Saturday, June 30, 2012

Art can do so much...

I'm not expressing any new ideas here but it's worth repeating, especially on the heals of seeing a remarkable piece of theatre:  ART CAN DO SO MUCH!

Of course for many, it isn't about the RESULT but the process.  For those creating art, the motives are as varied as the paint colors or costumes or lyrics that are used by the artist.  But for those who RECEIVE the can be transforming.  And because art is so subjective, much of it can be transformative to one and bland to another.  And that is what makes it so miraculous.  But there are times, and I hope not as rare as they sometimes seem to me, when art is so powerful that a majority of those experiencing it are all in the same place together.  

And so it was with the performance I just saw of WAR HORSE at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles.

From the first moments of the piece with no dialogue; no spoken word; the visual imagery and the subtle musical tones lifted me to a place where I began to cry.  Certainly some of this comes from the fact that I LOVE the theatre.  I was born on a stage (or so it feels) and so each time I am in an audience I am always transported even before the lights dim because I love it so much and my anticipation is always heightened.  But sometimes, I am disappointed, or don't "get it" or don't find myself as moved as I would like to be.  But with WAR HORSE, all the elements of good theatre were present: great acting, beautiful concept and movement with these amazing puppets,  wonderful effects of sound and music and of course a wonderful story.  But what makes the piece GREAT for me is the fact that the piece is more than those elements.  It is a history lesson and so therefore it is educational.  It is a moving love story and therefore it is emotional and universal.  It is transformative because it makes those of us watching it think about a variety of things in our lives - family, competition, war, loss, love, hope, camaraderie...the list goes on and on with this piece.

Two of the most poignant moments in the play for me took place on or near the "battlefield."  The one is when a Corporal becomes enraged at another officer who is clearly trying to abandon the war and protect two horses in the process.  The Corporal says something like..."Why do you care more about these beasts...these animals...than you do some of your comrades dying in the field?"  The blunt irony was not wasted on me in the moment and I actually verbalized a quiet "huh" in the theatre.  I wanted to yell out "YOU are the beast!  YOU are the animal! If you are speaking of "humanity" in some grand form then these horses are MUCH more human than you are!"  And the second moment was when a German soldier and an Irish soldier were both sent by their opposing camps to untangle a horse in barbed wire.  Neither could understand the other and yet when their goal was a common one, their differences vanished and only the common cause seemed to matter.

I could go on and on but I will simply leave you with how I began this can do so much.  And at its best, it can do A LOT!

A special mention to the entire cast...their work in this piece is a true definition of ensemble.  Would that we all worked together so well in all of our endeavors.

I fly the flag of art in all its forms...long may she wave!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Sometimes...they just don't like you...

So throughout my life in the biz, there have been MANY auditions that did not result in a booking.  Probably 90% if I am being honest.  But many of those auditions were "general" calls where they were not looking for anyone, or I was really wrong for a show, or no one with authority was at the audition...or...sometimes...I just blew it!

But I must say that since I have come to have representation and primarily only do audition "appointments" it is rare when the feedback isn't good and I can honestly say that probably 70 to 80% of the time I get a callback and my booking ratio is MUCH higher as well.  Why?  Because if they are giving me an appointment, they already believe that I am the right type and have the talent (or at least experience) to do the project.

HOWEVER...there are rare occasions now where I go in for an appointment and from the moment I walk in the room, they look at me like I have three heads.  It is in those moments, that I breath, do my best work and walk away without giving it a second thought.

Just the other day I had such an experience.  I heard the two gentlemen who preceded me, and in all honesty (and i hardly EVER think this at auditions) I thought they were HORRIBLE!  Just terrible actors who where shouting lines they did not understand and it was classical text (not Shakespeare but still had a rhyme and cadence) and they just didn't have a clue.  This seemed to be confirmed when the casting director came to me with "pre-audition notes"  and I was careful to listen and prepare to give him what he asked for.

As he brought me into the room however, it was clear that the producer and director were already disappointed in my look and stature.  Then, the casting director looked at me and said. "Oh!  I thought your last name was Rivera."  "Nope," I said, "it's Riviere!".

I then proceeded to give what I thought was a kick-ass audition.  Projecting appropriately as he had asked...making bold and strong choices as if this man knew what he wanted and could have it as he was a king.  I used a slight middle-eastern accent as they had said they were looking for middle-eastern for the role (altho clearly they were looking for Hispanics for the role).  And finally, I felt my use of the text was really good.

When I finished the director looked at me in disgust and just said, "Thanks for coming in." And the producer looked even more disgusted.  The casting director was a bit more pleasant and thanked me for coming in but it was clear they did not want me from the moment I entered the room.  More ironic to me was that both gentleman that preceded me were asked to do the piece AGAIN with adjustments and they were no better, if anything in my opinion, they were worse!  But because their "type" was closer to what they were looking for, they were willing to give bad acting a closer look over better acting but the wrong type.

And proves so well what I used to tell my students at TISCH, New York University:
"You can only do the best that you can do in that moment in those given circumstances and then LET IT GO!  Sometimes they won't like you because of your stature, or your coloring, or your ethnicity.  Sometimes you will remind them of an ex lover who they despise and that will be your downfall.  Sometimes they will love you but it is already cast 10 times over."

And sometimes, for whatever reasons, they will just look at you like you have three heads and just not get you.

So I left the room thinking, you folks are clueless and if you aren't interested in me, that is your issue - I did the job I wanted to do and I left it all in the room.  That is all we can do as artists - the work we want to do and leave it in the room.  It's all subjective so some will love it, some will hate it and some will just find it mediocre.  We must continue to do it anyway because those who love us, will find us and make it all worth the journey.  All worth the "nos" and "nexts"!

I am ready for the next adventure!  Because sometimes they just don't like you, but sometimes, they DO like you, they REALLY like you!