Friday, November 13, 2009
Thursday, October 29, 2009
After being diagnosed with GERD I have medical motivation too. I'm hoping to have medical funding as well, but that process, unsurprisingly, is moving at a snail's pace.
I went to the vocal evaluation yesterday. Heidi, the instructor, ran me through a battery of questions about my health, habits, and goals. Then she took me through some diagnostic-type scales and exercises, and last, I sang a couple of songs. Then we had to listen back to them, which anyone who has ever had to listen to their own voice will tell you, is utterly heinous.
Anyway. I was utterly shocked to learn that, contrary to my self-understanding for the past five years, I am not a mezzo soprano belter. I am actually a classical soprano 1. Or, I should say, my voice is.
After this pronouncement I essentially stared her down with my mouth agape, since I can't even remember the last time I'd been auditioned for , much last been cast in, a legit soprano role. I seem to remember singing some statospheric notes in a recently performed play (which shall remain nameless) for which my larnyx was very angry with me.
The role I'm currently performing, however, is a mezzo pop belt, and it's a typical sound for most current Broadway productions. I told her as much, and that while I wanted to expand my vocal range, I also wanted to improve my capabilities in the former as well.
Heidi told me all the things that "she noticed" (i.e. are horribly wrong) with my voice, for example, supporting too high and popping over my break, and they were the same things I've noticed and disliked about my voice. Heidi put it that I "have a beautiful head voice, chest voice, and mix. Now we are going to make them all ONE voice."
Friday, October 2, 2009
But as we go into the closing weekend, I can't say I'm sorry to see the show end. A Sondheim production is a huge bite for any theatre to chew, and the success of our particular endeavor is in the eye of the beholder. It's hard to give up your free time, to never see your husband or your other friends, for weeks and not be sure the payoff is equal to the sacrifice.
So in the end, we decide that it is. Everything we get out of life is the equivelent of what we put into it. So while I'll be breathing a little sigh of relief during the final curtain call, I'll also be feeling a little regretful. After all, most of my performance work is a labor of love, not money. It was a tough show musically, and we had a lot to deal with throughout rehearsals and performances. This, like all performances, is a series of tiny tragedies and triumphs. When all's said and done, I gotta save the drama for my mama--who's coming to see it Saturday, incidentally.
Thursday, October 1, 2009
Last Sunday I spent most of the morning on set supervising my choreography during shooting for Other People's Musicals. My friend and I finished up a bit early so we could get to our matinee performance of Sweeney on time.
My friend, who's a little more in touch with the film side of things around town, had plans to hit up some kind of casting call at North Dekalb mall, and asked if I'd like to go with her.
Now let me say that North Dekalb mall is right next to my childhood home. I've been there through its devolution into what it is now, which is to say, rather crummy. The kind of events they hold there are pagaents for babies with names like "Little Miss Bootilicious." Even at much nicer malls like Perimeter the only "casting calls" I've seen are those fake modeling things where they try to get you to sign up and take classes.
So that's what I was expecting. But not at all what I found. The casting people had set up shop in an annex of the mall admin offices. Although a movie theatre rope was set across the entrance as if to form a line, there wasn't anyone in it. In fact, there were only a few people in the whole room and they were mostly running the thing. As soon as we walked in we were acosted by two genial guys whose garrelous, quipy conversations had the feel of a gag sketch. I expected to have to slate for a camera or at least take a picture, but they simply asked us our schedules for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.
"This coming weekend?"
"Well, yeah. And do you have a car?"
"We need you. Thursday and Friday. And we need you Saturday. Where are you girls from?"
"London." (my friend with the much more interesting answer jumps in first.)
"Like really England? See, we need some people with cars. We pay you for your car. Are you a good driver?"
A small sample of the conversation. Although I never at any time felt sketched out (how could I after the "films" I've worked on) I didn't realize how legit it was until somebody handed me a non-equity I9 with the letterhead of a big LA casting agency at the bottom.
Keep in mind, I walked in this door spur-of-the-moment. At the time, I didn't even know what the call was for, other than for some kind of camera work. I had been up since 6 am that morning, had on vestiges of last night's stage makeup, and was wearing a shirt that read "I Got Backstage" in glittery letters.
During the course of our 15 minute or so discussion, I learned that the call was for extra work on a feature film with some A-lister stars attached. They needed people for an airport scene to be filmed downtown--we were even going to be paid to bring a carry on bag. This was all to take place the following Thursday and Friday, from morning to midnight. Saturday they were doing some kind of scene with cars (hence all the questions about driving.)
Earlier I had mentioned that I had a day job, but that I could potentially take vacation days. I was thinking the filming wouldn't be until next month or so. We found out in short order what they really meant. Because of Sweeney, we rendered ourselves unavailable for Saturday. My friend had classes on Thursday which evidently took her out the running for the whole thing. I was about halfway through completing the I9 by now, and was having more and more trouble seeing how this was going to work out. Meanwhile, these two casting guys, ripped right out of an episode of Entourage, are tossing around tidbits of information interspersed with unsavory Jew jokes.
I left with absolutely no idea what was going on. They had said "see you both later," and I hadn't finished filling out the I9, definitely hadn't signed it. Hadn't signed anything. But I had filled out an information form with my email and telephone number on it. Neither of them seemed to know any information about when and where to be for the shoot itself; there was brief mention of an email but nothing solid to go on. My friend and I laughed a little about the odd experience and headed to our show.
Over the next couple of days, I did keep an eye on my email, as I always do, and nothing. In my mind, I was imagining the hordes of people that were most likely signed up to be extras on this shoot, and that a person they'd only seen for a few minutes, who hadn't even finished filling out the forms, would get lost in the shuffle. I probably wouldn't even be seen in the final edit anyway.
So big eyeroll this morning when I got to work and sitting in my inbox is an email with all the details, down to where to park and what food there will be, for the shoot today. This email was sent at 9pm the previous night with a 6am call time. Once again, I feel like I'm being punished for my lack of technology. Unless I had a Blackberry, I wouldn't have gotten this message in time (Hello? Even if I wasn't at rehearsal, which I was, who would be on the computer during prime time TV? Glee is on for crying out loud!). Forget two weeks, I couldn't even have given work 2 hours notice--and there was no gurantee I would be paid more than a day at the office. Plus, I have rehearsal tonight.
Now I honest-to-goodness thought they would not miss me. Surely there's a ton of people in Atlanta they can grab to stand around with a bag, especially when they don't even have to be an actor.
Evidently I was wrong.
Right around 9 am, a full three hours after the call time, my phone rings two times in a row. I don't answer my cell at work, because it's unprofessional, A), and generally the only unknown numbers that call me are doctors offices and recordings from Blockbuster reminding me to bring back my DVDs. But I decided to listen to the message in case it was an emergency with Patrick. Well, I'm sure you've guessed who it was. Somebody from the set, not sure he even mentioned his name, saying they were wondering where I was and to call back right away. Click. No number to call, no further instructions, no name.
Oh, geez. Immediately, that feeling I used to get in elementary school when I got my name written on the board came over me. But honestly, what was I supposed to do? They were about as clear as muddy water with what was going on from the get-go, and hey, I have a steady paying job that I'm desperately trying to hang on to. I even have a work meeting today. Not as glamourous, perhaps, as standing around for 18 hours pretending to go through security, but I have responsibilities! I have animals to feed! Besides, he didn't even leave a phone number to return his call. I would just have to chalk it up to some weird ass communication error.
About 10 minutes later the phone rang again. I ignored the call. (If I wasn't so flipped out about it, I might find it flattering how badly they seem to want me as an extra.) No message this time. Right now I'm imagining my headshot and resume, along with my little form, being slipped into a big black file of People Who Will Never Work in Professional Film Ever Ever Because They are Unprofessional AWOLERS.
I've never really though I would pursue a Hollywood career, because I don't like the LA scene--I would prefer to work in New York. But still, you don't want to burn bridges.
I'm actually more concerned with how this whole thing reflects on Southeastern actors in general. I'd hate to think all those studio exec types to dismiss Atlanta talent as either unprofessional or stupid.
If only I could keep this from going on my permanent record.
Thursday, September 17, 2009
Looks like I have GERD--gastroesophogael reflux disease.
My first thought was that I'd busted my vocal folds singing too high in Sweeney. But a little more research into vocal injuries and I discovered that the feeling--along with the other symptoms I've had off and on since age 3--are signs of GERD.
So I went to the doctor on Monday, because although I can suffer through chest pain and reflux, I'm not willing to ruin my voice. My doctor is kinda a McDreamy, so it wasn't too wretched. I listed off my symptoms and after a cursory exam, said I was probably right and gave me three weeks' worth of drugs. Evidently, if I feel better after taking them the diagnosis is confirmed. Because of the chest pain though, the nurse gave me an EKG. Thank God I wore cute underwear that day (the set Jessie got me for my shower!)
Because I've had reflux so long and my diet is healthy, it's likely that there's a deflect in the little flap at the bottom of your esophogus that's supposed to keep all that crap down in your stomach. In some people, it just doesn't close all the way. Barring invasive surgery, the only thing I can do is take a pill every morning for the rest of my life.
I told him I was concerned about damage. After all, if I really have had this problem since childhood, that's like gallons of acid juice washing over my vocal cords. So he refered me to an ENT. I called up and it turns out the doc he recommended doesn't really look at throats (uhhhh...). So I am seeing somebody who's specialty is "the professional voice." I don't know what to expect; I really want my voice to be ok but I don't exactly relish the thought of having to swallow a camera--I have a sensitive gag reflex. My appointment is Monday morning, so I guess we'll see how it goes. Meanwhile, I'm on the fourth day of the meds and the pain when I sing is gone, but now it feels like I have a thick lump in my throat and pudding surging around behind my sternum.
I just realized most of this post contains information that wouldn't even interest my mother. But the bottom line is, there is a medical explanation for why my voice has been hurting!
After this audition I will probably be inspired to write a post about the monologue at auditions. A taste: Can we PLEASE all recognize that this, the SAT of live theatre, is a terrible measure of talent? It's more a measure of how good you are at figuring out your type--a useful skill, yes, but relevant to being cast in one specific role? No. You know what is relevant? READING FOR THE ROLE. Anyway, more later.
Thursday, September 3, 2009
Sage advice on not being 'that guy'
Published 09.02.09 in Creative Loafing
By Curt Holman
1) DON’T BE LATE - Try to follow the old adage “15 minutes early is on time.” Most theaters hold the curtain for five or 10 minutes, but the opera is mercilessly punctual — some of them have spears and those pointy helmets.
11) STAND AND BE RECOGNIZED - You have no obligation to get on your feet and clap if everyone else is giving a standing ovation. Still, if you make a big deal about being the only one just sitting there, you’ll look like a total douche. I’m just saying.
Friday, August 28, 2009
Yes, yes, this is a visual industry, your looks are part of your business assets, blah blah blah. Ever noticed that the first people to point this out are ex-fattys that went through physical and emotional hell to loose the weight, and want other people to live through hell too? Obesity is practically an epidemic in the US, it's true, but I'm willing to bet the part of the population that's in the entertainment industry doesn't average particularly high on the BMI scale.
Obviously you should take care in the way you look, particularly when making a first impression, and you should be in fine enough shape to endure whatever physical hardships your genre of choice dicatates. The importance of good hygeine cannot be overemphasized. It's true too that audiences have appreciated a pretty face and form since the days of Euripedes. But it seems that appreciation has warped in our generation; attractiveness doesn't enhance talent, it equates talent.
And this isn't just in the film industry, although I still think it's the biggest culprit. All one has to do is remember the bruhaha over Jennifer Love Hewitt's bikini pictures a couple years ago for proof of that. I blame "reality" TV for transferring the obsession from Hollywood to Main Street, but it's not just the Jones' that are capitulating to the demands of a media-saturated minority. After those photos leaked, JLH didn't waste any time dropping 20+ pounds off her size 2 frame with four-hour private training sessions, did she? While wildly denying her motives were anything but living a healthier lifestyle? The lady doth protest too much, methinks.
But like I said, we expect that from Hollywood, which has been slowly deteriorating from a rare vintage to a bone-dry extra-hot skinny latte since the post-war era. Now it's leaking into live theatre as well. My two friends are gorgeous girls with amazing talent, but they think that's essentially moot if they don't loose twenty pounds. And before you cry shrink, this is coming from the people around them supporting their careers, not their own insecurities. Hello, Dance: 10 Looks: 3--I'd have to pull my socks off to tell you how many people I know that have been told they were first choice for a part talent-wise, but lost it to someone more closely resembling Megan Fox. I'm talking legit soprano roles too, not Transformers 3. If it's not over till the fat lady sings, we're all going to be here for a long, long time.
There's alot more to proper physicality than being merely pleasing to the eye. Why isn't the focus on the wonderful things the body allows us to do? The soft palate lifting elegantly to support a singer's high note, the muscles of an actor's face subtlely shifting to convey every shade of emotion, the legs and back stolidly supporting us through a 10 out of 12 tech rehearsal.
If the human body is an integral part of the art, maybe we should start treating it as such.
The principals have already been cast, and I have to say I'm a little daunted by the choreographic process ahead. Normally dancers are meant to adapt to the choreography. Due to individual stregnths and weaknesses of the talent, I'll have to customize the movement for each person, on top of music with which I'm still trying to familiarize myself in a medium (film) that I'm not entirely used to combining with dance. Not to mention I have to somehow create and teach said movement while simultaneously rehearsing two other productions.
Stay tuned, this oughta be interesting.
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
If each day is a gift
It comes with strings attached
To waste time
Is to spit on the cashmere
Your grandma saved all year
To buy for you.
Your mornings smell like yesterday’s coffee grounds. So?
Run water through it again and
Pretend it’s a cappuccino.
Everyday is a precious jewel.
You must polish it
Although the setting is cracked
And the stone is too big for it.
There’s no exchanges. And there’s no excuse
For the sour taste in your mouth.
Roll the gritty sand on your tongue
And spit out a pearl.
Sadness is a double-edged sword.
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Patrick's ideal job has always been teaching drama in public high school, which I think is a noble pursuit (think about it: how many teachers have you had in the past who obviously just fell into the profession by default?).
There is no state-mandated teacher certification test for art, music, drama, or foreign languages in Georgia (although plenty places will try to sell you one, it's not technically required); but you have to get a special permit to teach those subjects at the secondary level. The only requirement for the permit is that you have relevant experience in your subject area. The catch is, you can only apply for this permit through a school after they have hired you. Due to afore mentioned pickiness, you can forget about being considered for employment if you lack a degree.
So, Patrick is going back to Piedmont to study drama education at one of only two programs in the whole state specifically geared toward the elusive permit certification. We have high hopes for his admission into the program, despite a somewhat lackluster GPA, because he's been there before and Piedmont is trying to raise its retention rate. I just hope we can pay for it.
Monday, August 24, 2009
ArtsBeat: Should You Twitter at an Audition?
By By Dave Itzkoff
Published: August 14, 2009
A series of messages were posted on the Twitter feed of a casting director who appeared to be tweeting about the performers who were auditioning for her, prompting debate over the role of social media in auditions.
Read the whole story here:
I'm not appalled so much that she was tweeting about individual performances (although that is certainly disconcerting) as that she had a phone/computer out at all during an audition. To me, it's exactly the same thing as an actor walking to their mark holding a phone and being like, "hold on, I just gotta finish this text real quick." It's called RUDE.
Friday, August 21, 2009
The atmosphere was very relaxed; Patrick and I lounged on a couch and there was a dog and a baby present to provide endless distraction and entertainment. I really liked the material. It's kind of like Sex and the City meets RENT, only set in Atlanta instead of New York. Patrick's solo is really cute. He's also really cute in his concern for doing it justice.
Jen told me later that the director thought I nailed the character in my reading and the MD had been thrilled when they heard me sing at auditions. I sang the same song that I did for How to Succeed auditions (I Know the Truth--LOVE that song) and I didn't even get a call back, so I have no idea what I did differently. (Hmm..an interesting topic for another post).
I attribute my wild success at the audition to the fact that there wasn't really any competition--not to be too self-deprecating; I mean, I did blow a pretty good belt and nailed the harmony-- but seriously. I was the only one reading for my part. It makes me question whether I can live up to my own hype.
Speaking of hype, I'm supposed to be drumming up butts for the seats for Sweeney Todd now. I'm hesitating. I do have confidence, probably more than most of the rest of the cast, that we'll pull it together, if only because it's happened in every other this-might-possibly-blow-goats-show I've done. But still, the judgement I'm reserving could go either way.
So far it's been only vocal rehearsals. Had one every day this past week. We FINALLY got to sing the songs all the way through without stopping. We were meant to be off book on Wednesday, which was a laugh taking into consideration what I just mentioned (uh..we haven't even sung the song twice at full tempo all the way through with principals? And we're supposed to know when we come in?).
Tomorrow we block the whole shebang. We're all acting like we're dreading it, but I think it's a front. I mean, at this point, any break from trying to sing with that plunky excuse for a piano is a good thing, even if it means being on our feet for six hours.
I remember during Fiddler I was freaking out because we weren't even doing full run-throughs at first dress. But that turned out alright, so I have hopes for this show too.
Sunday will round out my wild 'n wacky week with dance callbacks for Other People's Musicals. All I can say is I hope people will show up. One part of me would be relieved if we didn't find what we need, because I have so much on my plate, but this is the first chance I've ever had to be on the other side of casting and that's exciting.
Tonight is my one night off in what's shaping up to be a ridonculous couple months, and Patrick's going to be out filming, so what are my plans? An exciting evening getting my transmission flushed at Midas, followed by a lyrical class at Dance 101, and rounded out by Gossip Girl season 2 washed down with Bud Select. Ahhh....
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Title: Thirteen Hours
Company: Play by Play Productions
Location: Relapse Theatre, 380 14th Street (West Side)
Role: Victoria (principal)
Dates: November 6-7, 13-14, 20-21 2009
Notes: This will be a world premier production about three couples navigating modern relationship issues over a 13 hour time span. Patrick will be performing in a role opposite me, which we've only had the chance to do once before, so I'm looking forward to that. This makes the third project that I'm involved with currently. The best kind of busy!
Friday, July 31, 2009
I must confess I sort of balked at the project at first. Not on the basis of the task itself--I've known actors who do one for every role they play who find it very useful. More so in it's very nature as an assignment, i.e., something one HAS to do.
I've always felt that the creating a character history, like any preparation ritual, should be at the discretion of the actor. I also questioned it's usefulness in this particular show and especially at this particular point in the rehearsal process.
Before I get lectured by the Stanislavsky people, please note that to me, there's a clear distinction between character history and the Moment Before. I support the MB unequivocally, as I do all the 12 steps (Come to think of it, I support the other 12 steps too...but I digress.) The MB is not a preparation ritual like the history, and when used properly is effective every time for every actor. Not so with the history, which may be invaulable to one person and a complete waste of time to the next.
In fact, its usefulness may vary from show to show, or even character to character within the same show. Sweeney Todd is a good example of the later, where the fleshed out principal roles contrast with the faceless ensemble. This history can be a good tool to put a face and a purpose to the horde.
All these thoughts occured to me while the director was explaining the assignment. His version was a bit of a twist though, as in addition to imagining basic facts about ourselves (name, social class, etc), we were to describe what we were doing 24 hours before our first appearance on stage with extra emphasis on the enviroment of the Victorian London streets. What were the roads like that we walked on to get here? What kind of sounds did we hear around us? What did it smell like (seeing as how there was no sewer system in London until the end of the 19th century, it couldn't have been very pleasant)?
Giving it more thought later, it's a really interesting approach. This particular kind of history seems like it might do less to create and distinguish characters and more to establish a mood and an atmosphere. The former is the actor's job and the later is, of course, the director's job. There's lots of ways to establish a mood--set, costumes, lights--and I think using the characters, especially the relatively undefined ensemble, is something of an untapped resource. And since our space is in-the-round, limiting some of the regular go-to options mentioned above, the "people" element might be more emphasized than ever. He gave us a week to complete it, and at the last moment, mentioned sort of vaguely that we ought not to get too set on whatever we wrote.
Well, it's no secret I love writing. I did my history the next day. In order to do it, I did a bit of research on Victorian London, everything from the main types of business to the climate to the roles of women. It occured to me that what I was doing might be termed dramaturgy as well.
So directors, take note. Enhancing your stage picture can be accomplished by a simple twist to ye olde character history. Just please--don't call it homework.
Title: Other People
Company: Red Anvil Productions
Date: Casting to start in late August
Notes: This will be my first time choreographing for camera rather than stage. The film is a short piece that pokes fun at the high school musical genre. First production meeting is next week. More info to come!
Friday, July 24, 2009
Title: Evolution Creek
Company: Raptor Films
Role: Cindy (principal)
Notes: I just shot this project, in which I play a small but significant role, last week. Check out the website http://www.evolutioncreek.com/ to find out more. Since my scenes were among the first filmed, I expect it will be a while before anything is ready for viewing, but the production company has a solid reputation for completing their projects, which is more than can be said for many similar companies in this reigion. More details to come!
Title: Sweeney Todd
Company: Rosewater Theatre
Location: 633 Holcomb Bridge Rd, Roswell, GA
Dates: September 11-October 3, 2009
Times: Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 pm, Sundays 3:00 pm
Notes: My first rehearsal is next week, so I expect to find out more about what exactly my role entails. The email offereing me the part said the ensemble would be "very involved."
I first considered starting a blog my freshman year of college, but hesitated--firstly because I doubted anyone would read it--but mostly because blogging seemed akin to journaling, an intensely private thing. Time and exposure have taught me differently, and this blog's intent is very much like others of its kind, as a sort of newsletter to keep current and potential contacts abreast of the current events in my life.
An artist of any kind must by necessity be a public person. An entity unto oneself, or to put it more practically, a self-contained business. As a performer specifically, we dredge up personal experiences, apply them to someone else's words, and blow them up poster size for the world to see. This new endeavor is simply another tentacle of the presence I'm creating, both as a "business" and as a practitioner of my various crafts.
Expect to find here updates about projects I'm working on, reflections on different aspects of the industry, practical advice and tips I've come across, and links to other useful or interesting pages.
Although I christen this blog with the most professional of intents, there will of course be some opinions, the first of which is I can't believe Janette got booted off So You Think You Can Dance!