later, more intense stages. Well, with a show like this, that stage comes far sooner.

I am sad to report that I could not attend last night rehearsal. Weather was just terrible making for bad travel just about everywhere around here. Most of the people more local to the theatre showed up, though. However most have better vehicles then I, are more used to the roads than I, and probably are not as much of a danger to themselves or others during winter driving as I. I deeply regret it whenever I have to miss a rehearsal, (I have missed less than 5 in my whole career, mostly having to do with weather.) But I do not regret my decision. I just didn't think it was safe.

But the director did initiate an extra rehearsal for Tuesday. It was a move he reserved the right to make and he made it. His latest email to us all stated that he feels we need it, and that we cannot afford to have anybody miss any rehearsals from here on out. I have every intention to making them all from now on.

Thursday night is to be a benefit performance for something, though I am not sure what. I wasn't aware we would be performing on Thursday, but again, I don't mind this. It will technically be a performance, but it will also be one more chance to run through it before we "officially" open on Friday.

As for tomorrow, we are to have a costume parade. I went shopping for some appropriate pieces today. (They are supposed to be mainly black and white, or as close as we can get to same.) I did find a nice vest that was closer to dark gray, and a sweater that is mostly black, with some white on the front. I bought both. My big hope, however, was to find a clip on bow-tie. That really says 1940's to me, but none were to be found anywhere I looked. It seems I have run across them when I have no need for them, and now for the first time in my life I could use one, and they are nowhere. Maybe the theatre itself has one in it's collection. I will have to ask. I just think that really sells the time period. That, and my parting my hair down the middle, which I intend to do. I may even start that tomorrow as well, as it takes a few days to train it properly to lay like that. And it will give the director a full sense of what I will be looking like during the show when we have the costume parade.

Lots of hard work, but hopefully also lots of fun lay ahead of me this week. Tune in here all week for details.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Promos and Problem Spots

Last night's rehearsal for "It's a Wonderful Life" consisted mostly of running problem spots. If they can really be called that; we have only rehearsed twice. Either way we worked specific moments.

To begin with, however, the director assigned each actor a specific seat on the set. (If you read my previous entry, you'll learn more on that.) Now all of the actors have seats on stage, without the need to have some of them backstage. My seat ended up being only one seat over to the left than what it was before. So no big change there. I am still in a secluded little corner of the set. One actress in fact who had been sitting there previously, but has not been place very near front and center lamented to me that she no longer would be sitting in the "party corner" where the luxury of being a bit more hidden is enjoyed. It's true, she and others will now have to be more "on" than us over in the corner. But I intend to stay on as much as possible anyway.

After the seating was set up, we concentrated on the entrance of the actors at the top of the show. At this point we are to mingle with one another and the audience. Breaking the 4th wall and all of that. Always a bit awkward to think about doing that. Against one's instincts. But for this play it makes total sense.

After that, we spent most of the evening working all of the crowd scenes. Having the rest of the ensemble provide noises of crowds, mobs, board meetings, bars, and celebrations. This is not as easy as it may sound at first, for several reasons.

To begin with, the temptation is great to simply glaze over these sort of moments. Actors are tempted as well as directors. There is a tendency to just suggest crowd commotion, and then move on with the specific lines by specific characters in the scene. That has never been enough for me, and it certainly would not work for a radio play. Thankfully, our director is aware of this, and has us work on such moments.

Appropriate ad-libs at such moments can be tricky. People tend to not want to begin to yell and shout as part of a crowd, until they are sure everyone else is doing it already. I guess it may be because many are reluctant to say anything that is not directly in the script. Or they fear being the only one doing anything and looking stupid. And when most of a cast thinks this at the same time, you get to a direction for "Crowd Noise" and are met with silence and a smattering of milquetoast attempts to sounds like a mob. So you have to liberate a cast's hesitance to break in with such noise.

Once that is established, you have to remind them to actually say something. Another temptation for actors when providing background noise for a crowd scene is to simply go..."arr arr arr arr ahhh" under ones breath. Again, thankfully, our director recognized that this doesn't cut it. And the reason it doesn't cut it is that the overall cacophony or low rumble one hears when listening to a crowd does not come about because 20 people are standing in a room going "arr arr arr arr." It may sound like that somethings, but obviously that is not what is happening. What is happening is that many different conversations, (or accusations, depending on the scene) are blending together, making most of the words indistinct, and the overall effect SOUND like "arr arr arr arr" or whatever. Therefore, people doing crowd scenes must think of something to actually say, or shout, that is relevant to the proceedings.

So we worked a bit on that last night.

Timing was another issue. We will be getting hand signals from the "stage manager" (Who is in fact the director portraying the fake radio stations stage manager) which will indicate when to come in, and when to fade out, as well as how quickly or gradually to do it. We definitely needed some work on the timing, and still do. Especially in scenes where a door opens onto a bustling crowd, and then immediately shuts out the noise. That will be a bit tricky. But we will get it.

On the subject of slamming doors, there were more of the foley sound effects in place last night. Not all of them, however. Still, what they were doing was fun to watch sometimes. Clanking bottles. Dropping things that sound like shattering glass. Footsteps need some work in a few places, but that will be taken care of.

We also practiced the singing of the commercials, and of Auld Lang Syne at the end of the play. The former are going fine. The latter is going to require some timing work, in order to get to a decent place in the song by the same the dialogue stops. That will only come with practice, unless they change a few things in the script. I seem to be less worried about that working out than a lot of people do. I just don't think it is going to be as difficult to coordinate as others think, I suppose.

By the time we finished all of those trouble spots, we only had time to run act one. So we did. I gave Peter Bailey a more serious bent, as requested by the director. It felt all right. I can see where I can be more serious, without losing the depth of his humanity. It works for me. Don't know yet if it worked for the director. I haven't been getting the emails with notes in them. That is also being worked on.

During our break, the gentleman from the radio station on which this play is to be broadcast came in with a hand held recorder. He asked each of us to say our name, and the roles we were playing, (along with a short holiday greeting if we wanted to). These snippets will be used for on air promotions of the program. I think he also said it would be like the audio playbill at the end of the show. I didn't mention all of my speaking roles when I did it. I have five, but not all of them are really significant enough to mention, I didn't think. Yes, I should be credited for everything, but It just seemed tedious to me to record something like,

"I'm Ty and I will be playing Peter Bailey, Ed, the Man at the Bar, Mr. Welch and the Commercial Guy."

Doesn't exactly roll off the tongue. So I chose what, at the time, I thought were my two most memorable roles. I said;

"Happy Holidays. My Name is Ty Unglebower, and I play Peter Bailey and the Dux Cake Guy."

It wasn't until later that I thought I really should have included Mr. Welch in the promotion since that is once of my voices that is very distinctive in the play. But oh well. If I am remembered for both my biggest part (Peter) and my funniest (Dux Guy), that will be enough.

May look for some costume pieces today. They want mostly black and white stuff, without too much white showing at one time. (Because of the lights.) I have most of that stuff, but we are allowed a bit of color, I think, and I need to find that. More importantly, I need to find something to wear over the shirt that is black, as right now, I have nothing.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Rough Hewing

Last night was the second rehearsal for "It's a Wonderful Life". The rudimentary elements of the set are up, so we now have an idea of what our workspace will be like.

In a word, cramped. At least for most of the cast. The actors with the three largest roles get their own chairs down stage further when they are not performing.

It will eventually look like a radio station, of course. Quasi 1940s. In the center upstage will be the table with the 4 or so foley sound people. On either side of them, on both stage right and stage left, or small rows of chairs in which actors will sit when they are not performing. (When their time comes to perform, the will contort themselves and step over fellow actors as best as they can to reach the microphones downstage.

I happen to be seated with the stage right group of actors, as I am always assigned to the stage right mike.

Rehearsal itself went well. The director is pleased with the fact that actors with multiple roles are starting to come up with distinctive voices for each role. I myself have been working on that in my free time. Some of my roles, (in fact most of them) have only one or two lines, but that makes it all the more important to find ways of making each role stand out. The worst is to sound like the same person each time. I believe I am avoiding that. I have not been told otherwise.

This whole play in fact reminds me that I have not usually been called upon to use different voices or accents in the plays I have been in. I guess either my directors are not usually worried about it, or they think my own voice is fine. But I am already taking away from this experience a desire to experiment more with different voices for future roles in standard shows.

Sometimes voices you come up with hurt your throat, and you don't want that of course. One character I play, I am playing as though he is somewhat sick, so his voice is a little gravelly. I think using that voice all night would be unwise. But since it is only for one scene and three lines, I can get away with it I believe, without hurting my real voice.

The director is also pleased with characterization. People are developing their roles, and hopefully I am as well. The role of Peter Bailey, George's father, requires most of my attention in regards to character and voice, given that it is my largest role in the production. I got a note during the break that the seriousness I gave to Peter near the end of one of my scenes was good, and that I should find a way to bring that to bear for all of Peter's lines. I will attempt to do so, of course, though I think one reason it had not shone through in earlier scenes was that I was going for warmth with anger. But perhaps righteous indignation, (a term that is a perfect for that scene) cannot mix with that sort of softness. It probably can't. I will work on it. I just don't want him to be irate.

Another change I will have to make is in regards to the physical script itself. Though he said he will not force anyone to change anything, he would prefer that all scripts be in hand, as opposed to in a binder, as I have done. I admit to preferring the binder myself, given that not having it makes the papers a bit unruly to me. But given that the director was gracious enough to leave it up to us, and that he expressed his preference, I will get rid of it. Plus, there is a gag at the end of the play wherein we, as the radio actors, toss our scripts into the air in celebration. This would not go over well with a binder.

Which brings up one final point I have been pondering about this production lately. The "base" character. The radio player that I, like everyone in the show, will be portraying, who in turns portrays the various roles in the radio play.

If this sounds familiar, check out all my entries for a year ago for "A Christmas Carol", wherein I also played a base character that in turn played other roles.

Unlike a year ago, the base character for this has no particular identity provided by the script. Not even a name. Given that we have not been instructed to do otherwise, it would be easy enough to just have Ty Unglebower mingling with the crowd before the show, and sitting on stage all night waiting for his cue. But if you read this blog regularly, you know by now that I don't usually settle for what is easy on stage. Therefore, I will be giving this random "1940's" radio talent some sort of identity. Name. History. You know the drill. I may or may not share those decisions with you here on the blog, but I will let you know when I have made them.

Next rehearsal is Thursday night.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Christmas Carol Reading, Part 2

Well, the theatrical adventure with the quickest turnaround ever for me. (All rehearsals and both presentations within one week's time) is concluded.

I have to admit that I am somewhat disappointed in this one. The audience was only a handful for both nights combined, and we didn't really have much of a chance to give extra nuances to our voices, as I would have liked. I love the story, and was happy to be working with some of my friends again, but even I sometimes find it hard to enjoy something when nobody comes to see it.

Last night we had about 6 people that were not connected with the show itself, or family of same.

The sound effects worked better last night I can say.They were much quieter, and didn't drown out the actors. Plus there were not surprise announcements of the time in the middle of the show. So at least there was that.

As for me, I did what I had to do with the reading. I repeated the added flourish at the end with Bob Cratchit that I mentioned in my last entry, but to little or no reaction from the tiny audience.

I didn't see the scarf I had worn the previous night for Cratchit, so I went without last night. Which is just as well, as I was the only person with a costume piece the first night anyway. I felt a bit out of place using it.

Given that I work hard at establishing a reputation as a good blogger, one would think I would be able, and in fact should find a way to, write a more extensive description of both last night, and the whole experience. Sadly, however, I must confess that I can't. There really is not much more to tell about this reading.

I will say that perhaps the script as is is too verbal to be enjoyed by most modern audiences. (I saw the glazed looks of most of the small audience both nights.) I myself enjoy hearing the words of Dickens, but I think they may be too thick for a presentation like this. (By words I mean the narration.)

Or maybe it was just bad timing or some other intangible. Who can say?

Either way, it is in fact another theatrical experience under my belt, even though it was not a play.

My thoughts now bend towards "Bedford Falls", as I prepare for the "It's a Wonderful Life" radio play.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Christmas Carol Reading, Night One

I wish I could report that tonight's reading of "A Christmas Carol" was well attended. Sadly, I cannot. It could have been worse and for a while during the meet and greet before hand, it looked as though it might have been much worse. (As in, no outside guests.) But a few did trickle in near the end. 15 people total, maybe, out of 70 seats. I am not sure why it was so low. Maybe it being black Friday. Perhaps tomorrow will be better attended. (If you live near Shepherdstown, West Virginia, do stop by!)

The reading itself went well. Sound effects were added today, as was live music between staves. The latter was a nice touch. The former would have been, if there had been fewer snafus.

The biggest of which was a robotic female voice which intoned, "It is not nine o'clock" in the middle of the performance. Not sure what happened. I would have preferred it not to, and it was clear the audience was amused by this. IN that case though, it is hard to blame them. I am sure it will be fixed by tomorrow.

We only rehearsed twice for this, really. We had some blocking ideas and general notes, but basically there was not much we had to be doing. Some of the things we had talked about it became clear on the evening, would not work. (Such as me moving my chair outside of the semi-circle at some point.) But what didn't happen was made up for by a few things that did, which were not planned.

When you are up there doing something like that, which doesn't have every moment drawn on a blueprint, things just sort of come to you. At least they do me. (Though I was once told I had an unusually high level of instinct when it came to moving around on stage.) Whether or not that is true, several things occurred to me tonight in regards to movements and positions as we performed that didn't occur to me before. It is rather hard to explain specifics without being visual, but overall the effect was more movement that was reading friendly, without moving into stage play territory.

I also got some laughs, which I didn't expect. Last minute I decided to pretend like Scrooge was going to hit me in the final scene, where he pretends to be angry at Cratchit. I scrunched my face up really tight, and then looked as perplexed as I could when he raised Bob's salary. I suppose people enjoyed that.

The whole process has been walking that line between a staged reading that keeps interest by having some movement and props, (though I was the only one who ended up with props...a scarf), and not trying to stage a regular play. Because it is adapted to be read, it could never work as an actual play script. And in our second/final rehearsal the other night, we struggled a bit with that. Fighting the urge to have too many crosses, or props and costumes. It's easy to slip into full play mode.

Yet we must not do so. We are not running a play with scripts in out hands. We are conducting a reading a child a bed time story. (Though we hope nobody falls asleep!) Such a presentation cannot be handled as a play.

But I think we have struck a pretty good balance overall. We do it one more time tomorrow night with, (hopefully) more people to watch it.

Check back then to see what happens.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Week O' Dickens, Day One

Last night was the first get together at Full Circle for the dramatic reading of "A Christmas Carol". An interesting group of people.

About 30 different speaking parts, amongst I think 15 or so people there. (I had originally thought there were more parts than that.) Two whole families are in this play. At least I think one of them has every member in it, I am not sure. Might have to ask.

I will be reading Bob Cratchit, the Ghost of Christmas Past, and Old Joe. These roles are interesting in a number of ways. First off, in last year's full regular staging of "A Christmas Carol" (follow my adventures with that show by going to the archives of October through December 2008), I also played Cratchit and the Ghost of Christmas Past. So in a way that is familiar territory. (And there were a few moments of flashback for me, as I was saying some of the same lines among some of the same people, in the same building.)

I was not Old Joe last year, yet he is also familiar territory. In 2003, I read for Old Joe, with this same director, in a one night only performance of a reading of a Christmas Carol. A year after that, I played Old Joe in a main stage production of the musical "Scrooge". I guess there is something about me and Old Joe.

As for the reading, as I said, it went well, though I admit I was a bit low on energy last night. That is rather uncommon for me in such situations. Not a disaster, by any means. But I think I need to work a bit harder on making some of my voices different between characters. They were distinct, but they need more personality.

I also admit to tapping into what I remember doing last year with Cratchit and the Ghost. Is this wrong? I think not. If I were to be in another full fledged production playing the same character, I may give it a bit of a different read. But then again, I may not. Unless a director would have a specific problem with me reading a certain way, why not stay with what works? (More on the interesting possibilities of being the same character a second time later in the post.)

One clever adaptation that has been made to this script, is that the role of the narrator, (which was about 80% of the lines, initially) has been broken into two narrators; one serious, and one more silly. This allows the lines to be broken up a bit, and lets the narrators play off of one another. This was a good call.

There is talk of just how much extra movement and ornamentation there is to be. The gamut can be run from simple readings, ala, actors walking into the center stage with their scripts, and simply reading with feeling, to having small costume pieces, props, music and sound effects. A decision has not yet been made, but things seem to be trending towards the minimalist. Which for a show that has one two nights to rehearse is best, I do believe.

I am however in favor of one possible idea. This story is of course broken up into staves, or acts, if you will. We may be able to get a small choral group to sing harmonized a capella Christmas carols between the staves. This I think would be a nice touch, seeing as how the reading is a culmination of a holiday party fundraiser for the theatre. The evening should be an experience that includes the reading, more so than everyone coming just for the reading. But those decisions are not mine. I just need to know where to stand and when.

The plan is to meet again Wednesday evening, and run the show twice. (It took about an hour an ten minutes last night.)

Now for a bit of trivia contemplation.

Does any of this qualify for playing the same role twice? It only matters because thus far I have never done so out of all the shows I have been in. (If you don't count parodies. I don't.) I was Cratchit last year, but in a different version of the script. Just as I was Old Joe in years past, but again a much different script. So in those cases it might be the same character, but not the same role. And there is a difference.

Old Joe is where this comes into play.

About six years ago I was in a reading of a Christmas Carol, under the same director. In that reading I read Old Joe. The script we are reading this year is BASED on that script, but as I said, somewhat adapted. So it is not technically the same script, even though all of Old Joe's lines are the same.

So, is this playing the same role in the same show again? Or does the adaptation of this script make it different? I'd be curious on anyone's thoughts on this one!

Monday, November 23, 2009

2 Launches in 48 Hours, Part 2

If I wasn't busy enough with the reading of "It's a Wonderful Life", I'm also involved in a dramatic reading of Charles Dickens "A Christmas Carol" at the Full Circle Theater Company. The first rehearsal for that will be happening tonight.

Yes, you read correctly. Two nights. Two shows. Two theatres. Two states. Two Christmas classics. And though I am not usually in favor of being in two shows at once, there were some exceptions in this case.

To begin with, given that they were readings, and not all out plays, I figured it would be doable. Especially since anytime I can be a part of telling the story of A Christmas Carol, I seize the chance. I admit, however, that I thought rehearsals for it would start much earlier. But those things could not be controlled.

One thing that makes it somewhat easier at this point is that it was reduced from 6 readings to only two. And those two readings will take place this week. Yes, both rehearsals, and both readings all within one week. I would have liked more time and more performances, but Full Circle works that way sometimes...

At least I will not have to juggle rehearsals for both readings I am in. A Christmas Carol will be over and done with, top to bottom, before "It's a Wonderful Life" even meets up again.

I don't yet know who I will be playing in it. I do know that the same actor who beat me out for the starring role in "It's a Wonderful Life" will also have the starring role, as Scrooge, in this reading. But to be clear, there were no auditions for this one. I expressed interest in it to the director, a friend of mine, months ago, and I was in it. It has gone through many forms, and many other cast members since then, so I don't really know what to expect when I get there tonight. But one things seems certain; I will be reading a lot of parts for this one.

The entire thing is a fundraiser for the theatre. I am not a huge fan of fundraiser activities. But again, it's theatre, and it's Christmas. Plus if I get some food out of the deal in the party leading up to each reading, I can't find fault with that.

More on that this evening, or tomorrow.

2 Launches in 48 Hours, Part 1

Last night was the first rehearsal for "It's a Wonderful Life", the radio play, at the Winchester Little Theater. A few people were not there, it seems, but most were.

It looks like most of the people that were cast were people that showed up for both nights of auditions. A coincidence perhaps, but I did notice it.

The cast does indeed appear to be about 16 people, as the director estimated it would be during auditions. So, when I consider that I made a cut that small out of 65 or so that auditioned, (have of which were men), I can't really complain.

Despite arriving early, (as per my custom), I was still scrambling a bit to identify which roles I would be playing exactly.

I already knew from the start I would be playing Peter Bailey, father of George. That is by far my largest role. Two scenes with him. I'll basically be reading him the way I read for George when I auditioned. A gentler noble sort of man. He will probably have the closest to my own voice.

Then there is "Welch". He slugs George at some point in the bar. (For insulting his wife over the phone.) IN fact, I made one mistake last night, in not realizing that Welch was supposed to be in the telephone scene. He is heard in a muffled tone yelling through the Bailey's telephone. It is well marked now. I won't miss it again.

I am giving Welch a very deep voice. Very throaty. He is probably the voice that is least like my own.

Looks like I will also be playing "Man", which is literally one line. He asks for spaghetti at a restaurant. I think I'll call him "Spaghetti Man". The unique thing about that is that the one line Spaghetti Man has comes only a few moments before I play the aforementioned Welch. So, as is the case for most people in the show at several points, a quick and distinct transition to another character will have to be made. I'm not too worried about it though.

Then there is the small role of Second Commercial Man, a role I was not initially supposed to have, but was given as a sort of last minute switch by the director. This is not a character in "It's a Wonderful Life". But because it is a radio play, old fashioned radio commercials from the "sponsors" of the program are part of the action. During one such break, I am the man who learns to use "Dux Toilet Cakes". If I am allowed to keep the goofy, nerdy voice I came up with for the ad, it will be a fun moment for me, and hopefully the audience. (Ironically, it is not a product for the toilet, as the later lines reveal.) Two lines for that section. But I will also be up front when the jingle is sung for that one, set to the tune of "Santa Claus if Coming to Town", if I remember correctly. I guess I will sing it as the nerdy guy.

And finally, I also play one "Ed". If you recall from the story, there is at one point a run on the banks and the Bailey Building and Loan. Ed is one of the disgruntled Bedford Fallsians that comes to get his money. That's about three lines. I'm going with a sort of raspy, maybe short of breath voice for him. (He mentions having medical bills to bay; I thought that would be a logical decision. I will find out when we get our emailed notes if that will work for the director.)

Previously, I was intended to play one of the board members of the Bailey Building and Loan, but I was removed from that in favor of Second Commercial Man. No complaints here, even though the board member had a few more lines.

As for the mechanics of everything, I didn't yet have any trouble. Bear in mind, however, that there is not yet any set. What's more, the director said that the set was not going to be anything like he initially thought it would be. (As a side note, I always did think directors should have more say over how sets look. The notion of an independent set designer that has total reign honestly makes little sense to me. But oh well.) The moral of the story is, the shape of the "radio station" will be different than expected, and there may be a sort of hallway/waiting room type of area for those not performing. Still part of the set, but it may allow for off stage time for some actors, whereas at first we were told we'd all have to be on stage for the entire show.

I'm not great at visualizing structures before they exist, so I suppose my questions will be answered.

Otherwise, it's fairly simple. Each actor is assigned one of the two microphones that will be downstage. A few lines before one goes on, one approaches their assigned microphone from one side, delivers the lines, and then leaves the mike from the opposite side, returning to back stage. (Whatever that ends up being.) The effect is a circular pattern, one way street type of deal. If everyone pays attention to where they are in the script, their shouldn't be any problems.

I do have two very large chunks of time without being on. One of them comes 15 or so minutes before the intermission, so that will be the easier of the two. I can just relax after I deliver my final lines for the first act.

The commute was about an hour, with the highway. But it would be much longer if I took the highway during the weak I am sure, so I may opt for the already longer back ways, in hope of avoiding traffic next time. If my phones navigator can find that route. (I recently had to give back the borrowed GPS unit I was using.)

Last night's was the only rehearsal before Thanksgiving, the next being on Tuesday, December 1st. I think there will be 5 or 6 altogether, with 4 performances. A busy Early December for me. But November is not left out of this equation. Continue on to read, "2 Launches in 48 Hours, Part 2" to learn more.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


Last night was the first read through of "It's a Wonderful Life."

I wasn't there.

I can't tell you how angry and embarrassing I found that to be, when the director sent me a Facebook message mentioning it. I couldn't understand it. I checked my email spam folders, my voice mail, Facebook itself, several times over. I connected with him later that night, and it was determined, (after many live tests) that there is a severe server problem between his email and my own.

Even when he tried his auxiliary email address, and sent it to my work email, I got his messages, but he got nothing in return.

So very frustrating. I will now be at a disadvantage, for I will be coming in late, and I missed the all important meeting of these new people I will be working with. Their first impressions of me are hopefully not too damaged by this.

There will be, (I managed to finally learn) the first rehearsal on Sunday coming up. There will probably be about 5 rehearsals before we actually do it. So that remains to be seen.

I am trying to see if I can get a copy of the script before Sunday, so I can know what parts I will be playing. Or in the very least, get to the WLT early enough on Sunday to acclimate myself to the full script.

This is a first for me, and I admit it has thrown me quite off my game today. I don't doubt I can catch up and perform just fine. But there is so little time together for the cast that I feel very upset that I missed one of the meetings.

All I can do now of course it to make the most of the time that reminds, and make extra sure I turn in my usual caliber of performance. I will do so.

Friday, November 13, 2009

"It's a Wonderful Life" Results.

I made it in. But not as the lead. I am actually playing several of the smaller roles. More on that later.

If you read my two previous posts about auditioning for this show, (first night and second night), you know that I surmised I was being considered, along with one other guy, for the lead role of George. I also speculated that it was a zero sum game. George or nothing. Obviously in that regard I was wrong, so it's gratifying to know that I earned some kind of place in a 16 member cast, out of 70 or so who tried out.

Yet for tonight, I admit to some disappointment in not getting a large role. One is not supposed to say that, but at the moment I just want to own that feeling. If for no other reason than to get passed it faster.

The fact is that I hate to lose horse races, which this was. (The director even admitted as much in his phone call to me earlier this evening, so it is no longer speculation.) If it had been an even mix of roles that I read for, I'd feel differently. Or if the horse race were not so clear to start with. But in the theatre world, as well as in many other facets of my life, I tend to lose horse races. Almost every time. The longer I am in contention for something, especially a role, the least likely I am to be successful. Just an unfortunate and mysterious aspect to my endeavors thus far. If this were not so often true I don't think I'd mind getting so close with no cigar. I'll get passed it. But this is my blog of theatre adventures, you are my loyal blog readers, and I had to at least get that out, before moving on to the actual experience of the play.

Now for the guts of the matter.

The only roles I know for sure that I have are the role of George's father, (who is in one scene I believe) and the microscopic role of Welch...a guy in a bar who delivers two lines after punching George in the face. Interesting, those two roles were in fact two of the other roles I actually read for during auditions, all be they briefly. The director actually told me on the phone that I had convinced him I "was" Welch during the reading. I admit, I was sort of thrown into Welch at the last minute that night, and kind of put together something on the fly for him. Obviously, it worked somehow.

The director also mentioned that they were still working out "some other things" that I may be doing, but he wasn't sure yet. The logistics of 65 roles take some time to sort out, after all. But it's possible I would be reading 4 or 5 small roles, depending.

An associate of mine reminded me earlier this evening that it is the small character roles that are the most fun. Sometimes that is certainly true. Hopefully all of the aspects the are unique to this production will conspire to make a memorable experience for me in the ensemble.

The first meeting of the cast has yet to be determined, but probably Tuesday or Thursday of the coming week. I will of course keep you posted, as I embark on yet another of my theatrical adventures. I look forward to seeing who else got into this play. (Though I really didn't know many of the people that tried out.)

Opting Out 2

In the interest of completeness, I want to mention that the final day of the acting class I signed up for is tonight. (As far as I know, unless it has been changed again.)

I will not be attending.

I mentioned that I skipped last week's class due to not having time to prepare for the short scene, and for various other reasons. In contemplated for a time going back tonight to cap things off, but decided that not only is my schedule for tonight problematic, it would also be a bit fruitless.

Given that I have not been involved in this second scene, and that the exercises and discussions are unlikley to vary much from the first round of scenes, I don't think there would be much reason to attend. Especially considering that the last time I attended, having completed my monologue for the second time, really and truly felt like a concluding point for the class for me in my heart. It was a high note, during which I learned some things, and felt satisfied with a few things I had previously been unsatisfied with. Even before the scheduling conflict, I think I knew deep down that when I left that night I probably wouldn't be coming back.

So what have I learned from this experience? on the acting side I did learn a few tips and tricks that I think I can put to use during some future rehearsal processes. I also learned to ask for a syllabus and schedule confirmation before committed the money and time to another such class in the future.

But that goes to the heart of another thing I learned. Perhaps the biggest thing; acting classes may not be the thing for me.

I say that not because I do not feel I have learned everything I need to learn. On the contrary. I have advised readers of this blog, and of my column on more than one occasion that the actor's education is never over. I stand by that.

Yet being in this class did illuminate something that I have suspected. Classes with instructors tend to teach methods. One method often at the expense of the other. And while sometimes being trained in a specific method can be very helpful to the first time actor, (as several in this class were), I think for the seasoned actor, like myself, it is more often than not going to cause friction and stress. I tend to feel that I have paid my dues already in college by being educated through formal classes, and that now in my career it is time to educate myself through experience. Through experimentation. Taking risks. Reading and writing about the craft. In general opening myself up to all of the arts, and related experiences. By doing this I can come to the truth of what I wish to do, and ignore calls to follow specific laid out plans.

Each show, character and theatre is different, and they call for different approaches. At least they do for me. And while a class may in fact exist that is more about bringing out the individual actor than it is about coaxing conformity to one perspective or another, I am thinking that it is probably not worth the investment and risk to find out in the future. Not without meeting the instructor and talking to those who have taken the class before. That probably would have been a good idea this time, but I didn't do so, and that cannot be undone.

Barring the discovery of such an instructor, I think future acting related classes I take will be focused tightly on specific aspects. Stage combat for instance. Dialect classes. Singing. By improving specific aspects of my craft, I improve my whole approach by default.

So, my approach was confirmed in the breach of the class more so than in the practice of it. But I will not say the class was a waste. Though it was through the back door in some ways, being in the class did help me focus even greater attention on the things that work for me, and the things that do not. We are also improved by such knowledge. Though the class was not what I was expecting, I do not come away empty handed.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

"It's a Wonderful Audition", Part 2

More like an exhausting one.

Actually I don't know if exhausting is the real word for it. And even if it were, most of that would have to do with the long commute I take to get to Winchester. But near the end I certainly was a bit fatigued. I appreciate the committee being thorough, because that is better than casting out of hand without enough information. But spending two evening in a row, three hours at a time auditioning takes its toll.

Plus there were so many people to get through. More than the previous night, and as the director told us, between 65 and 70 people altogether! Given that he wants to keep the cast down to 16, that makes for a narrow window for me. (Being an out of town sort.)

Not that I can complain about my second night from a personal angle. I tripped up in one or two places, but otherwise did well. I once again did pretty much the very best I felt I was capable of doing with the readings I was asked to give.

Which is where some of my concerns come in. The readings I was asked to give.

Both nights, 90% of what I read was for George Bailey, which is of course the protagonist of the piece. I would be happy to be George, as I feel I have a lot to offer the role. Yet I didn't request him, nor did I refuse to take any other part. As I said before, I got there two nights in a row with no expectations in my head. No preferences. I just wanted to be involved.

But when it became clear that I was reading almost exclusively for George on the first night, and especially on the second, a few things started to enter my head. The first thing was that it was shaping up like a zero sum game for me. That the appearance was the committee was trying to decide if I should be George, or not be in the show. I have no proof of this, but it is a hunch I have, based on the fact that I was asked to read George more than anything else. By a long shot.

The second thing I am thinking right now, is that it is between me and one other person, for the role of George. For this other person, whom I know, was asked to read almost exclusively for George as well. This by itself doesn't bother me, but it does once again indicate to me that the committee was basically going back and forth between this other guy and myself in regards to casting George. I say this because he and I were almost the only ones to read for the part, and because neither of us read for anythign else. This reinforces my concern that I am not being considered for any other role.

One way I could look at it is that the committee must really be working extra hard to get me in the play SOMEHOW, and they are just determining where. That if I am not cast as the George character, after all that time spent evaluating me, that I will stand a good chance at being someone else in the play. Which would not be horrible.

Yet I would be more likely to think that way if I had read for dozens of roles. Obviously not all 65 roles could be read for, but if I had been reading for say, 5 different roles throughout the night, I could see perhaps the brighter view; that they wanted me in the show somehow, but didn't know where yet. But since I read almost exclusively for one part, my initial concern is that if they decide they don't ant me in that role, they don't have enough to determine that I would be good anywhere else. So I would not make the cut.

Again, this is all circumstantial evidence. If it even passes as that. But it is backed up with ten years of accumulated theatre audition instinct. I'd be happy to be wrong about it. I just feel that I am on target with it. At least to some degree.

I won't know of course until the end of the week. They expect to call people Friday or Saturday. So I suppose you will have to tune in then to find out what happens.

In the end, though, the audition process for this show was, to me, a better experience than the last time I auditioned for one of their shows. I am thankful for that at least.

Monday, November 09, 2009

"It's a Wonderful Audition" Part 1

That may be over dramatizing it just a bit. But last night I did have a good audition for "It's a Wonderful Life", a radio play being produced by the Winchester Little Theater.

Some background.

Loyal blog readers will remember my limited yet, shall we say, diverse previous experiences at the WLT. (They can be read about here, here, and here.) Reading those entries one will see that I don't head up there very often due to the commute. But as I mentioned last week here on the blog, several things convinced me to try out for this WLT production. Namely the director, the Christmas theme, and the unique chance to appear on FM radio. So, I borrowed my sister's GPS, and off I went.

I have been to the WLT enough times now to know that their audition process is a bit different from other local theatres. Everyone is present in the house of the theatre during auditions, as opposed to calling in smaller groups or individuals. They also require a two to three hour time commitment. Most other auditions locally take about an hour or so for straight shows, depending on the turn out. But I don't mind this; it is a thorough process, and though like any it can be abused by unfair practices, I rather like to the time and consideration put into the audition process at the WLT. At least on the surface.

And unlike most other places, the rest of the people trying out for a role tend to applaud the efforts of those who have completed their readings. I don't see that very often. Maybe it's the intimate quasi-black box feel of the small theatre. Who knows?

As for the audition itself, the turnout for this first day of two was strong. I think about 25 people of various ages. I really have not developed a relationship with many Winchester regulars, but I did recognize several people from previous auditions, as well as photographs on the walls of the lobby. You get the sense of who usually shows up for these things.

Not that I was totally among strangers. I have worked with the director before when we were cast mates in Romeo and Juliet this summer. Plus another friend of mine with whom I have worked in two shows, and another that I have worked with once before, and seen at I believe each of my previous WLT auditions.

All and all I felt much more comfortable last night than I did during my previous audition experience at the place. (Again, read previous entries for that story.)

"It's a Wonderful Life" is presented as a radio play. To an extent a story within a story, for each person cast will be playing an old radio actor with their own identity, who in turn will play several parts within "It's a Wonderful Life". The overall effect is to give the feeling to the audience that they are in an old time radio station watching people perform. If I get cast in this production, it will be the second year in a row that I have been in a "story within a story" for the holidays. (Last year, I appeared in a version of "A Christmas Carol" which has a similar premise.) To make it even more unique, it is to be recorded all three nights. Then the best overall recording will be selected, and played on a local FM radio station as part of their Christmas Day programming. I think that is a very neat concept, and one reason I hope to get into this show.

There are 65 speaking parts of various sizes, so obviously not all parts got read for. When it is something this big, I tend to not request a specific role. Rather, I just point out my willingness to be cast in whatever role, if any, I could be of most use. That being said, I did volunteer once to read for "Clarence" the angel, (it follows the movie pretty closely.) Turns out he only had two lines in that scene, but who knew?

I spent most of my other readings as George Bailey. Actually most of the men read a lot from the George Bailey scenes. This isn't surprising though, given that it is the larger part, and there were in fact an unusually high number of men there for a community theatre audition.

In all honesty, I feel I did well with my readings. It is of course hard to judge ones self in such things, especially when you have never worked for a specific director before and don't know what exactly they are looking for. In those cases one can only hope to come away from the audition knowing that they did everything that they wanted to do with their readings. I am happy to report that I did so. I turned in what I feel were the best possible readings that I could given the various circumstances. And in fact i don't think I would have been much better even if I had reviewed the script. I am after all familiar enough with the movie to have a sense of the story. That helped, no doubt.

There were in fact many good readings, and by no means do I have a read on whether or not I will be cast. I can say that with 65 possible roles, I would think anybody's chances of getting in were greater, but I am not sure how many people the director intends to cast. Last year in seems there were 26 actors involved, though the director indicated he wanted the cast to be smaller this year. I can just hope for the best.

Which is why I think I will return for the second night of auditions tonight. The director emphasized that this was not required, but admitted that it would be "useful" in making the final decisions. Seeing more combinations of people, and more readings from the same people make the job of the casting committee easier. This is another unique facet of the WLT. Most theatres around here don't suggest you come back, and in one case at least, they request that you not return to audition again. The impression I get is that as often as not, WLT folk return for the second night. So despite the commute, I believe I will do so. Even if I don't have a specific role in mind, the more I read, and the more people I interact with, the better chance I have of showing what I could offer any of the roles. So it stands to reason that I make it the second night. I feel very confident it will not be for naught as it was the last time I showed up for the second night at the WLT.

So please stay tuned for part 2 of this audition story. I know how folks love a cliffhanger...


As I wait for my dinner to cook before I head over to the WLT for the second night, I thought of something else that was very much a part of my conscious mind last night, but that I forgot to mention earlier when I first wrote this entry.

The movie "It's a Wonderful Life" is iconic. If that was not enough Jimmy Stewart himself was iconic, before and after that movie. The inherent risk of being in or trying out for a production that is based on pre-existing material, especially movies, is that the actor will ape the original performances. At least in subtle ways. Probably without even being aware that he is doing it. I faced a similar danger when I was in "The Lion in Winter" a few years back. (Talk about a movie packed with icons!) Yet even then it was not quite as problematic, because the movie was actually an adaptation of a play, not vice-versa. We still had to be careful not to ape the movie, but it was rather easy to keep it in mind, because of the nature of the play itself.

In this case, the movie IS the source material. A Jimmy Stewart movie. That millions adore. I would advise anyone that ever tries out for this thing to do as I make a conscious decision to NOT be Jimmy Stewart. Not even a little bit. As in any other role, it must become your own, and you mustn't simply mimic someone else. This should be obvious, but like I said it is not always a conscious aping. It is so ingrained into our zeitgeist, that movie. (Probably why the radio play script is somewhat different from the movie.)

Stewart did not simply deliver the definitive performance of George Bailey. He CREATED it. He originated it. And because it is a film, that creation is eternal. Those of us trying out for, and possibly starring in this adaptation MUST aim square for the epicenter of the heart of the story. Not get distracted by what everyone knows of the movie.

I tried not to get distracted by the idea of AVOIDING it either, but if one were to err, I think in this case it's better to err on the side of avoidance than mimicry of the source material.

As with last night, I shall endeavor to remember this in my readings tonight.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Opting Out....

Loyal blog readers...

Tonight was supposed to be the next night of my acting class. But for various reasons, some of which I will expound upon herein, I will not be attending.

The gist of all the reasons is this; I have not had the time to be as prepared as I expect myself to be for this scene.

My schedule has recently changed quite a bit, (now that we are passed the date wherein the class was originally scheduled to conclude.) It has not allowed for a lot of time to study my scene, let alone the entire play. And since Chekov's "Three Sisters" is in fact a very rich, deep, and multi-layered piece, anything less than full submergence into the text before attempting the first scene would be unsatisfactory to my standards. So after consulting with my scene partner, I decided it was best for me to not attend tonight's class.

My partner in fact would have been presenting two scenes tonight at any rate, given that she has not yet finished with her first scene. So perhaps it is a weight off of her own shoulders as well. Either way, I am thinking, indeed planning to try to attend the final class next week, to both glean what I can from the other scenes, and to close things off right. I cannot assure anyone that I can make it, but I have advised the instructor of my intentions.

I could have gone anyway, and half-assed it. but I do nothing half-assed when it comes to acting. Even if it is what people accept and expect. I have a higher standard for myself.

So, for the moment, that is that.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

"A Robin Redbreast in a Cage, Puts All Heaven in a Rage."

I don't really understand those who feel that actors have minimal or no investment to make into a piece. Don't laugh, this view is more common to theatre these days than you may think, in all levels of performing. The notion that all emotions, motivations, character traits, quirks, back story and creativity in presentation are none of the actor's affair. A notion that reduces fine acting into nothing more than projecting one's voice, and not tripping over anything on stage.

I try to preach against theatrical monotheism here on the blog. I avoid, when I can, the notion, that any given method is wrong. Getting to the truth of a character, remaining consistent throughout a performance, and doing so with passion and energy is my acting credo. Whatever a person needs to do in order to maintain that, without denying it to someone else, is generally fine by me.

Yet once in a while, I feel an almost visceral need to reject certain notions. One of them is in fact this idea of actor slavery to text, to directors, to the whims of stage managers, and basically, just about to anything but their own creativity. The "actors as living furniture" view of live theatre, which dictates that the true nature of the experience is exclusively the director's vision, (read as "dictates" to many), and the words of the playwright. I have always found this to be particularly offensive.

In too many places the actor is considered subservient to some other person or institution. Yet that is the nature of some media. Movies. Television. A certain degree of acceptance to the idea that actors are lower on the totem pole in those two industries is inevitable if one wishes to be part of them. It has been that way for decades. Yet part of the compensation for this acceptance was the idea that live theatre remained the actor's medium. Yet in far too many circles, (amateur was well as professional) an attempt has been made to shift the theatrical tide towards less actor oriented, and more director centered, spectacle driven productions. And I say, enough is enough.

Mechanical, uninspired, and lazy is the director who insists on one unchanging vision from first rehearsal to opening night. The same goes for the playwright that leaves no room for personal interpretation of his text. And even applies to those actors who feel that they can only perform when being placed like a pawn on a chess board. None of these types breathe much life into theatre.

The stage is an actor's medium, despite a trend away from that notion in recent years. Directors who want to be tyrants should get into film. That is where directors must be given the highest amount of freedom in the creative collaboration. Writers who want to be gods ought to enter television, where their talents and positions generally reign over that of others. The peculiarities of those industries require such hierarchy. But I stand vehemently opposed to the encroachment of these philosophies and practices into live theatre. As I said, it is the actor's medium, and those involved in it, directors, playwrights (and yes, actors) should learn to accept it if they wish to create the best possible result.

This means in fact that within the teamwork and collaborative efforts of a stage production, actors ought to be the one with the greatest amount of freedom. Unlike TV and the movies, the very specific draw of live theatre is exactly that. It is live. It is visceral. If we rushed the stage from the audience, we would encounter human beings of flesh and blood. That is live theatre, and it is what people pay for. It is what people as a whole fall in love with when they come to the theatre. Directors and playwrights, stage managers and set designers who think otherwise are quite simply unwilling to relinquish power and are afraid of not having 100% control over things. Equally unwilling are they to concede the notion that people do not generally go to the theatre to see "how something was directed". We have cinemas for that. People attend theatre to see how it is acted.

Naturally, directors and playwrights are not irrelevant. A script needs to work according to certain rules, and somebody must be directing traffic. So this is not an advocacy of eliminating the director, or of ignoring/changing a script in the middle of a performance. (You can face legal issues there.) It is rather, a call for those involved in all aspects of bringing a live theatre production to life to recognize the freedom that actors deserve. And a plea to not be afraid of same. Let us do our jobs, and the magic will happen. (If the right actors are selected, which is another actual job of the director.)

Actors, don't accept a shrinking influence in your own medium. You are not in a movie. You are not in television. You are in live theatre. Don't let anyone take that away from you. And if they would, go be in another show, with people who know their place and are willing to let you do your thing, and won't silence you and your need to connect with what you are doing. Don't accept limitations on your creative power in order to maintain the false and insecure notion that any one person in theatre is sacrosanct. Truth and passions are the sacred things of theatre. The rest will follow if you possess them. If you do not, it's a crap shoot at the best.

There are directors out there who understand this. Find them, and be in every show you can with them. You will better for it, and so will theatre itself.

Friday, October 30, 2009

The Approaching Holidays

I have some theatre plans, and things to ponder as well, for the upcoming Christmas Season.

To begin with, I have committed to a reading of "A Christmas Carol" at the Full Circle Theater Company. By reading of course I mean it will be more like a recital. It will be for the audience as though a story or book where being read to them, except with several people reading different parts. In fact, the script that will be used for this two weekend Christmas event is the adaptation that Charles Dickens himself drew up based on his novel.

In the wake of A Christmas Carol's wild popularity, Dickens was often called upon to read the piece to large gatherings, in both Europe and North America. To make the piece more palatable, (not to mention the evening shorter), Dickens adapted his novel to script form. It is obviously abridged, but nonetheless take about an hour to perform. At least there can be little argument that the author would be pleased with the adaptation!

I participated in a reading of this very script, under the very same director, 6 years ago, as part of a Christmas celebration. That was a one night only affair, while this will be two weekends, and will include music and other festivities. I look forward to it, despite it being a reading. This tale is this tale, and few things bring the holidays more into focus than taking part in any telling of this story. (Those who follow the blog know that just last year, I was in a full fledged production of A Christmas Carol, which was Full Circle's inaugural production in their new building.)

Yet there is more to my holiday oriented staged reading plans. Perhaps.

The Winchester Little Theater, for whom last year I appeared in a staged reading, will be holding auditions for a live radio play version of "It's a Wonderful Life."

Every year this theater puts on this Christmas reading. It is a reading, like others I have described, but with something extra. It is staged like the old classic radio plays from the golden age of radio. Complete with a sound effects guy on stage. Last year, they managed to get the thing broadcast live on real local radio, and this year will be doing so again. I am giving very serious consideration to auditioning for this experience.

I like most aspects of the Winchester Little Theater, despite being treated poorly there, one time. Yet the drive for me is an hour an ten minutes, and it is not a pleasant drive for me. After my last experience, I decided that I wouldn't make Winchester a very regular destination, but would consider it again if something about a production really spoke to me. I am a fan of the venue itself, and have been hoping for a chance to perform there again someday.

That is the case with this. I am not a huge fan of "It's a Wonderful Life", (sacrilege to some of you, I know.) But I do know the director, and am intrigued by the possibility of performing live on radio. (I have been a radio personality before and loved it.) Plus it is a reading, so fewer rehearsals are required, and hence less travel. So I do believe this would be a good time to give the WLT another chance.

If I do try out, and get in, it will go on one week after the Christmas Carol reading finishes. It would also mean that I would have to schedule rehearsals for one around the other. Normally I would not do this, but given that both are readings, I feel comfortable with the possibility. And taking part in not one, but two well known Christmas tales would make for a very festive Christmas season for me. The holidays aren't worth much if one is not around people, after all.

Keep checking back to see what I decide to do about the WLT. But at this point, believe me, I am leaning heavily towards going for it.

A Brief Voice Over Foray

This is predominantly a stage oriented blog. It's true purpose though is to discuss my acting adventures, and sometimes those do not fall into the standard theatre dynamic. Yesterday I finished up once such example. I would have mentioned it here on the blog sooner, but the whole thing absorbed so little of my time, I thought it would be best to post one single entry about it.

I peruse Craigslist quite a bit. For jobs, and once in a while when I am looking to buy something on the cheap. If you are familiar with the site, you know that there are sections dedicated to "creative" and "talent". It was in one of those two sections, a few months ago, that I found an ad seeking voice over actors.

It was obvious that they were not able to pay big time Union compensation, but not being in a performance union this didn't bother me.. They sought someone to create a spoken word file for a podcast tour of Manhattan they were creating. I was interested, and contacted them. I wasn't needed at the time, and I forgot all about it.

Then about a week ago, this party contacted me, explaining that their initial talent had dropped out of the project. They wanted me after all. I agreed and the script was sent over to me, via e-mail.

It was only about 90 seconds long. A New York man from the late 19th century describing his experiences on the commuter train. Very simple, but a lot of fun. To come up with a usable character, voice, cadence, all based on a small bit of copy, and the little time I had to work with.

I asked the director if he wanted a standard thick New York accent, or no. He told me that the advantage we had was that nobody is sure when the standard New York accent that we know today came into being. It may have been present in the 1880's, but is more likely it was not. So he told me to go with something that suggested it, but not "Archie Bunker".

I had not attempted a New York accent of any class since college. And even then, I didn't end up using it much. So I read the piece out loud to myself over and over for about an hour. And to my surprise, a New York accent formed, almost naturally. One or two words like "Fourth" and "New York" itself served as anchors, as anybody knows how most New Yorkers would say such things. But those words led to an understanding of other words. And each time I would read the piece, I felt more and more familiar with the accent, even though I am no expert on that particular dialect. Yet the all the memories of the movies, shows, and people I have listened to over the years that had such an accent began to coalesce in my performance the more I read the piece out loud to myself. It was quite satisfying, and rather intriguing, to just suddenly know instinctively how a New Yorker would pronounce certain things. What cadences suddenly made sense with the sentences.

Don't get me wrong. A linguist expert, or a native New Yorker would probably be able to tell right away I was an actor. Yet I wasn't trying to faithfully replicate exactly what New York accents are today. I was trying to create a reasonable theatrical suggestion of a New Yorker, and i think I achieved that. More so than I thought I would when I started.

As mentioned, I was aided further by the mists of time which makes modern people unclear as to what exactly New Yorkers of the time period would have sounded like. The result? A passable New York accent that hopefully will entertain unknown people in the future.

The director said he was pleased with the accent I came up with. Called it a "sort of Upper crusty" New Yorker. He would know more than I. I only care that he was pleased with the work that I did. I know that I am.

The whole thing was learning experience for me, and not just in regards to accents, and how to perfect a voice over reading. I learned more about my own potential as an actor. Paying strict attention to the words, syntax, and accents of all kinds of people, especially performers, is something I have always done. Experiences like this prove that it works, and is worth it. I can always learn more, and professional training in certain accents is still something I would love to take part in. But today, my keen attention to linguistic detail shines through, and I am pleased with my efforts.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The New Look!

Well, Loyal blog readers, I have done something very small and insignificant to most people, but actually rather large for me; I have trusted in the blogger system enough to upgrade my template! Behold the new Always Off Book!

I realize that those of you who know code would say there is not much of a template. Boring. No new ground being broken. Cooky cutter. But you know what? I don't care, because I am very happy not only with the new look, but also with the new functionality. I am going to be able to post pictures and video, and rearrange things much easier, (and with much more confidence) during future renovations.

Expect some smaller cosmetic changes here and there in the near future, as I play around with the template a bit to see what suits me the best. But overall, a friendly, more concise archive, customizable fonts, (which I used to have but recently lost in the old matrix), picture and video posting, and a more minimalist color scheme all are conspiring to make me a very happy blogger.

I still can't change the font size, for some reason. In my test blog I had that option on the tool bar above each post. Here I do not. But I suppose it is a small price to pay, given everything else that I have available to me.

What do you think, blog readers? Feel free to leave (nice comments). And of course check back regularly as usual, as the content itself remains as it always amateur actor sharing his not so amateur thoughts on the world of acting.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Techie Explorations

And no, I don't mean back stage people in black that get in your way while you try to perform. (Harmless jab, guys, don't flip out if you are on the techie side of all things theatrical.)

I am however referring to techie issues with the blog itself. As I mentioned on the blogs 4th birthday a few weeks ago, I would be slowly but surely initiated changes to the lay out and over all look of Always Off Book. It is time, and it has become, in some way, unruly for new people to navigate. (See the Archives.) Yet I fear the untimely destruction of this, my online pride and joy, that screwing around with code could cause. (I have no grasp of the concept, despite trying a few times.) I remember how dry my mouth got just cutting and pasting code when this blog was new. Simply adding dates and a links section, (as you see on the left of the home page as of now) had my scared out of my mind I was going to wreck everything.

That fear has not gone away. Nor has an understanding of code evolved within me. However, (and somehow I missed this) Blogger does offer an updated account, still for free, which allows people to make changes with a point and click interface that formerly required knowledge of code. This is very good news for me, and my desire to update the look and feel of the blog, (without altering the content.) It is in fact out of fear of losing any or all of my content, built up over 4 painstaking years of writing and acting, that made me decide to open up an anonymous new blog, under the new format/rules of Blogger, to see how easy it is to navigate, and more importantly, how difficult it is to screw everything up. If, as I play with it, I am satisfied that I can rebuilt Always Off Book with the new format, I will bite the bullet, and hit the "upgrade" button on my account...hopefully leaving room for all sorts of oohing and ahhing later next month.

But until then, I dare not experiment on the offspring. So I will keep testing it, and until I feel my feet are on the ground with it, I will keep the format here just as it is.

(Anyone who happens to come across my new anonymous and totally utilitarian blog which I created today just to test all the new features, and KNOWS they have found me, gets a free t-shirt. But no hints!)

Friday, October 23, 2009

Acting Workshop Day "6"

Ok, for the purposes of clarity, we are going to call last night, day 6. And I am pretty sure according to most definitions that is what it was, though believe it or not there are multiple definitions.

Last night I delivered the monologue again. I incorporated some of the suggestions made during the previous class. I felt more at ease, because I knew more of what to expect.

Ironically, most of what I prepared for did not occur.

There were more people present this time then had been in weeks, so the group I spoke to was larger. Also, no specific instruction had been given as to how they should react. So I did my best to read the reactions on the faces of those watching me. My perception was that they were not playing characters that were as angry this time. I did sense some of them not turning, but as a whole, everyone seemed to be more open to what my character was saying, from an earlier moment in the speech, than they were on Tuesday night. (Either that, or I didn't do as good a job reading them.)

I opted to start off serious, and then soften things up by making the reading more humorous, and light. This is a combination between how I had originally prepared it on Tuesday, and they alternate way I performed it on Tuesday as a part of an excercise at the end of Tuesday. Though I never did feel totally off book for the piece, I felt much more at ease giving it this time. Part of it was because it was because I had done it several times. Part of it was because I was prepared for what (I thought) would be coming after). Either way it went very smoothly.

I was given the chance to go again if I wanted, but I didn't feel the need. I didn;t think I could improve upon it, given the mission of the assignment at that time.

I thought I would be in for another round of interview questions. But instead, he made some brief comments to the group, and asked how I made them feel as members of "the congregation". One said she felt I was being "holier than thou". (That coming from her character.) I didn't sense that when I was looking at her as I gave the speech, or else I would have changed my tactic.

And that, in the end, was the purpose of this assignment. The idea of having an objective for a scene or a moment, and doing things to attain it. To be open to the stimuli from other actors, (or in my case, the audience), and to change one's tactics to counter anything that may be an obstacle.

One thing the instructor did mention, that I may have missed before, but was glad to hear him say that night, was that objectives are far an actor, but that the character may not always be aware of the actor's objective. This was a small moment of clarity for me, because it matches more what I do when I am on stage, than what I thought he had been insisting upon before. Whereas before I thought he suggested our character know every moment what their objective is, and reflect it in every action, last night he made the distinction between the actor knowing the objective and the character knowing. I still do not 100% agree with the micro-motivations and constant objectives that the instructor advocates, but I think they fit in more with my style of acting now that the distinction has been made between actor and character. (Or, as I said, perhaps it was made before, and I missed it.)

Then I was done. I was a little surprised at how little I had to do, but he thought it was a good presentation, and there were no more question from anyone. I realized later that we were nearing the end of the class period, and that my scene maybe had been less discussed because of that. I wasn't offended by it, and I am sure that had I been struggling, the time would have been taken to help right me. But I felt, good, the instructor felt good, and the lion's share of deep discussion had already taken place on Tuesday.

I will say that my objective the second time was still the same as it was on Tuesday. Some may have changed it, and given enough time maybe I would have come to change it as well. But in the time allotted for the assignment, I still felt a strong pull towards the objective of Father Flynn trying to be closer to God in everything he did. That was, in the instructor's words, my "hot choice."

As for future meetings, there will be one on the 5th of November. (The Gunpowder Treason and Plot!) That is when my new scene partner, a friend of mine, and myself will do our first presentation of our scene from Chekov's Three Sisters. That same day, the rest of the class who has not yet gone a second time for the scenes from Doubt will do so then. So I have two weeks to get a new scene up and running with a partner. But it is a very short scene, and I know the woman well. I feel all will be well with that. Keep checking back, of course, to be sure.

The whole class, near the end, seems to have finally hit on an agreeable stability, in both scheduling and objective. This pleases me.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Acting Workshop Day...Who Knows?

I am a writer, obviously, and while I enjoy doing it most of the time, once in a while things are so convoluted and complicated that expressing them in the written word becomes somewhat tedious, if not impossible. The nature of the acting class as it stands now may be one of those things. I will try to explain things, and see how it goes.

To begin with, I want to say that each of the last three meetings have consisted of at least 30 minute sessions of trying to rework the schedule to everyone's satisfaction. There have been about 8 different schedules for the future of the class, and there have been 4 in the last 5 days. Tonight we must once again meet to discuss what the future of the class will be. One major problem is that there is a stretch, passed the original ending date of the class, during which almost nobody is available. In an effort to make sure we have all 8 classes, (and a 9th bonus class in order to "make up for all the confusion"), many attempts have been made to secure proper days and times. Most recently, this included extended this class, which started September, into mid December. To put is mildly, this did not work for me, nor does it work for a few other people. So the nightmare continues, and I am not sure it can be worked out to everyone's satisfaction. I would not burden readers with talk of schedules under normal circumstances, but in this case, it is so inextricably linked with the success and feel of the class that I included this brief synopsis of the problem.

As for my actual presentation of my monologue on Tuesday, (which I will be performing again tonight, since all scenes go twice), things get complicated as well.

Ideally I would describe here the nature of the character, what I was trying to do, and what I was instructed to do, etc. But as I look back over the entries covering this class, I realize that I have not really provided a great deal of detail about the nature of my performance, because I myself have spend so little time being sure of it myself. And I do not mean how I will do it, but WHAT I would be doing. Between unruly ex-scene partners, canceled classes, other obligations, and a plethora of circumstances out of my control, I have not had much time to truly delve as deeply in as I would for a production. So I don't know if it makes sense now to try to catch all of you up, loyal blog readers, with the intricacies of the character. (Which I kept broader than usual anyway, in order to prepare for the inevitable evisceration that would receive in class.)

But I must try to describe the nature of my first real performance in the class (!) in some way. So allow me to say that I approached the monologue in a certain way. Not with the assumption that it HAD to be that way, nor with the idea that they were anything more than broad strokes. Strokes on which I would have honed in more if I were actually in a production. But one thing I didn't understand was that my fellow classmates would be pretending to be characters observing me when I gave this monologue.

This was not clear until I was actually finished my first presentation of the speech. (A sermon being given.) At no other time in the class have those of us watching been instructed to be characters that interacted with the people performing. And though I knew my situation was unique, (having no partner) I misunderstood the nature of what I was to be doing. Had I known that the rest of the class would be silently portraying other characters within the play as I spoke, I perhaps would have been more prepared for this.

And yet, I do not think I would have presented the speech much differently, even if I had known this. I just would have liked to be aware of the dynamic. I still think my interpretation of the speech, given the character and the plot of the play, was a fair one. Buy my giving of the speech became an exercise in responding to an audience, and knowing how to give and take from them, and I was not prepared for that to be the focus of what I was doing that night.

You see, I am very much in tuned to and aware of the synergy between an audience and a performer. (See this article I wrote for recently.) And I am also aware that one must be ready to give and receive from other actors while on stage. But there is a distinction between the two. One generally knows who is the audience, and who is the cast mate. Yet in this case, my "audience" consisted of castmates, playing roles themselves. I took the script literally, and performed my piece as though I were speaking to the house of a theatre filled with paying customers.

What is the difference? A very significant one. At least from my perception. When addressing an audience, I am more free to interpret a speech, and present it, in the way that makes sense to me. I feel the audience should be moved by what I say, and if not I can adjust what I am doing. Adjust to cause "something". But that something is not always in my control, because the audience is not "in" the play.

Yet if I am to give a speech in character, to other people also in character, than the nature of the speech takes on a different sort of power. It may or may not be different in it's interpretation, but it will certainly be different it the subtleties of it's execution. Because when addressing other characters within the story, I have to take their story into account, whereas when address just the audience, I need only take myself, and my view of my own character into account. (At least in my school of acting that is true.)

In short, when I act, my character has specific agendas when dealing with other characters portrayed by other actors. But when it comes to the audience, my agenda is more broad. I want them to be sad, to laugh, to be uncomfortable, to applaud. The line is fine, but it is distinctive, and in class last time, that line was erased. Partly because of the nature of the instruction and how it differs from my views, and part because I misunderstood what my mission for the evening was.

This is cerebral stuff, I know. And I am paring it down without specific examples from my experience in class in order to make it as general an observation as possible. Yet despite my confusion as to my mission, and my disapproval of some of the the instructions I was given later in the class, (which I will get to), it makes for an important conversation, with myself, and with any of you. I hope that I have made the distinction clear to you. Even if you do not share it, understanding what I am saying will give you great insight into the way I approach the craft.

Now, to be a tad more specific.

Setting aside the idea that I gave the speech with the impression I was talking to an "objective" audience, I also assumed certain things about the circumstances of within the play. At this stage, (SPOILER ALERT IF YOU HAVE NOT SEEN DOUBT ) Sister Aloysius have suggested that Father Flynn has done inappropriate things with a student. My speech is the Father's first sermon after her insinuations. I was approaching the speech from the perspective that the whole church was unaware of the allegations. But eventually I was told, as an exercise, to give the speech with the assumption that everyone I was talking to was not only aware of the allegations, but believed them. Obviously this required a drastic shift in the way I would present the monologue.

This threw me off a bit, and made me somewhat uncomfortable, at least at first. Not because of the interpretation, but because it was not what I had prepared myself for. If you read this blog you know that in a show I believe one must always be prepared for just about anything, so at first blush it would seem that this is hypocrisy on my part. But least in a show, there are norms that are established, and interpretations that are worked out and tried over time, so that by opening night, there is at least a working consistency within the play and the performances. It is that solid base that allows one to be prepared for unexpected shifts.

Yet with the class, it was an extreme shift not just of an expected circumstance as a performer, but a total 180 in regards to interpretation of the scene. Had this been a real scene, I would have known by then if my fellow actors were going to portray angry people, passive, people, or what have you. That night, it was all an arbitrary sort of decision.

Granted it was an exercise, and he said so. And for my part, I did it well. Not as well as I could have done it had I had some more concrete time with the character, but I did meet with success by and large. But I felt it was a long way to go to simply make a point that is honestly already clear to me. And what is that point?

That performing a role is a fluid activity which can and should be influenced, if only in subtle ways, by the actions of cast mates, the reaction of the audience, and changes that we cannot always anticipate. And that to optimize our ability to do this, we must remain open, flexible, and sensitive to the psychic and emotional energies that surround us when we perform. We must make sure we deliver those things to others, and make sure we are getting them from others ourselves.

Valid? Again, if you have read my blog over the years, you know that I fundamentally agree with this notion at the heart of acting. It is not that I find it to be an unworthy destination. (Though the degrees to which it is adopted is going to differ depending on the actor and the production. There is no one set degree at which this must work.) But as I have mentioned several times during this acting class experience, I just don't think I need to jump through the specific hoops of this class in order to understand that truth. As a result, I think sometimes I am trying to crack a specific secret code to these exercises. To try to master a secret riddle or game that once understood will allow me to complete this class successfully. But the problem is, there is no secret code. There is no great mystery that I need to be solving. I have simply found myself in an uncomfortable car, filled with strangers, traveling down a road that is bumpy, on my way to someplace I am already familiar with. I am not above learning new things. I just don't always like re-learning old things. I think that may be what this class has been in many ways to me.

I could go more into detail about the specifics of my monologue, but I won't. I could also go into the nature of the half hour hostile interview I had to go through in character, (which everyone in the class must face.) But I don't think I will get into that either. I seem to have interpreted the character, and answered the question in such a way that I am not, to the instructors satisfaction, coming to the conclusions that he thinks would be best for me to come to. I think one of the problems may be that I refuse to accept any other interpretation of the characters I play. Perhaps I don't. But that is not a rejection of someone else's interpretation. That is a rejection of the notion that it is MY interpretation. Sometimes I come at characters from a very different, unexpected angle, and more than once in my career that has confused and frustrated people, especially directors.

Yet I don't do it to be contrary. I do it to be true to an interpretation that speaks to me, obscure and off the wall as it may be. I do it because I feel it is my job, and I feel I am good at my job. (Though always hoping to improve.) I think that is what my class mates and the instructor want as well. I just think, once again, we may be dealing with square pegs.

But then again, sometimes one learns just as much from something that doesn't work, as they do from something that does. By that metric, I think, in the end, I will get something memorable out of this class.

Tonight I run my monologue again. I will be going over it shortly. More on that, of course, can be found here on the blog either tonight, or tomorrow.