Thursday, October 18, 2012

Production Update

Hello, loyal blog readers. I mentioned a few weeks ago that I was directing "Art", and that despite this being an acting blog, I'd give you the occasional update. Here's one.

For the last two rehearsals, the cast has been on the stage for the first time. Not alone, as the set for the current (and soon to be concluded) production is still there. But by the time we rehearse again, the stage will be 100% ours. This is good news, as we have practiced in more than one place under some trying circumstances since we got a full cast. (Which didn't even happen until three weeks into the production, given that a lead quit on me five minutes into the very first meeting.)

This is to be a dramatic reading of the play. But a stylized reading, if you will. I will have three podiums on the stage, and if all goes well, each will have a shelf for the few props the script requires. The actors will be free to move around a bit within the "orbit" or their particular podiums, thus making the presentation neither simply a reading, nor a full out production. Rather my goal is to have it taking place in this sort of parallel dimension of theatre, wherein the actors are reading, yes, but are able to present, interact with one another (and the audience) and most importantly invoke the story being told. It wasn't what I originally envisioned, but I think it will work out nicely. Based on the results so far after two rehearsals on stage, anyway.

I have actually been in favor of dramatic readings for other works. They are faster, require less time and less money, and with some imagination can still be a moving experience for an audience as well as for an actor. Not every script would be suited for a reading like this, but I feel a good deal more of them would be, if directors and theaters would be willing to attempt them.

The key is for the actors to make the characters as alive as possible. To make the performances more important than the source of the lines. (A script in front of them as opposed to their own memory.) If actors can do that, and I know my actors can, audience will respond.

That's one reason I made it stylized in this fashion. I've seen readings wherein it the actors simply stood at a music stand and read from a script. Otherwise they worked around with a script in their hand. Good things can happen from either approach, but the limitation of those (particularly the second one) is that the audience feels as though they are watching actors read scripts. They may concede that fine actors are reading the script, but reading nonetheless. Put another way, many readings emphasize the reading as opposed to the acting. I am aiming to reverse that with my stylized presentation.

Much like in a musical where one accepts the conceit that people will at key moments break into song, the goal of this type of reading is to make the audience accept the conceit that these characters are real and interacting in a sort of undefined space that nonetheless represents an actual location. When the performances are real, this conceit becomes acceptable. That in a nutshell is my goal for this. Based on what I have seen so far, my cast is well on its way to achieving that vision.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012


Hello again, loyal blog readers. I have not been here on Always Off Book in a while, having come to the end of my last production back in August. But there are several things that were/are going on I wanted to fill you in on.

To begin with, I am directing now. Actually I have been directing for the last few weeks. Art by Yasmina Reza, at the Full Circle Theater. (Though it is not part of their regular season. It is to be a fundraiser for the educational component of the company, the Young Actors Theater Lab. I haven't mentioned here until now for several reasons.

To begin with, I am not in it. I am directing it. I have been afforded the chance to direct only twice during the entire time this blog has existed, and I haven't decided if this blog about my acting experiences is the proper place to talk about directing. The last time I didn't blog much about it, but some, and I imagine I will do the same here. But, much like the last time I tried to direct, it has not exactly gone smoothly.

I had a lead actor decide to come to the first rehearsal in person to tell me he quit. I spent weeks afterward trying to replace that actor, only to have four people turn down the role for better gigs, or other reasons. As time passed, and I filled in for the missing role, I first knocked one weekend off of the performance dates, leaving it as just the one weekend. Then, as more and more rejections to help me rolled in, I converted the entire thing to a staged, dramatic reading.

It was not at all what I wanted to do. But I had hoped that drastically reducing the rehearsal time, and the mental energy required, (no memorizing required) would convince some people to reconsider. It did not. So I prepared to take on the role myself. Something that would have been totally impossible in a standard production, but was somewhat doable in a staged reading.

Thankfully, about two weeks ago someone finally contacted me and agreed to step in. I am grateful to them, and they are fitting in quite nicely, despite having several fewer weeks to work on the script than the other two actors. (There are only three characters.) So at long last, after taking several gut blows and being reduced in ways I did not want to reduce it, this production is on, and promises to be an entertaining evening of theatre, staged reading notwithstanding.

As for my plans to start my own company of excited, motivated actors, which I announced at the start of this year? That is no more. I officially discontinued the idea on the company's Facebook page, when virtually zero interest was expressed in the endeavor. I left open the possibility of looking into it in the future, but didn't make any promises. Very frustrating and sad to me. Because I had been building the foundation for that for three years or so. Art had been in the works in some fashion for four years. Nothing makes one feel more like a failure than dumpipng a great deal of passion into something, and finding that nobody (or almost nobody) has the slightest interest in helping you succeed.

I learned from these two events that I need to give less of myself to the local artistic community. I misjudged the amount of goodwill I have build up over the years by stepping in to help other people when their own visions and projects are in danger. I therefore made the conscious decision to not be there as often for as many people anymore. The time, effort and heartache is clearly not worth the investment, seeing as how when I needed something and want to succeed, nobody in the community was at all there for me. I will now be far more selective in the projects I will undertake. At least until/if I find myself in a more cooperative circle.

To that end, I have begun look into the idea of one-mans hows. This is not a new idea for me. I may have even  mentioned it previously here on this blog over the years, I'm not certain. But one thing I have learned is that if one can only rely on himself, one needs to seek out opportunities that involve only himself. I of course will still require the cooperation of any given theatre for a chance to perform such shows, but if I do it in future years as a fundraiser for the YATL and nothing else, that should still provide me with a venue. I don't need to take any show all over the town or anything. (It would be foolish to try, as I would also receive little to no support for that.)

There are one or two one-man shows already published I'd think of doing, and I am making early notes on writing one of my own. That is much too far away to get into any detail here, but I wanted to mention it as something actor related that I have been up to lately.

I will try to keep you semi-updated on Art, even though I am only directing it. A director must have certain discretion that an actor need not have, so I will not go into detail. But I may make a video here and there that I will post here, as well as to the as yet unmade Facebook page for the production.