Friday, July 17, 2009

If you just don't seem to fit...

should you quit?

While lately I have been attempting to embrace my quirk, well...quirks, I have come to realize that much of my talent lies in being able to do lots of stuff - maybe none of it GREAT (that is for others to decide) but between the looks I have: give me a mustache and I can play a Greek; give me a beard and my decent Persian accent and I am from the Middle East. I can play drunk convincingly well, do decent accents, sing from upper bass to tenor and so on. And yet all of this seems to make me almost unmarketable because I fall between two many lines. I am not "enough" of one type or one "strength" to land anything.

All of this comes from a great many auditions in the past two months where the feedback has been remarkable, to the point where I am often in the room for over 15 or 20 minutes doing everything under the sun, and being told how great I am at ALL of it but then never getting a call to do ANY of it. And I can only assume it is because people come in who can only do one of the things I do but they do it REALLY WELL and probably a bit better than me. Or they don't do it any better, but their type is closer to what that character would be - fatter, taller, younger, older, hotter, more Latin looking, less ethnic looking - you get the idea.

It's not like a lot of this stuff is new to me. I remember in college someone came from The Barn Theatre to audition the juniors and seniors for possible summer stock work. I sang from EVITA and nailed it, did Doolittle's monologue from MY FAIR LADY and nailed it and then did something else too. At the evaluation they said I blew them away with my voice and had them rolling with the monologue but that I gave them "mixed images." They said they wouldn't know what track to put me in because I fell "in the cracks." Those were their words, not mine. I remember feeling completely confused because I had assumed my versatility would be needed in stock where you might be asked to play a host of roles and ensemble parts in a varied season. I still think that I am right on that as a general rule, and maybe they were just blowing smoke up my ass cause they thought I was crap, I suppose I will never know. But it is interesting to me at this stage in my career that I feel like I am getting SO close and giving the auditions of my life (especially vocally) and yet I just can't get anything to land.

I have also been told by managers and agents that knowing your type and doing everything you can to fit into a specific "mold" or "track" is imperative to knowing where you fit in the business. Trouble is, I feel I could fit all over the place. Does that mean I don't fit anywhere? And if I don't fit, then what is the point?

I am on the verge of being forced out of the business of acting for the first time in my life. Now I have left before...twice before...but I made the decision to leave each time for different reasons. This time I don't WANT to leave, but debt and bill collectors and to be honest, a way of life is demanding that something come thru or I need to get a real job again and leave the biz behind. And when people say "just wait tables." or "take temp work," I want to scream! I DID THAT 20 years ago (well not wait tables but you already know that story) and to be honest, I can't afford to do that. I created a life for myself that I am TOTALLY willing to give up if I can be a working actor. But if I CAN'T be a working actor, then no, to be honest...I won't give up dinners out and vacations and cruises. I realize you can't have it all which is why I gave it all up two years ago.

A former student and friend (who also cast me in a couple projects which I am FOREVER grateful for) said to me that maybe I don't want it bad enough. I don't want to believe that, but maybe his is right.

I am sure that some of this seems to be free-flow thought with no rhyme or reason and I am certain that some of it is tied to earlier posts and may seem redundant. For that I apologize. All part of the actor's lifetime I guess...

What is in store???

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Inspiration 2

So I neglected to mention another main inspiration to me: people who create their own work. I just get so excited (well MOST of the time) when I go see work that isn't mainstream, that doesn't have a big budget or big producers. I'm talking about showcase pieces and free Shakespeare in the Park (not the Public although they do great stuff too). I just have such an appreciation for those who do this type of work even tho it doesn't get them any money, it rarely gets covered by the press or gets the attention of industry. These actors and directors and other creatives do it because they love the craft - they just wanna be "doing it" and if Broadway or TV or even the regions aren't calling...they are gonna do it themselves damn it!

So big cheers to all the artists out there makin' it happen ON THEIR OWN!

I want to highlight a production of THE COMEDY OF ERRORS I saw today in Central Park produced by Boomerang Theatre Company. If you have the chance to see it in the next couple weekends - you'll be glad you did. It is a perfect example of the type of inspiration I am talking about.

You can visit them here and find out about the show...

It also brought back memories of a production of THE COMEDY OF ERRORS that I was so fortunate to be a part of. Trevor Nunn created a musical comedy version of the play (not to be confused with THE BOYS FROM SYRACUSE) in 1978. He stayed fairly true to the Shakespeare text but songs were written in place of some of the soliloquies - for example, Dromio of Ephesus has a quite a long speech about his being "beaten." In this version, it was replaced by the song, He Beats Me!

In case you want to see me in action from that production...(1987/88) here it is - sorry about the quality...

Clip from dress rehearsal of The US Premiere of this musical version of The Comedy of Errors (this adaptation includes original music by Guy Woolfsenden and lyrics by Trevor Nunn). Directed by RSC director Maurice Daniels with musical staging by Beverly Fletcher. This clip is the song, He Beats Me! sung by me as Dromio of Ephesus

Friday, July 10, 2009

Inspiration

I believe inspiration comes in many ways and brings about a variety of results, but in the entertainment industry, I almost feel as if inspiration is as crucial as talent. And I don't want to confuse drive with inspiration. Drive is something within while inspiration may become drive, but it begins as something outside of ourselves. Maybe we are inspired by local hero's who no one has ever heard of but we know who they are. Maybe we are inspired by the troops; maybe the President; maybe a rock star or missionary or sports figure. We may also be inspired by a painting or nature or a song.

For me, inspiration normally comes from people and from music. My mother (who I think of and miss EVERY day) has always been an inspiration to me. Her support and struggles and "life" inspired me to go after my dreams in the first place. In moments of despair or seeming failure, I have been inspired to move on because of her example. BTW...the painting above right was painted by my Mom and fits well with today's inspirations!
My friends in this business are also an inspiration to me - I am constantly amazed by their endurance, their perseverance, their "drive" and their heart! I salute them!

Today, I was inspired by two things and I wanted to share them:

A friend of my dear friend Evan (who I am now acquainted with) posted this on his Facebook Page and I hope he does not mind me sharing it...

"(he) dreamed for years of traveling the world, living in NYC and being a working actor. Though there were some very dark times, the dreams never died and now, one day at a time, they continue to come true. I am so grateful to all the people in my life that have given me hope when I was hopeless, help when I was helpless, and love when I felt unloveable! I am so blessed!!!!!"

The second, is the song The Climb sung by Miley Cyrus. Whenever I am ready to give up, or walk away or throw in the towel, ultimately it is music (and let me be clear that it is often "the lyrics" of that music) that revives me, re-awakens me, gives me hope, lifts me up, and renews my soul. Music is more than the "food of love," for me...it is the food of life. So, as I face some really tough decisions in the next few weeks - mainly, taking a 9-5 job and leaving my acting career (or maybe I should say my continued "attempt" at an acting career) in the shadows, I will keep singing this song and try to hold the lyrics close to my heart...try to believe it and live it.

The Climb lyrics
Songwriters: Alexander, J; Mabe, J;
Miley Cyrus

I can almost see it
That dream I am dreaming
But there's a voice inside my head saying
"You'll never reach it"

Every step I'm taking
Every move I make feels
Lost with no direction
My faith is shaking

But I gotta keep trying
Gotta keep my head held high
There's always gonna be another mountain
I'm always gonna wanna make it move
Always gonna be a uphill battle
Sometimes I'm gonna have to lose
Ain't about how fast I get there
Ain't about what's waiting on the other side
It's the climb

The struggles I'm facing
The chances I'm taking
Sometimes might knock me down
But no, I'm not breaking

I may not know it
But these are the moments that
I'm gonna remember most, yeah
Just gotta keep going

And I, I got to be strong
Just keep pushing on
'Cause there's always gonna be another mountain
I'm always gonna wanna make it move
Always gonna be a uphill battle
Sometimes I'm gonna have to lose
Ain't about how fast I get there
Ain't about what's waiting on the other side
It's the climb, yeah!



Thursday, July 9, 2009

What to do?

After having left the business...TWICE (well, the performing end anyway), I told myself that this time around I would give myself more time to...well...make a living at my craft. I would say "make it" but that sounds silly to me. The last couple times I came back, I wasn't as focused, and each of those two times, I think I was back for about two years and then left.

Well...once again it is coming up on two years since I came back to acting full-time and I have only had one contract show and that was at the very beginning (thank God for Steve and Gail at Surflight). Two years is not a long time and yet overall, I have been in this for a REALLY long time. And at 43, when you are broke, have no survival job, the unemployment is about to run out, you have debt and bills to pay, and no contract is being offered, you have to start weighing the options.

While I feel I have been giving the best auditions of my life, have been really going after everything possible and feel I've gotten close on some things, close don't cut it.

So...I am left with the "what to dos?" I certainly want to give this more time and yet ya gotta have money to live. I have been applying for lots of different jobs over the past two months as a safety measure but in truth, many would take me out of the business again.

I'm certainly glad to be working on 1812 and have just been asked to reprise my role in OPA! this fall but neither are contract gigs. And without an agent, it's a bear.

So, here I am, again, with the question...what to do?