Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Rehearsal. Taking Time to Play to Learn.

And we’re back, coming to you from good ole twin bed in good ole Guilford, CT.
Yup, I’m back at my parents’ house through the end of July for Ivoryton Playhouse’s production of “The Producers”. We’ve just started our second week of rehearsals and everything is going so smoothly despite that our fantastic and fearless lead, R. Bruce Connelly who will be playing Max Bialystok, had his appendix out this past week. Luckily he is on the mend and will be coming back to rehearsals in the next couple of days. A last minute understudy has stepped in seamlessly, making the rest of the production’s process smooth and on track. Luckily, Bruce has performed Max before in another production, so we’re not worried at all for his lost time. 
As said, rehearsals have been going so well. Carmen is such a wonderful character to dive into. His comedy is however quite daunting to step into. For those who know Mel Brooks’ work, and Carmen more specifically, there are iconic parts to hit, super exact moments that are expected to be recreated while also being originally based. All if this is derived from how the scenes themselves are so smartly crafted; if you miss the exactly placed beats, the humor Brooks goes for, the humor that is so well received, will simply flop, creating uncomfortable confusion.
What I’m going through now is trying to find these points, hitting them in the Mel Brooks style while also being my own artist and letting my own gut reign free from time to time. There have been more than a few times when I have gotten very frustrated with myself, feeling like I’m not getting it, that I don’t have what it takes to be an Equity actor, that I’m not talented enough to pull off all that this character has to offer, that I’m going to miss so much of his comedy and will fail. 

Right in the midst of one of these small panics this morning, my director came over during a break sensing that I was frustrated/worried. She said that I was doing a great job with Carmen and all that needs to be accomplished in such a short period of rehearsal time. What she stressed with me was that I just need to take my time, not to rush. It is an aspect of letting the bantering script dig into my core and to let myself respond accordingly. That really hit home and helped me for the rest of the rehearsal today. 
I’ve never had a role like this and I am having the time of my life with all it has to offer. It’s an honor to be able to partake in this specific type of comedy, to learn another way in which “funny” works onstage. Not to mention, the flitzing and flouncing I do around the stage, interjected with bevels at every moment possible is just FABULOUS!  
It is interesting though. This is my first time at the Ivoryton Playhouse without being in the ensemble and it’s definitely different. I miss all of those group numbers and the immediate bond that ensues between the ensemble-mates in creating formations while singing in four to six part harmony. Luckily, I do make an appearance in some of the early numbers as Audience Member/Cop and get to dance quite a bit. Then, to my surprise, I get to do some pirouettes and kicks as Carmen! Yes!
The cast is stellar. Like, really. Every single principal and ensemble member is so talented; each brings such power and individual talent to the stage. Not to mention everyone is so fun! I know show-people always say that, but it always seems to be true. I find that I’m laughing the majority of rehearsal, and not just because the show is hilarious, but the cast members themselves are just as funny, if not more. 
It’s going to be an amazing run. Be sure to get your tickets now:
We run July 6th through the 31st with Mondays and Tuesdays dark. If you’re thinking of coming from the city, it’s a super easy trip on Metro North from Grand Central to New Haven and I can come in my nifty Ford Ranger pickup and pick you up. :-) 
In other news, I’m getting ready for the staged reading/singing of Jay Alan Zimmerman’s musical “Smokin’!” tomorrow at The Duplex. I can’t wait! It has been a super fast process, but a great one at that. The music is beautiful, the book is filled with laughs, and the cast is excellent. I have loved working with our director, Anthony J Cantalupo on this process. Yesterday we had a few moments together to work on my solo and some scene work. Within moments, Anthony had pulled so much of Nick out of me and onto the table, letting me see how to get out of my own way and just let this direct and complex character play. 
Anthony put me through two exercises. The first was for my solo. He has me sing it three times: 1) Just sing. 2) Walk around the room (have constant motion with varying tempi), and let the motion connect with the breath and in turn the voice. 3) Sing again with that same energy and excitement found through the movement. During this last time through, Anthony put himself right in front and acted the part of Keith who I am singing to. His presence there, the very addition of having a person right there to sing to, to convince, to love as Nick does, was so powerful and wonderful to have. I had to really make him listen to me and hear me with a music-stand in between us. This connection over the barrier brought so much more out of that solo than ever before, and I was so grateful. 
The second was for my scene work. Once again, there were steps: 1) Read the scene with Anthony. 2) Read just my lines without allowing moments for the other characters‘ lines. 3) Read just my lines and allow the separations between my phrases, but make up my own lines of the other characters‘ in my head, whatever they may be. 4) Read the scene again with Anthony. This really loosened me up from what I had rehearsed so much before. I had become very introspective when it came to this character, letting everything hit me and then respond in the way that I thought it had hit me. What I was seeing and feeling was that Nick is a character who has his own agenda, who sees his own thought process completely, knowing where he wants to get to separate from everyone else who may surround him. I all of a sudden just let it happen. I knew it was working when I wasn’t thinking about the lines and they just came out in whatever way they did. I stopped controlling them and let the lines and my own guttural impulses lead everything.   
I can’t wait for tomorrow. If you’re in the city, come on down! We’ll be at The Duplex, 61 Christopher Street. The show starts at 7:00 PM with tickets $15 at the door and a two drink minimum. Be sure to bring your ID; you won’t be let in without it. You can buy a ticket before hand and only pay $10 by following this link:
Some other amazing news, I have found a director for my next chapter of my cabaret: Martin Peacock. I was introduced to him by Sam Carner and Derek Gregor, a fantastic lyricist/composer team that I was introduced to after a show at The Duplex. I had followed them on YouTube before and absolutely loved their music. It’s smart music, it makes you think when you listen to as well as sing it. Be sure to check out their YouTube channel:
A couple of weeks ago, I went over to their studio and had a vocal coaching with them on one of their songs, “All At Once” and I had a blast! I love the song and really enjoyed getting to hear what they had to say about the song and their own process in creating not only the rhythms, pitches, and lyrics, but the character himself. It’s an insight you don’t often get to have into a song. I can’t wait to get back together with them and sing some more of their songs. If you’re interested in working with them, check them out on their website:
During my time with them, we got to talking a bit about my cabaret and how I was looking for a director. They mentioned Martin, whom had directed a production for them in the past, and thought, from what I was saying I was looking for, that Martin would be a good match. So Martin and I got together at the Atrium of Lincoln Center and chatted about my piece a bit. Within moments my gut told me, “Yes, this is the guy.” He was seeing my piece in a completely different light, a new order/format in which to share my story through text and show-tunes, and it was so exciting! And now we’re working together! This union of course happened the day I was leaving to come to Connecticut for an intense rehearsal period, so we haven’t gotten to work that much on it yet. However, I plan to come in on my days off to meet with Martin and continue re-writing the script and bringing my cabaret to a brand new level of creation. 
There are so many projects going on now and it is absolutely exhilarating! This is what I have been waiting for and I am so happy. 
It’s time to play. 

Monday, June 6, 2011

Big News. Big Dogs.

I was offered an Equity contract. I was offered a contract to become a part of the Actors’ Equity Association Union, to take the next step of my career, to be an actual professional within my craft. I’m going to get my card! I’m going to be Union!!!

Recently I was cast in Ivoryton Playhouse’s production of “The Producers” to play the fantastic role of Carmen Ghia. A few weeks ago I got a call from one of the producers that they wanted to offer me my Equity contract along with the role. This would mean that I wouldn’t have to work all 50 weeks in Equity productions to be considered for the Union. Instead, the producers at Ivoryton (an Equity house) decided to surpass those weeks and make me Equity now.
Now, this is a double edged sword, this whole honor of getting your card, aka becoming Equity (when you become Equity, you literally get a card that shows you are in the Union when you go to auditions; so in the theatre world, becoming a part of Actors’ Equity Association is also called “getting your card”). 
By becoming Equity, I have many more opportunities for auditions and actually am guaranteed to be seen - the majority of the time (it’s a lot of little rules and such that I won’t bore you with...). I’ll in turn be seen more at auditions, which can only bring on more experience in the auditioning room. This is also a time to continue building those relationships with casting directors and production teams, performing and showing that I am a smart individual who is ready to work hard and be a harmonious addition to the production. Also, when I’m cast in an Equity production, I will get benefits. There are also maximum hours for rehearsal time as an Equity actor, unlike when you’re Non-Equity and can be worked for hours and hours on end (it’s not always like this, but can be simply because there are no rules for Non-Union actors). Not to mention I get paid more per show! 
But then there’s the other side... By being Equity, I can’t audition or be hired in any Non-Union productions, tours or readings. So for example, the tour of “South Pacific” I talked about in my previous post I wouldn’t be able to do. This eliminates a lot of opportunities to play really great roles that can only add flavor and experience to my resume. Right now, my resume has a lot of Ivoryton Playhouse and Middlebury College, which can be a red flag for some casting directors. You often hear from some actors that they wished they would have waited to get their card as they needed more experience in this crazy world for their resume, for themselves really. 
Also, a lot of regional shows only have so many Equity contracts to give out for budget reasons. It costs more to hire an Equity actor, and there are tons of non-Equity actors who are more than willing to take a role for less money; thus a lot of theaters go with the Non-Equity route instead, especially for the chorus roles. Then there’s the factor that I’m now running with the big dogs now. I mean, I’m auditioning with all of the actors on Broadway! People like Gavin Creel, Aaron Tveit, and Cheyenne Jackson! We’re all going for those similar roles, and that’s pretty terrifying. 
I took a good week to think about all of these pros and cons, to decide whether this was the right direction for me to take, if I was ready for this jump. I didn’t want to be another one of those young actors who snatched at the first instance to get my card and then look back and wish I had just waited a bit longer. 
Am I ready? Am I talented enough to be dubbed with such a great honor? 
After going through everything, I do think I’m ready. The reason I know I’m ready is that I know there are aspects of my art that I know I still need work on. Now, that may sound a bit opposite: I’m ready because I know I still have things to improve on to be able to perform at this professional level. But what I realized was that this contract, this opportunity all of a sudden gave me the kick in the butt to go out and take that auditioning workshop, get some coaching to be better with my vocal choices, revamp my audition songbook, look into getting an agent, finally get new headshots, etc. It’s time to get serious about this all. This step shows me that I can do this, I can be a part of this world. 
Part of your world (reprise)
I don’t know whenI don’t howBut I know something’s starting right nowWatch and you’ll seeSomeday I’ll bePart of your world!
So that’s it. I’m going to sign my contract and become an Equity actor. Yes, there are going to be some uphill challenges, but I’m ready to tackle them head on, to show that I am qualified and ready to take this career, this life, to the next level.
In other news, I’m catering a TON right now, which is wonderful, but quite exhausting. I’m at a point where I just need to keep my balance with everything I’m doing. The cabaret is coming along, and I am at a point of making the next steps in the process which is surprisingly terrifying and exhilarating all at once. Things have been changing for the better like crazy which is so great! 
It’s now just about making sure that I have enough balance in my life to dedicate to the creation and production of my cabaret as well as earning some sort of income. I’m learning how to be better with this through the trials and errors of this city that inherently come with living here. I feel that in the “almost four months” that I’ve lived here, a whole year’s worth of events and experiences have happened to me. Once again, terrifying and exhilarating. That’s just how this city works, and I couldn’t imagine my life right now any other way.  
Now it’s time for chinese food and True Blood with friends at my apartment. 
I love NYC.