Wednesday, December 20, 2006

My Actor Friends Part 7. My Own Private Guffman

I apologize for the lack of new topics here, but I have found myself alittle active lately. I got cast in Greenman Theatre Troupe's production of Murder: Stage Right. They are Elmhurst's lone community theatre, been around for acouple years, their most recent productions were The Odd Couple and Waiting For Godot.

The production I am in, which also needs a stage manager and costumer if anyone knows anyone interested, is a pretty standard dinner murder mystery type thing. Tailor made for the suburban audience, when done well, these can be alot of fun to perform.

I didn't audition for the show. My buddy Mike went to school with the Artistic Director David Soria. David is also an I.S.U. theatre alum like myself, and if you knew the I.S.U. theatre department, you'd say, "Of course he is." It's a recurring theme in my life, plus we are everywhere in Chicago. I had met David previously, volunteering to help when I could. Mike helped organize the auditions, they needed more actors. Mike couldn't do it. I got the call. The show is only one weekend, rehearsals don't conflict with my schedule, so I said yes. I like saying yes, but I have occasionally regretted it. (More on this later.)

Last night was our first production meeting. The actor's, director, board members, production team, etc. all met at a house here in Elmhurst. Crackers, bread, cheese and wine were served. General introductions were made. David spoke about company rules, rehearsal locations, schedule, contracts, production needs. All standard, important stuff, that reflect a good level of professionalism. Then he introduced a gentleman in the back. He would be working on the production as a Life/Actor coach.


Fast forward an hour. First, I've participated in an introduction exercise that requires you describe yourself, in relation to the show, with single words. (I'm am an actor on the show and I am eager. I am a actor on the show and I am frightened.)

My first partner is an energetic, forty-something, teacher and mother, with an extensive dance background, who may have been stabbed in the face earlier this year by a student. I saw no visible scar and I wasn't sure if I had heard her right, so I didn't ask to many questions. She seemed exceedingly nice. My next partner is a 63 year-old grandfather. He is a big guy and teaches Latin at a prominent Catholic high school. He and his wife have decided that it is time to indulge the things they have been unable to indulge in. Acting is one of his choices, and I think that's pretty cool of he and his wife.

Next we go around the room, again using single words, to describe things that went well, or didn't,l in our last production. Often, this can become a bitch session, with everyone giving their sad story of the director that wouldn't direct, or the actor who stabbed everyone behind their backs. To our life coach's credit, he keeps it quick and on point. I've had three glasses of wine by now. My word was, commitment. I get nods of approval and understanding from around the room. We have now shared an experience, gaining a better understanding of one another. Our coach likes my word and writes it on the board which keeps our list of words. I expect we will be revisiting with board throughout the process as a means of staying focused.

We'll see.

I may sound alittle sarcastic. I've been through this before. These exercises are meant to help people find a comfort zone with others, encourage communication, open up, etc, etc, etc... Sometimes they can be very helpful. Often necessary when working with inexperienced actors, unfamiliar with each other. You can find these exercises in any professional production or basic acting class.

They can also be used to avoid the work at hand. A time burglar. You end up spending more time in a chair talking than you do on your feet working. Especially when not run by the director and in the absence of a specific acting or script problem to be overcome. One of the nice things about being an actor is the teamwork. You aren't working alone, as a writer might, relent only on yourself for motivation, or ideas. You use everyone around you. For good, or bad.

Early odds on whether I was right to say yes are unclear. Doing a show is a five week rehearsal schedule, three show, one weekend run. I'm a stay at home dad, who works three days a week waiting tables 45 minutes away. The show offers zero potential for more professional opportunities outside this company. There are only so many hours in the day.

But, I will get to work with new people, make new friends. Get in front of an audience again. Build something long term here at home.

So... We'll see. We all have to take our own advice sometime.


Enlightenment said...
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Valerie said...

Sounds fun!

I think that Angelo's is where I had my wedding rehearsal dinner. I remember the food being pretty good!

Phil said...

I hope the show is as good as the food, or at least as good as the 'Little Shop of Horrors' we did.