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

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Counting Actors - special RIII edition

The results for October will be up next week sometime (so you can still report on shows today or tomorrow - would love to get stats for Honey Brown Eyes, How to Write a New Book for the Bible and more south bay/peninsula shows up in here).

I'm listing Richard III separately, and here's why.  It's a national tour.  It didn't do any hiring/casting here, and didn't rehearse here. Local/non-local hiring is pretty much a non-issue for things like this or the recent tour of Billy Elliot and current tour of Hair. 

Ray Renati sent stats for Richard III, the first stats I'd gotten for one of the big touring shows, and I thought about it, and realized that if what the Counting Actors project is about is looking at who gets local jobs, men or women, union actors or non-union actors, local hires or non-local, then counting tours doesn't make sense.  So I've added that info on the Counting Actors page.

Before I get to the stats, a quick digression.  I've been asked about why I'm not looking at ethnicity of actors, writers and directors as part of Counting Actors.  My original answer was that I wanted to keep things simple, and take on a project I could manage.  I'd love to see tracking of who gets the stage management, design, and crew positions on top of adding ethnicity to the mix.  It seemed not only like more than one person could handle, but that counting ethnicity requires self-identification, not an outside eye saying 'this person is Asian, that person is African-American, etc.'  I feel uncomfortable looking at others and putting labels on them, and in asking those who are reporting to do the same.  I do hope that someday the tracking that is happening in the Counting Actors project will get taken over by an organization with the bandwidth to handle following all of these variables, and more - age, people w/disabilities, etc.

And now, the RIII stats.

Richard III/The Bridge Project
Male Director, Male Writer
27 actors: 6 female, 21 male
All union, all non local.
Notes: the cast was made up of American and British actors, so while all were union, 15 were members of AEA, and 12 were members of BAEA(British Equity).  Two male characters, the adolescent princes Young Edward and Young Richard, were played by adult women.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Seen a show?

Or directed one, or acted in one, or worked crew, designed, etc?  Does it have October performances?

If I didn't count it in September, I'd love to get the info for the Counting Actors project.  Go here for how to report.  Those who've done it already say it's super easy and takes less than 5 minutes.

And if the show won't open until November, but you've already got the details, go ahead and send it, and I'll get started on the November count.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Reel Resources

Bonnie Gillespie answered some questions yesterday about actor reels in her terrific Showfax column, and linked to some great resources worth checking out - additional info as well as links to docs that actors can get filmmakers to sign to specify details about the copy they'll be providing.

I'm pretty happy w/my recently edited reels, which you should be able to see here.  The editor I worked with is Deva Blaisdell-Anderson.  I had a great time working w/her and she was very helpful, insightful and knowledgeable about the tech side of things.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

links to check out!

Even John C. Reilly doubts his own talents.

Colleen Wainwright (aka The Communicatrix) says some really smart things about taking good photos.

A super smarty pants article from the NYTimes about confidence in judgements/decision-making  The examples it uses are mostly from the world of stock trading, but all I could think of were auditions, script submissions, and other related theater stuff.

Money quote (if you don't have time for the whole article):

In general, however, you should not take assertive and confident people at their own evaluation unless you have independent reason to believe that they know what they are talking about. Unfortunately, this advice is difficult to follow: overconfident professionals sincerely believe they have expertise, act as experts and look like experts. You will have to struggle to remind yourself that they may be in the grip of an illusion.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Monologue inventory

Last week I inventoried my monologues. I looked back through my audition tracking spreadsheet to remind myself what monologues I've been doing in auditions lately, and to help figure out what type of monologue I should be looking for to learn next.

Over the years, I've rotated monologues out of my repertoire for a number of reasons, including that I've done them too much, they've grown stale for me acting-wise, I've outgrown them, or that they weren't playing the right way w/auditors outside the context of the whole play.

And, when I rotate things out of the repertoire, it's time to rotate something else in.  But what?  That's where the inventory comes in.  I categorize and describe what I've got, and then look for the holes.

I categorize by time period, and I use three - classic (Greeks to Moliere or so, incl. Shakespeare), modern (approx Ibsen/Shaw/Chekhov through Odets/Williams/Miller), and Contemporary (written in the last 20-30 years).  Then, I categorize by tone - comic, serious, or serio-comic, keeping in mind that the tone varies  a bit with the time period - a comic classic piece might simply be one where a character talks about falling in love (like Viola in Twelfth Night) but a comic contemporary piece might be much more jokey (think Neil Simon).  After that, I look for where pieces fall in terms of physicality - does this character sit in a chair and talk the whole time or do they run around the stage and pretend to sword fight?  I also look at dialect work, and try to have one piece ready to go in a dialect I'm good at and would get to do onstage (usually a British or American Southern as opposed to Carribean/West Indies or Japanese).

After I look at these things, categorizing gets more creative and fun.  I look at things like character status, are they talking to one person or addressing a crowd, is their internal rhythm slow or fast, are they a city mouse or a country mouse, where does this character fall in terms of my age range?  Typically, I think a character seems young if they're experiencing something new or for the first time, and a character seems older if they are giving advice, or remembering a past event.  I may also look at the character's profession - sometimes the character is primarily a lawyer/doctor/businessperson etc. and other times their relationship parent/child/spouse is in the foreground in the piece.

My current inventory includes:
1. contemporary comic, fast rhythm, low physicality, violinist on a first date
2. contemporary serious, slow rhythm, low physicality, parent of a teen w/cerebral palsy
3. contemporary comic, variable rhythm, medium physicality, stressed out political aide talking to small group
4. contemporary seriocomic, medium rhythm, medium physicality, sister of the bride doing wedding toast for large group
5. contemporary seriocomic, medium rhythm, low physicality, waspy wife attempting apology to cheating husband
6. classic serious, slow rhythm, medium physicality, king's widow about to be taken as war prize
7. classic comic, variable rhythm, high physicality, queen falling in love under a spell
8. classic comic, variable rhythm, medium physicality, maid showing her master that he's marrying his daughter to the wrong man
9. classic comic, variable rhythm, high physicality, drunk getting two reluctant fighters to duel
10. classic serious, slow rhythm, low physicality, conquered queen begging for her son's life

So after the inventory, my biggest hole is in the modern category.  I need to do my looking there.  I don't have any dialect pieces right now, so looking at something like Shaw or Wilde would be a good place to start.  It'd also be great to look for pieces that emphasize physicality.  In terms of high or low status, age of character and those types of variables are really open - I've got a lot of different things covered, so I can probably find something that pairs well with other monologues that I've got already.  I might want to think about looking for someone who is talking to a group - overall, more of my monologues are characters talking to one or two people.

Okay - now I'm off to the library!

Or, if anyone reading has a suggestion for me - post 'em in the comments!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The actor's closet

I've written about wardrobe and wardrobe choices a bit before. 

But because of some recent industrial work, I'm thinking about it again.

I'm thinking about how it's helpful for an actor to know what colors they look good in, and to know what colors and clothing styles work well on camera. Lots of us know this already but thanks City of Alberquerque for spelling it out so clearly!  To their page I'd add the following: avoid logos/writing/images on your clothing, but everything else they're saying is spot on.

For industrials in particular, it's helpful to know the difference between formal business attire and business casual.  This page has some great descriptions and images, maybe a little bit more for women than men.  Here in the Bay Area, with Silicon Valley's influence, we're sometimes asked for a slightly more hip version of business casual, so you may need to ask for clarification if things aren't clear.  Another great way to figure out where your current project or audition falls on the formal to casual spectrum is to go to the website for the client company or to companies w/a similar culture/industry, and see what the people are wearing in photos on their site. 

I'm not the most conservative dresser in my everyday life, but I keep a few pieces on hand for things that I'm often asked to do.  I have my mom slacks (light colored khakis) and a few sweaters, as well as a few business suits, with the appropriate accessories.  I've watched for when the suits go on clearance at department stores, and taken a few runs through places like Nordstrom Rack, H&M, etc. to round out what I need.  Clothing swaps with friends have also helped me round out these areas of my wardrobe.

I make sure that I keep all of this stuff clean and ready to go too.  It sucks to have to spend extra money on a rush turnaround at the dry cleaners. 

And last of all, I've got a garment bag for hauling too and from set!  It's always surprising to me when people show up w/stuff jammed in grocery bags, or just carrying a bunch of shirts on hangers in from their car.  Both you and the clothes look better and more pro when you can bring it all in in a good bag. 

Monday, October 10, 2011

More on Gender Equity: UK edition

I recently wrote about an Australian production of Queen Lear, part of a Melbourne theater company's attempt to move toward gender equity in the face of public calls for equity to be part of the criteria to receive government arts funding in Australia.

Now I read that similar public calls are happening in the UK. 

Again, I'm wondering - is this the way to go in the US?  Should gender quotas be a part of the criteria to receive NEA funding?  Would this lead to more jobs for women in theater, more plays by women writers receiving productions, and more women being cast in shows? 

Friday, October 7, 2011

making habits, getting productive

I've started using a tool called iDoneThis to help me track my progress.  It sends me an email once a day, and I reply to that email with the things I did that day.  It saves them all in a calendar that I can go and visit and after I did it for a week, it started sending me a second email that told me what I did last week on that day.

It's fast, it's easy, and it's helping me stay on task.  Thought I'd share....

Thursday, October 6, 2011

For the casting department

I had a theater callback recently where I heard something surprising: "the cast list for this show will be posted on our website by such and such date."  The date was within a week of the callback. 

When so often we are told "thanks for coming in" and nothing further about a casting timeline, getting this level of clarity and specificity was a welcome change. 

I wish that more theaters would adopt a system such as this one - a voice mailbox to call, a list on a website, maybe even on a backchannel URL if you don't want to make the info public to your patrons or the press too soon. 

I know that casting folks are often too busy to contact everyone they're not using to let them know about it, but a system like this, where the company puts the info where actors have access to it, would make a big difference in terms of the watching phone screens and hitting send/receive on email that so many of us do the day or two after a callback. 

Monday, October 3, 2011

where performance lives

'She likes to juggle.  Instead of balls or batons, she practices with four or five perceptual experiences at once.  She drops balls but it doesn't matter.  She retrieves them when their absence is noticed. The director should know she prefers juggling to catching the ball.  There is no time to capture or translate when someone is juggling.  This freedom from knowing arouses the curiosity that precedes question-making. And this is where she feels performance lives.'

Deborah Hay, my body, the buddhist

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Counting Actors September 2011 results

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

If you want to share info on a show for October, please go here to learn more.

15 Shows counted:
Night Over Erzinga/Golden Thread
The Cherry Orchard/Hapgood Theater
QuatreVingtQuatre/Parker Street Odditorium and Dirty Swan Projects Presents (in this show, a male character was played by a woman)
The House of Blue Leaves/Jewel Theater
Phaedra/Shotgun Players
True West/Expression Productions
Taming of the Shrew/CalShakes (in this show, a woman played Pedant/Curtis/Widow - 2 male characters, 1 female)
Why We Have a Body/Magic Theater
Smokey Joe's Cafe/Center REP
Picasso at the Lapin Agile/Town Hall Theater
Patience Worth/Symmetry Theatre (this show was commissioned by the company to support their mission of onstage gender equality)
Sister Cities/Dragon Productions
August: Osage County/City Lights
Fifth of July/Pear Avenue Theatre

The Stats:
8 female directors,  7 male directors
5 female writers,  11 male writers
112 total actors:  57 men,  55 women
36 Equity actors,  76 Non-equity actors
19 Equity men,   17 Equity women
107 local actors,  5 non-local actors

Folks who shared results in September include actors, producers, and audience members.  Thanks to Roselyn Hallett, Nina Meehan, Erin Hoffman Moro, Jason Hancock Torres, Brian Herndon, Jessica Powell, Ray Renati, Kendra Oberhauser, Dale Albright and Melissa Hillman for sending me counts in September!

Thanks for reading and for talking about and sharing the info from this project!  If you are working on a show with October performances or see a show in October, I hope you'll take a few minutes to send in a count.  I'm also happy to count forward - if you're working on a project that is already cast, but won't start performances until after October 31st, go ahead and send the count, and I'll include it in the appropriate month. 

Come back and see October results between Nov 1 and Nov 5!