Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Latest Show!

Yes, I am once again in a show, that i did not write, produce, direct and promote myself. Actually I am in two show. Two one acts, that are a part of an evening of three one acts plays to be performed in late February and early March at the Black Box Arts Center in Shepherdstown, West Virginia. (Where I have done most of my acting for a while, under various umbrellas.)

As the scripts are original works of the company's director, I realize the name won't give anyone an idea, so I will summarize without spoiling anything.

The shorter of the two is called Blame. It could best be described as paranormal, or perhaps horror, is such a category applies to plays. In it, I play a psychotic, selfish CEO at a board meeting. That play lasts about 15 minutes.

The second show is called Laughter of the Gods. I'd call it a dark fairy tale. I play an adviser to the king of Babylon. That play lasts about one hour.

Ironically, the third play in this night of one acts, the one in which I do not appear is one in which I already appeared years ago for a different company. David Ive's Philip Glass Buys a Loaf of Bread. That was a fun but exhausting challenge to do once, and I am happy I did it back then, but I am also happy I won't have to do it again in this production!

The production is part of a recently launched non-profit local theatre company. Among other things, their's is an actor-based process designed to improve the experience for both the actor and the audience. One can't argue with those goals.

Last night was the first read-throughs, held at the director's house. (Actually, the director of two out of the three shows, and the head of the company itself. One of the shows I am in will be directed by someone else.) Full rehearsals start on January 4th.

"Make the interesting choice," is the unofficial motto of the company. As this has always been a guiding principle of my own, I imagine I will have much to offer the production/company and vice-versa.

I am pleased that three people I've worked with before are also involved. It's always easier when I know someone else.

So there will not be much to report until after the new year, but I will have plenty to say about my adventures with these folks once rehearsals start. You'll have reason once again to check back in to this page on a regular basis. (Though this time around, I am going to try to be more broad, and "philosophical" about my experience in a show, as opposed top strictly reporting what went on any given day, as I usually have in the past.

And just so you know, I will still be doing The King is But a Man. I have been pitching venues, and I still run the lines every so often, so my one-man Shakespeare show is by no means dead. It remains very much a part of my theatre plans.

I also hope to write in this blog on broader topics in general next year, which hopefully you shall see when you visit during that time.

Until then, enjoy the holidays, and I look forward to once again sharing an acting experience with you, loyal blog readers.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Honoring Ten Years of Always Off Book!

That's right, this month marks the ten year anniversary of this humble theatre blog of mine.

In all that time, I have been in many shows, lived a few places, tried a few experiments, published a novel about the theatre, tried to start my own company, wrote produced and performed (for very few people) my own one man show, helped found a small arts center, wrote another stage play I hope to have performed sometime, and generally continued to participate in and celebrate the stage in my life.

Through all of that there has been this blog. True, it has over the last few years had less content on it than it did in its early years. This is due mostly to my not being in someone elses show for quite a while. As regular readers know, most of what I write about here on the blog is how any given show I am in is progressing. I write about other theatre thoughts sometimes as well, but a general over view of my success and that of the production has always been the meat and potatoes of always off book, with general theatre advice columns coming in a decent second place in terms of frequency.

One of my first posts ever, about stage kissing, continues to get responses even all of this time later. I am proud of that, and happy to advise anyone who come to the piece by way of a Google search. (where the post is in the top ten, first pages returns sometimes.)

That early post is, however, in general the exception. I rarely get feedback on my thoughts here on the blog, even when I'm in a show. Outside of that kissing post from 2005, I've not gotten any comments on anything I've posted here in a very long time from the perspective of cyber space, despite my best efforts to involve any readers our there in the conversation.

Does that bother me? Honestly, yes. Perhaps not as much as it did in the earlier years, but the lack of connection I have made with fellow artists on this blog is discouraging and sad. That was and remains that only reason for Always Off Book- to share my thoughts and experiences on acting in the theatre with others who share my deep interest in same. I have hoped for years that a niche would build around this blog and it never has.

Blame promotion, or luck, or something else for that, heaven knows I don't know. I have the same problem with my regular, somewhat more business focused blog, The fact is that with that one exception, this blog, after ten years of my trying, (ten years!) reaches and touches, it would seem, nobody. I am not even certain if any of the posts get read, though I have, in theory, a few following via blogger, according to the stats.

I'll allow myself a tiny bit of self-indulgence here when I ask, would it have killed any of you guys to have answered and shared your thoughts on something I posted over the last decade, when I asked?

Now that I've put the disappointment front and center, I won't dwell on it. I will say that despite all of this, the blog is vanishing. I may have less frequent original content so long as I'm not in a show, and it would seem I am writing for basically nobody but myself here, year after year. But just as I won't allow myself to give up on the desire to do more acting and directing on my life even during the inexplicably dry periods, I will continue to keep this blog. Like the creative life, it will have eras of high and low points, much activity, and virtually none. But the words remain. My reflections, advice, perceptions and temporary memoirs-in-miniature from productions continue to have value to me, and, I maintain, still have value for others in theatre who should happen to come across it.

So despite the crickets, for now, it stays. And to celebrate ten years of blogging, I will be reposting some of my "greatest hits" on a regular basis throughout the next year, as time allows. Posts of all kinds that I think have defined this blog in its many stages, and posts that I think, or at least hope, can be of service to my fellow actors. Short of that, I hope the posts are interesting.

I'll continued to post original context throughout the tenth year, as it comes to me. But I'll have blasts from the past mixed in as well.

So, happy anniversary, Always Off Book.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Stop Phoning It In!

Not in the way you may be thinking...

Just read this article about cellphones ruinous effects not only by audiences on performances, but on backstage by cast and crew of the shows themselves. I have been there.

For my own part, I do have a cell phone, and have had for most of my years in the theatre. But I have several rules for it's being with me during a show.

1) It stays in the green room or the dressing room. If I am in the house watching the rehearsal, I do not need a phone with me for that, and I would be sickened to have my phone interrupt the rehearsal process.

2) It goes on mute once I get to the theater. Not only could a ring still be heard on stage, depending on the venue, but I have always viewed the green room as a sanctuary for actors, each of whom require a different level of preparation and respite. I'd rather be over-considerate of that than under-considerate.

3) If I don't have time between my scenes to use the bathroom comfortably, than i don't have time to check my phone. I was once in a show where between my final scene in Act I, the intermission, and my first scene in Act II, 50 minutes elapsed. Fifty. That remains my longest break between scenes ever, and I would check messages at some point during it. I also do so for shorter breaks than that one at times, (especially if fantasy football is involved) but if I need to scramble to get back on stage, I'm doing things wrong.

Though I try not to be the cell phone police in a show, i will mention to someone if their phone is going off causing a disturbance. Once or twice I moved the guilty phone to another location of my own accord.

Most of the people I have worked with in shows have been good about phones, but even the local groups I sometimes do shows with have had an increase in cell phone encroachment from both audience and cast/crew. It is worrisome, and it pisses me off, to be frank.

At least, however, there is some tiny solace that even the big dogs, such as the actors and the venues mentioned in the article, have to deal with the same sort of bologna.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Still Around

Yes, once again I am here to remind loyal blog readers that I am still around.

My hope was that by now I would have had several performances of The King is But a Man to blog about. As it stands, for any number of reasons, I have not been able to book any performances for a while.

It is still very much a part of my plans, however. I continue to think of places and ways to pitch this free Shakespeare based show. I just didn't think that marketing efforts would be a particularly fun read here on the blog, even though they relate to a theatrical project.

That's the thing, as I have said, with being a community theatre type such as myself. One can be active for quite a while, and then hit a drought. I'm in a drought mode at present, though I certainly don't expect it to last forever. I may have to change my approach, both to my own show, and for future shows for which I will audition, but there is still plenty of potential theatre out there for me.

The nature of things change over time, of course. I have had, for some years now, a certain way that I access a possible theatre experience before looking into it more, or trying to be a part of it. It may be time to loosen my criteria a bit. Not in terms of quality, but in terms of certain aspects of time, place, nature of production and such falling into a specific set of places. I may have to be more liberal with my volunteer policies for things outside of my own one man show. (Which I admit, had priority at this time.)

So, I seek to surge with that flow. I just don't know exactly where to go yet. But I will. I am keeping my eyes open, and I have all kinds of ideas. Hopefully once some of them come to happen, I will have ore to write about on a regular basis here on this (still) important blog to me, other than, "I am still around."

Until then, I am in fact still around.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

My Novel About Community Theatre is Out!

Greetings, loyal blog readers!

I have been away a while, as is often the case when I am not in the middle of a play. But this blog, and certainly theatre are not forgotten in my life between performances. In fact, I want to announce the launch of novel, Flowers of Dionysus in ebook form. Available for download for $2.99, this tale of theatre adventure and love of performing should speak to theatre geek everywhere.

It's the story of Matt Blackwell, an exhausted theatre guy who feels it's time to turn in his scripts and give up theatre acting for good. It just isn't what it used to be for him. But, reluctantly he agrees to join the cast of a dear friend's summer production at the local playhouse, more as a favor to her than anything else.

Things don't go smoothly for the production. There are delays, missing actors, mechanical problems and intrusive board members. More than once the production is in trouble. Yet through it all, our friend Matt hears about and finally experiences some unexplained phenomena in and around the playhouse.

He's not sure what's going on, but he is sure that it's going to be no ordinary summer for him and some of his new friends. His views on theatre and himself may change before all is said and done.

I've posted a list of places to buy this fun fantasy over on my other blog. Here's a link to that post.

I hope you will purchase it, read and enjoy it, as both a theatre lover and as a follower of adventures. Theatre geeks will recognize many of the people in this place, but those who have not done theatre will recognize how life has magic in it, if we are willing to seek it out.

If you like it, do leave a review at your preferred location.

Thanks to all, and I hope to by on stage again soon, with more updates and thoughts on same!

Thursday, April 02, 2015

Promotional Baby Steps

After about a month away from this blog, I'm back with news about The King is But a Man.

On Tuesday I got permission to return to the venue it premiered in, to take reenact some scenes from the show, and take some publicity stills. It was a bit of a chore for several reasons. I was alone, my camera has only a ten second delay, the lighting was off, and the set for a different show was still there. So my range of motion was somewhat limited. Not to mention that my rechargeable batteries wore out on my digital camera too quickly. (This is only the second set I have ever owned. The first set were fantastic, but the company went out of business!)

Being confined by circumstances beyond my control did, however, force me to work quickly, to think less, and just set up artistic shots as best as I could. As is often the case in creative endeavors, the challenges led to some good results. In one or two shots, it led to excellent results. And since my show has no official set anyway, the set on the stage at the time wasn't an insurmountable issue. I just had to deliver speeches in different parts of the stage than when I performed there.

The result was about 25 usable shots of my performing various sections of the show.

I also took a few movies of my delivering some of the speeches. These also turned out well, if a bit tinny in the sound department. (I have no professional video equipment. Only a basic handheld home movie deal.)

I gathered the video and the photos, put them on computer, and came up with a basic promotional website for the show, using weebly. Please check it out.

You may notice that I haven't purchased my own domain name, opting for now to stay with the address with "weebly" in it. Or, you may not have noticed that at all. I provided you with a link in the above paragraph that took you right to the site. My guess is that three fourths of the time, anybody who wants the link to the site will get it via email, so the address itself is less important. For those who do have to type it in, what can I say? I'm just not ashamed to have "weebly" in the address, if it means it saves me some money. The site looks fine, the information i want is there, and anybody who won't bother to learn about the show because I didn't purchase my own domain name is probably not somebody I'd enjoy performing for anyway.

Five years ago I probably would have bought the domain name. I would have probably researched for weeks, studied other sites, asked questions, and tried to create a more complicated, shiny site with bells and whistles to spare. I would have listened to people implore me to "just hire someone." But I'm an artist on a budget who wants to create, and I've simplified my approach to many things over the last few years. The site, though elementary, does exactly what it needs to do, and I know how to change it when needed. That sounds good to me.

So the next step is to survey some local venues or organizations that might be interested in having me perform the show for them. I don't know how that will go, but I at least know I can sent them a nice link to my site that tells them all about the show, and even provides some samples of the production.

Not bad for 48 hours work, I'd say.

Monday, March 02, 2015

Unexpected End

Before I mention Saturday night's performance of "The King is But a Man" I need to mention that my matinee, yesterday, was cancelled due to weather. Ice and snow, to be exact. A snow storm I feel compelled to point out was not even on the radar earlier in the week. Such, it seems, is my luck with such things. (Especially since this show was originally intended for late autumn of last year.)

Regardless of how a show goes, it is difficult to not have some closure. True, I had virtually no set for this show, but I would have gotten a sense of completion of my mission had I been able to perform all three of my long-awaited (by me) performances at that venue. That sense of completion would have been capped off by my putting the precious few items from my set back in their respective places in the venue. Now they will merely be put away by the next play which will rehearse tonight. (And with whom I had to share the stage over the last five weeks, unexpectedly, as both shows rehearsed in the same time frame, hence my late nights.) This pains me somewhat.

As does the fact that in the end, so few people came to see the show. It is difficult enough when one spend six weeks or so practicing someone else's play with other people under the guidance of someone else, only to have few people come watch it. To spend over a year creating your own work, all by yourself, to have so few people express an interest in it is even more of a gut check in some ways. Especially when, like me, you did everything in your power to promote the project.

I am not ashamed to admit that most of my creative projects have audiences in mind. I of course get something out of my writings and performances, and I strive to do well in both endeavors. I can be proud of my work in my own right, and I am for "The King is But a Man" in both writing and the two performances I delivered of it. But unlike some, possibly more enlightened souls, I rarely write or perform in a vacuum. That is to say I write so people will read my words, and be entertained, moved, forced to think by them. The same with  my acting. Better people than I can write novels that nobody will ever read, that nobody is intended to read, and be fine with that. I know actor who can perform for empty houses all the time, and get by on just the fulfillment of a job well done. But that isn't me.

This isn't to say I seek validation for my whole existence through applause. Yet this stuff is not easy to do, folks. And I imagine plenty of people in other service oriented fields, (which is how I think of the arts to some extent) would feel similar as I do now, if nobody partook of their efforts. One who cooks a lavish meal, and has nobody show up to eat it is probably not celebrating the fact that all of it is headed to the dumpster at the end of the evening. Food is to be eaten. Words are to be read. Music, listened and danced to.

So I don't feel guilty for my disappointment.

As for Saturday night itself, it was a better experience than Friday night. There were only seven people in the crowd, but they were a responsive group. They laughed at some of the jokes, and seemed generally interested in the story I was trying to tell, by way of my own words and those of Shakespeare. I received several compliments after the performance. Though I did stumble once or twice in some of the speeches again, I do believe I corrected myself in such a way that nobody was the wiser in the audience. Making mistakes still irks me to no end, but it's more tolerable when the flow of the scene is left in tact, and I believe that it was.

Mistakes aside, I am satisfied with my performance on Saturday. My energy, (which was flagging a bit in the evening before I got to the theatre) picked up once the shoe go under way. Responsive audiences help with that. And I've said before I'd rather have ten people in the audience who are into the show, than thirty who are passive and unmoved. I don't know if the audience on Saturday totally made up for Friday night, but it was certainly a relief to have a few more people.

One member of the audience, a friend of mine, expressed regret that more people had not come to see the show. "They don't know what they're missing," she said. The same person, along with her companion for the evening also told me of their hope that this weekend would not be the final time I performed the piece. I mentioned that I had always intended for this to be just a premiere, but to then take it around to other venues, if they would have me.

To be honest, however, I am no longer sure if I should. Having so little return on  my investment, mixed with other difficulties during this process took a lot out of me. On top of a string of creative failures in this area over the years, it has left me feeling rather flat. True, it is all still raw for now, and my mind may change as I get some distance from the experience. Yet right now, I don't feel I have the energy to go through cold calling venues, convincing them to give me a try, have the majority of them say "no" and have little interest from audiences in any venue that happens to say less. The experience of the original venue has nearly sapped me dry. Do I have it in me to continue this elsewhere? Is it even a marketable product, or has this experience proved that nobody wants to see this?

I don't know. I've been asking myself these questions all weekend, and will probably continue to do so for some time. I have other creative projects of my own in the pipeline for this year, and they will take their own large amounts of energy. (Especially if they don't succeed as planned.) I may not be able to pursue all of it, now that I've taken a hit like this. Again, I'll have to think on it for a while. The iron is certainly not hot coming off of this weekend, so there is no need to strike quickly on this decision...

I have a regular play that I am editing, and I've been asked about the possibility of directing something locally. Those two projects are the next two immediately demanding my attention. (If I take on the directing job that is. I must read the script.) Beyond those, I don't know.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Opening Night

Last night I opened my first ever one-man show. And of course, the first ever play I myself wrote. It was in many ways a unique experience.

There are many ways to talk about opening night, but I'll start with the most honest; almost nobody was in the audience. Five people total, only one of whom did not work for the venue itself.

If you've done any theatre at all, you know that performing for a handful of people can be an indescribably mixture between sick and worried, or depressing and dull. It saps an actor's energy not only faster than a larger audience would, but in a different way. A more palpable way that one can feel during a performance, as opposed to during a break or after the show is over.

Combine this with the fact that a one man show by its nature is more tiring than most other types of shows, and you have the makings of an exhausting evening.

I will say, however, that I made no attempts to conserve energy by holding back on my performance. I still gave it as much as I had, and from a performance angle, I am for the most part satisfied. It felt like it went faster than rehearsals tended to go, but I'm not sure because I didn't time it. Perhaps it only seemed faster because at times I was in a different zone; some moments and scenes seemed to begin and end before I was fully aware of them. That may make it sound like I wasn't paying attention, but I was. I just found that some moments were more automatic (not flat) than others. I will need more distance from the experience before I can judge whether or not this is a positive or negative.

I stumbled in a few places during the performance, but I was able to correct the mistakes quickly. My small audience probably did not notice, but of course I did, and I tend to be hard on myself. Hopefully, there will be fewer such errors tonight.

Despite the lack of audience, and the fact that I am the only one on stage, it did at times feel like an opening night. I wish I could say that the excitement and anticipation level were as high as normal, but without anyone to bounce those feelings off of, or to share them with, it wasn't quite like that. Nevertheless, an opening night is an opening night, and the actor bits of me deep inside my psyche could still tell.

Honesty has always been my policy here on this blog, and I won't pretend it was an exhilarating way to get started on this project of mine. It was in more way than one, a disappointing opening. Plus, as writer, actor and producer of the show, I bare the brunt of most of that disappointment alone. In some ways the let down has been so sudden and potent that last night, and today I've felt more numb than anything else, and therefore cannot elaborate on the evening's impact with as much detail as I might normally report on a performance. Once again, with time and distance, I may be able to offer more on this experience, but for now I'm still in the middle of it.

I can say, without any doubt, that I successfully presented something on which I alone have been working for over a year. From concept to presentation, I did, on my end, about 90% of what I set out to do so far. And I must also remember that this is simply the beginning. I intend to take this show elsewhere over the keep it in my theatre arsenal as an offering when other opportunities arise. "The King is But a Man" is something for the long haul of my creative life, not merely something to fill the time this weekend. With a little luck and some work on my part, it will have different incarnations and many different times. It will be different things to different audiences in different venues as time goes by. Last night was merely the world premiere.

And of course, I have two performances remaining in this initial run, during which things may improve drastically. I have no idea how many people will come tonight, but I do know I will summon the best I have to offer again.

A few more people in the seats who enjoy the show would be nice, however, I will admit.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

"Tech" Week

This is it, loyal blog readers. My "tech" week for the one man show!

I put "tech" on quotation marks, however, because it is very much unlike most tech weeks. It is still just me at rehearsal, and I will only in fact be rehearsing twice this week instead of every day. (Once behind last night, once being tomorrow night.) I decided that given the nature of the show, and how many times I have been able to rehearse it twice a week, I wouldn't need to run it every day this week.

And of course, there are virtually no technical aspects to this show to rehearse, anyway. The usual lighting technician at the Black Box was kind enough to program a basic plot into the theatre lights for me the other day, so now I have those. I turned them on myself last night before rehearsal. It took some getting used to, I have to say, as I had only practiced with the work lights up to that point. But that's part of tech week. I don't think it will cause great problems, though. It's different, but not distracting. Plus I have one more night to perform under them. I just need to find someone to turn them off at intermission. Maybe. Intermission will be very clear to the audience when it comes, so if I can't find anyone to switch them off, it's not tragic.

I stumbled over a few lines last night, but once again, I wasn't derailed. If any of my three initial performances go as well as say the last three rehearsals, I'll be doing fine. Things to improve, as always, but I'd have little to be ashamed of if I gave the audience as much as I gave the last few rehearsals. (Though of course I hope to give more.)

I hope I did not "peak" too early as it were. That is doing the show best during rehearsals, and not as well during the performances. But I will have the audience during the performances, which usually boosted my abilities somewhat. I won't beat myself up if this experiment isn't perfect, but I also hope that the performances are of course the best presentation I am to give of the show, out of all of the times I've done it.

On Thursday, my final rehearsal, my goal is to have as much fun as I can with this show. Not that I've had no fun so far. Doing Shakespeare well is invigorating. But I want to finally let go, and worry less about the little things, and give all of myself to presenting the show, so that is the frame of mind I am in going into the weekend. We shall soon find out if I can do that.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Quick Update

Heat! That is to say the problems with the heating system at the venue I'm rehearsing on have been, for the time being, resolved. Thus last night was my first fully heated rehearsal for the show. It was much more comfortable, but believe it or not required some adjustment. It is of course far better to rehearse with heat than in the sort of cold I've rehearsed in so far, but one's breathing, and body temperature and such naturally change when the heater is on. So there were some energy and breathing issues to adjust to. Plus I may have sweat for the very first time last night while running the show. Not a lot, but it was there.

As to the rehearsal itself outside of the temperature, I can only say it continues to go well. There were still a few places I stumbled over that I attribute to fatigue. I've been reviewing those lines in the script, (and found that I had been saying one of them incorrectly, whoops), and will run them to myself at home, as needed between now and opening. Most if not all of the hitches should smooth out by then, I'd say.

I made some posters for the show. My own printer has no colored ink, so the ones I printed at home were in black and white. Not as eye catching, of course, but all of the information is there. I followed a simple template. As much as I'd like fancy posters, I've not gotten word from those who had said they could work on them for me. So I took matters into my own hands. (Not so odd for a one man show!) I may go into an Office Depot today and run off some color copies, and put some of them up somewhere.

A volunteer photographer may also come and take some pictures during rehearsal in the coming days.

Some friends of mine have been spreading the word about the show, as have some kind strangers via the Black Box Arts Center Facebook page. Between that and some posters going up, I hope to grab the attention of at least a handful of people each night who don't know me, who are willing to come.

Yet first things first. A few more rehearsals to go.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

This Week in Rehearsals...

I opted to cover both rehearsals this week in a single post. Namely because nothing influential enough to affect the overall progress happened either day.

I will say my friend, and executive director of the Black Box Arts Center took some pictures of me this week, in hopes of creating a poster for the show. When that happens, I'll see if I can post it here. She says she isn't very experienced in such things, though is certainly more so than I am. in the end, if the posters exist and have the correct information, I'm sure they will be just fine.

Rehearsal on Thursday felt a bit off a few times. Truth be told, had it been a performance it would have still been acceptable, but I stumbled in places I usually didn't stumble. I was, and am, somewhat annoyed at myself for this, but then I have to remind myself that this is like any other show; there will be less than stellar rehearsals. True, the show goes on in two weeks, but nothing happened in the rehearsal on Thursday that will derail that. It just wasn't my smoothest run through, whether because of fatigue or other factors. I'll review some of the speeches between now and my next rehearsal (Tuesday) and do better.

I admit, because of the cold, and the lateness of the hour I have to rehearse (sharing the venue with another show), I still haven't given myself a full intermission at rehearsals. I "get on with it" after a brief rest between acts. This may not sound like a big deal, but I should by now try to rehearse in the same circumstances that a performance will be in, and the performance will have an intermission. I want to practice resting without gearing down or falling asleep at the half, or something.

The running time of each half deviates no more than two or three minutes each night, even on the night that was a bit off. This is always good news. It means I'm gaining consistency.

I could stand to up the energy a bit in the second half, though, I must admit. (Another reason to give myself full intermission during rehearsal.) I will also probably have to flip the work lights on and off myself, so I'll probably practice that a few times as well in the coming two weeks.

Two weeks!

Monday, February 09, 2015

Smooth Skating on Thursday

I only just now got around to posting an update on Thursday night's rehearsal for "The King is But a Man." It went well, though, and there is not much to report. It was the coldest night thus far in the theatre for me, however, so instead of declaring it smooth sailing, I chose "smooth skating" as the phrase most appropriate.

Heating issues aside however, the play does continue strengthen with each performance. I am in a sense glad I go in mostly on Tuesdays and Thursdays. It can be tiring experience to rehearse that play, and the cold makes it more so. Doing ti twice in three days can sometimes be quite the burden, but then I get an ample break between Thursday and Tuesday, so I have time to recover.

I have continued my efforts get a poster for the show together, which I hope to have done in the next ten days at most. I also recently wrote my actor's bio for the program. I think that covers most of everything it needs to, but I will look over it a few more times before turning it in.

There are still a few places in the show's Shakespeare plays that I stumble with. Generally they are the same places, so I may spend extra time perfecting them in the coming days. So far I have been able to self correct during the rehearsals, with one exception, wherein I had to start over. It would not be the end of the world to make such an error in this show, the way it is designed. I still want to avoid that, of course. As Richard II says, "Yet I'll hammer it out."

I haven't yet taken a full intermission between acts when I rehearse, opting for just a short break between. I may this week integrate a full length intermission, however, so I can get a sense of how much my mind and body will have to adjust to a full break. It will also give my throat some rest, which it probably needs between acts. I want everything to feel as it will during performances, (with the exception of the temperature which I hope will be higher for the show itself.)

No decision has been made on lights, per se. If they are to be the real theatre lights, I'll need someone to man them. If just the work lights, I could possibly shut them off myself after my exits.

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

More is Less? (For this Blog Anyway.)

In some respects, a productive, satisfying rehearsal is bad for the blog here. It means I have fewer detailed considerations to share with you, my loyal blog readers. It is, however, a good "problem" to  have.

As I said, last nights rehearsal was solid. I can say that in the more passionate speeches I was able to produce more of an edge than I have been recently, without spilling over into melodramatics. Olivier always advised to always "leave something in the tank" during such moments. To not go 100% at any time, lest you risk appearing over the top, or exhausting yourself too early. In that regard, though I'm still tinkering with the dials, I feel I'm on solid ground.

Also going well are the blocking and the props. I still implement a partially improvised movement for much of the show, but more and more specific blocking has presented itself which adds to any given scene. From here on out, however, unless something major comes to mind, I will endeavor to keep the blocking consistent for most of the play. In these final few weeks, I think that's important.

The heating in the building continues to be a bit of an issue. These are cold rehearsals! However, though I'm never ignorant of the temperature, as I rehearse I do warm up, or otherwise become distracted from the chill. The only effect it has is on my voice; I think my throat is more tired at the end of an evening of rehearsing on chilly air than it otherwise would be. Yet I come home to have some tea, and things are right again.

Every week or so I post a video on the venue's Facebook page. Usually it's a brief mention of how things are proceeding or what I'm working on. This time, however, the video was a sample of the product. I delivered one of the speeches from the play. The speech from where I got the title. "The King is But a Man," from Henry V. I paid to boost the Facebook reach for that one. I have no idea if I did that correctly or not. I've never tried it before. Hopefully it will attract some interested patrons.

I was also put into contact with someone who expressed interest in making the posters for the show. I have not heard back from them as of today, but just in case I have made a rudimentary poster myself. I have no idea how to do such things, so it was all guess work. I don;t even know if a printer's shop could print the file as is. But I want to have a back up ready.

Also I heard from a friend of mine who might be able to secure a spot for me in some small, local venue where he lives, so I could perform it there one night in the future. Nothing definite yet though.

Yet that's what I hope for with this show; I hope to take it to other venues for a night or a weekend. Any venue that welcomes me, I'd pretty much be willing to visit and perform in as a guest. A between shows kind of thing. I could even perform this show with someone else's rudimentary set on stage if I had to. I designed it that way.

Exciting things are happening, though. I hope that people will come to see this, as I think they will be entertained. I've put much work into this over the last year, and entertaining others would be the pay off.

The current venue has set the price at $10.00. All proceeds go back to them. Give them a call or check out the link to their Facebook page above, and maybe you too can come see me!

Friday, January 30, 2015

Short Rehearsal, Short Post

I rehearsed today in the afternoon, as opposed to the evening as I have been the last few times. The venue was available as was I, and the weather forecast called for some nasty winter weather in the evening.

So, guess what happened? Yes, the bad weather moved earlier into the day, unannounced after I already got to the theater.

Truth be told the weather was fine when I went in, and got started. I heard rain on the roof for a while, but that's common in that place. I continued with act one as normal, determined to jump right into act two without a faux intermission, just so I could get home earlier. It was after I used the restroom upon completion of act one that I checked outside...and found snow mixed with sleet on on salted roads.

I packed up, shut down the theater, and came home.

Turns out it wasn't as bad on some of the roads later on in my trip, and I suppose I could have stayed and finished act two. But commuter traffic was already picking up, and there's no way of knowing if the weather would have gotten any worse in town. So though I regret not getting to act two, I don't regret leaving earlier. It was probably the wiser and safer choice.

Act one was solid, though. I'm feeling quite good about it. The length remains just over an hour, which is pretty much right where it ought to be, I think. Fewer stumbles than last time. Remembered some of the new blocking ideas I came up with on Tuesday. So it was a productive rehearsal, just not for the whole play.

I think on Thursday, when I next have access to the venue, I might go ahead and start with act two, just to catch up. That has been the part of the play that has needed the most polish. Then again, I do want to run the whole show at once as much as I can between now and opening. If the weather offers no potential of having to  bail out early, I may go ahead and run the show from the top after all.

Wish there was more to report, but there should be on Tuesday.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Rehearsal Hiatus and Return

Rehearsal last night, after not having any on Thursday. Turns out I had some other things I had to take care of then, so I opted not to rehearse. I was however back on stage last night. (Tuesday.)

The biggest change in rehearsal last night was my costume; I wore it for the first time for a rehearsal. Not that I expected any problems with it, but there none. I'll most likely wear it from here on out. I might get a different pair of pants, but otherwise the costume is set. As are all the props. Everything I need for the various scenes is now on set, so I'm ready to go.

I stumbled over a few lines here and there last night, but on the whole I got through the whole show mostly unscathed. Perhaps some of the best news from last night is that I shaved more minutes off of the second act. It is now under and hour, and if I can keep it like that, I'll be more than satisfied.

Act one ran the same length give or take two minutes, that it has run for months now, even before I had access to the stage. I love that consistency.

No overlap between my rehearsal and the other show's rehearsal last night.

Another good blocking idea came to me. During one of the speeches, wherein the character is more vulnerable, I thought to move up stage, so as to give him a more diminutive feel to the audience. I think I'll keep it. It's actually gratifying to realize how many tricks and concepts come to me in the natural course of rehearsing a play by myself. Concepts that I have studied over the years, but have not had much of a chance to put into use for a while. They seem to not be there in my mind anymore, until all at once, they present themselves for use during a rehearsal. Many of my colleagues are stronger with blocking magic than I am, but I have to say I am better at it than I sometimes give myself credit for.

My character has a bottle of water on him during the show. If nothing else I need to make sure I have that. It's a lot of talking, and I'll need to hydrate numerous times throughout the course of the evening, I'm sure.

The managing director of the arts center I'm performing this in has been in contact with some people about making posters for my show, though none have called back. I myself may check on possibilities myself, for I have no graphic design knowledge. I have said that all the posters really needs by way of graphics is a crown surrounded by some of the common objects I use throughout the show. Or some such configuration. Truth be told, if they get my name and the dates correct, that's what is most important to me for this, though I understand how important a nice looking poster can be.

As for lights, I don't think I'll be making use of any light cues. If someone can man the lights, to bring them up and down at the start and finish of each act, that should be enough. Whether or not I will be using the work lights or the actual stage lights is yet unknown. Even if it is the stage lights, it will be a general coverage plot without any fades or cross lighting. Simplicity. Always simplicity for this show.

My next scheduled rehearsal day is tomorrow (Thursday.) I may have the option to rehearse late morning or afternoon, depending on what else may be going on there that day. I may prefer that to my usual late night slot for tomorrow. The weather, if no other reason. It may snow a bit in the evening, but is supposed to be clear in the day time. Parking is free at night, though. Decisions.

Progress, though, is being made. I would not want to perform the show for an audience tonight, but if I absolutely had no choice, I feel I could give them a solid performance. Hopefully four weeks from now, (from this very night in fact) the presentation will be even more solid, and entertaining. If I'm honest with myself, I have to say I feel there is something good happening with this show, that audiences will enjoy.

Just have to make sure plenty of people come.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Late Show

Due to scheduling conflicts, last night, (and for several future nights) I rehearsed The King is But a Man at the venue late into the night. I started around 9:00 PM and left the theater around midnight. (The show is not that long, I had some set up work to do first.) It'snot an ideal situation, but given my freelance employment situation, and my tendency to be a night owl, I'm able to adjust in this fashion for now.

There is a certain mystique to a theater late at night anyway. Reminds me of my time in college, where we would sometimes paint sets or even rehearse late into the night.

Yet the play remains the thing, and rehearsing my play was the point of being there in the first place.

I ran the entire show, after running just the less-rehearsed act two last week. From here on out I want to run the whole show each night I'm over there.

There are still some bumps to be ironed out, but the polish is starting to appear, as it were. Certain effective blocking ideas have come about as I go through each section which lend more power and interest at any given time. (That is the hope, anyway.) The choices as to where to move and where to stand are feeling more motivated.

I also added a prop. I've been meaning to find myself a dagger to use briefly, but I hadn't located one that felt right. Last night before I started I was exploring some of the prop boxes and found one that will work. One less thing to mime once I get to the point of needing it.

I have one more prop to secure that I keep forgetting to set out. A simple book. I never think of it until I need it as i rehearse. So simple an object it's probably why I forget it.

Managed to shave a few minutes off of the running time as well. One reason is that I picked up the energy and in some scenes, the speed of my delivery. Also, a few sections I wrote myself that were a bit fluid are starting to solidify; I'm more efficient in those stretches of the performance than I had been a week ago. I hope to shave even a few more minutes off.

Perhaps one of the more significant developments from last night is that for a time there were people working in an adjacent room when I started. I would have preferred to not have them there, but it cannot be helped it would seem. All by way of saying that though there business was elsewhere in the small building, I was for the first time while rehearsing cognizant of the possibility of being heard by someone. As it turned out, nobody from the other group came through the front section of the building on their way out as I thought they might, but at the time I had to swallow my concerns and just accept someone might have observed me for a few moments.

Knowing that injected the first "audience" dynamic to at least the first half of the rehearsal. (By act two the other folks were long gone.) Though none of them likely heard what i was doing, there was a certain nervousness, followed by a certain relief of having done this. I can say that despite the situation not being completely ideal, I performed to my own "in front of people" standards. In some cases better than i would have expected for a rehearsal this early in the process. Here's hoping that holds.

I haven't worn my full costume yet, though I have worn pieces. It's probably time to start, however. I want to get used to the actual clothing as soon as possible, and it's possible any time I choose. (Since I am also in charge of costuming of course.) That probably means I need to suck it up and perform in the chilly air from here on out. (The heating system is finicky right now.) But at least that will encourage me to keep moving.

Tomorrow I am slated to have a rehearsal, but a few things have come up in the evening which may not allow me to go. I have the option of going in in the afternoon instead of the evening, which I may do. But given some unrelated stresses in my week so far, I may opt to just wait until next Tuesday for my next official rehearsal. I will sleep on it.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Falling Into Place

On Thursday, I rehearsed act 2 of the show. That half has gotten less time over the last few months than the first half, so I've dedicated a few rehearsals on the stage to only the second act. This isn't that odd, really. Many standard shows get to a point in the final few weeks where they rehearse all of one act one night, and all of the second act another night. In that regard, I'm staying somewhat true to a more standard rehearsal process.

My intention was to go through it twice, but I only did so once. Not because it's too long, (though it still is by several minutes) but because by the time I was done, it felt like a good place to end rehearsal. There were several loose ends and other issues with those sections that I was able to improve or fix. I did in fact shave a little time off of the second act, and I also came into some more efficient ways to deliver certain aspects of the material. And though a lot of the blocking is organic as I perform, there are aspects of it that remain consistent each time. On Thursday a few more guideposts suggested themselves which I hadn't considered before. I will probably keep several of them if not all.

I don't know if I will stick to just act two on my next rehearsal night (Tuesday), or start running the show show top to bottom. I can't wait too long to run everything at once of course, but I may need a bit more time for act two to catch up to act one. Which presents the question, will I be running only act one on any given night? The answer is maybe. There are a few tiny moments in act one that could use some work. Yet I feel so comfortable with act one that I don't, for the moment, feel it needs it's own night. Act two, however could use a few multiple run-through nights if I'm honest with myself.

I still have a few props that I mean to secure, but don't think of until I'm standing there performing and don't have them. Must correct that soon, especially since there are not that many props in the show to begin with.

I'm finding it takes me a bit longer to get "warmed up" to rehearse this show than it normally does. The reason I think is obvious; when you are accountable only to yourself in a rehearsal as opposed to directors and cast mates, you stay rusty a bit longer at the start of things. When rehearsal starts in a standard show, you need to be ready right off.

Even then, however, there is some amount of time to ease into everything. I considered that for the first time on Thursday as well. In a normal show I am there early, and sort of loosen up in any number of ways before I begin. Being the only person involved in producing this show, there is no showing up early. As soon as I'm there, everyone is there. The first few times on the stage I think I overlooked that, and jumped right into rehearsing. On Thursday I gave myself some time to just walk around and get some water, stretch out and just loaf for a few minutes. The same sort of things I'd do before a more standard rehearsal. Then I started in earnest, and I feel it helped. I must remember to give myself that warm up time from here on out when I rehearse alone.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Looking For Space

Okay, I'm not actually looking for it. I know right where it is. But I am getting used to the space, how's that?

Last night I was back at the Black Box Arts Center rehearsing for my one man show, The King is But a Man. Mostly I ran act two, because I've had less time with that half of the play over the last few months. I'm not so far behind as to be worried, as I'm off book with it. But nonetheless it has a few rougher edges than act one which need to be softened a bit over the next few rehearsals.

I'm very familiar with this performance space, having been on it in many different shows. Yet this is the first time I've been doing a one-man show on it, (or any where for that matter.) The special challenge, therefore, is to make sure I use all of the space so as not to remain stagnant the entire evening, but also avoid running around the stage just for the sake of saying I used every inch of it. I don't anticipate this being a difficult task, but it will require a few run throughs in order to attain said balance.

It's a small venue, as it's name would indicate, so I want it to also be an intimate engagement with the audience. It's not an audience participation show, by any means, but I still want to maintain that comfortable, conversational feel. That will probably be what I focus on more next week. It's already there to some degree given the nature of the material, but I want to play around with it a bit more.

I've not yet worn my full costume during these rehearsals. One reason is that the heat is out and I would be cold, but just as importantly, I'm trying to replicate a standard rehearsal process as much as I can with this one man show. Costumes don't come right away in most rehearsal processes, so they haven't for this one. I sense, nonetheless, that I will make use of them earlier in the process than would be the case in most standard performances. I just want to get used to the feel of things. Especially since a pocket plays a prominent role in more than one place, and the sooner I'm used to the actual pocket, the better.

Given some of the lumps for the second half, I'll probably spent at least one more day working on just that section of the play, before returning to running the show show again. Maybe even two more nights, depending on how I feel after the next time I use the stage. (Thursday.)

In any case, new ideas and perspectives are emerging each time I run the show now. I look forward to the coming rehearsals.

Friday, January 09, 2015

New Year, New Project

I am still around, folks. Further, so is my interest in theatre. Sadly, there has not been much to report on since the staged reading of "Over the River and Through the Woods" back in September. But that's all about to change.

I've mentioned several times over the last year about a one man show I've developed. I'm happy to report that The King is But a Man is officially in the rehearsal process.

Actually, I should amend that statement a bit. I have been going over speeches and sections of it in my home for months now. But last night was the first time I ran the entire thing in one sitting, as well as doing so on stage. I've been giving access to the Black Box Arts Center for a number of rehearsals, in preparation for the show opening there on February 27th. That will hopefully be the first of several stops for the show, as I hope to at some point take it to other venues.

But first things first.

Last night was about getting a sense of the stage, and how to use it for this show. I've been on that performance space many times over the last few years, but every show is different, and there's nothing like feeling it out in person. This is a minimalist production, but I still have a set piece here and there, along with some props laying about in various places. Most of them act as decoration more than anything else, but I don't want them to be distractions. I think I've found good places for all of them, with maybe some tweaking in the coming days.

As for the use of space itself, the blocking is somewhat organic. There are certain crosses and other movements written into the performance, but I want to preserve a sense of spontaneity as well. This not only makes for a more dynamic show (in this case), but will keep things open for when I perform it in other places. In theory, I should be able to tailor the experience to fit the venue I am performing in at any given time. But as I am starting at the BBAC, that's where much of the thought has gone for the moment.

If you are the only person on stage, the key, as with so much, is to find balance. If one stays in one place the whole time, it can bore people to tears. Yet move around too much, and you might make people skittish or distracted. My balance is not perfect yet, but I already see directions I need to take after one rehearsal.

That's the big take away from last night; all kind of ideas and solutions presented themselves as I worked. There is a lot of polishing still to be done, but possibilities I had not considered at all as I was rehearsing at home became almost obvious as I ran the show on the stage. Though early in the rehearsal process, even on my own I could feel a new type of life force entering the material.

I hope to shave some minutes off of the running time, but I imagine that will happen the more I rehearse on the stage. I'm not worried about that right now.

Energy will be a concern as well. Projected energy that is. Though I sit down while performing several times in this show, intermission is the only real break I will get. As with any other play in the world, low energy on stage will sap energy from the audience. In a one man show you have nobody to feed off of on stage. It's all up to you. I must always keep that in mind. I'd say last night I was good with energy about 70% of the time. I felt it slipping a few times, but I think I corrected pretty well.

Not that I know for sure. I can't see myself as I perform. As I am "directing" myself in this, I was all alone in the theatre last night. This alone is a unique challenge.

Ideally, someone would have directed me in my own material. That feedback and guidance can be valuable. But we work with what we have, and nobody was available to fill that role, thus I fill it myself. I must keep both practical and performance considerations in mind as I do this. (Another good reason for it to be minimalist.) If I have to err on one side or the other at any given time, I'll choose erring on the side of performing.

It's an extra labor, though. One I am not used to. Packing my things, going to the theater, letting myself in, setting up the stage and running through the show, all without accountability to anyone but myself. It will pay off in the end, of course, and I find the challenge rewarding in a unique way. But there is something about working with others, and communicating ideas throughout a cast and crew that I miss while doing this.

On the other hand, I only have to answer to myself as well. I don't have to worry about being late, or someone else's scene taking too long, or being annoyed by a cast member I don't like. Every moment I am there is spent in exactly the manner I think is best. Believe me, you'll never get that in a regular show with a full cast.

So the next level of this adventure begins, and I will be covering it regularly here on the blog. The oddities of a one man show aside, it will be good to be back on stage again, and I hope you will join me on the blog as at last I have something regular to share with you again.