Saturday, February 23, 2008

But then there was a star danc'd

Thirteen years ago today, Much Ado About Nothing opened in a small black-box theatre in Columbus, Ohio. Yours truly, complete with flittery fidgets and Minnie Mouse voice, was playing Beatrice.

I'm still not entirely sure how that happened, but I'm eternally grateful that it did.

I hate choosing favorites in practically anything, but when people ask me my favorite role I've ever played, I don't hesitate a fraction of a second before answering "Beatrice." Even more true is that it is the one role I would most want to play again. Not just because of the character herself, but because I was given this amazing opportunity when I was 25 and clueless, and I would pay dearly to have it again with what I know now. (I hasten to add that this only means I was clueless at 25, having semi-recently dropped this nugget into a conversation with an astonishingly clueful 23-year-old colleague and then realized it was possibly on the tactless side.) I think that at least once a week, and it becomes especially acute when I encounter the play in any form, as I did last week with my friend and her brilliant little girl (who, as we had hoped, loved the movie and was tremendous fun to watch).

1995 was the year everything seemed possible. Rosebriar, the Shakespeare company I had stumbled into the previous season, and its gifted, giving idealist of an artistic director (who was also my Benedick), looked at me and saw great things. And for a few seasons, we had great things happening, we really did. John's inspiration and belief in me gave me more than I can begin to describe.

Hard on Beatrice's heels, I played Lucy Hale, John Wilke's Booth's fiancée, in a role written for me by the playwright/actor who played Antonio in Much Ado and shocked me speechless one night by comparing my performance favorably to Emma Thompson's. (I love you, Doug, but, um, no way.) That was the year I found Shakespeare & Company and my grownup voice, spent ten weekends dancing four Maypole shows a day in thirty pounds of peasant garb at Ohio Ren, carried a woefully underrehearsed The Skin of Our Teeth (not at Rosebriar) by the skin of my teeth on Sabina's stiletto heels, and played ersatz BDSM with Hamlet with my very Catholic 85-year-old grandfather in the front row three feet away.

But starting it all off, there was Much Ado. There's so much I remember so vividly about that show. I look at the quote list and remember what prompted every silly joke on it. Changing at panicky superhuman speed when I realized 45 seconds before my cue that I'd gotten a scene ahead of myself and was wearing the wrong costume. The infamous Noisy Blue Dress whipping around my ankles as I stomped away the width of the stage at the Friar's suggestion that hey, worst case scenario, we'll just stick Hero in a convent! Dissolving into helpless laughter the night John shoved the candy box under my nose with his fake moustache in it. Sucking down a quart of Gatorade after the emotional blitzkrieg of IV-I and silently thanking Shakespeare's departed spirit for leaving me a break just long enough to collect myself for the happy ending.

The IV-I that ends like this. (With apologies for the video quality. And the 25-and-cluelessness.)

When I flail about what I want, what I'm reaching for, what I miss because I know what it felt like when I had it? This is what I'm thinking about. This was supposed to be the great beginning. I'm still determined that it will be. When all is said and done and the last lights go out, if that experience ends up being the high point of my life as an actor? It was a pretty darn good one, and I will be ever thankful for that.

But it won't.

For whatever reason, certainly not for any reason as concrete as this one, I've been feeling lately like anything is possible in 2008, in a way I maybe haven't since I was that clueless 25-year-old. So when you see me driving and reaching and muttering that it's not enough, you know why. I know what I'm trying to capture. It's going to be mine.

Pass the Gatorade.

Hollywood Midwest

Just as I've been doing a lot more auditioning for film than for theatre lately, the current issue of PerformInk has a front-page feature on, you guessed it, auditioning for independent film.

This observation in particular struck me:

“What I always think is kind of interesting is that there are these different communities in Chicago,” says Rachael Patterson, director of Acting Studio Chicago and a longtime auditions and on-camera acting instructor (as well as a former casting director). “There’s the improv community, which doesn’t really cross over all that much with the theatre community, except for on-camera auditions where you’ll see both improv actors and theatre actors. And then the independent film community is very separate from both the improv and theatre community. Actors very much want to cross over to work with independent filmmakers. And filmmakers often don’t know where to go to find actors.”

So there you have it, folks. They don't know where to find us. We gotta go find them.

Mostly I'm coming away from this with the realization that I need to start going to Midwest Independent Film Festival nights. Sounds kinda like a (hopefully) bigger version of the late lamented Columbus Film Consortium, which (a) was just fun to go to, and (b) led to half the film work I did there.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008


I know it's really too soon to have heard anything from Saturday's audition, but I am nonetheless antsy. The project is still living in the "Coolest Thing I've Seen In Ages" space in my brain, and the schlep up to Milwaukee is seeming like a pretty minor inconvenience. No idea whether I'll get a "yea or nay" from them, so the suspense and obligatory niggling suspicion that they actually thought I sucked will probably continue for a bit before I say "Okay, ain't happening."

In the interim, I did get hold of the guys with the very conveniently local horror project, but their casting guy couldn't make it Sunday, so it's rescheduled for March 2. They sent me the script, and it looks like fun, if not the Mostest Brilliantest Thing Ever. Plus, one of the characters they're looking at me for would give me firearms handling footage for the ol' reel. I'm no expert by any means, but I have enough experience to not look like I expect the gun to bite me, and have internalized the various safety procedures well enough that I don't have to use all my active brainspace for them anymore.

Tonight, it's into the city for another student film. The role they're looking at me for in this one is a dominatrix. Yes, I'm amused too. Although those of you who saw my Rosencrantz and/or Goneril won't think it's particularly farfetched. ;-> If it weren't FIVE FRELLING DEGREES outside today, I'd probably be wearing the outfit that prompted a coworker's visiting wife to ask who the goth chick was, but no way in hell was there going to be a skirt today. Everything else is the same, though, although for some strange reason I decided it would probably be wiser to wear the hiking boots outside and change into the four-inch heels when I get there. Call me crazy. (Seriously, I do NOT understand the women I see still running around in stilettos lately. I'd say they need their heads examined, but that's going to happen anyway when they fall and crack them open!) Plus I turned back to the redhead side of the Force in November and have decided to stay there for a while, and currently have the Bettie Page bangs thing going on. So I should be set there.

On the other side of the resume, I'm now officially designing costumes for The Taming of the Shrew at Theatre-Hikes. Primary challenge will be realizing the director's commedia dell'arte concept without killing the actors, who will be hiking a total of two miles between scenes in August. Fortunately, she's experienced with them and well aware of that challenge and of the inevitable necessity of compromise. So that'll be fun. They actually asked me if I was interested in doing Dracula too, but I'm not keen on committing to designing two shows in a row when I have no idea what's going on with me performingwise. Plus, it's the John Balderston/Hamilton Deane adaptation, which I dislike quite a lot even though it's the basis for most of what people know (i.e. both the Lugosi and the Langella movies).

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Defying Gravity

In which our Diva has possibly had a little bit of caffeine today

Plans for the weekend falling into place. Bonus: I don't have to swipe the car and leave hubby stranded all day Saturday! I do have to spend 3 1/2 hours in transit on Metra up to spend Friday night with BigBabyBrother and Sister-in-Law-To-Be, which is okay because (a) I'm going to record my monologue and the audition side on my Zen for memorization purposes (since I haven't memorized either yet!), and (b) I missed SiLTB's shower last weekend for the Elisir matinee.

I realize I'm at least slightly insane for schlepping clear up to Milwaukee for this thing, but it is so utterly up my alley and would be SO MUCH FUN. (Do I get extra points for that? No, seriously. It should count! And hey, the mindset worked out last time...)

Meanwhile, there's been a slew of possibilities in the Chi breakdowns on actors access this past week, including one I just submitted for that will have me busy Sunday if I hear back from them. Bonus: these guys listed it as filming in Bartlett (very close to home) and Villa Park (location of Office of Doom). Also, you will note, up my alley. (It's been three months. I'm totally recovered from being tired of washing dried stage blood out of my hair.) They want me. They know they do. ;->

Pondering next week's Wicked chorus call. On the one hand, there's the "third time's the charm" theory. On the other, Equity members will be seen first. :: mourns Eligible Performer program yet again :: Thinking I'll probably hold out for the next open call instead.

Tonight, meanwhile, off to a friend's house to watch her six-year-old watch Much Ado About Nothing. Since she apparently jammed on Hamlet (!!!) last week, I can't miss this. Then home to pack an overnight bag for the trip up to Wisconsin, as there will be zero time to do so tomorrow due to the intersection of work and train schedules.

*whew* Keep on movin'...

Monday, February 11, 2008

Day Job Blues

In which our Diva continues to negotiate with the Universe for more favorable terms on this Being A Grownup deal

Just got a very, very apologetic call from the place where I had a second interview last week. To the extent that it was obviously really, really close. (Not to mention they've already had to go through this process twice in less than a year, so I'm sure they don't want to burn any bridges in case this one doesn't last either.)

I'm disappointed, but also weirdly ambivalent. It's a BIG job. And I'll confess to having some slight internal cold feet for that reason after the second interview, when it started feeling a little realer. Office of Doom might be stingy with the PTO days, but there's very seldom a specific day/time where I just plain can't take a half-day, or make up the hours later, or whatever, in order to make an audition or gig. Granted, I haven't tested that a lot (yet), but they're generally pretty flexible. (It helps that they're mildly terrified of my leaving. Maybe not even mildly at this point.)

With the responsibilities of this job, there may very well have been some painful conflicts, because there would have been times when I absolutely had to be there. I also got the sense that I'd have more time off in general (while specifics were not discussed, they did mention vacation, personal and sick days as separate commodities), but have been getting slightly apprehensive about possible limitations on when I could take it.

It would also have been a fairly significant pay cut. Not unsurvivable, but certainly noticeable.

I dunno. Maybe just rationalizing. Doesn't matter. For the moment, still at Office of Doom, and now lifting the temporary moratorium on auditioning for new stage stuff (since I don't have to worry about going crazy trying to transition to a new job with rehearsals going on too).

I have the entirely irrational but nonetheless strong sense that this is how it's supposed to be, and something else is going to fall into place soon. I'm choosing to believe it for the moment, because why the heck not?

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Indie film is like a box of chocolates...

You never know when someone has eaten most of them and left the empty wrappers when you weren't paying attention.

Which makes it a bit of a challenge when you want to put a demo reel together, and the four principal on-camera gigs you did in your former hometown were as such:
  1. A no-budget Japanese-monster-movie homage, feature length, of which you know you have a VHS copy somewhere but have no idea where. If you did, you could capture it and try to salvage the very muddy sound in a couple of your scenes. Because you actually rather liked the character you played, and while the guy who made it might have been a little eccentric, he paid you and paid you promptly.
  2. A short that got screened in a mini-festival of local film, in which you improvised a marathon sob story that ended up being used almost in its entirety, got some nice comments at the meet'n'greet after, and promptly never saw or heard from the director again, nor got a copy of the film.
  3. A short in which you played the title character, had a great time, were very impressed by the professionalism of the entire production (dude, anyone in Columbus who actually hires a script supervisor automatically wins), and again were paid and promptly. And then there was some sort of falling out you don't want to know about, and two years later you find out that the finished film is in fact screening at a festival in Columbus, but the director only has a VHS copy due to the aforementioned falling out you don't want to know about. So you borrow the VHS copy from her and capture the video, and at least have that, but since the thing was shot on DV a clean copy would be awfully nice to have. (Edit: First country heard back from. No dice. As near as I've been able to determine, there is no longer a DV copy in existence. *boggle*)
  4. A feature, in which you had a nice supporting role, that was perhaps a bit too ambitious for those making it, but which nonetheless successfully wrapped a few months before you moved to Chicago. At which time the challenge seemed to be finding a way to get the footage from the DV tapes (shot on a rented camera) into the computer intended for the editing process. And then the director, as you read between the lines of his blog posts and the FAQ on his webcomic, kinda just lost interest. (Edit: Second country heard back from! Previous attempts to contact them vanished into the ether, but this one got through! Yayz!)
As of this morning, I have successfully tracked down SOME form of contact information for people who can hopefully get me copies of all of the above. Now all I can do is wait and hope I hear from them.

Memo to filmmakers: When we work our butts off for you, it matters quite a lot that we have tangible evidence of that work. The paycheck is nice, but it's not going to get me another gig. I realize your focus is on the project as a whole, and there are a million reasons why you might not want to release and/or finish it. But we still need that footage, and tracking you down for it years later is Just No Fun. Adding "private investigator" to the list of hats an actor already has to wear is not going to endear you to anyone.

We already know we're the most disposable of commodities in this business. It doesn't take much to avoid rubbing that in. So if either of the stills accompanying this post is from your movie? Drop me a line. I promise not to bite. (Edit: And now they both have. And I didn't. Yay communication!)

Friday, February 8, 2008

This would bring me the greatest of glee

In which our Diva demonstrates that she is pink and girly and squeeful and fond of kicking ass and blowing shit up

Having lots of fun with the Great Big Ball of Operatic Fluff, but I will definitely be ready for a change of pace when it's done. Ideally one (or more) of three things: Weird and artsy. Plenty of snark. Kicking of ass. In that last category, blowing shit up would not be unwelcome.

Which is why I'm going to schlep it up to Milwaukee next Saturday to audition for this flick. I've heard good things about these guys through the grapevine, and fully expect their stuff to start showing up as SciFi "original movies" any day now. As much as we mock those from the living room, I am totally down with that notion.

I'm also filled with glee at the mental image of survivors mounting a resistance from the top floors of the Sears Tower. And a bit of glee at the women's audition side (it's not uncommon to use other people's movies as audition pieces) being Fry from Pitch Black, because it bodes well for the kind of roles they're looking to fill. Fry was seventeen flavors of awesome, in the best Ripley tradition of ordinary grunt forced into heroism.

And I love that it's that scene -- when she's been insisting "I'm not the captain!" every five minutes since the beginning of the movie, and all of a sudden, bam, "I am the captain of this ship and I am not leaving anyone behind!" Now to memorize it and not be intimidated influenced by Radha Mitchell's home run...

If this puppy has characters even remotely like that? How wide a patch of broken glass do I have to crawl across?

Extra! Extra! Read all about it!

Two nice bits of press today, in the Herald and the Courier News. The Herald also had this article earlier in the week.

Will have to remember to thank John for the comment about the chorus. Last year we had similar praise from the guest conductor who handled the night Francesco had a prior commitment, and who also happens to be a former chorus master from the Lyric. Quality and professionalism in a chorus means, to some extent, that you shouldn't notice. (Not always easy to take!) So it's nice to have them recognized by people who know their stuff.

One thing I love about opera that NEVER happens in other theatre: We get tonight off! *happy sigh* There's something to be said for a discipline with a tradition of recognizing that the body needs a break to perform its best...

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Falling In Love Again

Bobbing up briefly from the Tech Week Abyss...

The never-say-die voice had the right idea, even though I didn't get the gig. The audition was fun, I got to play with some neat movement stuff and meet some very cool people, and I didn't even have any trouble getting downtown. (Yay, Chicago snow removal procedures!)

And, as happens over and over, I read through the script and thought, This is the coolest thing I've seen in ages! I wanna do this!

So, of course, I don't get to. And now I'm a bit bummed about something I hadn't even heard of a week ago. This isn't a plea for sympathy or support (not today, anyway), though, just an observation of fact.

Because there's really no other way to go about it. If I don't think any project I put myself out there for is the coolest thing I've seen in ages, and want it down to my toenails, what's the point?

This is, incidentally, the primary reason Gina Holden's blog is linked over to the side there. Not so much just because I'm possibly the biggest Coreen fangirl this side of legal drinking age (but jeez, who wrote that character summary? O.o), and am keen to see where she goes from there. Or even that I'm hellaciously envious of all of it. It's the way she's going for it, with full-bore enthusiasm for every single gig and what's just so giddyingly cool about each one. You want an antidote to actors who moan and groan about the soul-sucking schlock they're forced to lower themselves to (and I'm acquainted with my share!), this lady is it.

And it's a good thing to remember right now, as the Great Big Ball of Operatic Fluff chugs along through tech, with all the inevitable headaches and late nights and "why in the name of all that's holy are we doing this, again?"

I know why. Because there are things about it that are really, really cool. Those things get my head and my heart for all I'm worth, because in a few more days they'll be gone. And the hunt for the next coolest thing I've seen in ages, the next fight for the chance to be a part of it, will be on.

On your marks, get set...

Friday, February 1, 2008

The never-say-die voice wins

The results may be cosmic or comical. Or just cold and wet. Stay tuned.

:: ventures out into winter wonderland ::

Schedule Tetris

In which our Diva wishes desperately for a teleporter, and exercises firm denial against the suspicion that she is Getting Too Old For This Shit

The line between "challenge to be overcome" and "the Universe is trying to tell me something" is really, really fuzzy sometimes.

Case in point: Over the past several days, I've been exchanging emails with the director of a student film that sounds immensely cool. And I hasten to say the guy has been about as accommodating as anyone could reasonably expect. But on the ramp into tech week for Elisir, it's all too easy for audition times to run into rehearsals I can't afford to miss. Which they have, twice -- the original date, which he rescheduled independently of my conflict, and the rescheduled date tomorrow. When I emailed him asking if I could possibly make any other arrangements due to my conflict tomorrow, he replied that he had an additional session scheduled for this evening.

Which I could, technically, by the edges of my fingernails, maybe make.

If I drive off with the only functional car in the household, leaving the hubby to his own devices to get to our social commitment tonight (from which I would, of course, be playing hooky).

If I log in to Office of Doom tomorrow morning to finish making up the hours from an appointment I had on Tuesday. (And I say that with much kowtowing to the gods of telecommuting, because making up hours is a helluva lot easier when I can do it from my attic.)

And if the obscene quantity of snow between here and the Art Institute is sufficiently off the roads by the time I head out.

Balanced against the fact that the director is a bit overwhelmed by the response he actually got to his audition posting, which is why he's having an additional session in the first place, and, well.

So, um. Challenge? Universe? Which one am I trying to talk myself into? Not quite sure.

The never-say-die voice is saying "Haul your ass into the city by hook or by crook, and deal with the tired and the crazy."

The grownup-with-responsibilities voice is saying "Let it go, there'll be other times, and you have Things You Need To Do. Plus, where do you get off inconveniencing hubby and hosts of social commitment?"

Neither voice is all that appealing at the moment. Which is kind of annoying, considering how often these situations come up.

As long as the voice saying "Screw it, run a hot bubblebath and HIDE!" doesn't win, I think I'm okay. But boy, does it get loud sometimes...