Wednesday, February 20, 2019

A Banner Acting Moment

Reading my resume, she said, you got some good credits, kiddo." Then I did the mono and she said “I love your voice,” then proceeded to rip me several new ones for the beats missed and flat rhetoric (I wasn’t building.) She looked straight through every false moment. She said I took the notes but wanted more in my first take. At one moment, she flat out told me I had the wrong instinct. In other words, performing an audition monologue for, and getting notes from, Kathleen fucking Turner was awesome.
(Ms. Turner likes actors to use her as a scene partner, so the biggest distraction I had was the thought worm, “I’m acting with Kathleen Turner!)

Ongoing Training

A note about ongoing training: I try to stay in an on-ongoing, on-camera acting class, as much as I can, especially important because months can go by for me without an audition. Currently, I'm in an 'On Set Masterclass,' in which we exercise skills that will be called upon on an actual job, e.g., hitting marks, diving into emotional material in close up, doing walk and talks with reams of dialogue, memorizing a lot in a short time, performing in accents, you name it. This is a different experience from the on camera 'Audition' classes that I've also been in, and to which I'll return, at some point, but from which I also need a break. The audition classes are frustrating; often I come away feeling like a schmuck; because every casting director and coach has a little too much to say about why something you do won't get a job (a good sign that it's time for me to take a break is when, in my head, I've begun to argue silently too much with the coach.) The On Set class lands differently for me. I actually feel I get to exercise, do, and demonstrate some acting ability. And it's more fun.
In any event, it's good to mix things up.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Make Art

Our grandparents fought Nazism. Many of them died but we're here. Do not whine or cringe or quaver. Do not weaken yourself by seeing yourself as a 'victim.' Prepare. Work together. Make art that questions spurious notions and re-discovers the meaning--and meaning is an amorphous and spiritual and contingent flicker--of how to be 'human.' Make art, engage your mind, push outside the ghetto of your own experience, and make art, make art, make art.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Guiding Qualities

What is the guiding quality of your art? Mine seems to be: a tragic sensibility, which fuels both my humor and straight dramatic take on the world. One thing I find missing in the political left and right is a sense of tragedy, which they replace instead with the bathos of victimhood. My art is against both victimhood and the expression of it through utopian fantasy. My art is for stocking our individual and collective selves with the internal resources we need to love each other better.
My art is as much 'anti-ideological' as it's possible to be while also still making a stand for the empowerment of the individual 'self,' which is an illusion perhaps, but an essential and useful one, as long as we recognize how much the 'self' is composed of trans-self phenomena such as language and inherited culture, as well as by the individually experienced dicta of the body (e.g., we may all bump our shins on chairs, and we may all feel pain when do, but we each do it alone, whereas we never really experience language and culture 'alone.')
I'm for 'the self,' in spite of the po-mo hordes.

Tuesday, October 02, 2018

Emotional Athletes

I like to complain about actor narcissism--my own and of others--but not only is that low hanging fruit--an easy and obvious target--but it also belies the special thing about actors that makes them NOT like (other) people: we've turned our emotional insides out, so that we CAN DO what we do. EVERYONE is 'narcissistic' (a pop term that most of us probably don't understand well), partly because EVERYONE is a little bit afraid, a little bit lonely, a little bit anxious to be liked, a little bit insecure about his/her looks (EVERYONE gazes at their image a bit too long.)
Actors are a special, tender breed of emotional athlete, who not only do--but ARE--what everyone else can't do and be. I love them (just not in groups when their anxiety about being 'seen' is too high, e.g., in casting waiting rooms and at SAG/AFTRA screenings). 
We need actors to remind us we have hearts.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

It's in the Words, Words, Words.

‪Like Kathleen Turner and Cherry Jones, I think that everything an actor needs is on the page. Immersion and observation in ‘real’ life are helpful, but story (and appreciation of rhetoric) is for me more crucial. When actors rely too much on emotional connection, they miss beats (e.g., for me, 'substitution' makes me less specific, as I end up washing over the text with mood; imagination-grounded-in-story helps me more than memory, most of the time. Substitution might help me with an isolated reaction shot but rarely for navigating a scene.)

Sunday, September 09, 2018

Poetic Justice

I think it's time for someone to write a dissertation, or book, on how the critical idea of "poetic justice"--which holds that literature and theater (both 'poetry') must reward virtue and punish evil--describes how we still watch tv and film in the po mo age, in ways which I think both hurt and harm us as active viewers. It's worst manifestation is a common insistence by scolds, on both the left and right, that 'poetry' must accurately represent the virtue of those who produce it, i.e., writers, performers, directors, as if no good can come from the art produced by anyone we deem 'bad,' a patently stupid idea. It's best manifestation may be as a tool to parse our responses to particularly complex characters, both 'heroes' and 'antiheroes.'

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Mixing Up One's Act

In the past year, *TV I've auditioned for includes BLINDSPOT, THE BLACKLIST, HAPPY, RAY DONOVAN, HOUSE OF CARDS, BULL, GOTHAM, QUANTICO, THE SINNER, Z NATION, YOUNGER, TURN, HOMELAND, and GRIMM (and multiple times for 9 of these 14 shows). I only booked one (so far) and 'pinned' another. I'm grateful, but man, it's not easy. 
The job is just to keep showing up until the tumblers click into place. That happens at a different time for everyone, it seems. Sticking it out without succumbing to feeling delusional--neither unjustifiably optimistic nor pessimistic--is a spiritual practice; the art of letting go of expectation.
And that's why I'm adding professional scuba diver to my portfolio: it doesn't pay any better than acting, but you can plan for it. I recommend that artists maintain mixed portfolios of skills and interests; those who do seem happiest to me.
*I also auditioned for, and booked, a short film, film, and industrial, and will perform again in PROTEST, for THE ALLIANCE FOR NEW MUSIC-THEATRE, this coming December, in Miami, which--along with a bunch of pro bono readings I've participated in for TITAN THEATRE CO.--helps keep my soul fed.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

What I'm looking for in a Director of WT

I'll be looking for a film director who is as sensitive to literary language as s/he is to cinematic image, at home with Shakespeare, and will be inventive in adapting stage conventions to film conventions. I'll be looking at reels. In reels I'll hope to see a feel for dialogue, understanding of verse and how to support verse cinematically, and a feel for relating characters to landscape and setting. A liking for such as Sorkin, Malick, Taymore, Branagh, Akalaitis, and Orson Welles would be helpful.

Monday, July 09, 2018

WT Journal

(Note: I'm working on adapting Shakespeare's THE WINTER'S TALE for film, and will occasionally throw an entry up about it.)

Has anyone done research on the audience for Shakespeare FILMS? Have smaller budget Shakespeare films found an audience or made money? 
Film adaptations of MACBETH don't count (every kid with a camera tries a MACBETH adaptation and they're all terrible); neither do large budget films by Al Pacino or Orson Welles.
My favorite big-budget filmed Shakespeare are CHIMES AT MIDNIGHT, TITUS, and Branaugh's MUCHO ADO ABOUT NOTHING, though Pacino's MERCHANT OF VENICE has a lot to recommend it. Branaugh's HAMLET hasn't aged well. Tenant's HAMLET has aged better. I also like the opening of Olivier's HENRY V and there's a lot to like in his OTHELLO, though the blackface is cringe-worthy. Whedon's MUCH ADO is interesting but falls flat for me.
Almereyda's CYMBELINE and HAMLET interest me but I want to better match visual interest--or 'spectacle'--to the heightened language. I have some ideas about how to achieve that while staying mainly inside a naturalistic approach.