Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Acquaintance

I had lunch today with a fellow actor in town.  He and I have always been acquaintances, and nothing much more than that.  However, we both happened to be at a favorite haunt of mine, so I figured it would be a nice opportunity to catch up and have a good conversation with someone I respect.

These moments always intrigue me... those moments of openness with people we spend not too much time with.  Will they judge me?  Will they think me daft?  Will they bore me, or will I bore them?  The crossed arms of an acquaintance dinner companion can often communicate disinterest!  Are we making small talk in a desperate attempt to convince the other that we are smart?

We came to a rather strong conversation about theatrical work, which then led to real-life problems we face as human beings (Chekov talk often leads to that...).  I love theatre very much, and want to talk about it almost all the time, but sometimes some actors never, ever want to hear about it.  I think it's important to discuss it with co-artists.  It gives us the opportunity to safely say yes, no, maybe, I don't know...  To have my acquaintance pass no judgement, nor I for that matter, on the theatre talk was refreshing.  The great minds debate in the coffee shops in their youth, and then write books about it all later.  It felt so romantic (and not in the date sense, ladies and gentlemen, I promise), as if I were in a Penguin Edition book of a classic, where two great artists of the past meet to go over ideas.  Who knows if either of us will be great leaders of the theatrical community?  But in that moment, I was being present with the goal of being leader, of understanding that to become something in the future is not guaranteed to me.  Thus, I need to work at becoming it right now.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Setting New Goals

It's so important to be harsh on oneself as an actor.  Many disagree, but I calm their protests by stating that the harshness should not be the powerful, overall self-perception.  Indeed, a true pride in one's own instrument, process, and philosophies is what is needed most!  But to maintain something to be proud, self-criticism is necessary.

Without gauging with my instrument, and listening to criticism, I wouldn't be able to grow as an actor.  I finished playing Ned Blunt The Rover on November 11, a role that I can confidently say I accomplished the following goals- To make bold, uninhibited choices, and to make my physicality and text integrated into a fluid performance.  However, I sometimes struggled in the rehearsal process with a habit of streamlining through some spoken thoughts without variety or spontaneity.  I addressed these problems.  Now, as I work on Three Sisters, which has been a slightly different process, I find a struggle in streamlining once again.  This second process is almost complete, but I must explore new ways of keeping myself away from such a habit.  Thankfully, I am aware of it.

I just had to get this down tonight.  It's truly revelatory to grasp the idea of needing improvement, and being patient with the learning curves that I have run into whilst in undergraduate drama school.  Without the difficulties of drama school, I wouldn't have been given the opportunities to attempt the seemingly impossible roles handed over to me.  It's okay for me to admit that 2 years ago I didn't do so hot as the 42-year-old bachelor... but, hell, did I learn a lot!

I suppose a near future post might be an extension of that last paragraph!  To share what I think is most important about a drama school!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Mastering the Performance

I just got home from a rehearsal of Three Sisters, in which I am playing Tuzenbach (and for which I have grown my first beard).  It was the first time we were able to run through the show.  I am so amazed by how quickly my company can embody and memorize lines... a true testament to our training (this process is only 3.5 weeks, the last one being next week).

The run through had ups and downs.  Still searching for Tuzenbach's center and military-influenced physicality.  I suppose I just need to get more specific with his point-of-view.  But besides that point, it rushed by, as we were all really beginning to find the engaging qualities with one another (for no performance is truly exceptional unless it is engaged with the other, including the audience).

My most recent role was as Ned Blunt in The Rover.  15 of our 20 member senior class was in it (the other 5 were doing outside projects).  We accomplished something great in that project- a oneness.  And I discovered the greatest lesson I have uncovered so far- As an actor, it is important for me to have mastered the physical life of the role- to know that journey inside and out, and to thoroughly build moments of opportunity to "discover" in the moment during performance.  However, whilst that may be mastered, what is never mastered is the performance itself.  Indeed, the performance that matters is the performance of today, and until you have finished it during curtain call, you cannot claim to have mastered the role.  I would wake up every day during our 2-week run a little nervous about doing the show, for I would search and ask myself if I could truly give 100% of myself on that day to fill in the metaphysical, spiritual, driven, emotional life of the character, all the ingredients necessary to make it seem a breathing young man from Essex is exploring and learning within the seediness of Carnival Spain on his continental travels.  I loved this feeling, for it humbled and grounded me every night from the high of last night's show.  I was, truly, able to always keep the lessons of the show before without being married to totally attempting to recreate them!  What a thing to uncover within my own instrument, and it's something I couldn't have possibly known until I felt it for myself.

This is what excites me about one day having a year-long contract with a show.  The opportunity to play a role 416 times is thrilling to me.  Every day is an opportunity to become a better actor, a better human, and a better observer.  To constantly engage with people on a specifically concentrated level is magic.  To expose and explore the desires and afflictions we all of us suffer through now and then is a privilege and honor to do.  And I thank my undergraduate education for that!  The fact that I can walk into a large theatre and be heard without a mic or any strain to my voice or subtlety floors me.  I am so moved to have that power, and grateful to it.  I get to give what I have always loved (and still love) to receive when I go to theatre.

Friday, August 17, 2012

List of the Future

What I am looking forward to in the next 12 months:

1. The wedding of my cousin to her lovely fiance on September 16.
2. Being in The Rover from November 1-11, directed by Joel Sass.
3. Visiting London from December 13-17.
4. Being in Rhode Island in January (and visiting NYC).
5. In March, visiting whichever city I am moving to in August/September (it's between 3 places, it seems).
6. Putting on a show in February of my own choosing.
7. Graduating on April 27 from the Guthrie Program.
8. Visiting a dear friend in LA in May.
9. Being in Rhode Island for Summer 2013.
10. A year from now- moving on with my life in a new city.

Friday, July 6, 2012

5,10,15,20

This artist is working in the healthcare industry at the moment, and he is liking it more and more.  The challenge for me was bringing myself to a space that is very straightforward, and coming out alright.  I am used to, over the past few years, either working in the theatre or being part of retail environments that encourage conversation.  This job in retail pharmacy instead requires me to count pills for prescription all day long, and to deal with a plethora of questions and requirements from and for patients.

Have I sometimes lost my cool?  Yes, admittedly.  Do I struggle to leave work and make myself productive?  Yes, I do.  After working on my feet for 8 or 9 hours, counting, calling, answering, figuring, the last thing I want to do is go home and practice or stretch or exercise or read or write.  I'd rather be entertained.

It's all made me acquainted with parts of myself I hadn't thought needed attention.  For one, I mean my patience, which has been tested.  But even more important is my interesting inability to accept having made a mistake.  I have too often caught myself at this job awkwardly trying to sway the responsibility of my mistake toward the situation as a whole, rather than my own naivety.  I think this is downright wrong, foolish.  To me, this comes off as too needy for acceptance, rather than opening up to the awkwardness of first steps, or trips during later steps.

I so often tout how hard I try to be "real."  I'm wondering if I should humble my language, and take more time to criticize myself.  Yes, I now recognize that critiquing of others (but certainly not all) is a way to downplay the follies we recognize in ourselves.

Being kinder isn't a specific goal.  Taking the time to listen, which equals patience, leads to kindness.  Additionally, not plundering myself into a safe routine by committing to new practices will help me grow in the meantime.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Outliers

I started reading Malcolm Gladwell's book 'Outliers' the other day, which the cat I am babysitting decided to vomit upon.  I do hope this is not a sign that I, too, should look at this book as a place in which dump things. That's the blog's job...

I digress... I'm not in any way done with this book, so this is not a review.  I theorize that the book will likely shock me throughout by giving me examples of outliers and their explanations that I hadn't taken the time to think about beforehand.  The book has sort of already topped itself out in terms of what it is about... it is a large essay, in essence.

If you're not familiar with it, the concept is simple- Gladwell looks at those we deem in society as "successful," and how we label them as totally self made without taking into consideration that outside forces create those opportunities, without which nothing would have happened for the successful.  Why else do we so often hear, "I was just really lucky?" or "I was in the right place at the right time."  But as we hear these words spoken by the successful, we often get frustrated that they downplay how hard they work.  That cannot be!

It is a combination... We take the opportunities presented us and hone them like no other.  But we remember where we came from, because without that step-by-step progression toward a great feet, where would be?

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Movement Wednesdays-1

Embracing when my time and place have come.  I realized the other day that often in my past I was overly precocious and hounding on others because I wanted to so badly be like them, or to catch up quickly with them in order to prove myself worthy.  All I wanted was to have it all now.  I suppose it's rather easy to get caught up in these sorts of ideas in our modern age of information.  When I constantly saw images of 20-year-olds starring in the West End or in films, I became incredulous with myself for not being there, too!

I don't want to be lost in the idea of what I could be whilst watching countless YouTube videos of my idols, or listening to their fantastic albums!  It's so easy to comfortably lay in bed and watch movies.  Instead, I've committed myself to setting goals, and my major goal at the moment is to apply, successfully, for graduate school.

So, my first Movement Wednesday of the summer occurred today, which is in line with helping me fulfill my goal.  I jumped on the dance floor to take part in a jazz class from noon til 1:30.  There was so much I could do that it actually surprised me, for I haven't taken a dance class proper in over a year.  But, additionally, there was so much that I could do...yet.  And that was the difference.  It has taken me many, many years to reach the inner peace and maturity to have the patience to not label myself as one thing, and to know that, with time, I will acquire new experiences, and they will reflect through my actions.

I am 22, and if I hadn't transferred to the Guthrie Program, I would have graduated from college last month.  As a result, I of course reflected on how I have changed in my four of years of post-secondary education.  What ended up being most primary in my reminisces was how much better life is years after high school.  Mind you, I had a fairly good high school experience, but life does not peak at 18, as so many soccer moms from my home town were wont to inform me.  Life has its ups and downs, as I have already so assuredly learned these four years, but its ever changing state is what makes it bearable to get through, because we learn, and we can become a positive contributing force to the universe.

I end with this: I often hear from people (and their opinion is valid, if I may be clear) that when I see an awesome sight in nature that it makes them realize how insignificant they are.  When I sat on top of a Bavarian mountain last October, I thought to myself, How significant of a species we are, the human being, to have the opportunity to appreciate and utilize what an extraordinary planet we live on.