Before you speak, ask yourself, is it kind, is it necessary, is it true, does it improve on the silence? -Sathya Sai Baba

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

I was not wrong

So that was awful. Simply dreadful. Me, the producer, the director, and the stage manager in a 6 by 10 room, all of us watching me flail around trying to find distinct physicality for 6 different characters. One of the problems is a disconnect from my body that manifests itself in a particular stiffness. That's one. The other problem is far more destructive.

Director: OK, let's try it again. I really want to see the difference between this character and the last.

Me (clueless, feeling totally out of ideas, desperately ransacking my brain to think of how people actually move, since I've now apparently become a robot who is propelled around the room by glitchy algorithms that cause him to twitch like a deranged flamingo): Yeah, great. Let's give it a shot.

Voice in my head: You suck. The director is sorry she has to work with you. You have no connection to real people, and you are a bad human being.

(flailing attempt at characterization, all the time fighting to maintain emotional equilibrium)

Director: OK, can you try that again?

Me (panicking now): Sure. Absolutely. Let me just see. (pause to catch my breath internally, draw a complete blank on next gambit. Fuckit, wing it.)

(try again, only bigger, trying to ignore the rising black tide of anxiety)

Voice in my head: You totally suck.

Repeat ad infinitum.

Leaving the rehearsal (after two excruciating hours), I swore I would never act in another show ever again. Jesus. I was wishing I wasn't in this one. I had no business looking at a script, let alone getting on a stage.

As soon as I was done and was by myself for an hour or so, I felt better. Calmer. More like myself again, but still. What a mess. So, I've got homework. To find pictures of possible triggers for the characters, and to find essential "psychological gestures" for each of the 6 characters.

Oh, and to look at old people. All the old people I've ever known walked around like 50 year olds until they suddenly were confined to wheelchairs at the age of 95. I have no idea how old people walk, move, talk. It's like an entire demographic effectively stopped existing for me. Need to rectify that pretty quickly, considering I play an old coot who happens to be the last surviving extra from the movie The Quiet Man.

So, I've got a day to learn how to loosen up, shut up the voices in my head, learn how to walk like an 80 year old man, and get a passable Irish dialect.

Wish me luck!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

There is you, and then there is your body

The first rehearsal, the read through, is actually where I feel the most comfortable. I can make ridiculous choices, nobody cares, and nobody will really judge because they are too busy wondering what you think about them. Plus, there's no strain of "where do I stand, where do I move, what's my line again?" I feel like I can go with impulses and make choices and try things. It's when I get on my feet that I start to feel stiff and wooden, like I'm trying too hard.

Part of it might be that once I have found something, I like to stick with it, even to the point where the impulse is no longer authentic. I operate on instinct and have a regrettable tendency to get bored with myself. I get self-conscious later in the process, as opposed to becoming more confident. If I were to diagram it, my process might be:

1. Initial receiving of script: abject terror. Why did I decide to do this? All the time eaten up in a rehearsal process, and really I'm not that good an actor, I have no idea why I keep putting myself through this.
2. First reading: Oh, hey, you know, I'm pretty fucking good at this. I love reading. I'm making choices, getting laughs, trying things. Yeah, this is gonna work out awesome.
3. Rehearsal process: Oh, God, why did I say I would do this? I'm a fraud, obviously. The only reason I haven't been called out on it is that the director is trying to make the best of a bad situation. Jesus.
4. Memorization: why did I smoke so much pot in college? My brain is a fucking sieve! (unless it's Shakespeare, which is remarkably easy to memorize for me). Please God, don't let me go up like I did at that summer stock theater that one time. Jesus.

And if I'm lucky:
5. dress rehearsals: Oh, this isn't so bad. yeah. There might be some moments here and there that are working. OK, I get it, I get it.
And if I'm VERY lucky:
6. End of Run: Oh, man, I'm just really starting to nail it every time. Shit, can't we extend? They love us! C'mon, man! Just one more show.

We enter phase 3 tonight. Pray for me, bitches.

BTW, without indicating why, I would like to say I am also a little worried about the show coming to completion, given the recent economic downturn. Cash Rules Everything Around Me, dollar-dollar bill, y'all. Here's hoping this show gets off the ground.

Monday, October 6, 2008

New Show - Stones In His Pockets

The premise - 2 actors playing 13 characters, most of them Irish, 2 of them women. 2 acts. Not a small play. A few weeks of rehearsals and then a solid weeks worth of shows. While my girlfriend is preparing to leave for two months on her own acting odyssey.

OK, I'm a little nervous. Put this together with the fact that we had some issues with the casting initially, and you have a rocky beginning to the process. We initially had someone else all set to play opposite me, but he had to drop out, so we had to do a few days of casting, and it was tough finding anybody who was up to snuff. Luckily we found the guy we did, as I think he will bring up the level of funny from my semi-ha-ha to rollicking rofl levels.

We do our first read-through tonight. I've been listening to dialect instruction CD's and Irish podcasts, hoping to absorb the accent. Scottish is dead easy, and English I've been doing since I was a little boy, but Irish is tough to do without sounding like an Irish Spring Commercial reject, or a refugee from a Lucky Charms factory.

I took this job specifically because I knew that it would challenge me, and so it has, already. I just want to make something beautiful and funny and fun.

I'll be writing impressions (hopefully more cogent than the above) of the rehearsal process as often as I can. Talk to you soon.