Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Summarizing Me

I don't often add photos to this blog. And in fact I believe the last time I ever bothered with doing so, it was this exact same photo. I will check on that to be sure.

The point however, is that I was recently working on something that required me to select a photo that "sums up who or what you are." I thought about it for a short while, and had a few other candidates, but it didn't take me long to select this one.

Not that I feel any photo can really "sum up" a person. But this picture, with many layers to it, comes pretty close.

It was taken in the very cramped backstage area in a building called Reynolds Hall on the campus of Shepherd University. The Full Circle Theater Company did not yet have its own space so it was renting this venue for its production of The Lion in Winter. So the theatre aspect of my personality is obvious.

Yet more subtle is the nature of the venue, which I mentioned was a bit cramped backstage. And an astute eye will see that the backstage itself is really more of a makeshift set up. The venue is not specifically designed for full fledged theatre productions, though with the aid of the temporary backdrops and portable walls, (seen to my right) a primitive set is possible. That production, (one of my favorites ever) was very much about low budgets, make shift sets pieces, and elbow grease. It had its problems, and I wouldn't want to use this venue all the time, but it really showed off the resourcefulness and ingenuity of dedicated theatre types. (You can read about my experiences in this play, in this venue right here on the blog, starting about here.)

I like that kind of "rag-tag" nature to art. Indeed I will be at last building my own small theatre company based on such principles sometime next year, hopefully. And this photo also captures that element of my theatre persona. Minimalism.

The photo is in black and white, which sums up nicely my approach to some things in life, whether wise or not. I do tend to be black and white about some things.

It also captures my sometime aloofness. You don't even see my face in the shot. You see my back as I walk away from you. Hands in pockets, probably deep in thought about something. I am not yet in costume, so I am not yet in my performance preparation mode. Yet I am certainly distant, and unto myself here. Which again, though not 100% accurate for all of my time, is accurate enough to much of my time to make a good representation of my persona. Not that anything and everyone is too good for me, and hence being ignored. I knew the picture was being taken. Just that I am often a step to the side.

This could get far beyond the scope of theatre and this blog, so I won't elaborate much further on the nature of what this photograph reveals, but I will say that that sometime aloofness is in fact a part of my performance. An aspect of my art. My introversion at work in a venue of creation such as a cramped theatre.

You don't get the whole "Ty as actor/artist" story with this photograph. But you get the first few chapters at least.


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Perfect Green Room

So much of an actor's time is spend in the green room of a theatre. In a perfect world, any actor who is not about to enter or who is not on stage should be waiting in the green room. Quietly.

Yet not all theaters, especially on the community level, have the luxury of a fully functioning green room. I have performed in several venues where no green room, or even dressing rooms were available, and it was nerve wracking. I found myself longing for that neutral space with which I could touch base when not performing, and "even out". Without it, I feel a bit more on edge than I like to be for a performance.

An ideal dressing room could make up for this, but those are even less common in community theaters than are ideal green rooms. And while I hope to explore my idea of a perfect dressing room in the future, today I'd like to confine my thoughts to the ideal green room. After all, even an introvert like myself doesn't want to spend 100% of his off stage time up in a dressing room.

To begin with, it would be just the green room. It would serve no other purpose. Not an auxiliary storage room. Not a place where the only bathrooms in the building are. Certainly not a place where friends and family of actors are permitted at any time before, during, or after the performance. It would be a space 100% dedicated to providing a place for actors and crew to congregate and "relax" as much as one can during a show when not performing their duties.

Most green rooms are not far from the performance space. This makes sense, because an performers need to be able to hear their cues, and get ready to enter when it is time. However, if a green room is equipped with a reliable audio monitor through which the performance on stage can be heard, the room itself can be anywhere in the building and still allow the actors time to get into position at the correct time. So not only would my ideal greenroom have such an audio monitor, but the room itself would be a greater distance from the stage than in most venues. That way those in the green room don't have to be quite so much on edge about making noise that can be heard by the audience. I still want my green room quiet and respectful, but if that edge that is often added to a group of people when every other laugh or excited response is met with "ssshhhh", I think everyone would be happier.

Having one of those doors that ease shut automatically behind someone would be fantastic. Something about being in a theatre during a live show turns most people into morons, unable to slowly pull a door shut. An inbuilt need to slam a door on their way in or out of the room will take over the actions of at least half the people ever to enter a theatre.

In this Utopian green room, there would also be enough individual (and comfortable!) places to sit for each and every cast member, of any size show that the venue ever hopes to produce. So adamant about this am I that if I were running my own theatre I would give serious consideration to only casting shows that were small enough to allow each actor a place to sit, should he want one, when he is off stage. That is because fewer things can irritate some people, (such as myself) more than the, "Steal his seat while he is on stage" game that so many people in a green room play. If seats were plentiful and all were of equal comfort level, (not folding metal chairs), there would be no need to fight this inevitable battle for position.

A microwave and a small refrigerator would be present, as would at least one small table. I myself do not like to mess around with food before a performance, but without fail someone will be scrambling to scarf down their only meal all day before curtain. This is messy and inconvenient enough as it is. Let's give those who have to do it as much room in the green room as possible to minimize the effort they have to put in to preparing whatever meal they have to eat. (And believe me, even if it requires putting out the entire rest of the cast, people like this will do so. Nothing is more important to such people as this meal at this time. Not even their lines.)

This also means of course that in an idea green room you could eat. I'd be happy if you could not eat or drink anything in the space, but the more content people you have in the green room, the better your time in there is going to be, and I find too many people need food while in a green room. So I'd allow it to shut people up.

There would however be no televisions permitted. That's just asking for trouble.

The room would have it's own environmental control. We freeze or roast enough as it is on stage depending on the venue. The least you can give us actors is one room where it we might actually encounter hospitable temperatures.

I am torn between tile flooring which is easier to clean during strike, or nice carpeted flooring, which creates a more cozy atmosphere and would be more comfortable to lay on if one decides to do that. I can see that one going either way. What do you think, loyal blog readers?

And finally, though I have said this already not only in previous posts, but earlier in this very post, it bears repeating because it is so crucial to my ideal green room; nobody other than actors and crew for the current show would be allowed into the green room at any time for any reason, for even the shortest duration. Nobody's kids. No spouses. No grandmothers. Not even other actors who frequently appear on the same stage, but are not in the current production. Nobody unless they are cast/crew of the current show. That is what a lobby is for.

A green room must be a refuge. As I said before, a neutral spot. A  place where everyone sharing the common story of bringing that production to life can spend time getting ready, gearing down or gearing up, going over lines, and in general just be able to feel that they do not have to be 100% "on" if they don't choose to be. Many people are involved in producing a show, but it is the actors that on show night have the most to do and the most visible job. They work hard and deserve as few distractions as possible. They are ordered about and struggle for eight weeks to bring you a show. The least they deserve is their own room that is off limits to the rest of the world.

That, my friends, is my ideal green room. I am sure they exist somewhere. And in the interest of full disclosure, I have in fact been in a few theaters that came fairly close to this ideal, with a few of my requirements missing here and there. Yet if ever I find a a theatre that contains all of these aspects, I may have to move close to it, just so I can perform in it for the rest of my life.

Did I leave anything out? What would be in your ideal green room?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Auditions: My latest piece on ShowBizRadio

My most recent column over on showbizradio.net deal with choosing audition pieces.

In the majority of my experiences in smaller, local community theatre cold readings from the script of the show for which you are auditioning are the modus operendi. However on occasion I have had to perform a prepared piece of some kind. It can be nerve wracking at times, but not as nerve wracking as having to witness certain types of other actors deliver certain types of monologues. It can be cringe inducing, and it doesn't need to be this way.

Check out the piece to read my advice on what to choose, and what to avoid, when auditioning with a prepared monologue.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

60 Minutes with Shakespeare

I am a bit late to this party, but I wanted to take this chance here on my blog to highly recommend 60 Minutes with Shakespeare, a presentation by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.

There you will find 60 audio files, each about a minute long, and each from a different professional discussing some aspect of Shakespeare scholarship. The nature of the subjects addressed in this collection tends in most cases towards refuting the notion that William Shakespeare did not write the plays attributed to him, though other subjects about the work and life of the Bard are also explored.

When I tweeted my approval for this project after listening to the, I described it as an "excellent collection of concise scholarship." Please do drop into the site and give a listen yourself.