Wednesday, January 25, 2012

There's just a few more hours...

that's all the time I've got...

Funny, that lyric from MY FAIR LADY seems especially apropos at this moment for two reasons:
1) I am literally a few hours from leaving my home of over a decade and my partnership of almost two decades and...
2) I am hoping to be in a production of MY FAIR LADY this summer if all the stars align for me.

So what is next? What will this new chapter be about? Where is the road leading?

Sometimes I wish I had answers to ALL of those questions. Don't we all? And yet part of the excitement is that because you don't know, ANYTHING is possible! I am making every effort in this new adventure to try and take things as they come; be optimistic and joyful. You know...that whole "living in the moment" thing we hear tell of!

I also feel like in the past week i have faced all of my "stuff" (that being the physical accumulation of things) and thrown out a lot, given some away and processed the rest so it can be sold easily. I am literally shipping to LA what would have fit in my 98 Toyota Corolla were it up for the trip. And I am actually feeling relief that this "stuff" is not a burden anymore...even less of one when I sell what is left. But maybe more important than dealing with the stuff was seeing so many of my friends and comrades; some of whom I had not seen in over a decade. Even tho we may not have spoken frequently or seen each other in quite some time, there are flashes of brilliance from our past that tie us together. The amazing faces of people who I have worked with in the theatre, or admired in different walks of life...people I have known for 20 years and people I have known for a couple. Folks that are my besties and folks that are somewhere in the history book of my life and all of whom, for the same defined reason: friendship, came to see me off with a warm goodbye and best wishes.

I don't think that we can underestimate the value of friendships. They are the sustaining force behind my success for sure...not only in my career but in my day-to-day life! I am not sure what tomorrow brings but I feel confident that it will be exciting and wonderful. And much of that assurance is because of the amazing folks I have in my corner.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

It used to be about trying to do something, you see...

now it's about trying to BE someone...IRON LADY

That struck a real chord with me...I think that sometimes we lose focus...all of us...about what life and living is all about. I suppose you could take the above statement two different ways, but I take it to mean that when we are trying to DO things: to create art; sing a song, write a poem, help out our neighbor, making dinner for someone who is sick or watching a friend's kids at a moment's notice...we are doing...something. But when we get lost in trying to BE someone: the star, the award nominee, the President of the club, the mother of the year; the winner of the race...we may lose the very reason why we want to be those things. I am not saying that we shouldn't aspire to BE the doctor or lawyer or President...I just would like to think that if we did a check-in every once in a while as to WHY we want to be that thing, maybe we would do things a bit differently or realize it is the journey and not the destination that is most important.

I know that for a very long time I was miserable because I felt like I should be on Broadway and my dream was to win a Tony Award. Now believe me, I've still got my acceptance speech in my back pocket but I don't aspire to be a Tony Winner or star. Instead, I really try to enjoy the work when I get it...the process...the "something" that I am doing and it means so much. Not that I would turn down Broadway or an award, but I am not trying to be an actor with that goal driving me. I am trying to be an actor because I want to act...I want to sing...I want to work on new material and wonderful old material. For me, in my craft, I am excited by the process as much as I am by the product. I can honestly say that all of the projects in the past several years, from stage to TV to film have been a great joy and challenge, and luckily, or maybe because of the joy in the work...the outcomes were pretty great too!

I was asked by a dear friend (and one of the most gifted directors and teachers I have had the good fortune to know and work with), if I would come play in the sandbox with her and one of her students on a scene from a favorite musical of mine. I haven't been able to do much acting (other than an occasional audition) since the fall and so just being present, in a space, working on some dialogue and listening to the perspectives of this bright student and this brilliant mentor...well, it was like magic for me.

Then I came home and screened the movie A BETTER LIFE (one of the perks of being a SAG member is getting to screen movies that are nominated for the SAG Awards). I didn't know what the film was about but I must say it really upset me...for me, it deals with man's inhumanity toward man and that is probably my BIGGEST issue in life. It is the thing that upsets me most; that I have the least patience with; that I get angry over. Whether it be people getting away with terrible things or simply driving irresponsibly to the detriment of others. In any case, it made me think about a few things. 1) how fortunate am I to work in a craft of creativity where, for the most part, it is all about collaboration and support (at least that has been a great deal of my experience). 2) when you realize that many people are just fighting to put food on the table and raise a child to have a better life than they did...well...the gratitude I feel for my life and my support system and my art is multiplied exponentially.

I guess this post has deviated from its starting point but then again...such is life. At least it begins with a movie and ends with a movie!

I would like to think that as I get ready to move to Los Angeles in 11 days that I am trying to DO something...and not just as an actor, but as a human being. I wish that for all of us.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Musicals or bust...

I've always thought of myself as the big musical theatre character actor. Indeed, for much of my early career I did NOT consider myself an actor at all, but rather a singer and mover who could do great accents, understood timing and could "make em laugh!" I was Mr. Vaudeville (when they wanted that) and knew how to repeat my show just like Merman did! In recent years I have come to understand that actually, first and foremost, I am an actor. I just happen to have some other skills that lend themselves well to musical theatre.

And as I look back at my work in 2011, not only did none of my creative work involve musicals but NONE was even on the stage! All of my acting work was in film and TV projects. Honestly, I never aspired to film and TV work and then a few years ago I got an amazing little role on a Fox TV show called THE JURY. Suffice it to say, my big scene ended up on the cutting room floor and my recurring role was unable to recur because the show was cancelled! Wah, wah!

BUT...that experience allowed me to realize that I had been wrong about my ideas of the medium. I thought I would miss a live audience or the spontaneity of having to get it right the first time. I thought all that waiting around to hit your mark and say a few lines would be devoid of acting; devoid of creating character. I was wrong. In 2011, I had the great opportunity to work on several Indie films and a thesis film project that gave me the chance to sink my teeth into a starring role based on a Stephen King short story. It was an amazing experience and allowed me to take risks, develop a character and be spontaneous. All of the film work I did taught me a great deal about myself and certainly about acting.

And as I prepare to head out to LA...the big film and TV town, I feel that it's the right time somehow...I feel like the stage will always be a part of my soul and I will always love doing theatre (indeed I hope to do some in LA) but I am looking forward to possibilities of working in a medium I never thought I would FIT into. Why? Because I was too big...I was too "broad." I was larger than life and didn't know how to be anything else.

I am reminded of words spoken by two Casting Directors to me that have been so beneficial and inspiring to me. I have been able to blend both of these statements from two very talented and kind men and so I share them with you now:

"It bothers me when people accuse actors of being "larger than life." How can one be larger than life? That would not be possible. As long as what you are doing is coming from a place of truth than I can believe it. Dennis Franz is larger than life in REAL life and his character on NYPD Blue was a pretty big character but we believed him because it was all coming from a place of truth. It was all honest and true." Ross Meyerson (Emmy Winning Casting Director whose credits include Nurse Jackie, The Big C, Damages and Rescue Me)

"Patrick...I know the training and experience you grew up with. So did I. You are "louder, faster, funnier" and great at it. And you will always get SOME work continuing with that approach. But most of the industry doesn't want that right now. They want truthful and intimate. Even in the theatre you have pin mics and smaller stages. And you are a good enough actor to give them what they want if YOU want to do it." Eric Woodall (Broadway Casting Director of Mama Mia, Mary Poppins and Billy Elliot to name a few)

I look forward to what LA has to offer...I am coming in with my arms outstretched and have my toolbox with some great experience, fantastic knowledge and wonderful contacts. I am grateful for it all!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Visual arts?

Happy New Year one and all!

As I gear up for a major move to Los Angeles, I am probably just as excited about the prospect of the art I hope to make off camera, as I am the work I hope to do ON camera. You see, over the summer, I discovered that I have an interest in photography and painting. Now let me say that both my mother and father were Mom was really gifted and altho she only painted for a brief time as therapy, her work is inspirational and was the basis of my book, FLOWERS IN AUTUMN: endings and beginnings published a while ago. I could never even sketch the skunk out of the back of the TV guide and never fancied the idea of picking up a brush. That is...until I met my love this summer, who is a brilliant artist and performance artist. His work so inspired me that I decided to just buy some canvas and paints and brushes and go for it! i went to an installation in Brooklyn where one of his pieces was on display and told the gallery owner of my wish to paint but wondered without any classes or training if I should. He told me that I should just go for it and have fun and explore it all. He said classes can sometimes actually inhibit the creative talent with rules and boundaries. Another artist friend of mine said the same things so I went for it! Amazingly I discovered a real joy for painting (mostly acrylic but now dabbling in oils) and have found that I just have a blast and lose time when I am with the paints and brushes. Now I have no idea if I am any good but I am excited to create my own art (as well as work on projects with my fiancee) as we both make our way in Los Angeles. And I wonder, just a bit, if maybe that carefree, I'm just gonna go for it and have a blast attitude that I have found for painting and photography might just be the answer with my acting career! I sometimes think we have a tendency to blame everyone else for our lack of success and achievement and the more I look within, I realize that maybe I am my own biggest enemy. If I throw off all the limitations and just go for it and have fun, the end result won't matter as much (and since that is usually out of my control anyway, that's a good thing right?) I just hope that with the new move, comes a new attitude for me...a new perspective. I look forward to just "seeking the joy" in the work and just showing up and letting the result be what it will. Yes...I do want to be successful in my craft and career. But ya know what? I already am! And I am blessed that so many amazing talents have collaborated with me on wonderful projects and given me the chance to shine.

But since I began this entry talking about visual arts, I thought I would share two pieces from my latest project called: PILES. I was inspired to start this one day when I was in a rural area of Pennsylvania outside of Pittsburgh. I was driving on a back road and saw two piles on the same bit of property. One was a pile of fire wood; the other a pile of cinder blocks. Both piles struck my eye but it also dawned on me that without man, those piles would never exist. There are very few things that "naturally" pile. One thing that piles is snow. Another is poop (I hear some of you saying "ewwwww!" and of course leaves naturally pile. As I love autumn leaves I had the idea that I would begin to find piles that are man-made, take a photo of those piles and then, alter the photos and add two leaves to each one as if to imply that the falling leaves have now created these piles of other things. One of those altered photos is at the top of my blog. Here are the cinder blocks. And I already have a series of about 15 piles from baskets, to cars to giant ornaments in a fountain in New York City. Enjoy! Seek the joy in art and your life will be full of smiles and possibilities!