Sunday, August 30, 2015

New Guy 6

Editor's Note: The following is a post relating to the author's being in a play. 

We all knew it was coming. I knew it would be here soon and I wasn't sure how I was going to feel about it. Well, that's not really true... I knew. I knew I would be grateful for the time off, but I would miss the work, the people, the feeling of belonging to something larger than myself.
And then, it happened. The last show day arrived.

After a long week and a double, (matinee and evening show), the day before, Sunday came. With it, the realization that this was the last time I would be in this costume, this show, with these people.
I'm really going to miss it.

From the first notes of the opening number, I knew that it was all over. It was unique and it would soon be gone. This cast came together and made it happen. Now, I know that every cast is like this at some point, or at least, each cast has its moments, but this one was truly lightning in a bottle.

A few veterans, a few first timers, a few "I've done a few shows" types, and lots of folks who have big talent were all thrown together to create something that would be a good start to the season for this theater. At least, that was the plan. What we got was two weeks of sold out, standing-room-only shows, standing ovations and huge laughs in all the right places. Smiles, hugs, and lots and lots of really happy theater patrons
The 2015-16 season for this theater is off to a great start.

I learned an awful lot on this show. Among the coolest things I learned was the fact that good actors make it look easy. They make you think, "Well, sure... I can do that." But, somehow, you just don't. Because good acting is hard, and it takes more than just balls and desire. it takes practice and experience. It takes time, and people willing to see that with time and practice you can do it, too.

It takes tech people who do their jobs so you can do yours. It takes set designers, builders and painters that care about the details. It takes lighting folks and sound folks and stagehands and costumers and choreographers and directors that give a shit and want to create something magical.

It takes all of your functioning brainpower in the beginning, so that by show time you can do these lines in your sleep. But, you don't, because it also take high energy and a willingness to go out and give it your all. Your A game, every time.

Theater is different than any other brand of acting. On film, you can craft your character, build nuances and be subtle as you create a persona. Need a retake? Sure, as long as your director has time. The more influential you are, the more chance you have to get it just right. In musical theater, it's the opposite. The better you are, the more you are expected to hit your marks every time. Nail your lines every time. Be nuanced and subtle, broad and boisterous and everything in between as the character demands, every time. You had better be ready when your cue comes. Be ready to step out into the light and deliver. Every time.

It's tough. It's sweaty, hard and demanding work. But, no one demands more from you than you do from yourself. That's what makes it great. That's what makes it magical. That's what makes it worth it for someone to leave the house and come to a theater to see a live show.

I'll still write. I'll still create art and direct short films and do voice-overs. But, acting...
Yeah, I want to be in another show.

Any show. Every time.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

New Guy 5

Editor's Note: The following is a post relating to the author's being in a play. This, after moving to another part of the country from New York. There will be more posts as the show develops.

An eye-opening experience.

In the show I was in immediately before this one, I had the great fortune to work with a director who was also a teacher. What this meant, for me, was two months of free acting lessons. In exchange, all I had to do was memorize my lines. Each nuance was crafted as I imagined the character, but it was always under the watchful eye of the director. The fact that he was also the writer of the play afforded everyone in the cast the opportunity to learn exactly what the characters were supposed to be feeling. What I brought to the character was approved before it saw stage time.

This theater is a different animal. Here, the show is outlined, the director blocks the scenes and offers their insight, and that's it. You are expected to bring your A game, develop your character, and turn up for the audience. Feeling unappreciated? Tough shit, do your job. And look around. Everyone else is making it happen without having their hand held.

I was unprepared for this level of freedom. It continues to be an eye-opening experience. I do feel more prepared now for another show, even while prepping for the final week of shows on this one. I only wish I had not succumbed to neurotic self-doubts, which put me on the roller coaster of "Am-I-Doing-This-Right?", like I've never had before. I've experienced many emotions in my life, but self-doubt has never been an issue before. I'm glad I shook that off, glad I'm back to being me.

We've been playing to sold-out houses, and getting standing O's across the board. I'm not taking any of the credit for that...  there are people in this show that can sing and dance, and act their asses off. I'm just trying to hold up my end. But, the bottom line is that we are doing a good job of entertaining the people that come to see the show. They smile, they cheer, they laugh at the funny parts and applaud like they mean it. They shake my hand and tell us all how wonderful the show was. Not much else in life can be better than that.

I auditioned for this show so that I could share something with my son, (he's an up-and-coming star, and he gets more amazing with each show). Serendipitously, I get to stand next to him during curtain call. That makes all the neurosis worthwhile. He may forget this experience as he moves up and up and up, but, I never will. Before I know it, he'll be going off to college and finding his own way. Even so, we'll always have this show, this time in our lives.

 In the blink of an eye he's grown from that kid in the children's theater troupe to a young man who's star has just begun to rise. I'm proud-to-bursting, glad and thrilled about so many aspects of his journey. Not the least of which was watching him 'get it' in rehearsals, try hard, and make it his own. I asked his advice on more than one occasion. His council was always dead-on.

As we look to the next show, and the next and the next, I have nothing but confidence... in him, in me and in the shape of things to come.

It has been an eye-opening experience.

Monday, August 3, 2015

New Guy #4

Editor's Note: The following is a post relating to the author's being in a play. This, after moving to another part of the country from New York. There will be more posts as the show develops.

One of the simplest things in the world is to walk to a certain spot, and then stand there. Slightly less easy is to be told to do that in a certain amount of time. Slightly less, but, still... ridiculously easy. Ever since I lifted my baby self up by the corner of the coffee table all those years ago, I have been walking. And standing.

Sure, as a baby, I was unsteady. I got better. Then, in my 20's, (for reasons that shall not be discussed here), walking began to get difficult again. Only this time, it was usually between the hours of midnight and four a.m. Seeing was also not always good. Punching was okay. Getting punched was do-able, too. But, walking... not so much.

Broken furniture and bruises aside, walking is something us humans can do relatively well. Yes, I know that some people can't, either because of sickness or wounds or born-that-way-ness, but the typical human walks rather effortlessly.

Then why, I ask myself with frightening regularity, can I not hit that mark, on time to say my line? I can get there early. So early, in fact that I get to stand there rather stupidly, waiting for the music to catch up. I can get there late. That is really not a problem. I sail through the air, landing close to my mark in just enough time to functionally attempt the choreography. But, hitting it perfect? Hmmm. Nope.

So far.

I'm told that I'm too hard on myself. After learning the whole six minute routine over the course of two hours, I expect my brain to have it memorized. I expect to do this perfectly. I practice in my head. I wake up in the middle of the night, obsessing over the timing. I want this to be effortless. But, it isn't. It is rather demanding of effort. Demanding that I put forward more and more until I get this right.

 If I was in the audience watching someone like me, I would surely scoff at their lack of ability. I would mutter contemptuously, "He has no business being up there." And, then I would sniff and chuckle and feel mildly superior. Did I mention that it feels like everyone else is thinking that about me, too?

As with anything, perfection comes with practice. And, I am determined to not be the guy who doesn't do this stuff well. So, I practice. I count beats. I listen, and watch, and hopefully learn.

So, when people tell me what a great job I did on stage, I'll believe them.


Ok, I won't ever, but, you get the idea.