Thursday, December 29, 2011

Mottos for 2012

I hope all of my readers are having a wonderful holiday season (that includes you, person who found me by searching 'girls underarms and boobs'. Welcome to my acting blog.) and are feeling good about what's been accomplished in the past year. (Take a look at my post on creating an annual review.) For myself, I'm feeling frustrated when I look back at the past year. When I look at where I am now compared to where I was late December, 2010, I can't find anything that's really changed. There have been some great events, like working at Perry-Mansfield and doing my first professional show, but it still feels as though I haven't grown much. I'm still living with my mom. I feel stuck and incredibly unproductive, as much as I talk big about efficiency here. I should be taking advantage of this free time and living situation, but the reality is I haven't even opened the past two issues of American Theatre.

I'm not sure why I feel uninspired, but continuing to live at home is not helping. So by this time next year, I hope to look back on this post and see how much has changed this time around. Aside from the goals I set in my Year In Review post, I've also been coming upon themes/mottos for next year in my journaling (which I've been much better about--not perfect, mind you, but better).

JUST START--This was the first motto that came up when I was initially battling lack of motivation. It worked decently well, to the point that it became not about starting, but sticking with it in my second theme. At the moment, however, I may need to revisit this one.
COMMIT--If I start something, it often has a hard time transitioning into a regime. For example, it's been a week since I worked out. I need to work on the repetition essential to forming habits.
TAKE TIME TO ADVENTURE--I have friends with fabulous international jobs and, to be perfectly honest, I'm pretty jealous of them. I feel as though I am tied down by my career, that if I don't slave away at it constantly and currently, my time will expire. Au contraire. In many of the workshops and talk-backs I had the pleasure of attending in college, the speakers emphasized the idea that we have time. Not only that, but I believe that the best way to understand the lives we portray is to experience the life we are given.
DO ONE THING EVERY MONTH TO FEEL FABULOUS--I'm ready to leave the self-conscious, only moderately successful, poorly-dressed actor that I was in college behind me when I move. I want to give Chicago a version of me that looks and feels confident without compromising whatever eccentricities that are inherently me. My favorite blue cardigan with the hole in it will have to go. Every month, I will do one thing to make me feel a little less dorky and a little more polished.

Have a happy new year everyone! Hydrate today and stay safe tonight. Tomorrow, we (stop having Buffy the Vampire Slayer marathons with my cat and Netflix and) start anew.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Audition #8: Barter Theatre

In my last post, I said I was going to try and post twice a week. Not really sure when I planned on starting that, but clearly it wasn't before now. Oops. But hey, there's always a new week ahead to try again.

A week ago, I went up to Abingdon, VA to take part in the Barter Theatre's general auditions as well as their auditions for the Barter Players, a troupe of 6 actors who have graduated college or have equivalent training. Here's how the day went...

Date: December 11, 2011
Acting audition: 11:00
Dance audition: 12:15
Player interview: 6:30
Auditioned For: AD Richard Rose and others
Pieces:Vianne from the novel Chocolat by Joann Harris
Bess from Hunting and Gathering by Brooke Berman
Attire: Dark purple jacket layered with yellow cardigan and gray tank
Denim trousers
Brown oxfords

The auditions for Barter were held at their alternative space, Barter Stage II, which is a lovely building with a cafe that is open before and after performances and looks across the street at the main stage. When I arrived, I was greeted by Casting Assistant Kevin Dmytryka, who had me fill out some forms and return them with my three copies of my headshot and resume. Then I milled about the cafe area with the other waiting actors. If any of my dear readers audition at Barter next year, I want to give you a heads-up: There is no place to warm up. The cafe is right outside the theatre itself, so do your vocal warm-ups before you arrive!

The folks at Barter are very organized and will take good care of you. They announce a whole set of auditioners and will have two people on deck while one is auditioning. They are quick to smile and make the whole process as painless as possible.

A tangent: A week or so before I went to this audition, I talked on the phone to my good friend Richard McKenzie, who is one of those actors that you've seen or heard plenty of times before but can just never quite place him.
Richard McKenzie as Fred Bunker in All In The Family
Dick is a fabulous storyteller, so when I told him I was auditioning for the Barter, a theatre he has worked at, he was off to the races. He said when he auditioned, his number was 13. He was waiting offstage, watching number 12 do an intense monologue from The Master Builder and she ran off into the wings and into Dick's arms, crying and shaking. He said, "I thought, if she's this scared, then I'm outta here!" He left the building, walked across the alley and was going to leave before the stage manager caught him: "Are you number 13? Get in here, they're waiting for you!" So he went and auditioned and was hired. "If I had made it to my car, I never would have been an actor." (If you go to the Barter and look directly above the door into the box office, you'll see Dick's rather cynical-looking head shot.)

When my name was up, I was the very first of the set and was a little caught off-guard, but marched into the space (which is a very intimate thrust stage) while the stage manager announced my name and number... Number 13. I couldn't help but smile, thinking of Dick... and also that I didn't have to face number 12 running into my arms.

I tried to keep the pace up with Vianne, which resulted in me feeling like I wasn't thinking at all. Of course, this may be beneficial for me. I'm notorious for chewing things up and mulling them over too much before getting them out of my mouth, but when I take the direction of just picking up the pace, I don't "feel" anything (us actors always wanting to be sentimental). I am completely unable to judge whether my performance benefits from quicker speech and reduced (or quickened?) thought. All that is to say, I really don't know how well Vianne went. I do know that I kind of settled into things, including my breath, for Bess. Her monologue felt much more present with clearer tactical shifts and the last line got a laugh (internal squeak of joy). I feel fairly confident overall with the acting auditions.

Barter Stage II. Phenomenal cosmic powers! Itty bitty living space.
 When you register for the auditions, you are given the option of attending the dance call, which is encouraged. As someone who has two left feet, I say do the dance call. I actually had a ton of fun. You will have a chance to change and warm up. The combination they teach everyone is not advanced and they take time to help you with rough spots and give you alternatives if you are unable to do certain choreography. They teach the combination to the group as a whole, then they will select some people to stay to learn more advanced choreography while the rest go into another room to work on what they've learned and help each other. Once everyone has had time to review, they pull auditioners in 4 or 5 at a time to perform the audition. Smile a lot. If you mess up, do it big. And do only what you can do. I had a blast.

My mom and I spent the rest of the afternoon enjoying Abingdon, making fun of how fancy the Martha Washington Inn is, and poking around out in the boonies. Then I napped a little before my last appointment: the Barter Player interview with Katy Brown, Artistic Director of the Players and Associate Director. She meets with everyone all together first to tell candidates the following:
  • This is not for everyone.
  • This might not be for you.
  • You will work your toosh off.
  • It is a 15 month contract.
  • There is very little time off.
  • This might not be for you (again) and if you decide not to have an interview, we will not hold it against you and you will still be considered for other roles.
Challenge: Accepted 
But really, it is a helluva long commitment and she is right. That sort of thing isn't for everyone. But I see myself in a state of transition, headed toward moving to Chicago, a direction that could be changed. I am in a position where I could take on 15 months of working my toosh off. So I had an interview. She is very pleasant and straight-forward. She mostly asked me about my resume, but she did ask what I am specifically working on with my acting right now and the dreaded "Do you sing at all?" I almost got through the day without having to sing, but alas, she got a nice little rendition of Happy Birthday. She told me they would be in touch with candidates in February and March for another interview and that was pretty much it, I thanked her and said I had to get home and feed my farm animals, which started some chitchat about milking (her sister also has goats!). I like to find out a little bit about the person asking all the questions.

Then I headed home to some hungry ponies.

I had a fantastic day in Abingdon, as long as it was. I feel confident about my work and I enjoyed meeting a few new people in the time in between auditions and interviews. I find that an organization is reflected in the people that keep it running and the people that it attracts and everyone that I ran into at the Barter--whether they were teaching a dance combination or announcing auditioners or auditioning themselves--were warm and welcoming. It seems like a lovely, nurturing place to be. Even if they never call me, I will definitely be back to see some more shows!

Friday, November 18, 2011

A Year In Review

Friday the 18th marked the 1-year anniversary of the completion of my degree. It's weird enough to graduate. It's even weirder to have graduated a year ago. When I left college, I was completely exhausted and plans for the coming year aside from "move" and "get a job" weren't really taken into consideration. I have my momentum back and I am going to take this anniversary as an opportunity to review the past year and create goals to reach before next November 18th.

I've never conducted an annual review, so I have been referencing some of Ben Whitehair's posts from Playbills v. Paying bills (here and here) as well as his source, Chris Guillebeau here (includes a spreadsheet template for your own annual review) and here.

Looking Back
Stats 
7 Auditions
1 Call-Back
1 Role

34 Blog Posts, including this one (approx. 1.6 per week)
Approaching 2,000 pageviews

?? Headshots dispersed (several hard copies and plenty of digital copies)

What Went Well
I did well this year to take advantage of opportunities (sometimes unexpected) that came my way, including my time as a camp counselor. During that time, I tapped into skills I didn't even know I had, leadership and working well with kids, which I hope to continue to develop. There is also something to be said for getting an acting job while living with my mom in the middle of nowhere. Not only am I proud of getting the role, I am also proud of my performance. While I was working on the show, I developed a strong relationship to the artistic director of the theatre and I think the relationships I've formed and maintained have been a highlight of the past year.

What Did Not Go Well
It has been a challenge to find ways to motivate myself to work at full capacity, knowing there's nowhere I need to be in the morning, no due dates, and no professors who's respect I want to earn. It's just been me, sans schedule and time restrictions and, while I have gotten some things done this year, the level of my productivity is disappointingly low. I also had every intention of being in Chicago by now, which may have been possible with better planning and budgeting. The extra time at home will inspire more restlessness, I think, but possibly also generate a little more money for when the time does come to move.

Looking Forward
Guillebeau suggests creating categories and setting 3 to 5 goals for each one. So here it goes:

Acting (artistic):
  • Read the rest of Shakespeare's plays.
  • See 15 plays.
  • Enroll in an acting class. (Auditioning?)
  • Bring monologue repertoire up to 10 total (5 classical and 5 contemporary). 
  • Journal every day. Yeah. Every day. I think about acting that often, therefore I can write about it that often. 
Acting (business):
  • Increase blog postings to twice a week, possibly add interviews and reviews.
  • Increase tweets to 2+/day
  • Send out mailings every quarter.
  • Send out professional email every quarter.
Financial:
  • Create a budget and stick to it.
  • Set up retirement fund and contribute $20/month.
  • Set up credit.
Health and Fitness:
  • Run a 5k.
  • Flexibility--To be able to sit and bend at the hip with elbows resting between legs. To be able to hold bottoms of outstretched feet.
  • Join a soccer team.
  • Largely replace snacks with more protein and veggies and less salt and fat. (So this one's not really measurable. Whatever. You know what I'm sayin'.)

Friends and Family:
  • Send friends mail or goodies at least once a month.
  • Return home for Renaissance Fair and/or Christmas.
  • Date night with Chris once a week, even if we stay in.

 Other Jobs: 
  • Set up etsy site and have steady supplies of cards and coasters.
  • Put out advertisement for baby, pet, and house sitting every 2 weeks.
  • Add self to care.com.
Habits To Pick Up:
  • Knitting
  • Sewing
  • Get back to writing fiction and poetry. 
  • Driving (No, I still don't drive. Don't make fun of me.)
  • Paper crafts/Collage

I realize that some of these goals are subject to change, as I will soon be in a new city with new challenges and there will be a lot of adjusting in many aspects of my life. Many of the goals are created specifically for once I am settled in Chicago. I didn't quite make it there this year, but when people ask when I'm moving, I say "In the spring" or "April or May." I no longer preface my answer with "Hopefully" or end it with "...but we'll see." It has been set in motion. Another post coming soon about the steps I'm taking to prepare, but until then, let me know your goals for 2012 or in general!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Boarding the Pan Am Soapbox

I have been a sorry excuse for a blogger lately, especially considering how consistent I was earlier this year! But I've still been making progress--mostly in other areas of my life. I'm deep-cleaning my house, and I put my room in an order that I think I can deal with while I live here for one more winter. I also had a highly stressful yard sale to help put away money for the big move. It didn't quite go the way I wanted to--my boyfriend and I argued a lot and the first weekend was the coldest we've had since last winter. But we gleaned about $200 out of it, which is tucked away in my little Chicago tin.

I've also been watching some tv (aka hulu) including my old faves: "Fringe", "Community", etc. I've watched "New Girl" with Zooey Deschanel. What's going on there? It's given me some good laughs, but I'm not sure where that's headed. For example: where did Coach go? I haven't watched the third episode. I hope he's back, but I doubt it. Thoughts? But I've also discovered "Pan Am".
Period tv shows are in vogue lately, such as "the Tudors" (okay, so that's real period) and especially "Mad Men". I think it has been a wise choice for "Pan Am" to ride on the coattails of the latter, using the previously-generated glamor of bob haircuts and beautiful '50s and '60's costumes to attract a pre-fabricated audience. While I haven't watched a whole lot of "Mad Men", I think the role of women is important in both of these shows. In "Pan Am", we are following a small group of women who have found a way around what Betty Friedan calls "The Problem That Has No Name" in her book, the Feminine Mystique. Mid-century housewives were widely reported to be depressed and restless, feeling as though their life was incomplete and they had nothing to look forward to. The Pan Am stewardess was maybe the first of a line of exceptions that would eventually lead to second wave feminism, which makes for a pretty incredible group of people to follow from season to season.

I hope television is on the path toward reforming the way women are represented, that maybe that one scene where Christina Ricci stabs the passenger with a serving fork for trying to get in her girdle is another first in a line of exceptions. I'm afraid that it isn't, because not only has Pan Am's rating dropped 27% this week but media that continues to perpetuate the idea of woman that we all are familiar with. Like this one, from the Spike TV website geared towards men:

Or this one, from Victoria's Secret (for women...?):
Not a whole lot of difference in what the image is projecting, except that Victoria's Secret is working a little harder to show off the bra. (Side note: Nobody's armpits are ever that smooth. Jus' sayin'.) Then there's Dr. Pepper, who has decided that their ad campaign for their new diet soda is...
USA Today says that not only are the commercials for this product saying things like "Hey ladies. Enjoying the film? Of course not. Because this is our movie and this is our soda," and "You can keep the romantic comedies and lady drinks. We're good" but that the facebook page for Dr. Pepper Ten has an app "that allows it to exclude women from viewing content."

I'm totally cool with men being manly and I don't drink diet soda anyway. It isn't the elevation of manhood that bothers me. I love men. I love my boyfriend. I love a shirtless Hugh Jackman.
Nobody has to tell me "sex sells" goes both ways. I just think it's time to find a way to elevate the men that we love without degrading what it is to be a woman. The documentary "Miss Representation" looks into the media's effect on women, how women make up 51% of the population and only 17% of Congress, and how even those women who have made it to the top are degraded. The film is centered around what Marie Wilson, the Founding President of the White House Project says:
You can't be what you can't see.
The media is a powerful tool that can be used to anyone's advantage and, as I am speaking to artists and performers, I'm hoping I can plant a little seed in your mind. It's time something changed. Women don't want to be better than men. We love our men. Our importance is lost without men, as theirs is without ours. We just want to be equal. And as media professionals, I believe we can do something about it. Welcome aboard.

Relevant Links:
Miss Representation website
The White House Project
Topeka, Kansas Considers Decriminalizing Domestic Violence To Save Money: In the comments section, a woman named Melissa L Jacobs has posted a link to a petition.
Eve Ensler's V-Day: V-Day is in February. If you were thinking of hosting an event, it's time to start planning!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Going To See The Elephant

Way back in April, I did an audition for a little theatre here in the Blue Ridge called Ensemble Stage Company (Check out that post here) and, naturally, I assumed that I wouldn't be hearing back from them after I had waited a good while. I set my winter/spring audition marathon in the past and went forward, which ended up with me in a uninsulated cabin in the Rockies taking miniature actors and dancers under my wing. But not so fast! The last week at camp, I got an email from Gary at Ensemble Stage asking me to be at callbacks for 'Going to See the Elephant', the last show of their season, on that Sunday. The fact that I intended to be leaving Colorado at the time of the callback resulted in frantic email writing and nail biting while waiting for a reply.

But all was well. I went to alternative callbacks on Wednesday with a couple other girls. (And you know what? I have no idea what I wore. Sorry, not my usual M.O., but things have been a little crazy!). The callback was with Gary, as the audition was, and he had us reading from three or four sides and swapping out characters. I ended up lagging behind for a chat with Gary as the other ladies left, which resulted in him offering me the role of Etta.

Wait, would that mean... My first professional role? Why yes it would!
There we are at our first read-through! I'm the mess on the left. Photo by Jeff Eason.
 We had nine rehearsals. Count 'em. NINE. Not only am I used to leisurely rehearsal periods, I also usually get parts like "MacDuff's Child" with only 10 lines. It's a bit of a different story when there's only four women to share 50 pages of dialog. I was hoping to really apply the Practical Aesthetics technique (read A Practical Handbook for the Actor by Bruder, Cohn, Olnek, Pollack, Previto, and Zigler) but ended up doing a truncated version of the script analysis for the sake of time, since the technique is usually very particular and nitty-gritty. So, to be honest, I don't think I've ever used any of my "as-if's" from my work, but outlining my objectives (or "actions") was definitely helpful. The whole thing desperately made me wish I had that pocket-sized version of my teacher that I always joke about.

What has been very beneficial and worth the time I put into it has been my physical work. Good ol' Chekhov. I love him so much. A little "contracted with hope" here, a touch of the largest circle of awareness there, plus avoiding eye contact... It's gotten me pretty far in nine rehearsals and just as many performances. Except I have weird knots in my back now because of Etta's physicality.

Photo by David Rogers. Again, the mess on the left.  
One thing I really love about this show is that it's about women, by women, with a female cast and (in our case) a female director. And yet it doesn't scream angry feminism and burning bras. While men aren't present on stage, they are present in the characters' lives, and are spoken about in honest, often loving, ways. But having the men offstage or "in town" allows an opportunity to show what women are capable of and what they did regularly as pioneers--coping with trauma, putting a beloved cow out of misery, making their children's pants out of flour sacks, nursing the weak and burying their yucky dysentery stool, and somehow managing to find some joy in a piece of ribbon or a book of maps. They were absolutely against all odds. They lost hope, children, peace, but Kansas is settled, as well as everything west of that. It makes me wonder what else we can tough out, what else we can pioneer--women and men alike.


The show closes tomorrow. It's been such a joy to work with the cast and with Lisa and Gary. The hilarious rapport Gary and I have built will hopefully continue through future projects, perhaps a children's acting camp on Saturdays, and who knows what all. It's been a whirlwind--a hurricane if we want to be more appropriate for the season--of a process. I couldn't be happier with the play or the people that have been my first professional show.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Back in One Piece and Then Some

I'll confess something to you: I've really been back from Colorado for a few weeks and I haven't posted about my summer until now. Partly because I've been ruminating--there's too many fantastic stories to share here. And partly because I've found myself in a show, but that's for another post. This one's just for Colorado and the kids and the snake outside my cabin door.

I had a really good feeling about the coming summer when my friend Heather and I pulled into the camp and there was a pasture of horses and snow still topping the mountains. Needless to say, it was a hell of a lot better than driving through Kansas. It's funny to look back on the first day, the first meeting of the program coordinator while he helped me move in--who I would end up loving after two months, going on a hike led by the day counselor who would have me in constant laugh attacks. And then there's my fellow cabin counselor, Danielle, who I now can't imagine what it was like not knowing her.

Getting to hang out with the other counselors for training week probably lulled us into a false sense of comfort. And then the campers came. I really haven't had much experience with kids, aside from recently taking on babysitting a 2 year old, but I knew that was nothing like wrangling teenyboppers. To be honest, I was terrified. And nothing makes me happier than to say I was totally wrong to feel that way.
These are my Junior campers. We battled homesickness and sick tummies and 4th of July heat together. We played improv games in the common room and re-enacted Disney movies in less than 3 minutes (or 5.. or 10 as it sort of turned out). And oh muh wuuuurd did they make me laugh--impressions of teachers and chasing staff with their sweatpants pulled up under their armpits. After two weeks, I felt like we had spent months together and if the love they had for each other wasn't apparent yet, it certainly was when they had to say goodbyes. I love to hear about Mayana's latest achievement in horseback riding or Kat Ann's audition success and I hope they will all keep me updated.

Two days after my Juniors left, we were inundated with Young Artist Intensive campers, aged 13 to 16. You thought I was nervous before? Again, how wrong I was.
Talk about a cabin full of laughs! These girls constantly surprised me with their outstanding maturity. I always got such warm fuzzies when I heard them encouraging each other through the tough parts of not only being 13, but being a performer on top of it--the word "beautiful" has never been used so sincerely. I loved that they would carry their headshots around with them (which probably cost more than I got paid for the whole summer) and that I busted into the common room because I heard one of them say "You're an asshole!" only to find that they were working on a scene. I have such fond memories of the day we went rafting and we totally threw the concept of "camp appropriate" out the window. They are so dedicated to their work and their open hearts will take them far. I can't wait to see where they land.

And then there were my fellow counselors...
...who rode horses with me, gave each other a place to vent, made hot chocolate in the kitchen while the kids were dancing in the Green Room, got me to have a wedding folder on my desktop, appreciated bathroom humor, endlessly abbreviated words with me (I still get texts), brainstormed hypothetical plays (Immunization: the Musical), shared books, sat on the office porch, made awkward jokes...

It's not to say that there weren't times when my patience was tried. There were days that I wanted nothing more than a movie with my boyfriend and my cat. There was a point where I was so mad I was in tears. And I was often put in a position of not knowing what the plan was and having to pretend I did for my campers. But this summer was such a gift because of my kids. No matter what happened, I found myself fighting for them before myself. It made it worth any crap that I had to wade through to see them make silly faces at me or to see one of the more reserved girls step out of her shell or to watch them dance and act bravely and confidently.

I told myself that I would probably never go back, but when one of my girls told me over facebook that she wants to go back to Perry-Mansfield, but she really wants to be in my cabin again... It makes me seriously reconsider...




Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Half Speed on Vaycay


Three weeks ago, my summer plans were founded on hauling kayaks and babysitting, with little theatre work beyond reading AT and various plays. Today, I am writing in a cabin in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado during a week-long counselor training at Perry-Mansfield Performing Arts Camp. While I would make more money fitting life vests and tying down boats, my Sagittarian restlessness had definitely become overwhelming and while I love Todd, NC it's pretty devoid of people to talk theatre with. Here, I'm surrounded by people who speak Actor, by horses and mountains that still have snow in June. Not to mention my enthusiastic campers who will be showing up on the 24th. I'm bracing myself for the Beiber Fever. The food is delicious, the air is clean, and while I'm positive my cabin is haunted, this little Sagittarian is very content.

However, I do regret to say that Half Speed will be put on temporary hold, or at least have much less frequent posts. Between wrangling 12 and 13 year olds, riding horses and enjoying the mountains, there really isn't much room for walking down to the office to steal WiFi. Regular posting will resume when I return in August and I hope you will all come back then to hear about my Colorado adventure.

Thank you all so much for reading. If you all have any ideas for posts for when I return, stick them in a comment. Until then... have a wonderful summer!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Bunk Beds

I have found my summer opportunity in an unexpected place. I know I whined about seven rejections, and got defiant, deciding to make my own summer training program. But post-babysitting exhaustion and the desire to snuggle my cat has left me without that curriculum I promised a while back. So when my friend Heather mentioned that the Perry-Mansfield Performing Arts School and Camp still needed a counselor, it was pretty natural for me to be on that like spots on dice.

On Wednesday, I called to see if the position was still open and talked to a lovely lady named Sophie Aikman, who asked me to email my resume to her. I had already written the cover letter and gathered the contacts requested on the website, but I realized quickly that I had no idea how to write a normal resume. By which I mean one that is not covered in theatre and film credits. I highly recommend getting one together before you need it, because I was scrambling to put one together in a pinch. I had to get my friend with a normal degree to email me hers to use as a template. I was scheduled to have a phone interview with Sophie on Thursday, but had to move it to Friday when something came up for her.

The interview lasted about 45 minutes. It started with questions like, "What experience have you had with kids?" and "Have you ever been to summer camp?" which were followed by "What would you do if..." questions. It ended up being a very enjoyable conversation and I had a feeling I had it in the bag when I said I'd always wanted to go to Colorado and she replied "Oh, you'll love it here!" She offered me the position at the end of the conversation, just two days after I initially called her. Of course, I accepted it!


My Summer Home. No Big Deal.

I will be making less than I would working full-time at my kayak outfitter job this summer and I won't be performing, but I think there is something to be learned from managing middle-school girls for 2 months. (Check back here for revelations and frustrations.) Not to mention the fact that all of the teachers are potential professional contacts and there are a bunch of horses available for me to ride. This is not at all what I expected to be doing this summer, and I didn't think I would be spending it with any performing artists, much less a whole camp full of them! I'm seriously thrilled. And kind of terrified. Middle-school girls. Just sayin'.

Since some of my girls won't be in sessions long enough to produce a show, they don't have anything scheduled during evening rehearsal times. I'm coming up with ideas of things to do with them, either performance related or just campy. I'm thinking: capture the flag, foam sword battles, maybe a play reading. Any suggestions out there? It would be much appreesh!

So there it is. Colorado, here I come!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Lovechild

One of the the newest professors to the performing arts department of my alma mater (Did I really just use "alma mater"? Who even does that?) shifted gears in her career after being a highly successful casting director for CBS-NY. This woman knows her stuff and is a lot of fun to boot. Unfortunately, I never had the pleasure of taking one of her classes, but she always had her Audition Techniques students do some digging and find out who they were in the industry as far as types were concerned. Recently, I decided it was about time I did the same. I even used the same approach that I had seen my friends use: the ever-effective Facebook status.

Well, maybe not ever-effective. Probably because I added a qualifier to my first call for suggestions, which was: Ellen Page and Anne Hathaway don't count. You all have no idea how often people tell me I'm like these two ladies. I just wanted to branch out, but apparently branching is not allowed in this investigation. I had one response, which ended in a question mark and was also a point for musically-inclined Julie Andrews. I am not musically inclined. In the least.


So I tried again, this time without the qualifier. First response?
Anne Hathaway. And this was from a girl I haven't spoken to since high school. Okay, am I really going to fight being compared to someone as charming and gorgeous as Anne Hathaway? I think not. Although I'm not sure if I will ever be that fearless about my boobs. Girl's got some good'uns.


Second comment?
Adorable, versatile, I-wish-we-could-be-friends Ellen Page. Can't complain about that one either.

In conclusion, I give in. I am officially the lovechild of Anne Hathaway and Ellen Page. I have never really considered myself to be a strong comedic actor, unlike my lovely type-based mothers. Maybe I misjudged myself and I need to redirect, to work my comedy muscle more. And apparently I need to have a Red Riding Hood role. (Hathaway was the voice of "Red" in Hoodwinked and Ellen Page's "Hayley" in Hard Candy has been compared to the character.)

Other actors have been suggested to me in the past, such as Audrey Hepburn, Tina Majorino ("Deb" from Napoleon Dynamite, and recently on the season finale of Bones) and I have a doppelganger in Emily Mest ("Thea" in the national tour of Spring Awakening). And then there's Andy Serkis.
I used to have a killer Gollum impression, but that's all we have in common.

I swear.

This precious totally knows what taters are.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Post-Graduation Productivity: Addendum to "On(Line)" and a Tangent Into Finances

Back at the end of March, I wrote an entry into the post series "Post-Graduation Productivity" about your online presence. (Read it here.) I added on to that post with a link to a similar discussion over at Playbills vs. Paying Bills because A) those guys are great and I want to tell as many people about them as possible and B) I draw from all kinds of places to give myself and my readers good information and reading material. Which is why I'm making an addendum to the "Let's Get it On(Line)" post. (Don't you love the word 'addendum'? Trippingly on the tongue, indeed.)

LearnVest did one of their many quick articles on building your online brand, which gives some additional ideas and is also a bit more eloquent than my post. LearnVest is a site with tons of information on finances, saving money, and ideas of how to live frugally, as well as tips for entrepreneurs. It is generally geared toward women, but often has information pertinent to men as well. If you dig this article, definitely poke around a little more, maybe sign up for their daily newsletter. Because don't we all know, money is in short supply for most actors. Another financial site that is designed specifically for artists is Abundance Bound. We need to use these resources to our advantage. They can't hurt. And most importantly, they're free. And I love free.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

The Discouraging Start

I had every intention of spending this summer with one theatre company or another, continuing my training and adding a little something extra to my resume before I move to Chicago in the fall. Unfortunately, things have proven to turn out a little differently. Out of the seven companies I auditioned for, I have received four rejection emails. Some of them were expected. Some of them were encouraging. And some of them couldn't even manage to put a "Dear Elise" at the top and a "Sincerely" at the bottom. The remaining three, in my mind, boil down to one "not a chance," one "not likely" and one "still reviewing."

It has been frustrating to know that my start out of the gate has been slow, that I spent money and time traveling to auditions in which the people behind the table hardly paid attention. That I will never know just what went wrong, and if it was anything I could change. Watching my peers excel while I warm the proverbial bench this summer is going to be tough, but the disappointment and comparison of myself to others is something I can deal with. However, being so removed from the acting world has already had an effect that has caused my very patient and supportive boyfriend to recently say he's wondered where I've been lately. I think my restlessness, lethargy, lack of motivation, moodiness, etc stems from my 5 month-long detachment from the thing that has propelled me for the last few years. I guess reading the New York Times and American Theatre just ain't cuttin' it.

So I chose April 30 to be the last day that I look for responses from the summer opportunities that I applied to, which makes today the first day of defiantly planning an artistically productive summer. In other words, its time to quit moping about rejection letters and do something with myself that will make me more "hire-able" next time around. Might as well make my own opportunities. I'll design my own daggum training program. Curriculum on its way soon.

As they say: slow and steady wins the race. Half speed, full intention.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Guild Card Secrets

You know those little ads on the side of the screen when you're on facebook? You know how they're usually to meet Jewish singles or to turn yourself into a baby? Well, this one popped up and I had to take a gander. I can't tell if this is a totally sketchy scam or if it is a legitimate way into SAG:

http://guildcardsecrets.com/

Basically, this guy claims to have found a loophole in getting into the Screen Actors Guild through a contract by becoming a SAG New Media Signatory Producer for a small project of your own. I was a little wary of the "have my DVD for just the cost of shipping" idea, but my Spideysense tells me he's an honest guy trying to help actors into the union.

Say this loophole really is a way into SAG. Do we use it? It's a total pain to get into the union, but I almost feel like I would be cheating if I got in as a "signatory producer" (whatever that means) and used my membership as an actor. Then there is always the question of when is the right time to get into a union, which involves evaluating whether or not you no longer can or want to work on non-union projects, if you can pay the membership dues, etc. If an actor has come up against a wall where they aren't getting work outside of a union and can't seem to get into a union, I say this might be worth a shot. And it gives you a reason to produce some of your own work.

I'm more of a theatre kid and I'm not sure how the film kids roll when it comes to getting into the union, but what do you think? Sketchy? Worth a try? Both? Check it out for yourselves and tell me what you think!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Dropping Like Flies?

As a young theatre artist, my blood pressure rises every time I read about the financial crises that are causing theatres on both coasts to send out SOS calls. After reading in American Theatre that Actor's Express in Atlanta would need "$200,000 by the end of July to stay afloat," I had to consider it against the travel expenses to audition for their internship program. In the end, travel expenses won. (Read their distress call here.) Just now, I read in the NYT that the Intiman Theater in Seattle (whose troubles were also highlighted in AT) has canceled the rest of their season as well as the jobs of the staff. I even got an email a few months ago from the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, where I was an apprentice last summer, that they had not met their fund raising goal and were looking for donations.

While New York theatres seem to be holding on okay, (with Spider-man: Turn Off the Dark bringing in well over a million every week without having even opened yet) I think that regional theatre work is essential to our community, especially to those of us who are just joining. Not only does it give us newbies a place to start without trying to jump into the deep end that is the Big Apple, it also provides an outlet for regional voices that may one day make it to the big city.

I don't think that the floundering of two theatres means the death of the regional circuit. However, with government funding for the arts dwindling and possible donors and patrons feeling pinched for money due to the still-recovering economy, thinking about it makes me a little queasy. It makes me feel like it's not quite as strange as I once thought when my friends discuss survival plans for the zombie apocalypse.

Okay, the zombie apocalypse is silly, but how do we approach this possible conundrum in a way that will benefit us as artists, both individually and collectively? I'm all about donating time and work to the betterment of a theatre (I was notorious for devoting myself to a zillion projects at once in college), but at this point we all know:

Can we promote our favorite companies in a way that will convince audiences, donors, and sponsors that theatre is a worthwhile place for the money that they are clutching to during this economic struggle? Maybe there is more to be mined from the ever-expanding world of social networking and the iPad, since technology is something people are unafraid of spending time and money on. Or perhaps it's time to stop waiting for patrons to come to us and take theatre to them, by which I mean focusing on even smaller communities than regional theatres. Each community has a story that could potentially be told on stage. AT even had an article on a puppet theatre that did shows in people's backyard. Is it possible that traditional ways of doing theatre have become old hat to the point that it's difficult to fund anymore? Is there any one change in theatre that will bring audiences back and define the newest generation of artists? Just some food for thought.

On the other hand, I could be freaking out too much and every generation of artists coming into this crazy world have been faced with one problem or another. Either way, from what I've seen of my colleagues, I think we'll come up with something.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Post-Graduation Productivity: A "Brief" Summer/Life Reading List

After the 2010 Savannah Film Festival, my professor and mentor Sharon Ott spoke to us about the incredible people we had been given the chance to meet, to listen to, to discuss our craft with such as James Cromwell, Sir Ian McKellen, and Liam Neeson. There was a lot to talk about. But one of the points that came up was that these people who we watch, love, and follow on Twitter, are not only extremely intelligent, they are also well-read. Very well-read. I mean seriously well-read. And even though I was almost done with my BFA, I hadn't had a lick of time to read anything other than what was assigned. It made me feel like I had fallen behind in the race somehow. But that's what that weird in-betweeny time when you're living in your parents' house is for. Here's what I've collected so far as must-reads for actors.

Magazines/Newspapers:
  • American Theatre: This is a magazine by the Theatre Communications Group and you should have a subscription by the time you leave college or shortly after (as was the case with me). If 90 or so pages on theatre isn't enough incentive, how about $20 for 10 issues with a student ID? That's what I thought. You just fax/scan/snail mail a copy of your ID to them for your discount, so hold on to that handy little card, even after you graduate.
  • The New York Times: The go-to for current information on theatre and what tragedy has struck Spider-man: Turn Off the Dark this week. And we should also keep up with what's going on in the world outside of our dark black-boxes and prosceniums, which is a made little easier by their "Week In Review." And the online articles are free! Wait a second. NYT is trying to start charging for an online subscription once the reader has viewed more than 20 articles. Apparently the rules are very complicated, and have been sorted out a little bit by the folks over at LearnVest here. The word on the street is that the Times isn't doing a very good job of keeping track of who reads what and it doesn't take much to get around it. Say, deleting some cookies maybe? I'll keep working on it if you will.
Plays:
  • Anything and Everything: This is a given. I have been collecting a ton of plays for a long time, since my dad volunteers at the county library by sorting through donated books to sell, and can take home anything he sees worth keeping. Next up for me is Our Town (I've never read it--shame on me.). I'm also occasionally ordering plays that are recommended to me (such as the last one I read and loved: Almost, Maine by John Cariani) or that are by playwrights that I like (Passion Play by Sarah Ruhl is sitting on my wish list). Looking to order? Try:
    • The TCG Bookstore
    • Dramatists Play Service
    • The Drama Book Shop in New York City. This place is fantastic to go to if you live in the city. If not, they do orders too!
    • Amazon, where you can receive it in the same box as incense, clothes, and EasyMac.
    • You should also try to read criticism and reviews of plays. You may be able to get these through scholastic search engines such as LexisNexis or JSTOR (I can still get to my school's library account for these). Or you can try GoogleScholar.
    • If you don't have a copy of the Complete Works of William Shakespeare, you should start saving now. I have always been steered toward the Riverside as the "actor's edition", but the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey likes the Arden.
    • If you're looking for a collection of pretty standard plays, I have kept my copy of The Compact Bedford Introduction to Drama. There is also a not-so-compact edition. It's a textbook, and expensive, but it includes great background information and articles on each of the plays.
Books On Theatre And Acting:
Also a given. Here are the ones that I return to over and over:
  • Speaking Shakespeare by Patsy Rodenburg
  • Actions: The Actors' Thesaurus by Marina Caldarone and Maggie Lloyd-Williams
  • How To Be A Working Actor by Mari Lyn Henry and Lynne Rogers
  • Actors on Acting edited by Toby Cole and Helen Krich Chinoy
  • How To Take Care of Your Voice by Joanna Cazden 
  • The Stanislavski System by Sonia Moore
  • A Practical Handbook For The Actor by Bruder, Cohn, Olnek, Pollack, Previto, Zigler
  • Audition by Michael Shurtleff
  • Respect For Acting by Uta Hagen
  • And a couple that are more about being an artist in general:
    • The Courage to Create by Rollo May
    • The Inner Voice by Renee Flemming
Some titles that are in line for me to read:
  • Will In The World by Stephen Greenblatt
  • Emotion On Demand: An Actor's Workbook by Michael Woolson
  • My Life In Art by Konstantin Stanislavski
Books In General:
Mark Twain once said "A classic is something that everybody wants to have read, but nobody wants to read." True, but too bad. We try to portray life. Kind of hard if all we know is acting, since most people aren't crazy enough to devote their lives to it. Reading everything possible gives us a broader knowledge of "life" and can be handy in use of references in rehearsal--"Think soandso from suchandsuch a book." Contemporary novels can be great sources of audition material, too. I've pulled from Chocolat by Joanne Harris and Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison.

I'm not about to be that guy that gives you a list of the greatest literature ever. Google "100 Greatest Books" and see what happens. In the meantime, I just finished The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson, which I highly recommend. Looking at Foucault’s Pendulum by Umberto Eco next.

What are you guys reading? What books and plays do you love? Did I miss anything? Comment!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Audition Journal #7: Ensemble Stage Company

Date: April 2, 2011, 2:00 pm
Auditioned For: Gary Lee Smith
Pieces: Eurydice from Eurydice by Sarah Ruhl
Bess from Hunting and Gathering by Brooke Berman
Attire: Dark khaki trousers
Dark purple long-sleeved shirt
Gray sweater
White scarf
Gray oxford heels

I made the wise decision a couple days before the audition to double-check what the requirements were. And surprise! Two one-minute monologues. Not just two monologues. There was a flurry of scripts as I tore through my bookshelf to finally decide on Eurydice and a different piece from the one I had been using out of Hunting and Gathering to meet the time limit. In the long run, I think the new Bess is also a better piece for auditioning. Then began some serious memorizing. I was not really sure how things would go down since my preparation time was shortened. Character work was minimal or else based on what I had already done for Bess. But I went ahead, remembering what I once said concerning my Chautauqua Theatre audition: I don't like to say "unprepared." I like to say "fresh."

I was actually really looking forward to this audition. I had gone to a play reading with some of the folks from Ensemble Stage, and really enjoyed the company of theatre people (having been out of school since November), and theirs in particular. The drive to Blowing Rock was met with snow flurries (in April, mind you) and I was greeted at the theatre by the lovely people I met several weeks ago at the reading. I was scheduled for 2:00 and had arrived early, giving myself time to revisit my warm-up and my monologues and giving them time to take a break. Then I slipped in the theatre, greeted Gary, and hopped up on stage for my pieces.

The monologues were, well, a little "fresh" and I just about lost Bess right at the beginning of hers, but finished up for the most part unscathed. One thing I was pleased with was that I felt like I was speaking to the back of the house, even though it was a small theatre. Gary sent me out to look over a side from a play they are considering for their summer season called Going to See the Elephant while another guy auditioned. He gave me some insight to the character, Etta, and described her in polite terms as being slightly "touched" due to her kidnapping by Cheyenne. Playing cray-cray in the audition room. A little intimidating, but I gave it a good shot, as well as the Cheyenne words in the side. ("Tze?" Really?)

Before I got to give the side my first go, Gary marched up on stage with me and promptly mussed my hair as much as possible. Clearly, the crazier the better. And all the more reason to hang out with these people. Once he went back to his seat, I gave it a go. He gave me the note to be even more detached from the event I was talking about, and I think I took the direction well. I actually had a few moments where the character took me by surprise. But then it was over and thank-yous were said and the side was returned and it was back through the snow to snuggle with my kitty and find another project. So that I can stop thinking about the billion auditions I haven't heard back from. (okay, six. Chautauqua sent me a very nice rejection email. Wompwomp.)

As we march into spring, I'm keeping my fingers crossed to be contacted by at least one company with good news. Until then, I'm staying busy baby-sitting a fabulous two year old, doing some yoga, and reading the Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. Do you guys know what you're doing this summer? Post it in a comment!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Post-Graduation Productivity: Let's Get It On(Line)

Doesn't my title just make you want to crack out your crash cymbal?

I recently ordered my graduation gear as I will be walking in my school's commencement ceremony in early June and I realized that I strangely have a step up on what to do in that interim between school and real life. So instead of hoarding it, I'm going to do a series of posts on what to do with those months where you're sleeping in your childhood room and eating your momma's cooking before you jet off on your next adventure. Because there's a ton you can do to get yourself on point that you didn't have time for in college.

Let's start with your online presence. On my way back from Atlanta (read about that adventure here), I met a guy on the train who was interested in doing extra work and I gotta say, I gave him some rather wise advice. And that was the more accessible you can be, the better off you are. (I'm going to try to let that be the last innuendo for this post.) Now, I am not a computer guru by ANY means, but I have managed to get it so that the first full page of a google search of my name is, in fact, me. (Not quite the same story with an image search, but there's seven good pictures on there. That's a start.) Everyone, get ready for shameless self-advertising.

I think everyone should have a:
  • Website: From what I gather, this is pretty much essential. You can make them with free templates. I briefly mentioned in my post titled Hurdles that I had done some research about those providers. I myself like Wix. The templates are not as generic, and you can upgrade to premium at anytime. Check out mine.
  • Professional Email Account: Keep everything seperate, yo. I think Gmail is the best choice.
  • LinkedIn: This is a professional networking site where you can create contacts and ask for recommendations, even search for jobs. Basically, it's a way to keep track of the "who you know" part of acting. Here's mine. Feel free to ask me to become a contact, just tell me you read my blog!
  • BuzzStage: Really easy to upload photos, add a resume, and keep it personal. While this site is unlikely to lead you to any professional work, I have gotten many a student filmmaker requesting that I come to auditions through BuzzStage. Check out mine.
Things that I'm still checking out to see how it can be used to service a professional actor:
  • Twitter: I'm new to this craziness, but I know it's got to hold some awesome networking power behind that cute bird and cloud motif. Already tweeting? Follow me @EliseSoeder. I told you. Shameless.
  • YouTube: I'm not sure how often actors are asked to upload their audition tape to YouTube, as the case was with Florida Studio Theatre audition. But what can be better than having your own TV channel when you're coping with the idea of never having homework again? I'm thinking of doing a seriously amateur cooking show. It will be awesome. Stay tuned.
Optional, but very exciting:
  • Start a blog! I know you guys have always wanted to be just like me, so get yourself a Blogger or Wordpress account! And if you need ideas, here's a link to mine... Oh. Wait.
And it's always a good time when you find out you have an IMDb page. Even if there's only one credit. If you've done any student films, make your directors submit them to festivals so you can have your own page with a gray silhouette for a picture!

For a slew of other gadgets, check out this post by Ben Whitehair over at Playbills vs. Paying Bills (a blog that us actor people should all be following.) His suggestions of tools for increasing productivity are especially handy for those of us who have just graduated and have a hard time imagining ever working hard again. I'm investigating Create New Habits and Mint first.

Have something to add? Comment!

    Wednesday, March 30, 2011

    Audition Journal #6: Florida Studio Theatre (and the joy of the hay loft)

    Date: March 29, 2011
    Auditioned For: James Ashford
    Pieces: Bess from Hunting and Gathering by Brooke Berman
    Vianne from the novel Chocolat by Joanne Harris
    Attire: Jeans, short-sleeved button-down, black vest

    After I emailed all of my application materials to Mr. Ashford, I received a reply that said my application would be complete when I sent him a YouTube link to my filmed audition, consisting of two contemporary monologues no longer than 90 seconds each. Of course, I seem to always feel short of contemporary pieces after I learned how weary Michael Legg at the Actor's Theatre of Louisville was of Neil LaBute. So I scrounged around for a monologue that I had pulled from the novel Chocolat for an assignment in my camera acting class, cut it down, and put it together while it snowed. Meanwhile, my friends in Savannah are posting updates about going to the beach.

    Anyway, I was shooting to film on Monday (the 28th) but the weather was poopy and cold. Why does the weather matter, you ask? Because I filmed in my barn loft. Listen, my house looks big on the outside, but actually doesn't have much room on the inside. Nevermind that it's also chock full of stuff. And what is cooler than a background of hay bales?! Okay, I kid. But you can't say it's not unique. On Tuesday, the temperature got all the way up to mid-50s, so I grabbed my mom and my barely used and kind of outdated Panasonic MiniDV and climbed the ladder to the hay loft.

    Just as background information, the hay loft is a magical, wonderful place. When I was five, my very first duty on hay day (when we stored the hay that we would use until the next summer) was to count bales as they came up the hay elevator. Also around that age, there was an intense hurricane-induced flood in which the New River (just across the road from our house) had swelled to the road. My brother Charlie and I were up in the loft, hanging out, making plans of what to do if we had to spend the night up there, and otherwise letting our imaginations run wild. Meanwhile, my mother is totally panicked and looking for any signs of us, expecting tiny barn boots to wash up miles downstream. It is where cats tuck away their kittens, where I stashed snacks pilfered from the kitchen, where climbing around is totally acceptable. It is the ultimate club house. As the location of many to most of my childhood imaginings, it seemed like a good place to audition.

    It took me about three or four takes to make my slate acceptable, never mind that I had practiced just that a billion times. In a separate take, I did my monologues back-to-back, just as I would in an in-person audition. And that was it. Done and done.

    Well, sort of. It's always fun to find out you can't--for whatever reason--get your audition from your camera to your computer when it is due in a couple days. After much researching, asking my friend Amanda, and nail-biting, I found out I was simply missing a firewire cable. $43 later, (yeah, going to return that and buy one for $7 off of Amazon) I have imported my video, cut out the crappy takes of my slate, and uploaded it to YouTube. As a suggestion from a friend, I set it as "unlisted" so only the people who have the link can find it. Because if your soul isn't damaged from the agony of watching yourself act, the jerks on YouTube will do it for you. (Poor Rebecca Black...)

    Speaking of which, I did endure the whole audition a few times and there's definitely some things that I want to adjust next time:
    • I placed my focus somewhere besides just off the camera. Not sure where I got that wild hair.
    • I have a habit of a strange eyelid flutter that I think is particularly active under pressure. Time to get that baby under control. 
    • Work on Bess. I was more content with Vianne, even though she was new for me. Bess just looked a little pushed. I'd also like Vianne to become just a touch more grounded and centered.
    Each time I watched it, I realized a little more that it was not as rough as I thought. The pieces are definitely a great contrast and I think it shows that I am capable of handling both maturities, styles, and languages. There's definitely plenty to work on before I use these two pieces again on Saturday, but hey, it's done and it's decent. And it's in the barn loft.

    Tuesday, March 22, 2011

    Audition Journal #5: Disney Parks and Cruises

    Before I get into the craziness that was auditioning for Disney, I figured I would give a brief update in bullet points.
    • First off, my website is live! Please check it out and feel free to make suggestions or comments via this blog or the contact form on the site. It's still a work in progress, but I would appreciate your thoughts!
    • I ordered 100 prints of my headshot from Reproductions and I am very pleased with them. The print quality is great and their online order form allows you to format your prints the way you like (with your name in any corner, in either black or white, or not at all, borders or no borders, etc.) For an extra fee, they also have an option for a type of paper that allows you to print your resume on the back on your personal printer. Awesome? I think so.
    • UPTA sent me a list of all of the theatres that registered to attend with all the contact information and season line-ups. I picked through and found ten that I thought would be a good match for me. They have all been sent a cover letter, resume, and a lovely new headshot. Do I think it will amount to a whole lot? Probably not. But I take every opportunity to put my face in front of people.
    • I have applied for the Acting Internship at Florida Studio Theatre, who I auditioned for at KCACTF Region IV. They have asked me to do a filmed audition and upload it to YouTube by April 1st. This will be my first audition tape, so we'll see how it goes!
    • I just got an email from the Shakespeare Theatre Company in Washington DC saying they had received my application materials and would contact me if they wanted me to audition. I sent those materials in November and figured they'd been tossed out. Just goes to show that you never know what's going on on the other end of things.
    Now, for Disney!

    Date: March 20, 2011, 11:00 am
    Where: Gotta Dance Studio, Atlanta GA
    Auditioned For: Perky friendly Disney ladies!
    Attire: Black yoga capris, close-fitting red tee-shirt and black dance shoes.

    I traveled to Atlanta by train and stayed with my lovely friend Corinna as well as her cat, Kitty Charlie. Motion designer Nathan joined later. There was also a surprise visit from Darwin (check him out over at Me and Darwin Hull)and I got to catch up with my best combat buddy Jo and my brother, Human Charlie (there had to be a way to distinguish him from Kitty Charlie). It was a weekend full of burgers and zoo adventures and Yuengling and laughs. Much of the laughing was over the Disney audition that Corinna and I attended together on Sunday.

    We arrived shortly after 10:00, which is when registration was supposed to begin. They had not finished setting up and we mingled with other auditionees until they called us into the studio. We filled out audition cards, received a number, and had a picture and our height taken (it's a sad day when I find out that I'm even shorter than I thought I was). There was more stretching and mingling. I started to notice the dancer types who can lift their leg over their head in a standing stretch and I began to wonder what exactly I was in for.

    Oh, if I only knew then. They started the whole group (of about 50) doing what they call "animation exercises"-- short situations that we had to mime out in a way that was "Disney big." For example, we had to plant a tree. For this, it seemed like it was best to go all out and engage the face as much as possible struggling with said tree. Corinna and I were the only people making noise while most everyone else were being incredibly dancer-like, but man did we plant those trees. Then we all moved on to what they described as "movement." 'Tis not movement. 'Tis dancing. Lots of dancing. I stopped dancing when I was twelve and I wasn't even good at it then. Remembering dance choreography is just not something I do very well because it has no motivation or objective behind it (I'm such an actor) whereas combat is quite the opposite. They were constantly telling us that if we were not dancers or we messed up, that we should just keep going and have fun and that they were looking for personality too. But we all know that when they tell you in an audition that it's ok if you can't do something or it doesn't mean anything if you don't get a callback, they're lying 99% of the time.

    But I digress. In spite of not remembering how all the choreography went together, I was having a great time with what little I could do. Then they had us put our animation exercise with the dance. There was much movement and much sweating. Bring extra de-o for the B.O. to the Disney audition, my friends. Once we had run through it with all the pieces together, they sent everyone into the lobby and called us in four at a time in numerical order to do the choreography all together. At this point, I was no longer looking like a princess. I was looking like a sweaty northern European who gets bright red in the face in the event of any exertion.

    Unfortunately, it's not a miracle story in which I remembered all the dancing perfectly when it was my time to shine. Instead, I accidentally stepped on some guy's foot. But the good news was that my group of four did not contain a single dancer. We all looked silly and had a great time doing it, fully expecting it when we were not asked to stay for callbacks. Instead of worrying about it, we had fun in Atlanta, including a jaunt to the zoo:



    There are certain limitations on how often you can audition for Disney parks and cruises. I believe your audition is good for a year and you can audition for the cruises again at anytime, but you have to wait six months to audition again for the parks. I think that's it. Don't take my word for it.

    So should you audition for Disney even if you're like me and can't dance? Yes. It's fun, everyone there was incredibly nice, you get your face out there a little bit more, and it's free cardio training. Bring a friend for extra fun. Interested? Here's the link to the calendar of auditions.

    Sunday, March 13, 2011

    6:21

    If you've been reading this blog, you know I keep things pretty light-hearted and I've only gotten on a soapbox once. However, in light of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan this week, I think it is important to draw as much attention as possible to it.

    This is not a disaster that just affects Japan. Or one that just affects Asia or just the eastern hemisphere. Or any separate group of people. For those of us in the United States, it's hard to feel like this is going to make a serious impact on our lives, but two different Japanese nuclear plants (and possibly a third) are threatening meltdown. The global community has had brushes with nuclear disasters such as Chernobyl, which had radiation blowing all over the place, but we have never been faced with multiple meltdowns.


    But lets keep our fingers crossed and hope they can prevent meltdowns. Even so, we should all put things in perspective. I suggest watching this (you must be signed in to facebook). This video is six minutes and twenty-one seconds long. In that span of time, we see the tsunami's first arrival to it stripping away people's belongings and homes. In just over six minutes.

    Or think of it this way--we're actors, right? Six minutes would be a god-awfully long monologue. In unified auditions when you get a number slapped on your chest, you get about 90 seconds. Hardly long enough, I'd say. Multiply that by four and you've got the length of this video. I'd say I've spent anywhere from five to ten minutes in the more laid-back audition rooms. In the time that I've spent in any of the four auditions I've gone to so far this year, people's lives were devastated.

    In light of this, I hope that you will all take some time to help those in need. You can text REDCROSS to 90999 to donate $10 to tsunami relief via the Red Cross or if you have more that you can spare, follow the steps here. Yeah, Adele's new album is really good. But you can spend that $10 elsewhere. Or if you're that desperate, I'll burn you a copy. In times like these we remember what a privilege it is to have somewhere dry to sleep, clean running water, and the comfort of knowing that your friends and family are safe. And if you can't spare $10, nobody's judgin'. Just stay informed, make others informed, and keep Japan in your thoughts, prayers, meditations, or whatever it is that you do. It can never hurt.

    UPDATE: MORE WAYS TO DONATE
    This was taken from LearnVest Daily:

    Your donation helps those in dire need, supports a global effort, and has the positive side effect of playing a small part in helping boost the global and national economy. Of course, you should always make sure that you donate to reputable organizations. Our favorites are:
    Donating to the relief effort is easier now than in any generation past. If you’re busy and on the go, so here are some new ways to donate:
    • Text REDCROSS to 90999 to donate $10 to the Red Cross. Although the tech company behind it takes 25 cents from every transaction, the Red Cross raised over $20 million for Haiti relief this way last year, because it’s convenient for most people. If you have the time and can give more than $10, head to the Red Cross website.
    • Donate via Facebook: While you’re on checking your feed, take a few seconds out to donate. As with text services, about 5% of this donation goes to administrative costs, so if that bothers you, donate directly through your charity’s website.
    • Donate through iTunes: If you’re plugged in to iTunes anyway, just visit the link to donate straight to the Red Cross through your iTunes account.
    • FarmVille: No joke. FarmVille, FrontierVille and CityVille will donate 100% of the proceeds from certain virtual crops to Save the Children in Japan. So, go for the radishes in FarmVille, sweet potatoes in CityVille, and Kobe cows in FrontierVille.

    Friday, March 11, 2011

    Audition Journal #4: Williamstown Theatre Festival

    Date: March 7, 2011, 5:15 pm
    Auditioned For: A beardy man*. He was not introduced at any point.
    Pieces: Bess from Hunting and Gathering by Brooke Berman
    Joan la Pucelle from Henry VI Part I
    Attire: Green empire dress
    Brown leggings
    Blowfish canvas wedges
    Floral scarf

    This audition was announced on Tuesday for the following Monday, which sent me scrambling to find a way to get to Savannah. Just by chance, a high school friend of mine was traveling to Savannah for his birthday, so I was on the road on Thursday. I will admit that I was not the most responsible of actors over the weekend as the attention I paid to my new monologue from Hunting and Gathering was minimal. I was swept up in a crazy weekend of sight-seeing and ghost hunting in Savannah that I had missed during my time as a student. (Probably a good call, as now I'm a bit obsessed with ghosties.) When I was at the house, it was hard to work with people around and with bull riding on TV, but work did happen and Bess found some shape.

    In spite of my detour from my normal drilling of monologues to death, I was surprisingly calm when it came time to audition. I checked in with the stage manager and said hi to a few people before finding a spot to warm up next to the elevator. This was a point of some interest to younger students, one of whom asked me in a very concerned voice if I was okay as I was warming up my tweeter on the floor. While it may have made others feel awkward, the warm up left me feeling open, prepared, and otherwise awesome.

    When I entered the room, beardy man* said "How are you?" so quietly that even now I'm not sure he said it. I sure hope he did. Otherwise, my "Good! How are you?" came out of absolutely nowhere. He took a moment to sort through some application materials and headshots before I began. For some reason, my slate didn't include my name. Sometimes, I just wonder what my brain is doing as it enjoys a totally different location from the rest of my body. Basically, I pretended that it was normal and carried on. Bess thankfully did not show signs of my late-night ghost hunting and my bull riding obsession. As I was moving on to Joan la Pucelle, I noticed that beardy man* was a bit restless, looking at my headshot and resume, jiggling his feet, but still giving me more attention than the guys from Utah Shakes. It caused me to insist on taking up as much of his time as possible, so Joan may have gotten a little dragged out. That being said, this is the first time I remember being totally comfortable with taking as much time as I need or want. I think I can still work on the same concept for space, but I think that improved this time around as well.

    Once I finished, he said thank you and I left, halting slightly as most people I've encountered like to chat for a bit after they audition someone. Not this guy. Turns out most of my peers had a similar experience, so I'm certainly not discouraged. Overall, I think it was a pretty solid performance. Not stellar, but nothing went wrong either (aside from not saying my name). So now my application for Williamstown is totally complete and it's time for the waiting game. Or time to busy myself with other things and forget about Williamstown until they send me their decision.

    Meanwhile, Lady Gaga is releasing the most bizarre and terrifying video yet, Melissa Leo says "fuck" in her Oscar speech and there's been a new drug released called Charlie Sheen. What a crazy world.

    *But seriously, does anyone know who this guy is? I've looked and asked all over. If anyone knows, give me a holler so this guy can go down in the books as something other than "beardy man" and I don't look like a jerk.

    Sunday, February 27, 2011

    Hurdles

    I've been a very bad blogger. I haven't updated in two weeks, even just to post adorable pictures of my animals, and my stats have dwindled to nothing. Unfortunately, there is a similar story for my productivity in general. Things just haven't been moving forward the way they should. Chalk it up to PMS, karma, misaligned stars, or what have you, but whatever it was left me reading Confessions of a Shopaholic from cover to cover in a matter of a couple days. (I have to report that the movie took some serious liberties. To the point that it's not even the same story. I hate Hollywood sometimes.)

    Some of this has been due to the difficulty I have been having getting my application together for Williamstown Theatre Festival. It requires three letters of recommendation, and I knew the first two off the bat, both of whom were quick to agree. The third letter was a different story. Three people turned me down for various reasons: company policy, they didn't know me well enough, and (the one that really put me in a mood) "dont have time. sorry." The fourth person I asked didn't reply for several days. Meanwhile, I'm getting antsy as the postmark date for financial aid is approaching swiftly (March 1). I did, finally, get a third person on board. But then I wasn't hearing back from anyone. It's really been a nightmare, and it's not anyone's fault but my own for not asking earlier. These kind of situations are difficult for me, because when I try to be pointed, I come off as an asshole. And believe you me, I don't want these people thinking I'm an asshole because a) I love them and b) apparently they are the only people I can ask for these things. Cue me tripping over myself to be as diplomatic and charming as possible.

    In the meantime, I had run out of headshot prints. A friend of my mother's was kind enough to do some extra touch ups on them, but I had to stop by her office and pick them up before I had to run around and find somewhere to get them printed. Not having a car/license makes this a little difficult. When I did pick up the CD, the edits looked great, so I made my way to a shipping and print shop to get them printed. It was the wrong choice as the paper wasn't what I wanted, they couldn't print 8 x 10, and the owner (who apparently worked in the porn industry as a manager and producer) decided to hit on me. A lot. But I got two prints for a dollar, so whatever. They're going in the envelope. I'm ordering from Reproductions ASAP.

    To give myself some credit, I have read two Sarah Ruhl plays, picked a new contemporary monologue, and started a website since I last updated. It hasn't been published to the internet yet, but I'm working through Wix. I did a few test runs of places like Weebly and Webs, but found them to be extremely generic. Wix has been easy to use and has some unique templates that you can change as much or as little as you want. It has also been suggested to me that Wordpress is also a good place to go. Even though it is a blogging site, it allows you to create a site that looks and works like a webpage. Actors have to make themselves as accessible as possible. Websites are pretty much essential, even if they are from one of these free servers.

    So there is a haphazard update. Here's to a more productive coming week, getting my application in on time, and Colin Firth winning Best Actor.

    Tuesday, February 15, 2011

    Recent Reads

    I have been pretty slack with reading plays post-graduation. And those I read in school were for class rather than keeping up with current work. No more slacking for me. Not just because it's my job to keep up with contemporary work and expand my knowledge of older pieces, but also that reading plays is really the only way to find monologues (novels can be good sources too). True, I have a couple monologue books that I have used in a pinch, but I'm not a huge fan. They take the work out of the play's context, they're not always current, and they make monologues so readily available that the same ones become over-used in the audition room. However, they are good for finding pieces in your age range and type and can therefore point you in the right direction of plays that suit you...

    Now that I'm done with my monologue book tangent, what I started out saying was that I'm kicking the reading into high gear. I have a ton of plays lying around my room, most are dated, but the more the merrier. My Amazon wish list is ever growing and I will soon be subscribing to American Theatre Magazine (a student ID gets you 10 issues for $20. So hang on to your student ID when you graduate!). I am reading the New York Times theatre section much more frequently to keep up with up-and-coming playwrights. Another great resource for buying plays is the Drama Book Shop in New York City. If you can't find it anywhere else, they will probably have it. If you knew all this, I hope you're not being a slacker like me. If you didn't know, now you do. Start reading.

    Here are my thoughts on a few recent reads and what monologues they have in store:
    1. The Ruby Sunrise by Rinne Groff: Bought this one at the Drama Book Shop in New York, thinking that the role of Ruby would be a good one for me. The description on the back described her as a farm girl building an early TV in her barn. It sounded quirky and fun, but I was met with something much darker than I anticipated. Not that dark is bad, but I was not particularly enraptured by the storyline of a girl finding an outlet to tell her mother's story while exhibiting similar characteristics to Mommabear (She doesn't call her that. I just made that up.). It seemed a little old hat. It did stand out to me that the daughter's storyline takes place during the Red Scare, and she works for a TV station (and her mom was building TVs.. get it?). I think the crisis of the daughter's era could have been more deeply explored, rather than a focus on already obvious parallels between mother and daughter that result in a fairly predictable ending. Monologues? A couple. Short ones for Ruby ("young, maybe 17") and a longer one for an actress, Suzie ("20s")
    2. Eternal Hydra by Anton Piatigorsky: Another Drama Book Shop find (on the faculty recommended shelf). This is a very well-crafted play. It follows two female authors/researchers who are attempting to get books published that vouch for two writers from the turn of the century. As the truth comes forward about the two earlier authors, it becomes clear that their stories overlap more than expected and the repercussions of that discovery echo into the work of their modern researchers. Four actors (2 m. 2 f.) seamlessly move in and out of all of the parts to create a story that weaves between modern-day New York, 1930's Paris, and New Orleans post Civil War. Conversation is evoked about plagiarism and equality of gender and race. This one's a winner in my book. Monologues? Yes. There are monologues for the two women, one of whom is African-American. There are also a few for the middle-aged to mature gentleman playing the author of the 1930's.
    3. In The Blood by Suzan-Lori Parks: I love Suzan-Lori Parks. I knew I loved Suzan-Lori Parks by the time I finished the first page of Topdog/Underdog. This play was no exception. It is "a modern day riff on The Scarlet Letter" (as the back-cover description says), following a woman named Hester and her five children, all of whom have different fathers. The role of Hester is the only one that is not doubled (the children playing their own fathers or someone involved in the sexual encounter that produced them), and the children are played by adults. There is also a strong parallel between In The Blood and Mother Courage that begs to be examined further. I bought this play originally for my Women In Dramatic Arts class, but ended up reading Parks' Venus instead (also recommended). Both plays are excellent as a study of the role of women in theatre and in history. Monologues? Yellow light yes. For African-American men and women, and one for a Caucasian female. Mature, rough subject matter. By which I mean sex. And not the good kind. Tread lightly in the audition room with these babies.
    4. Hunting and Gathering by Brooke Berman: Berman uses the search for New York apartments as a metaphor for commitment and "finding your place" in a more abstract sense. There are four players, two women and two men, who all have closely connected stories resulting in a staged romantic comedy. I'd say this is a step above your typical Hugh Grant or Ashton Kutcher movie, as the characters struggle with engaging problems that go beyond "I am lonely and this person is perfect." This play is full of laughs as Ruth learns about life while playing Big Buck Hunter and Jesse becomes acquainted with IKEA. This play is a great read for young actors, as all the characters are between 20 and 30. Monologues? Holy crap YES. Each of the characters has multiple direct addresses to the audience that are charming and revealing about their nature. Also great for scene work, as the play is composed of two-person scenes.
    Are these mini reviews at all helpful or interesting?  Leave thoughts or suggestions about them in a comment or on my facebook. Thanks for reading and break a leg!