Very proud to announce that I’ve joined the cast of Reclaiming Friendship Park, an independent comedy/drama feature film that will be shooting in and around San Pedro in August. This is going to make August a pretty crowded month on the acting front, as I will also be performing in The Tavern and rehearsing for Romeo & Juliet at Shakespeare-Summerfest Orange County at the same time. Still, it’s a tremendous opportunity for me to play a major role in what has the chance to be a very charming ensemble piece. I will play Dale, an oddball shut-in at an apartment complex where a businessman who wants to trade in the corporate life for the “healing arts”, has just moved in and started disrupting lives.
This will be a major step up from the challenges of Cloudy With a Chance of Sunshine. I was told I could be on for as many as eight of their eighteen shooting days, with some long, complicated scenes involving many characters. We’ll be moving at microbudget pace, no doubt; still, my hope is that I can rise to the occasion and give the filmmakers some good work.
I tend not to say things in advance so as not to jinx myself, but I have another feature audition coming up in a week that I am dearly hoping to land. Just getting into one movie gave me a major boost of confidence; after this, I’m actually starting to dare to think I can do this regularly!
Habitat is here. By which I mean it is now available for download and streaming! Actually, this is only possible at the Earbud website at this exact moment; Earbud’s web designer needs to re-do something with our RSS feed to get us onto iTunes and all the rest. But it is now finished, and public, and FREE. I do hope you listen and spread the word.
I wrote an essay about my love for sci-fi and the development of the idea which you can read at the Earbud blog here.
“I wrote the first draft in a week, intending it to be a short film, but as Tolkein once wrote: “This tale grew in the telling.” I realized we needed time to really take Danna on something resembling the human journey, and even with this version of Habitat realized, I never get tired of writing about Danna and Interface, and their attempts to get through this thing called Life.”
Written/Edited by Nicholas Thurkettle
Danna – Christine Weatherup
Interface – Nicholas Thurkettle
Premiering tomorrow at Earbud Theater:
Artwork by Kevin Necessary
There’s a word I love: “gesamtkunstwerk”, roughly from German, it means “total artwork”, and was used by Wagner to describe opera as an artistic mode that could unify many artistic disciplines within it – composition, performance, design, painting/sculpture, etc. These days, film is our dominant gesamtkunstwerk, but to me what is most exciting it not just gathering multiple artistic modes under one umbrella, but about seeing the chain of inspiration, one piece of art generating another, and so on. It’s thrilling that a thing that springs into being from nothing can have such rapidly-mutating offspring.
Anyway, this wonderful cover piece Kevin did puts me in mind of that. It’s a wonderful image to look at, and it took me a bit to remind myself that it only exists because of a story that I wrote. So his artistry becomes a part of the whole that is Habitat, along with my script and performance, the incredible music (which, while not composed for us, nonetheless suits perfectly), and Christine’s performance, which I am dying to share with you.
Happy to announce that, after many months’ work, my first episode of Earbud Theater, Habitat, is going to launch next Saturday, the 21st! In brief: Earbud Theater is a podcast dedicated to creating new, original audio dramas in the sci-fi/fantasy/horror genre. I adapted Habitat from a screenplay of mine, and we recorded it late last year – with Christine Weatherup and myself playing the two roles and Matt Enlow handling voice direction.
I’ve been slowly but surely editing the piece, adding music and sound effects, and we tested the first cut last week to very positive response. It’s the story of a spaceship crash and a planet of hyper-rational non-corporeal aliens, or maybe it’s a story about a woman in an apartment with a talking stuffed animal. Either way, it will be available this Saturday for FREE on iTunes, the Earbud website, and all major podcatchers. I really hope you listen and enjoy!
There was another significant happening yesterday – I finished and exported the first cut of Habitat, the audio drama I wrote/performed in/am editing for Earbud Theater, and had the chance to share it with a few people.
This project has eaten up many hours from many days over the last month since I took over editing responsibilities, and even before that it was creating an always-fueled restlessness in me to share this story.
I guess the obsession makes sense. There aren’t many projects in my life that have called for so many of my different skills to all push so hard together on something so big. Even on top of the writing and acting, I’ve enjoyed every opportunity I have had to play in the editing process; and I was adding sound effects and music to creative projects as far back in highschool – even if, at the time, it was mostly crudely-improvised idiocy involving AV cables and cassette tapes.
And despite my love for live theater, I need some less-ephemeral calling cards to show the world what I can do. I have fallen in love with the audio drama medium – in the way that everything old is new again, I think podcasting has provided a great venue to rejuvenate this form, and I already have another script ready to record and more ideas in the pipeline to produce after this one is finished and launched. We’re on-track to release in late June/early July, so stay tuned!
This past Sunday was my shooting day on Cloudy With a Chance of Sunshine. It’s done – I’m in a feature film. The next day I went to see Spider-Man 2 and caught myself thinking: “My face is going to be THAT BIG“. For someone who doesn’t get cast on looks, that’s disquieting.
While this is a huge step forward for me, it was also surprisingly, satisfyingly incremental. What I mean is that I have worked on feature sets before either as an executive or crew, and so I am familiar with how the day breaks out and have a general idea of what everyone is doing; so I could tell when we were close to rolling and manage my energy/headspace accordingly. I have done quite a bit of acting over the last few years, and while very little of it was on-camera, there has been just enough between the shorts and webisodes that it wasn’t completely new.
And as stepping up to bigger assignments go, this practically came with training wheels. My role consists of four scenes, all of them in the same location, all of them in the same costume, and in every single one of them, I am sitting on an overturned bucket and conversing with the main character. Two person scenes, no movement – it’s like nearly every possible variable was taken out so I could just focus on not blowing this opportunity.
How did I do? That’s even more difficult to say than normal. I am used to connecting with the audience and sensing feedback immediately. Even an audience’s silence can carry an energy that lets me know where they are in terms of attention and emotion. But in this case, the majority of the crew was behind a big black curtain, watching me on monitor and staying as quiet as possible. It changes everything about my feeling of presence in the scene to not have that element, and I don’t think I have adapted comfortably into that mode yet. My role, however, was primarily comic relief without needing to carry the story, and between takes I did get feedback that people were smiling and laughing back there. Who knows if that’s true, but we did wrap 90 minutes early, and if I wasn’t doing something right I have to imagine they would have stuck around and done some tweaking.
The movie has its Facebook page up and running, and the word is that there should be a cut ready to screen privately for cast and crew come September, after which it heads out into the festival world. Inherent to that game is a certain opaqueness about where and when it is going to pop up first. Trust me, as self-conscious as I am about my big, weird head, when I know something, I will share it.
I try not to surrender too much to anxiety, but I admit I was preoccupied about this heading in. I see my life in the creative space as one where very rarely, someone will take a gamble on you and, without sure knowledge, you have to be willing to take them up on that gamble and believe you can prove worthy of it. I didn’t want to let them down, and they seem happy; more importantly, I have done something I had never done before, and now have a better chance of doing again.
Major great news – I have been offered my first on-camera speaking role in a feature film. Why the caveats? Well, I had a role many years ago in this forgotten little movie made during my days as a development executive. During some reshoots I was pressed into service to play an employee at a bus depot, silently loading bags into a bus cargo hold. “This is great,” I thought, “this is guaranteed to end up in the movie, because if they don’t see how this bag got from point A to point B, the movie will make no sense!”
My scene got cut. But that’s just one of many, many stories about that movie.
Last year I had a role in an independent feature I’ve mentioned here before – Bread and Butter, but it was a voice-only role, and for all I know still might end up cut or replaced. So when it comes to features, I’m not technically totally new to this, but it sure feels like a major first, in that I’ll have a real role with long dialogue scenes and a character name and stuff.
The movie is called “The Story of Ben”, and it’s a romantic comedy to be written/directed by a gentleman named Kevin Resnick. I call him a gentleman because he specifically warned me that my big shooting day might be Mother’s Day and he wanted to make sure I was okay with that. I told him my guess was that my mother would be supportive.
My role is Greenley, the main character’s best friend/co-worker who is perpetually stoned and has terrible advice about women. It won’t be a massive studio-level production, it is an MFA thesis film produced through the New York Film Academy, so very low-budget and distribution isn’t likely – although you have to imagine they will be motivated to get it out there on the festival circuit. Kevin and his producer Rebecca Norris took a short to Cannes last year.
Honestly, I wont even be paid beyond gas money and the meals on-set. And unpaid work is a longtime hobbyhorse of mine, but one of the things most likely to make me okay with it is to have the opportunity be a real professional stepping stone, the chance to do something I haven’t done before. This very easily qualifies.
The film shoots in May and my guess is that they’ll spend most of the rest of 2014 finishing and tweaking. So who knows when it will emerge, or how it will look when it does. But this is major – updating my resume across all the different platforms I use can be tedious, but I’ll be glad to do it this time.
This past weekend, Much Ado About Nothing opened in strong style – our first preview performance on Thursday was one of the tightest, best received “first” performances I’ve ever been a part of. And the official opening on Saturday was the most fun I’ve had in the two months since I came aboard. The crowd was boisterous and occasionally downright raunchy – in one scene where two of the soldiers appear in vintage 1930’s swimwear, one patron begged them not to leave the stage. It was about a step away from turning into Magic Mike out there.
Which is, honestly, a great audience to have for a Shakespeare comedy. It’s a good idea there’s a bar in the building.
Sunday was consumed with recovering from Saturday night’s post-opening champagne gala, as well as the Oscars. So yesterday was kind of my first day with my life belonging to myself again, with no theatre commitments until Friday. Nonetheless, Shakespeare found its way in.
I started the day with an e-mail from the Texas Shakespeare Festival. The artistic director reached out to inform me that, while they would not be offering me a contract, they had held me over in consideration until the final day of casting, and that it was ultimately a question of ensemble needs and not merit. He expressed hope that I would submit an audition for next season.
Now, who knows if that final day stuff is literally true (I’m confident that this e-mail was cut-and-pasted for a few actors, which is not a criticism at all), but my thoughts are: 1) They didn’t have to send anything, and most companies wouldn’t. 2) Since they held in-person auditions in Chicago, New York, and Memphis, as well as locally in Texas, that I made an impression in such a crowd with a YouTube video is a tremendous compliment. 3) There wouldn’t be any rational motivation to send me such a message if I weren’t good enough (or potentially good enough) on the merits. Actors who aren’t worth their time just take up slots.
That’s a wonderful boost, because while Texas Shakespeare is not Equity, they do offer salary, housing, meals, and travel assistance, which, despite the stipends I’ve occasionally received, would make me feel like an honest-to-Mergatroid Professional Shakespearean Actor. So I think I will audition again next year, just like I will with the other out-of-state festivals I queried.
And before I had a chance to wonder about my open calendar for the summer, I got officially offered a place in Shakespeare Orange County again, which I accepted. This will make my third consecutive summer with the company, and I’ll be playing Peter Quince in A Midsummer Night’s Dream as well as an ensemble role in George M. Cohan’s The Tavern (a non-Shakespeare taking a slot in the company’s newly-expanded season).
SOC’s final show of the season is Romeo & Juliet, and as it stands it appears I won’t be in that show. It’s only a small pity, because no one dies in Midsummer and I had some small hope of continuing my annual tradition of being murdered in an SOC production.
But it does open up a spot in September for me to pursue a production at the Long Beach Playhouse Studio – of Twelfth Night. Always have wanted that one on my resume…
Aaaaaand, there’s my face on a poster:
I’ve always said that Benedick was the first role I ever got to play where I had the best lines and got to kiss the girl. I know that I don’t have leading man looks, but my take on Benedick has always been that he doesn’t need them. Claudio has to be young and beautiful the first time you see him, but Benedick’s charms, I think, work better when they emerge as his character evolves. The industry term would that he’s a “character lead”, which indicates that there’s substance and a journey, but is also a nice way of labeling a main character that less-attractive people can play.
My face has appeared in marketing materials before, albeit selling a slightly-different aspect:
That I take as a compliment, because it’s about selling something a little weird and a little dark, which I can do and I enjoy. But the above poster blatantly says “Don’t you want to pay money to see these two people be charming and romantic?” There I’m still not 100% sure I agree on the wisdom. But I think that’s probably just my own self-confidence issues.
Yesterday I did a brief interview with the Long Beach Press Telegram as part of an overall promotional article for the show. That’s a new experience for me, and it made real for me, kind of for the first time, the fact that when you start working at institutions like the Long Beach Playhouse, there is a certain responsibility involved in playing a leading role that goes beyond what you do on the stage.
Sure, one interview and a poster is nothing compared with a months-long worldwide press junket for a Hollywood star. But it is something new to me and my acting experience – and, I must confess, at least a little cool.
Auditions on Monday night for another production of Much Ado About Nothing. Just to re-state for the record – I have appeared in three separate productions of this play, in four different roles. And I was invited to reprise the role of Benedick in a fourth production, but was unavailable.
This production is on the Mainstage at the Long Beach Playhouse, which is a big, beautiful venue in the round. I performed Dracula in their upstairs studio and loved my experience with their whole organization. And it’s been over a year since my last Much Ado, so I think I would be refreshed for it. Also in the plus column – they want to set it in Hollywood during the 20’s/30’s era, which means I would probably get to wear smashingly-handsome wardrobe and drink out of martini glasses.
I really feel like I’m better with a play in my life. But there are downsides. As I learned from doing the play in Glendale, you sacrifice a lot of L.A. acting opportunities to do a play, and since I am trying to build my profile there, that’s a major sacrifice.
And there’s also this sense that I am, without getting into personal detail, worn the hell out by my recent life. Now, it could be that a play is just the thing to get me out of that, or it could be that I just won’t be bringing my best in my condition. Either way it does mean no vacation for Nick until April at least.
It’s not as if I’m going to be deprived of Shakespeare in 2014, I’m doing my best to assure that. I do feel, though, that this play has become important in my life in some way that goes beyond its inherent greatness and its status as Shakespeare. I feel like it’s become part of my codex for understanding life and myself – tricky to explain, I might write a pamphlet about it someday.
And to this day I have never played Don Pedro, which is the part I set out wanting to play.
Pluses and Minuses.