Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The art of listening...

Production Photo from THE IMAGINARY LIFE OF THE STREET SWEEPER AUGUST G
Photo by Ed Krieger
As a young performer, I was trained in the old-school style of musical theatre...louder, faster, funnier.  My job was to FIND my show by opening night and then repeat that show every night...hit my marks, re-create what I had prepared myself to do.  I was very literal with that technique for a long time.  It wouldn't be a surprise if someone gave me a wrong cue line and I just said what I was supposed to say, even if it didn't make sense.  After all, I was doing my job, saying MY line, the playwright or book writer's line, in the place I was supposed to say it as I had said it many times before.  

Two years after I graduated college I was invited back as a guest artist to revive a role I had created as a senior in a very difficult and wonderful historical play about the life of Saint Vincent de Paul.  In a particular scene I was supposed to break down into tears talking about Thaddeus Lee, Vincent's and The Congregation of the Mission's first martyr.  When I was a senior in college, I often had to fake it. I tried emotional recall but it didn't always work for me.  And besides, there were so many lines that I was always thinking about what came next half the time and so quite often, during the original run, I would fake it.

However, when I came back to the text two years later, it became quite apparent that if I just LISTENED to the monologue before mine that all the emotion I needed was RIGHT THERE.  I just had to LISTEN.  I just had to let go of what had already happened in the play and what was to come and trust that all of my preparation was enough.  Now... much of this wisdom was arrived upon with my director Tim Ward and the actress who played the queen, the gorgeous and talented Erika Insana.  They were instrumental in my beginning to become aware of the art of listening.  Not just to my cue line or the line before it, but to the life and world of the play.

As I got older, I didn't always heed that wisdom...I would often find myself in my old habits of "repeat that performance if you can!"

Thankfully, in recent years, having worked with some amazing folks who have studied the techniques of our more modern age, I now make it a part of my craft to LISTEN.  I do my work to be prepared but each show is it's own.  I do NOT take liberties with blocking or with words, and those actors who do are disrespecting all those who work with them - directors, writers and mostly fellow actors.  Those egos should stick to one-man-shows!

But I do listen and I do stay in the moment that I am in.  Each night may find different inflections or a different cadence or emphasis.  My physical life, within the set blocking may be different.  And if other actors have found new things or if they make a mistake and say something different, I try to pick up the ball (as it were) and not be so rigid or stuck with what it was supposed to be but live in what "it is!"

I am grateful for my current play, The American Premiere of THE IMAGINARY LIFE OF THE STREET SWEEPER AUGUST G as it gives me a chance to listen, to be in the moment, to create a living piece of art that WILL BE different each night but at it's root, holds the truth and vision of the playwright, the director and the cast who helped to create the work.

Theatre is a special art form because the nature of it, is, to be live.  Therefore it is living.  And in life nothing stays the same...and in life, when we listen, we tend to learn and grow.  I have certainly learned a great deal about my craft doing this show.  And I expect to learn more before the the run is finished!

Annnnnd...BLACKOUT!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Tech will always be tech...

I am about to open an American Premiere of a play with 31 actors - THE IMAGINARY LIFE OF THE STREET SWEEPER AUGUST G. While it can be argued that a play with 4 actors is much easier to stage, when it's that time in the rehearsal process for tech, it really doesn't matter what the size of the cast or the style of the show...tech, is tech, is tech! It is stopping and starting and going back and waiting and waiting and waiting and skipping and being lost and forgetting your lines and getting frustrated and giddy and exhausted. But it is a necessary beast of the craft as the components of sound and light and final stage elements can be the difference between a good show and a great show. I am certainly proud of the work I am doing in this play and honored to be working with so many dedicated and talented artists. I look forward to our dress rehearsals and the run. Tech was tedious and difficult and pretty much the same as the 100s of other techs I have done. Tech will always be tech and it will always mark the 11th hour.

SO... curtain up, light the lights! Break-a-leg!

Monday, April 9, 2012

My first Easter Audition!

It's been a couple weeks since my last entry as I have been busy with the new blog for the cooking show and rehearsals for the American Premiere of August G. It's funny how I never get used to the roller-coaster and yet I have chosen a career which guarantees me a "ride" whether I want it or not! Today marked a new one for me...an audition on Easter...well sort of! I received a call from one of the biggest casting offices in NYC last week requesting that I work on material they were sending me, put it on tape (since I am in LA) and have it uploaded on a private link to YouTube by Monday morning...which is NOW!

And so...

I was in rehearsal all day Saturday and knew my only chance to record the material would be Easter Sunday. I am blessed that my partner is such a supportive and giving man that he was willing to take 6 hours out of our Easter to make this happen. At least we got in a beautiful afternoon walk (and some fresh picked grapefruit from one of our neighbors) and I did make us a scrumptious lamb dinner. But truth be told, I couldn't have done it without him. We face a lot of technical challenges with lighting and sound and so it took us longer than it might have with better equipment and a better space but I am proud of the result and grateful for the opportunity to be seen for such a major project.

Can't say what it is for as I don't want to jinx it, but fingers and toes crossed!

Wishing you all light and love, joy and gratitude! And away we go!