the day to day of a professional actor in the San Francisco Bay Area

mostly the day to day of a professional actor in the San Francisco Bay Area, but also the home of the Counting Actors Project

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Send me your Counting Actors info for Sept!

I'll publish September results between Oct 1 and 5.  If you've seen or worked on something with performances in September (that didn't get counted in August), can you go here and send me the info?  I'd especially love to get some South Bay shows in here.


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Melbourne's Queen Lear: stats and more from Australia

Thanks to one of the arts news aggregator blogs I look at, I caught this article yesterday.  

Gist: In Melbourne, a woman will play King Lear this season because the theater was (italics mine) ordered by its governing body to designate an equal opportunity officer when only one mainstage production was given to a female director.   

While I was intrigued by the cross gender take on the classic (somewhat novel, Mabou Mines, anyone?), I was even more intrigued by the whole business w/the governing body and the equal opportunity officer.  So I googled, and found some more interesting info.

My thoughts were similar to what I saw at No Plain Jane's blog post, and I appreciate the stats collected there. And yes, 'one woman in the role of one man will not tip these scales'

I found a Sydney Herald article, about some writers who would like to see quotas established in Australia, saying:

"Any theatre company that receives public funding should be compelled to report annually on their gender representation in their program and processes that they are pursuing to achieve equity,'' 
Would this fly in the US?  Should companies that receive NEA funding, or funding from their state arts council be required to represent both genders equally?

Monday, September 26, 2011

My September Gig

In the mix of gigs and jobs this past month, I got asked to take on something new: I coached a kid actor in her first professional production.  The show is up now, and on reflection, this job had several really cool parts to it.

First,  it was a real hybrid of my skill sets - teaching artist, actor, and director.  Teaching artist me did some skill building, like theater vocabulary, cheating out, and projection/enunciation.  Actor me got to walk the role at a few rehearsals, exploring what my impulses might be in terms of stage movement and intention within those circumstances.  Director me got to work one on one with another actor to clarify moments and find keys to unlock the characters for an audience.

Something I hadn't thought of beforehand was that theater etiquette/professionalism was a big component of the process.  For someone who's never been in a professional production before, there's so much basic stuff to unpack! Signing in on the board, thanking your stage manager, having your pencil and script ready to go at your call time were all new concepts for this young actor.

Best of all though, was the point during tech week when the kid actor turned to her mom and said, "Do you think when this is over, instead of going back to my tennis class, I could maybe take an acting class instead?" 

Friday, September 23, 2011

links to check out!

Local Theater: a few good essays from Portland.

Howlround is on fire right now with great conversation and ideas! Taylor Mac talks about ending auditions (and shouts out Lily's Revenge at the Magic) and the Playwrighting and Parenting essay is terrific too.

And Dallas Travers has terrific practical advice on How to Talk to Casting Directors on Facebook.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Arts in Education Week

For one of my day jobs, I'm the admin for an arts education program.  And Sept 11-17th is National Arts in Education week, so I thought I'd talk about some of what I see firsthand.

1) Good arts education isn't about making professional artists.  It's about the life skills that come from arts-based learning, whether that's how to work with others, taking turns and problem solving in groups, or about confidence when speaking in front of groups, or learning a variety of communication tools to articulate your point.
2) Arts get kids excited to be at school.  It's a reason to show up.
3) There's a scary spiral thinking in our public schools.  School funding is tied to test scores.  Jobs are tied to school funding.  When test scores are low and jobs are on the line, the mandate becomes teach the test and nothing else.  It's drill baby drill and no room for 'extras' like arts.
4) Classroom teachers, especially at the elementary school level, work HARD.  Does your job require you to be 100% present with the task at hand for 6-7 hours with only a few short 'breaks' where you may still be supervising others?
5) There's almost nothing more amazing than a breakthrough in student growth.  I've got a classroom teacher partner who still gets tears in her eyes when she talks about a shy student who spoke actual words in front of the whole class for the first time in one of our workshops from two years ago.

Also, I wrote a letter to the editor about arts education, and it was published in the San Francisco Chronicle on 9/10/11.  A link to the letter is here.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Acting Prep Rituals

So, because I'd just read the third book in this post, I finally saw the amazing Peter Weir film Gallipoli.  And it wrecked me up. Still is.  See it sometime.  However, here was my takeaway relating to acting.

One of the main characters in Gallipoli is a runner.  And, before he runs, he and his uncle always go through this short bit of dialogue:

- What are your legs?
- Steel springs.
- What are they going to do?
- Hurl me down the track.
- How fast can you run?
- As fast as a leopard.
- How fast will you run?
- As fast as a leopard.
- Then let's see you do it.

This is repeated several times in the movie, and becomes a mantra for the main character, something he can turn to when he needs to perform under pressure.

And that got me thinking about how I prep to perform, to audition, etc.  Sometimes, I've got the luxury of 30 to 60 minutes to warm-up voice and body, and I can ease into things.  Sometimes, when an audition is booked last minute, or there's been traffic so bad I call it biblical, I'm running into the performance with minutes to spare.  Is there a quick ritual, like the one above, that could propel me into action?

I'd love to know what you do at those times.  And, if I find something that works for me, I'll let you know.

Monday, September 5, 2011

The Red Tree by Shaun Tan

Shaun Tan is a children's book author from Australia.  A great NY Times article about him is here.
His work is often melancholy, moody, and full of misfits and fantastical images.  My favorite book is The Red Tree, which is a day in the life story about a girl with red hair who is having a bad day.  I don't want to say too much about it, other than if you do pick it up, stick with it to the end - it's beautiful!

Here's my favorite illustration from The Red Tree.

The text for this page is 'Sometimes you just don't know what you are meant to do or who you are meant to be.'

Friday, September 2, 2011

Counting Actors August 2011 results

This is a project I started in June. How to participate is explained here, and here are June results and July results.

16 Shows counted:
Of Dice and Men/Impact Theater
7 Guitars/Marin Theater Company
The Nature Line/Sleepwalkers Theater
Exit Pursued by a Bear/Crowded Fire
Reduction in Force/Central Works
Cymbeline/SF Shakespeare Festival (in this production, the character of Pisanio was played by a woman)
Abigail Dreary/Ianiro Productions
Streetcar Named Desire/Dragon Production

Seussical/Berkeley Playhouse (in this production, the role of JoJo, who is a young boy, was shared by 2 girls)
Road to Hades/Shotgun Players
Let Me Down Easy/Berkeley Rep
Candida/Cal Shakes
Tempest/Marin Shakespeare Company (in this production, Trinculo was female, and the role of Ariel was split between 6 actors - 4m 2f)
Peaches En Regalia/Wily West Productions
Sense and Sensibility/TheatreWorks
Circus Adventure/Bay Area Children's Theatre

The Stats:
 7 female directors,  9 male directors
5  female writer,  13 male writers (I'm including composers, bookwriters and lyrics writers in this group, so Seussical has 2 credited writers.  Sense and Sensibility was written by a team of 2 men.)
  166 total actors (this number includes 27 under age 18 actors who were in the cast of Seussical, who were enrolled in a class.  There were also 4 under 18 actors in Abigail Dreary, 6 in Road to Hades and 1 in the Nature Line.)
  92 men,  74 women
  41 Equity actors,  125 Non-equity actors
26  Equity men,  15 Equity women
  162 local actors, 4 non-local actors

So many people contributed shows they'd seen this month!  I've also been happy to receive results from producers, directors, actors who were in shows.  Here are the folks who sent results: Melissa Hillman, Sasha Hnatkovich, Amy Prosser, Tiffany Cothran, Andrew Black, Dale Albright, Lauren Bloom, Don Hardwick, Kendra Oberhauser, Katherine Goldman, Lisa-Marie Newton, Roselyn Hallett, Alona Bach and Nina Meehan

Thanks so much for helping me count and for spreading the word about this project!

 September results will show up between October 1 and 5.