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

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Balanced Life Quest

Somehow, Friday was a really balanced day.  I got some exercise, took care of a few things for my two biggest day job projects, worked out some actor business, got to be artistic as I prepped sides for a callback, ran a few errands, and even spent some quality time w/my partner.

This kind of day almost never happens.  Usually I can touch on two or three life areas, but rarely this many in a single day.  I can't remember the last time I've had a day this balanced.

I've learned to think of balance in the aggregate - over a week, or even over a month, and surely over six months or a year, it will all balance out.  This keeps me from stressing too badly when I've had three days in a row of major day job crunch time and I'm feeling 'under-yoga'd' or during tech week, when I only see my partner late at night and early in the morning and one of us is very very sleepy - in the long run, I have to just trust that my life will have balance.

But I can help to ensure that balance.  I write scheduled downtime, dates, even major cleaning projects into my calendar.  Sure, I'll break those appointments if I get an audition, but I'll reschedule them.  Writing them down helps hold their place. 

Also, I've learned to have a weekly 'appointment' with myself to check in on how I'm doing.  I've timed this appointment to coincide with my weekly acting class, which I really look forward to and almost never miss.  Basically, I write in a journal during class for about 15-20 minutes on how I'm doing w/balancing my artistic growth, healthy relationships (to myself and others), financial comfort, and community connections.  Some weeks are better than others.  I drop balls regularly, but I know I can pick them back up.

And then every once in a while something like last Friday happens. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Submit for Counting Actors

Since it's a short month it's already time to get those stats in for the Counting Actors project!  I'm closing in on 100 shows, so it'd be great to get your stats.  If you've seen a show or worked on a show with performances in February, go here for info on what I'm looking for.  Takes 5 minutes.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

A confession

I am an actor who is not good at imagining.  At least when it comes to the objects and things that might surround a character who lives in a time/place from history that is different than my own.  I need some help - a place to jump off and get started.

So I love love love when I can visit historical homes and museums like the Tenement Museum in New York where you can walk through a tenement apartment building and see different apartments restored to reflect different time periods in the building's history.

And I had a great time when I went to Dublin's Georgian House Museum, which is a house from 1794, restored and filled with objects from that time.

And I was super excited to learn about this book, which came out of a joint project between the British Museum and the BBC.  It is what it says - an attempt to cover all of human history, using 100 objects from the collections of the British Museum.  Each object gets its own essay/presentation and was originally presented over a period of 25 weeks (one object/day M-F) as a radio series on the BBC.  And it's archived here.

So, if like me, you aren't the best imaginer, the objects in this book, and in museums and historic homes everywhere, are a terrific resource for our actor imaginations.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Get out in front!

Over the weekend, I led a seminar for the Theatre Bay Area ATLAS program, and it reminded me of this idea.

For longevity, for sanity, for finding things that we can control, we've got to get out in front of our careers.  This is about being active rather than passive, initiating rather than reacting.   It's about the fact that they may be auditioning you, but you're also using that audition time to learn more about a company or a director and whether or not you want to work with them.

It's about reading plays as they get their first productions in London or New York, so that you know what parts are out there for you to be watching for when those shows are produced in your region.

Making your own films, writing your own monologues, creating solo shows also fit in here.

You don't need to wait for them to contact you or post an audition notice.  You can contact them, compliment their work sincerely and let them know that you're out there.

It's about knowing what kind of work you want, rather than taking anything that gets offered to you, just because it got offered to you.

Does this make sense?  If you're not sure you've got what I'm talking about, read this. Blogger/actor Virginia Wilcox is applying to MFA acting programs, and doing a great job of getting out in front of that process.

Monday, February 13, 2012

a video and an article

Article from 'The Stage' (which is kind of the UK's Backstage) advocating for theaters to step up and join the fight for roles for older female actors.  Read it here.

Inspiring video that helped me get through 3 auditions in 3 days is here.  I know I'd seen the Rube Goldberg machine version of this video a million times on facebook, but this older version with the marching band is also fantastic, and the message in the lyric is helpful when auditioning - reminds me to do it, then move on - can't keep lugging things around!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Introductions in auditions, on-camera and voiceover edition

When you're doing a media audition - either voiceover or on-camera, the introduction is called a slate.  The slate is your name and sometimes your agency info, your contact info, or the name of the character or the project.  Pay attention to the specific slate instructions and make sure you follow them. 

But, if you're given no instructions about the slate or just told to 'slate your name' then this means say your first and last name at the beginning of the v/o track or do a brief greeting/intro with your name when they first roll camera at the on-camera audition 'hi, I'm Joe Actor' 

Do this intro as yourself, rather than using the character voice in the voiceover or the given circumstances of the on-camera audition. And, it's your opportunity to introduce yourself to the client or director of the project.  Usually, you're recording the voiceover audition in your home studio or with a sound engineer, or you're doing the on-camera audition with a casting agency's session runner, not the actual people who will be making the decisions about which actors will be involved in the project. 

For voiceover, the intro is done.  But for on-camera, there may be a few more steps.  They may want to take a photo, zoom out so they can see your whole body, have you show profiles or do a 360, or show the fronts and backs of your hands. 

If you're asked to show profiles, this means that you'll do a turn to both your left and right and show both sides of your face.  If you're asked to do a 360, you'll turn in a circle so the camera can see you all the way around.  Practice these with a friend and a camera so you can figure out how quickly you should move when doing these maneuvers. 

Similar to the theater audition, the slate and the rest of the intro is your chance to show that you're both professional and personable.   That you're going to be a good person to have on set - you're friendly, efficient and good at what you do. 

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Introductions in Auditions, Theater edition!

Today's post is prompted by the time I spent over the weekend as a volunteer at the Theatre Bay Area General auditions - volunteering at the Generals is a highly recommended super educational experience for actors at any stage in their career.

Introductions for a theater general audition should include: your name, both first and last, and an introduction of the pieces you'll be doing.

If you're walking in past the auditors and get to greet them on your way in, then you won't need to say your name again from the stage.  But, if you're walking in from the wings, and the auditors are out in the house, your intro should include your name, so the auditors can make sure they're studying the correct headshot/resume during your audition.

To introduce monologues, use a personalized combination of these three elements - the character's name, the title of the play, and the play's author, which would go 'I'm presenting Libby from Craig Lucas's Blue Window; or 'This piece is Libby from Blue Window by Craig Lucas'  If the play is from the generally established 'canon' you don't need to mention the author, just title and role.  Something like 'I'll be doing Juliet from Romeo and Juliet' or 'My first piece is Juliet from Romeo and Juliet' 

Find the best version of your own language that gives the title/author/character name clearly and concisely.  It seems like personalized, active, present tense goes better than distanced, passive, future tense language.  So I'm doing/presenting/sharing character from play by author rather than This piece that I am going to be acting in is a monologue for the character Karen from the play Children's Hour. The author of Children's Hour is Lillian Hellman.

For songs (which I don't usually do), the normal intro seems to be the title of the song followed by the title of the musical.  Know your composer and lyricist, and know the character name, so you can share if asked.

It's great for the actor to know more about the play or musical, especially if it's not very well known.  Translator/adaptor's name for older pieces or foreign pieces, production history of a newer piece, a nutshell summary of the plot, circumstances of the scene that your monologue is from - all of these things can be springboards into further conversation if the auditor wants to know more about the piece, after you've finished your audition.  None of them need to be in your introduction though.

Above all, the intro is where you can be professional and personable, efficient and connected, and let the auditors know that you understand their time is valuable while at the same time displaying the essence of you.

Rehearse intros and figure out what works best for you.

For camera and voiceover, this is a different ballgame, and I'll cover it later this week!

And, I'm leading a seminar on Saturday Feb 11 from 1pm to 2:45pm on 'Navigating Your Career as a Bay Area Actor' $25 for TBA members/$40 for non-members.  Sign up by calling Theatre Bay Area at 415.430.1140 x10 or email Space is limited!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Control for actors - what you can and what you can't

A couple of weeks ago, I was making dinner and things weren't turning out the way I wanted.  I started getting upset about it.  Kevin asked 'why are you getting so upset?' and somehow I had a crazy moment of clarity in the middle of all of that and said something to the effect of 'I'm getting upset because making dinner is one of the few things in my life I have control over.  I have so little control over so much of what goes on in my life!'

Since then I've been thinking about the control issue for actors, and how to make a blog post. I thought about how Karen Kohlhaas covers this very well in regards to auditions in her book The Monologue Audition, and was going to start there.

But then today, Bonnie Gillespie's column on the showfax website just hits it out of the park, so I'm not going to write anything else. Go read Bonnie's column now.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Counting Actors for January

This project began in June 2011 and has counted 86 shows so far.  Links to results for past months (as well as how to send in a report in the future) are here.

10 Shows counted:
Theater Rhino/Two Character Play
Tides Theater/Waiting for Godot
ACT/Humor Abuse (although not currently living locally, this is a play about someone who grew up in the Bay Area.  There is no writer credited, instead it's 'created by the director and the performer' so I've listed them both as writers)
Berkeley Rep/Ghost Light
San Jose Rep/Double Indemnity (this play is a co-production w/A Contemporary Theatre in Seattle, and so the local actors from here also did the show up there)
Palo Alto Players/Give 'Em Hell Harry
Custom Made/Little Brother (writer and director are the same person)
Julia Morgan Project/Becoming Julia Morgan
Word for Word & Z Space/Food Stories (the two writers on this piece are fiction writers, not playwrights; this company presents short fiction on stage)
TheatreWorks/The Pitmen Painters

The Stats:
5 female directors, 5 male directors
3 female writers, 9  male writers
46  total actors: 33 men, 13  women
30 Equity actors, 16 Non-equity actors
22 Equity men, 8 Equity women
33 local actors, 13 non-local actors

Folks who shared results this month include: Lauren Bloom, Sarita Ocon, Eva Rebane, Roselyn Hallett, Marilyn Langbehn, and Belinda Taylor. Thanks so much for sharing stats with me!

I'm happy to take info for February and beyond - if you're working on a show or see a show with performances in February, please visit the Counting Actors page, and take a few minutes to send me the stats.

Also, if you think these results are interesting or worth sharing, please repost, link, tweet, + or update your status accordingly. 

February's a short month, but there are a lot of shows opening then.  Look for the Feb results between March 1st and 5th.