I admit I am less than a month into this whole L.A. Adventure 2.0 thing; which means that I am that far into the process of pursuing acting roles in Los Angeles. My guiding philosophy has not been to seek fame or riches but rather simply opportunities to do what I enjoy and hopefully meet interesting people and find cool projects and experiences in the process. Believe me, if I break even on the investment in headshots, listing services, gas and parking for auditions and rehearsals, and having to buy things like extra-large black tights (first time for everything), that would count as huge financial results to me.
So far I have landed the roles in Much Ado and the 24-Hour Theater Project. I had an audition for a web series that I kind of tanked – I didn’t show up adequately-prepared and the director’s requests exposed my inexperience with camera acting. And I just got back from another stage audition – this thing would provide a little money; not enough for the hours it will ask really, but a significant contribution towards recouping all those expenses above. But more importantly, everything I know about the project – from the venue to the performance style to the people involved – would be really damned cool to land with so soon after starting out.
I think the piece plays to my skills, and I feel like the audition went well. I showed up early, was confident, prepared, and relaxed. That’s all I can control, really. They invited me in the door and I believe I proved that I could do what they’re looking for. The rest is their own vision for the piece and whatever ephemeral impression I made; and I’ll know in a couple of days.
As I look at the youth-and-hotness-obsessed casting notices – hell, as I just look at the inhumanly well-sculpted people at the cafes and bars – I can see so clearly the path to griping about the genetics that gave me this face, or the gray pockets in my beard, or the limited freedom I have to chase this stuff when Rent Must Be Paid.
But I think what’s really happening when that stuff drags you down there is confusion over goals. If you know what you want, a lot can slide off your back. And, like I said, being rich and famous is just not what I’m setting out to do with this acting thing. That takes such a perverse combination of obsession and luck, and with acting ultimately subordinate to my writing goals it just doesn’t make sense to pursue.
Since I took up acting again in Orange County, I’ve done work I’m really proud of, met marvelous people, and had uncountable amounts of fun. I may be 35, in sub-athletic shape, have no camera acting training and gray in my beard; but, like I said, I’ve been less than a month at this edition of the Hollywood Go-Around and I’m already getting something of what I came for. And I don’t think it’s because I’m some kind of awesome actor. I think it’s that I know my skills, find projects that suit them, show up when called and conduct myself professionally when I get there. That stuff matters.
It could also be that this is the luckiest I ever get in L.A. Part of living here is accepting ice-cold possibilities like that.
This is getting hilarious – for the third time in the last 18 months, I have been cast in a production of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing. But for the first time, it’s in my new hood of Los Angeles, at Zombie Joe’s Underground Theatre in North Hollywood – literally around the corner from my first LA apartment on Hesby St.
This should be an interesting production – traditional in interpretation, but drastically cut-down in length in order to run about an hour. It will mean a heavy focus on plot and action, and there will be less dancing and punplay digressions. A couple of characters will be cut completely.
Since variety is the spice of life – this time I’m playing Dogberry. At the callbacks, the director asked how I’d feel about the chance to play the role – I seriously don’t know how any actor couldn’t want to jump at this part. Now I’ve just got to start figuring out how to do it well.
I always loved Kenneth Branagh’s film of Much Ado, but I didn’t want to watch it while I was rehearsing for a production of the show, because I didn’t want to be too-influenced by it. Nor did I want it to be too recently after a production, since I’d still be too locked into my own take on things. I’m starting to wonder if I’ll ever get to watch it again!
When I did Dracula at the Long Beach Playhouse last year, that was technically just over the line into L.A. County, I believe. And I have stepped in on-stage for one performance of a 10-minute play I was directing at Sacred Fools in L.A. when an actor dropped out. But this will effectively be my L.A. “debut”. When it comes to the script, though, I’ll be on familiar turf.
Last night was our first performance, and tonight is the official premiere of Much Ado. When it comes to comedy, you really need an audience to confirm for you if you’re doing anything funny, and last night’s audience was damn helpful in that regard. I have the great fortune of playing most of my scenes with Don John or Dogberry and the Watch, all of whom were killing it last night. That not only makes the audience much more agreeable to laughing at my stuff, it makes me step up my game so the whole stage isn’t stolen out from under me.
From L to R: Brian Clark as Don John the Bastard, me as Borachio, Harrison Givens as Conrad
I think this is the first show I can remember doing where I wanted to steal my costume at the end of the run and keep it for myself.
Schroedinger’s Cast – During the time between your audition and hearing official word, you are neither in the show nor not in the show. You are therefore part of Schroedinger’s Cast.
Got to credit my friend Mikhail Blokh for bringing that one home to a punchline – we were discussing the concept after a couple of El Compadre flaming margaritas the other night.
In any event, although I have technically heard nothing, enough time has past since my last callback that it’s a safe bet I’m not going to be in this new show I was targeting. This is not entirely tragic – it would have been exhausting to roll right into rehearsals while performing Much Ado after having just done the same overlapping Much Ado with Richard III. Now I get a little break from stage performing to move some other projects forward. There are always, always, other projects.
Not much blogging lately, I know. Overlapping two shows will do that to you. But we survived the closing of Richard III (not to mention the celebration after – I’m not in college anymore but I held my own); so now it’s time to focus on Much Ado, which opens a week from Thursday.
As I believe I mentioned, I just did this show a little over a year ago, in the role of Benedick; but this time will be playing Borachio, the drunken follower of the Prince’s bastard brother Don John. There’s always much to learn watching a new crew of creative people working on text this familiar, not to mention a much savvier actor handling the same role. You have to disengage yourself from so much memory of the choices you made in order to see unadorned the choices they are making. An actor named Michael Nehring is our Benedick and he has a marvelous expressive variety.
This is my second show with Shakespeare Orange County this summer, and so half the cast and crew are rollovers from Richard. So I knew going in what quality of people I would have to work with. We are under the care of a different director, and because it is a comedy and not the tragic/historic spectcale of Richard, it changes the tenor of rehearsals. The irony is, I think as actors we laugh more when rehearsing a tragedy, to relieve the tension. But comedy – we work that very seriously, and often with little laughter to guide us.
Borachio is evolving in an interesting direction for this production. We are using more of his dialogue than you often see, and with that fuller text he becomes a more than a pickled sidekick – he actually provides much of the initiative and planning for the scheme of mistaken identity designed to sabotage Claudio and Hero’s wedding. I get the opportunity, if I can, to show that under the boozy exterior is a true conniver, exploiting the petulant melancholy of Don John in order to shake money out of him. Like Margaret, the waiting-woman he plays dress-up with at that chamber window, Borachio sees the social order and aspires while refusing to consider those above him his true betters; although his subterfuge and ultimate cowardice (heaping the blame on Don John when captured) is the shadow opposite to Margaret’s unapologetic celebration of her wit, charm, and sexuality.
Whether or not the audience ever gets any of that beyond my tripping and burping I do not know, but it keeps me working hard.
Richard III officially opened last night after a Thursday preview. Like most previews, we were a little nerved before we settled into our relationship with the audience. I felt no small awe at my first experience performing on an amphitheater stage at night – the lights are so bright but the audience is this great void. Still, you can feel them there; feel their intense attention.
The first review is in and it’s an absolute rave. They highlight the work of the savviest and most skilled pros in our cast, which is well-earned. I feel like I learn something just by watching how they stand.
There’s a great deal of fatigue that can set in, not just from the physical demands of the show (one of our soldiers is swinging a sword with a herniated disc), but from the emotional energy you commit there at the theater for so many nights. Until that first moment in front of a real crowd, the response you get is somehow just not enough. The show requires an audience for our work to resound to us. Now that we’ve got ours, the toil is far behind, and here comes the fun.
Photo by someone more talented than me
Lots of updates to the audition bulletin board today. “Proof” and a concert presentation of “Titanic: The Musical” auditioning NEXT WEEK at Costa Mesa Playhouse. Audition dates for “Guys and Dolls” at H.B. Playhouse and “Arsenic and Old Lace” at Attic Community Theater. And Long Beach Playhouse has announced their Mainstage Season for the fall – starting with “The Glass Menagerie”!
Last night we paid a visit to the Amphitheater where Richard III will perform – the platforms of the set are built and in-place, so we did our first barely-stopping stumble-through of everything from “Now is the winter of our discontent…” to the beheading of Hastings at the end of Act III, Scene IV (which will be our intermission moment).
Since it had been just one week since our first read-through, I was amazed at how much was happening that was already good. My first scene felt really awkward, not because I didn’t know the lines but because so much about my performance wasn’t working the moment you put it in that big outdoor space. John – the actor playing Richard – quite accurately described it as like suddenly being on the moon.
But as we got into my big scene, I felt a lot stronger, and started to really enjoy the size and volume of play. It’s not naturalistic – and God help us if a helicopter flies over – but it gets you thinking about how to adapt your presentation so you are still doing something recognizable enough to provoke the response you’re seeking.
My character is one of the few who gets involved with any stage violence, and we haven’t choreographed any of it yet so we kind of flailed our way through it, which made a lot of folks gasp with concern when I sold the act of getting hurled to the floor. They don’t know what I put myself through for Dracula.
After it ended, the director didn’t hold us for one extra minute, just applauded us and dismissed us to head to a bar down the street, where the Artistic Director had arranged for complimentary beer, wine, and nachos, on the condition that we spend some time getting to know each other as a cast. It was a deal I was happy to take.
I really like the work these people do, and their passion for Shakespeare. They do two Shakespeare plays every summer plus a special related project – this year it’s a stage adaptation of Shakespeare’s poem Venus & Adonis. When I auditioned I was a total stranger. Getting into Richard III meant that they believed enough to take a gamble on me for one show. But now they’ve offered me the chance to be in their next show, which just happens to be Much Ado About Nothing, the same play that started all this acting nonsense up again last year. I told them I loved the show, was loving working with the company, and would be happy to join up.
So now I’m set to play Borachio, the lusty drunk who sets what plot the play has in motion by tricking Claudio into thinking his fiancee is cheating on him. It’s an unrestrained hoot of a role, and if the talent level in the cast is anything like this one, I’m going to be in for a real treat. Plus, having just done the play last year (albeit in the role of Benedick), memorization should not be so much of an issue!
So Much Ado opens just 12 days after Richard III closes – which means, once again, I’ll be overlapping performances and rehearsals. Last year I did three full shows and it felt like a busy year; I relished my time off in-between. Assuming this Much Ado thing happens, by the time it closes on September 1st I will have done four full shows in 2012, PLUS the staged reading of the one-act in January, PLUS the 24-Hour Theater project.
Oh, and I threw my hat in the ring to work as an actor doing staged readings of world-premiere plays at the Long Beach Playhouse for their New Works Festival. It’s where I did Dracula last year and I have been eager to work there again. It’s another company that feels like it could be a part of my home network of theaters.
The catch? Their Festival happens the same weekends as Much Ado – which could mean doing two different shows in the same day.
It’s safe to say, if there’s a fever – I have it.
Tonight is the first read-through for Richard III at Shakespeare Orange County. It has been quite some time since the audition; enough for me, in my insecurity, to assume they’d decided to drop me in favor of someone talented a dozen times over. Waiting isn’t easy.
I found out this morning that in addition to Clarence, I’ll be playing the smaller role of the Lord Mayor. Richard III has a monstrous-long list of roles, and this is a fairly sensible bit of double-casting, since Clarence is only in Acts I and V, while the Lord Mayor is only in Act III. I’ll never get too bored backstage, and this is the first time in a number of years I have had multiple characters to play in a single show – unless you count Renfield, of course.
This show represents a number of firsts – my first outdoor amphitheater show, my first Shakespeare that isn’t a comedy, and my first Equity schedule, which means afternoon rehearsals as well as weekends, because we open in only 23 days.
I don’t get an easy start, either: we’re rehearsing my big soliloquy tomorrow afternoon, and, judging by the schedule, there won’t be much time to work it if I can’t nail it. But this is the challenge I sought when I tried out for this company. Time to see what I can bring.