Sunday, August 23, 2009

Transition time

In which our Diva does her best to stay connected

One more shooting day on Connections. Mixed feelings, as always when any project ends. Sad to see it go, excited for the next thing. Pretty much everything I've done this year has been whirlwind, with little time to get to know my colleagues, and this one has been a little longer and settled in a little more. I've gained some valuable friendships even on the small ones, though, and am that much more appreciative of the tools available to us online to keep in contact.

I understand where people are coming from when they worry that communication online is too superficial, too impersonal. And it's true that it's no substitute for real human contact. But it's a heckuva a valuable supplement to it, particularly for actors or anyone else who works on a project basis. My best intentions notwithstanding, cast contact lists of phone numbers and email addresses sit in folders in my hard drive gathering virtual dust. Meanwhile, five minutes on Twitter or Facebook will give me a snapshot of what's going on with people I might not have seen in person in years.

It also plays into something I've frequently tried to explain to friends, that growing up on Air Force bases with a constantly shifting collection of faces in the classroom and in the neighborhood makes it seem perfectly natural to me to operate that way as an adult. I don't go in much for big goodbyes, or fretting about making sure ties of friendship are tended to -- arguably to a fault. In my head, it makes perfect sense to run into someone after a week or a month or a year or a decade, and essentially pick up wherever we left off.

In between, I do miss them, in the sense of "Oh, so-and-so would have loved to see this." (And how much do I love being able to see something online and share it with so-and-so with a few clicks?) But I've gradually come to understand that it's not the same thing most people mean when they say they miss someone. The intensity, the acuity, of that is something that I still work hard to grasp. It's certainly an important thing to understand about human nature, which is of course what I'm all about as an actor.

This Wednesday, I'll say goodbye to my first TV series (a final count of three episodes is still a series!) experience, with all its ups and downs and the challenges of a very small-time environment. Goodbye to Michelle's desk, with all the little details it acquired. But the people involved are still there on my Facebook friends list, to see where they go from here and where we might connect up again.

First, though, I have the first read-through for Pride and Prejudice today. A completely different show, a completely different environment, with some of the same people I got to know during last fall's Dracula. I can't wait to find out which ones (I don't know all the casting info yet), to pick up with them where we left off, and take part in the alchemy of creating something new with them and with others I don't yet know.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

A truth universally acknowledged

In which our Diva returns to the page and the stage

I've been loving the crazy last year-plus, with the rapid-fire succession of characters to create in various projects, but lately I've also been craving the in-depth experience of a full stage production. (Seven Plays in Seven Days, as awesome an experience as it was, definitely doesn't count.)

So when I heard that Greenman Theatre Troupe, home of last fall's gorgeous Dracula, would be opening this season with Pride and Prejudice? You better believe I was there!

Being really too old for Elizabeth Bennet, the first character on my wish list was Caroline Bingley. The second was Charlotte Lucas. The call came today, and Charlotte it is! (Thus further cementing "best friend" as one of my primary types. *g*)

Time to reread the novel, which I haven't actually done in probably 20 years. It's not as dear to my heart as it is to many of my friends', but I do love Austen's crisp and observant voice and the characters she created. There can't be too many better ways to spend the next few months than bringing them to life.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Only make-believe

In which our Diva is resigned to a certain reality, but it still gets under her skin once in a while

In a conversation I had yesterday, I mentioned that the reason I was making up Office of Doom hours after 11 Sunday night was that I spent Saturday at Chicago Comic-Con and Sunday filming a short.

The response? "Oh, but that's fun stuff."


Walking around in a superhero costume, posing for pictures and meeting people whose work I like (including childhood heroines Nichelle Nichols and Margot Kidder)? Absolutely "fun stuff," albeit exhausting.
Filmmaking? It has its fun too. It also has spending a very long, very hot day outdoors. In makeup. Waiting, waiting, waiting, being ON!, waiting some more, being ON! Changing into a long-sleeved heavy satin wedding gown in my car (did I mention very hot day?).
I love acting. Love it beyond all reason. You have to in order to do it. Because you don't get to do just the fun parts. Gina Holden estimated in an interview I read recently that 2% of your working time as an actor is actually being in front of the camera acting. It sounds like an exaggeration. It's not. You spend the rest of your time waiting, studying, researching, marketing, handling business. All so you can get that little fraction of time -- the time that is seen by everyone else -- to inhabit the skin of the character whose story you're telling.
Because it's all they see, most people think it's all there is. Which is how they can say things like the comment above.
Like "Well, I want to stay home and read, but nobody's going to pay me for that."
Like "So you have a real job too?"
I commented not long ago, on a blog post by (sometimes curmudgeonly, always brilliant) TV writer Denis McGrath, that the problem for artists is that most people just can't wrap their heads around something they consume at their leisure not being produced at ours.
And the truth is, they're mostly never going to. I have yet to see a single solitary person on a film set for the first time, no matter how well-informed, not be abjectly shocked by the sheer amount of time and work, by the sheer number of people, it takes to produce just a few minutes of what will be seen on screen. It's nearly impossible to explain, unless you understand how the process works, that it's not because of disorganization or laziness or inefficiency or whatever. It's because that is the only way it can be made. You can't just have an idea and point a camera at it, and hey-presto, you have a film. Imagination is only the starting point.
I joke that my life's work is playing make-believe. At its purest, this-is-what-we're-here-for heart, that's true. That's how stories get told.
That, and a whole lot of people doing a whole lot of work.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Connections, Week Two

In which our Diva is officially a vlogger

It's shaky and dorky, but it's mine. Hope it doesn't make you seasick.

I do intend to get better at this. In the meantime, check out Cami's blog about the living Peeps and the video she was watching on her laptop. (And no, I am not condoning the dyeing of baby chicks. Just boggling at the fact that people do it and at how darn cute they are.)