Saturday, December 31, 2005
That is not to say I frown on being very focused and contemplative in one's preparations for a performance. (I myself am like that.) If, however, not enough of your mind is allowed to remain aware that you are in fact giving performance you invite a sort of mental absence. You abdicate a portion of responsibility to pay attention to the performance as a whole. You risk giving up the all-important total control over everything you do on stage.
Any dedicated actor can of course be moved at times by the drama and nature of a scene they are in. Many "lose themselves in a role", and this is a good thing. Yet there is a far cry between losing one's self in a role, and experiencing (or seeking to experience) a total possession of mind body and soul.
I remember my former acting professor frequently spoke of the dangers of allowing this. He mentioned a performance of a play (though which I do not recall) during the 18th century, wherein the actors portrayed patients in an asylum. So psychotic were they in their dedication to"feeling crazy" that the actors veered off the script, began jumping into the audience, and started a small riot. Whether or not the story is based on fact, the lesson is clear; remain aware of what you are doing. Do not abdicate your grip on reality just for the sake of a part.
Feel moved on stage. Weep, or laugh. Experience the joy, the tragedy, the grit and the magic of the endless worlds and the unlimited different characters the stage can offer. Certainly, make your performance come alive. Just be sure it is you, the actor, which holds the final reign over your mental faculties. Your performance will be better if you leave the door open at least a crack, on reality.
Plus you avoid being arrested for inciting a public riot. Everyone wins.
Wednesday, December 28, 2005
In a few weeks, the Apollo Civic Theatre, (where I saw Two from Galilee) will be holding auditions. Not for one of its plays, but for a community talent show. I have for the last week or so been pondering the notion of trying out for it. Not that I am worried about winning prizes and such. I just like performing for an audience.
The show is open to just about any kind of act, so long as it is family friendly. This includes singing acts wherein those singing have pre-recorded background music. It would be in this fashion that I would try out for a spot in the show. (I do not have a real band at my disposal.)
Though I could potentially create some kind of acting performance for this show, I do not think it would suit the format very well. I therefore determined that singing would be the best route for me. It is not acting in the strictest sense, but it would be performing. I have a decent singing voice, and have been in several musicals already.
Not to mention it would give me a chance to perform at the Apollo. I think it is good to spread one's influence to more than just one community theatre in any given area. Being in this show would give me a chance to sort of ease into performing at another theater, and getting a feel for its venue before being in an actual play over there.
So I am giving it some thought, though I cannot quite decide yet. It takes about an hour to get to the Apollo from here. I also have to keep the "family friendly" standard in mind. Not that I usually sing or listen to vulgar music. Yet if the family label is strict enough, a lot of the classic songs I would want to sing may be too colorful. (Mack the Knife, for example.) I will have a better feel once I talk specifically to those in charge about how strict the standards are.
It also all depends on what kind of songs I can find the background music for on a CD.
So that is one of the ideas I am currently kicking about in my mind. Naturally when I reach a decision, I'll publish it here.
Saturday, December 24, 2005
She mentioned how often it seems to be the one who jumps to the rescue of a lost cast mate that comes off looking like they have made the mistake. I realized this is often true. While it perhaps cannot totally be avoided, I thought this week it would be appropriate to speak on the subject of how to maintain grace under fire when you are the one doing the covering.
How do you extend a helping hand to a confused cast mate, while allowing both them, and yourself, to save face?
The truth is, it is much easier to do when you are familiar not only with your own lines, but with those of your fellow actors. I am not referring only to your own personal cue line, either. I refer to the conversation being had by the characters, and such.
Now, a verbatim memorization of 100% of the script is not needed. (That may even be detrimental in some cases, but more on that at another time.) Nevertheless, absorbing the nature of the scene, its ebbs and flows, its rhythms, instead of just memorizing cold collections of words that you are personally responsible for will increase your chances of bailing someone out before they drown.
Every situation is different, of course. In general however, a person's brain is naturally built to more easily recall temporarily forgotten information when they are presented with a question. Therefore, if you know the whole scene well enough, you can feed the struggling person the line that is missing in the form of an ad-libbed question.
Missed line: "I don't think this is fair."
Your ad-lib: "What's wrong? You don't think this is fair?
Notice how being familiar with the other actor's line allowed the ad-lib to contain as much of the missed line as possible? This will make it even easier on the actor you are assisting. Experience tells me that 98% of the time, your cast mate's memory will be jogged very quickly in this fashion. (Not to mention it helps keep the performance as close to the script as possible, despite an honest mistake.)
If you know that something has been forgotten during a scene, and you think you can stay in character and smoothly help someone out, do so. Even if some awkwardness does result in your picking up a little slack, remember nothing is more awkward on stage than unplanned silence.
As a little sub-note to this entry, Merry Christmas to all who may celebrate it tomorrow. Happy Holidays of all kinds to everyone else.---Ty
Sunday, December 18, 2005
It was indeed a good show. One of the obvious high points was the high class singing talent of many of the principles. I have worked with the person who played Mary before, and her voice continues to impress. (Trivia fact: It is the same woman from whom I received my first ever stage kiss, as described here.) Not to be outdone, her counterpart as Joseph also has that nice clear tone of voice that is not always present even in decent community theatre productions.
Indeed, the singing was a strong suit for just about all of the principles and smaller parts alike.
It was a minimalist set, but no effort was spared with the costumes and props. A lot of the crowd scenes reminded me of some of those from the mini-series Jesus of Nazareth. Authentic costumes indeed.
Then of course, there is my good friend Gaby, who turned in her usual excellent performance as Deborah, cousin to Mary. I had to mention her by name.
All and all, an enjoyable experience for someone who has never read or seen the show performed before. I would recommend it, but as I type this, they are performing the final show of the run.
Still though, kudos to my friends at the Apollo, for bringing a good Christmas story to the stage.
Saturday, December 17, 2005
When one forgets his next line during a performance, a natural reaction seems to be to stand perfectly still, stare at the actor you were last speaking to, and hope the line will come, or that someone else will save you.
Though understandable, the problem here is that it can draw attention to the fact that one has lost his place. Furthermore, it can also cause other actors on the stage, knowing something is wrong, to follow suit. The result, at worst, can be a collection of frozen silent actors on the stage, looking like a statue garden, as opposed to telling a story.
So what to do should a line elude you? The thing to do is so simple, many people do not think of it; keep acting! As long as you are on stage, you are in character, and that means, with few exceptions, the "deer in the headlights" position is not invoking any sense of drama, character, or story. Not to mention the fact that when you stand there desperately trying to recall what you are to say next, acting skills tend to shut down. You cannot beat your memory into submission, (see previous posts), and when you try, you cannot generally perform well at the same time.
Remain calm. Keep acting. Do something that is in character. Maintain control, and proceed to ad-lib something if you must. Repeat the last thing you said in a different manner, to emphasize your character's point. Or turn your confusion into a part of the character's delivery, depending on the situation. If he is sad, and you forget a line, start to say something, and cry a bit. If angry, use the loss of words to invoke a character who is so angry he has tripped over his words.
Continuing to act through a lapse in memory accomplishes two things. Firstly, 98% of the time the audience will have no clue whatsoever that something is wrong. They will still see a story unfolding, nothing more. Secondly, staying in character and carefully ad-libbing will more quickly bring your mind back into focus, so you can then remember your lost line much faster, and in a more convincing manner.
No one wants to make an error, least of all actors. But once made, extricate yourself gracefully. It can be done, if needs be.
Monday, December 12, 2005
The show has already received, via the office, many positive compliments from audiences. Some had never been to the Old Opera House before, and were surprised by the professional nature of the production. I could not agree more. With only one real exception, every single person in this cast was the type of person that believed totally in what was being done, enjoyed being there, and wanted nothing but success for the show, and for their fellow actors. It is not often you get a cast that large (43 people) consist of that many people who are truly that dedicated. 42 people out of 43 ain't bad.
Not to mention the Christmas aspect of it all. I got to take part in delivering an age old Christmas message. Indeed a message that goes beyond even Christmas. That message is simply, "Believe." The play itself is just one production. The message, however, is universal. I think that is why it did so well. Most people who came to see it wanted to believe.
On a personal level, I got to know some new people during this show, and got to know some more familiar people even better than I used to. I will not take up the pages of this blog with totally personal messages to such folks. However, I want it forever published into cyberspace that with the exception noted above, the cast and crew of this show, at this time, in this theatre was in just about everyway, exemplary. I would be most delighted to work with any and all of them again in future productions.
As an amateur actor, I have no idea how it feels to end a show when you are a professional. Yet I hope that the sense of joy mixed with sadness at the end of a run is still there. Though I would rather not be sad of course, that fact that I am at the end of a show indicates that a show worked; I was part of it truly, and it affected me. Whether I stay an amateur or by some twist of fate end up a professional, may most of my casts be as magical as this one was. Furthermore, may I usually feel the sadness when a good show comes to an end, as I did last night and tonight.
They say auditions for the February show are this coming weekend, and more than one person has asked me if...
But that is another entry entirely.
Sunday, December 11, 2005
It did have that ominous feel of the show coming to an end, even though there is one more performance today. I suppose the very last night performance for a show can have that effect, since matinees tend to feel a little askew anyway. Do not get me wrong, I have every intention of turning in a great final performance this afternoon, as I am sure everyone else does. Yet to me there is always something about matinees. (Tune in tomorrow when I plan to post a little article I wrote about my general feelings on matinees.)
Interesting thing I learned last night. Though this is in fact impossible given that the stage will be being used by a special group next week, there was talk that the show has done well enough for the theatre to otherwise have warranted a third weekend being added on to the run. Now, due to various other reasons it would not be practical to do this even if the stage were free next weekend, so it was only a pipe dream anyway. However I would be willing to do it. I would also be willing to come in and perform a day show for school audiences, as the theatre was apparently asked to do last week. (Again for practical purposes this cannot be done.) If however something like that could be done, I would be all about it. To be in a show that needed to add days by popular demand. It happens alot in the professional world, but as an amateur I have not yet experienced that. Perhaps one day.
Honestly, I always felt that three weekends, at any community theatre, would be ideal. The first weekend is the first weekend. The second is often somewhat better. Yet often times just when the show is starting to get air under it's wings it is time to close. I do not mean to say there are never any good performances second weekends. I just mean an occasional three-weekend show would, in my view, be an excellent experience for all involved. (Though I realize that is a large time commitment for many community players.)
I should also mention that last night before the show, one of my cast mates and a crewmember got together and bought me what turns out to be my very first Christmas gift this season. A toy ray-gun, in case I had any frustrations I needed to take out on things. I love it. It lights up and everything. Sadly it makes noise, and cannot be silenced. Firing it backstage during the show is therefore impossible. I imagine, however, that the cast party tonight should be interesting.
And so, one more show. I wonder what miracles remain for the last day...
Saturday, December 10, 2005
The short of it is, the show was excellent last night! (Friday) The audience (about 290 people) was very warm and receptive. They laughed in several places that no one else had laughed at since opening night. Maybe even one or two places where no one else had ever laughed. They clearly enjoyed the show. We clearly enjoyed the audience.
All of the little hitches I mentioned yesterday were gone tonight. At least for me, I cannot speak for anyone else. Judging by the pleasant audience reaction, I would say nothing happened that ruined a scene.
However, an audience member nearly ruined a pivotal scene, it seems. I was not out there, but as I am told, just about the time our two leads are moving in to kiss, some kid starts going "ewwww" for like 30 seconds. The audience laughed at this more than they paid attention to the scene. The two performers said they almost laughed themselves. I guess the kid was not a fan of kissing. Not to worry though, as all still went very well.
Things went well afterwards too, as me and a couple of cast mates gathered for a little food and drink in the rec-room of the theatre. It's the first time any of us really got to just kick back together outside of the show, and it was fun. (Not counting one dinner out in public last week, where you have to pretend you are civilized, when clearly none of us are.) That is one of the things that I love about theatre, when it works well. The camaraderie you develop with a good cast and crew is like hitting a bull's-eye. Cheers to my friends.
I look forward to tonight, our final night performance. Two more shows remaining. Plenty of time to kick a little more ass and have a lot more fun.
Thursday, December 08, 2005
By problems I do not mean disasters. "Hitches" is a better word for it. A few awkward crossings, some very minor line miscues, and some techie stuff. I myself was not immune to it. I did not forget any of my line, but twice I physically did not deliver them with the ease I prefer. Got a little tongue-tied. I have no idea if these things are because we were off for three days, or it was just coincidence. Either way I have been in shows that did far worse after a three or four day break. The cast should be proud as usual.
I cannot deny that tonight's audience was better than last Saturday's. More responsive and warm. Still nothing like opening night, but a nice audience courtship with the cast nonetheless.
All and all, as usual, I was excited to get back into the swing of things for the second weekend. Plus with this show we get one more day than we usually do for a non-musical. This makes me happy as well.
Something else I need to mention, simply because I threatened to do so, and I always make good on my word. There is a cast mate of mine, let's call her B.E. In addition to her regular duties portraying several characters, B.E. has taken on the added responsibility of tormenting yours truly. I have no idea if she is like that with her other cast mates, but when I call her out on it, she laughs heartily. She has called me a child, and has written, "Mara Sucks" on a piece of paper she uses as a prop. (In her defense she later wrote "not really" on the same paper.)
For those keeping track, this is the same individual who cheated on the Skittles bet with me, as mentioned in this entry. Incidentally, when I pointed out to her that I have always treated her quite well, she heartily agreed and laughed some more.
I warned her it was unwise to take such joy in giving a blogger a hard time, as such antics are likely to get posted about. Her reply to this was, "at least I will get posted about".
I had absolutely no counter-argument. (Quite rare for me.)
I hope she is satisfied.
Wednesday, December 07, 2005
I am not sorry that I went.
The movie will almost certainly be an Oscar contender this year. While I have seen better biopics, I felt throughout the film that a lot of care and hard work went into the making of the film. There was a great amount of respect for the material being presented.
There would have to be. Johnny Cash was without a doubt a legend. His unique look and even more unique voice were a timeless tribute to the downtrodden, the sinful, and the out and out bad-ass in us all. A poor portrayal of the Man in Black in his life story would have enraged a lot of folks. Luckily, Joaquin Phoenix, as usual, delivers.
I admit I felt some skepticism when I first heard Phoenix was to portray Cash. He looks nothing like him (though who really does), and when I heard he would be doing all of his own singing, I felt even more doubt. Yet the portrayal, as well as the singing, are actually quite convincing. In truth, when you close your eyes, you still know that it is not Johnny Cash. In all fairness though, no one can duplicate Johnny Cash's sound. The best one can do is to recreate the spirit with which he performed songs such as "Ring of Fire" and "Folsom Prison Blues". I felt Phoenix attained this most of the time.
Hands down, however, the best performance in the movie, (and indeed the best performance in any movie I have seen in years) is that of Reese Witherspoon as June Carter. I have not seen many things from Witherspoon's body of work. (Legally Blonde movies just do not intrigue me). Yet, I feel very safe in saying that she has turned in the performance of her career in this movie. I know even less about June than I do Johnny, (which is not much at all) but from an acting standpoint, she is magnificent. (A word I almost never use to describe actors/actresses of today.) I have never seen possibly predestined love so astutely combined with soul crippling pain. Both were equally necessary to portray a woman obviously in love with a highly self-destructive man, while remaining strong enough to refuse to live inside the maelstrom of Johnny's early career and life choices. Witherspoon nails it, and she alone (along with the great music) is almost enough of a reason to see the film.
I also highly enjoyed a scene in the movie when a then unknown Johnny Cash is told by a record producer that he (Cash) was not believable when he sang. The speech this very small character gives to an auditioning Cash represents one of the finest in the film, and presents advice any entertainer ought to take to heart.
As far as weaknesses of the film, I would say it does tend to run a little too long in the middle, as we see a few too many scenes depicting Cash's personal problems with drugs and alcohol. I would have liked to see more from the life of The Man in Black after he evolved into same. That persona for which Johnny Cash is so famous only truly comes into existence in the final 10 minutes of the film.
I also think it tended to be a bit anecdotal at times. Seeing June yell angrily at Johnny, "You can't walk the line!", followed instantly by a scene wherein Johnny is recording that trademark mega-hit seemed a bit to "bake and serve" for me, even if that is what may have inspired the song. (I have no idea if this is true, or embellishment.)
In the end though, an honest film, with everyone working hard, and mostly everyone shining. Overall, deserving of the accolades it is receiving. Go see it.
Monday, December 05, 2005
Now the by days. There will be no pick up rehearsal, so I will not be headed into the theatre for three days. This is always such a strange time for me during the run of a show that I am enjoying. On the one hand, it's nice to have a break. On the other hand, I sometimes feel I am just getting into the groove of showing up every night and doing the show, when we have to take a break and not do it.
I think second weekends are often better than first weekends though. There is this sad feeling that it is all coming to an end, as you pass the half way mark of the run. Yet if you can put that out of your mind for the first few nights and just enjoy the show, the break during the week can provide for a fresh take on many things. Hence, excellent performances. Hopefully that will be the case with this show.
I always wondered if three weekends would be better. Most community theatres do not do them. However if I were in a good show, I would gladly do it a third weekend. That would kind of be wild.
Yet it is not to be for this show. We are exactly half way through the run. Good news is, there are just as many performances left as there are those that are over.
Fellow cast mates reading this, get your rest, and go over your scripts, as I plan to. Come Thursday at 7:30...let's bring it.
Sunday, December 04, 2005
The report on last night's performance is this; it was quite a tough crowd.
Much like the previous night, the audience had it's moments expressing their enjoyment. Yet such moments were fewer and further between than Friday night. Their ovation for us in the end was encouraging, but there were times during the show where it felt like I was performing for a panel of judges as opposed to an audience. Despite my good friend being in the crowd, it had a cold feeling to it. I actually felt veryt good about my performance. In some places I think I did my best w0rk on the character yet. Just not sure it broke through to the audience.
This happens, of course. As many of my cast mates said after the show last night, it is important to remember the large ovation we received at the end of the show, when thinking of the final impact we had on the people.
True. Yet I cannot deny I love that warmth you can just feel from some audiences. Some think we will feel that again today. It is a matinee, but a sold out matinee. Like I said previously, size does not always relate to attitude. Yet this is the holidays and most people who come today should be well rested. Perhaps that will be the magic combination.
Just as a side note, after the show last night me and some of the folks from the show went out to eat. I ordered mild chicken tenders, but I feel fairly certain they gave me the hot version. I did not finish them, and I did not send them back, because it had already taken an hour to get our food anyway. Had I sent them back, (along with the sauce that must have been squeezed from rocks found in hell, it was so hot), I would have never gotten home.)
Strictly speaking, the chicken tenders thing is not theatre related, and probably does not belong in a blog. Yet I had to share my disillusionment with someone. Besides, I was eating with theatre people. That was close enough.
Saturday, December 03, 2005
Tonight's crowd for example, was large. (About 280 I think, out of a capacity of 330. Not sure of the exact numbers as of this writing.) While there were a decent audience, they did not laugh or get into the show, outwardly, as much as last nights smaller audience did. This is not to say they failed to enjoy the show. They did, after all, give us a standing ovation at the curtain call tonight. It just was not as responsive as last night's. This concept has never once failed to amaze me.
Something else that has not failed to amaze other people, (or at least entertain them highly), is something I do in one of my scenes. I am reluctant to say exactly what it is, as many people who plan to see the show read the blog, and i would not want to give anything away. Suffice to say that it is a very simple gesture on my part at a key moment in the scene. I threw it in during our final rehearsal, at the director's request, to punch up the moment. Little did I know it would cause such a sensation. People in the audience, and the cast/crew seem to love it. I guess it really is the simplest of things that are best sometimes. (And believe me, the action itself could not be any easier.) I am glad it has gone over so well, and has managed to entertain so many.
Part of me is assuming tomorrow is the matinee, but thankfully it is not. The Thursday opening threw me. I look forward to tomorrow night. I find Saturday night crowds are usually better than Friday night crowds. We will see if this holds true.
Friday, December 02, 2005
The energy, the creativity, the fun were at an all time high tonight for nearly everyone. It even started to lightly snow outside as we were getting ready to start. (I kid you not.) We all did very well.
I added some new ideas to my portrayal of Mara tonight. At one point I was so pleased with the energy in the scene that I wanted to laugh. I could have stifled it, but I asked myself, "why not use it?" So I did. Even Mara, in the end, is a believer, and the laughter (which I had experimented with earlier in the scene, but never at the very end of it) clinches the deal. It felt really nice out there this evening.
I added a thing last minute where Mara bumped into a table that I thought would add to his "what is going on" nature. Audience seemed to like it. I think I will keep it, if the director does not tell me otherwise.
Also, my walk on in act one went good. One foot in front of the other, from stage right to stage left. Quite a good feeling about my 8 seconds of stage time in the first half of the show. But then again, I feel good about just about everything involved in the show.
Indeed, I have not felt that good about an opening night in a while. I have been in some good shows over the years, but that opening night "eureka" moment is not present for every show. Sometimes it take one or two shows, (if it happens at all.) It was present for this one, however right from the start.
My last play lacked some of the joy I associate with being on stage, simply because it was at times a heavy piece, although billed as a comedy. "Miracle" is a holiday classic and you could feel the Christmas spirit from the audience. (Some of whom talked to the action as we were performing.) It was a crowd of 165, out of a 230 or so capacity house. So for a weekday opening of a non-musical, that is quite impressive for the Old Opera House.
The whole cast has much to be proud of. I am proud of myself and the production.
Just 7 more performances. As any actor will tell you, at this point the adventure is just beginning.
I very much look forward to a Friday night crowd.
Well done, cast mates, if any of you are reading this.
Thursday, December 01, 2005
Our last practice was, however, our best in various regards. I will spare readers the details of what exactly went better tonight, save this; just about everyone seemed to be having a really good time tonight. I do not know what it was, but everything suddenly felt quite light tonight. Whether it was the chatter in the dressing room, or the increased energy of the scenes, or the compliments we were all giving each other, the entire production just had that extra something tonight. From the very beginning I have been happy to be in this show, but on my way home in the car I was particularly excited to get this show underway. I was very much on cloud 9.
That is until, I hit a deer for the very first time ever...
Hell of a note about that incident...minimal damage to the car, and the animal actually shook it off, got up and ran away. I had managed to slow to about 20 miles an hour, so I suppose somehow that helped prevent serious injury to myself and the animal.
I guess that will teach me to be happy about a rehearsal.
Yet happy I was. And am. It is going to be quite fun. This is particularly true because there are a few things I added tonight (at the director's request) that I had not done before, So they will be nice and fresh, even for me, on opening night. A few more gestures and such.
Another interesting change in my part that will take place for the very first time tomorrow night is...(drum roll) my very first appearance in act 1! The director wants one or two scenes to be a bit busier with various background people milling about, and he asked me to be in one of them. So on opening night in front of an audience, I will be entering the world of act 1. How will I fit in? What will they think of me there? Will life ever be the same? Of course in the end, I willk just be walking across the stage with a package. But it I will no longer get to wait until intermission to put my costume on. Oh well.
Not that I would have waited anyway. I would have wanted to be dressed and amongst everyone else as the build up to the show was happening. Indeed that is where I found myself today for pretty much the first time. (Previous posts will indicate I spent much of act one up the balcony watching.) Lots of hustling and kids and costumes all over the place in the green room. However it is mostly a fun, positive sort of chaos. It is nothing compared to the madness that was Scrooge last year, where about 60 cast people had to run about in the same limited space, instead of the 47 we have for this show. I am fine with it.
I noticed today one friend of mine, as part of her costume, wears a pin that says "Believe". That sums up quite nicely my feelings on various aspects of this experience. Not only believing in Kris Kringle as the crux of the fictional story, but believing in the show itself, and that we are ready. Believing in what a Christmas experience can do for the hearts and minds of the audience. Believing in each other.
Tune in tomorrow for a little pre-show talk, and tomorrow night of course for the wrap-up of the big opening night.
Hopefully no deer will be harmed in the process.