Friday, March 26, 2010

The Joy of Auditioning

Today I had an audition that just felt fabulous. Everything seemed to align - the research I'd done on the show, the monologue I'd chosen for it, everything fit. The casting person was so wonderfully open to the ride and we had such a lovely rapport. It was like someone had turned on a light in a dark room. Everything just felt electric! And the piece, the playwright's words, the environment of the play, the character's sass and vulnerability all seemed to come to life through me! Everything just seemed magical.

I love moments like that!

It's so cool.

And it seems to be happening more and more this year.

I had a musical audition like that not too long ago where there was just this sense of soaring! I felt like I was on Cloud 9 all day!

This is the gift of working to your satisfaction, of doing work you feel good about, of continually learning every time you walk into that audition room, feeling the thrill of growing as an artist, and savoring it all.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Trust your Footing

I ran into this message twice today, so I have to share it:

"Trust that you're moving in the right direction." - Josh Pais

And The Mountain Goat Theory by my dear friend Tina Sams:

"Often you need to trust footing that you normally wouldn't count on - just to shove off from. And you look back sometimes and say, Whoo! That was iffy, but you know... you're UP!"

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

A community of Artists

I feel like a flower in a garden. Maybe it's because Spring is hearkening, and the sun is finally shining. Maybe it's because I feel so rich and earthy and surrounded by such wonderful artists. Everything feels like it's in bloom!

My friend, Deb Radloff, whom I worked with on Hell's Belles, was accepted into San Diego's Old Globe theatre program.

Another friend from Hell's Belles, Omri Schein, just submitted his new musical to the New York Musical Theatre Festival.

And my friend, Andy Monroe, whom I worked with on The Tragic and Horrible Life of the Singing Nun, is seeing the birth of his new musical The Kid Off Broadway with The New Group.

My brother, Sean, is developing a feature length film with the band, Hippie Cream, and they're the "house band" for a sketch comedy troupe at The Performance Loft in Redlands, CA on March 23-24.

I got to see Sean rock out as the drummer for The Rocky Horror Picture Show in Hemet, CA of all places! I was really impressed that such a racy show made it to this little town that I grew up in.

And I love that Hemet is being called "the next Seattle" as far as music goes - just because of Hippie Cream. They're innovative and always growing, and I love that their albums tell stories.

Their next album is going to be a feature length film, directed by the young filmmaker, Daniel Philip Maggio, who directed their video Life is Long as well as the underground cult film, BroSis.

And that's just the west coast!

Here are the East Coast, I've been doing a musical theatre workshop every Monday with a group of performers who've all been on Broadway. They're all amazingly talented and I feel so privileged to have been invited into this class. We help each other every week, prepping audition material, and it's such a blast! I've learned so much, working with them, and it's been cool to pass on what I've learned from other teachers to them. It's a great artistic community, and I can't help but feel like I'm flourishing in such good company.

Plus, I got a callback for Lillian Hellman's Another Part of the Forest, prequel to The Little Foxes. Good stuff!

Rock on, y'all! :)

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Miracle Worker

I rarely post reviews about a show. Art is so subjective, and what pleases one person can displease another. But I have to write about the show I saw last night simply because it was some of the best acting work I've seen onstage in a long time.

I saw The Miracle Worker on Broadway, and I was blown away by Alison Pill, who played Annie Sullivan.

(photo by Joan Marcus)

Alison had big shoes to fill, because Anne Bancroft had won the Tony and the Academy Award for her performance in the role when it first opened on Broadway and was later filmed in the '60s.

Also, I did the show when I was a kid, playing Helen Keller, and so I have very fond memories of Gina DeMarco, who played "my" Annie.

But Alison made it her own, and she was a revelation!

I have never seen an actor so fully in the moment, so present, so spontaneously alive! She entered each moment, each scene as if she had no idea what was going to happen next, and that is something we all strive to do as actors in the theatre. But often you can see the striving. Something can seem too practiced, too memorized, but not Miss Pill's performance. She was fresh and full of vigor! With each breath, she filled the theatre and drew us into Annie's first experiences with the Keller family as she was having them!

I've seen Alison's work in HBO's "In Treatment" and in films like "Pieces of April," and "Dan in Real Life," and she always does great character work, but her portrayal as Annie Sullivan is a tour de force. It is not to be missed!

I must also give kudos to the rest of the cast: Abigal Breslin as Helen, Lance Chantiles-Wertz as Jimmie, Michael Cummings as Percy, Elizabeth Franz as Aunt Ev, Yvette Ganier as Viney, Simone Joy Jones as Martha, Matthew Modine, who could've fallen prey to the blow-hard character of Captain Keller, Helen's father, but he gave a wonderfully diverse and passionate performance, Jennifer Morrison as Helen's mother Kate, Daniel Oreskes as Doctor/Anagnos, and Tobias Segal as James. Every single performer was excellent!

I heartily recommend this show, though I must warn it is in "the round," 360 degrees of theatre, which again, Alison Pill used brilliantly. It was incredibly rare to see her back, and I could tell she kept herself fully open to the audience, which is probably what also heightened the experience for me. A great lesson.

So be forewarned that there may be some scenes not fully accessible because of the staging. For example, Helen's back was to our side of the theatre (row H 122) during the famous "Wa Wa" scene, so we couldn't see her face when the revelation hit. Likewise, the famous breakfast fight was staged towards my side of the theatre, so about half the house couldn't see their faces for much of it. Tricky. But then some folks were 3 feet away from the actors, because the stage was right at arm's length from the front row, which was really fascinating too.

It was a great show, and I would definitely see it again.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

The Birth of a Show

When I first moved to New York, I had never heard of the wonderful realm of "readings." All of the work I'd done prior had been in regional theatre with well-known works like Educating Rita, or Little Shop of Horrors, or it was improv-based.

Then I came to NY, did a few showcases, and even won the NYMF award for my work in The Tragic and Horrible Life of the Singing Nun.

After that I met with "Acting As a Business" guru, Brian O'Neill, who suggested I get involved with more shows at the "ground level," and do readings.

Now, for those of you who've never been to a reading, it's a performance where the actors have the script in hand, and are often sitting, simply reading from it. Sometimes people are invited to these things, sometimes it's just for the writers and producers to hear how it's taking shape. And sometimes the readings are staged - hence "staged readings." Audiences are definitely in demand for this latter kind of performance.

Ironically, since Mr. O'Neill gave me that advice a few years ago, readings have miraculously come my way. People I worked with before began working on new projects and asked if I could help. Well, sure!

It's incredibly cool to be part of a show in its early stages. I've done demo recordings for plenty of new musicals, including Lilly's Big Day, Hell's Belles, Vienna, Argentina Rumpus. I even recorded the first demo and performed a song at BMI for the new musical The Kid.

And in the dramatic realm, I performed with Academy Award winner F. Murray Abraham in the staged reading of the tragic-comedy, Sin, and last Fall I worked with Tony nominee Heather Laws on the staged reading of the dark comedy, Got You.

Not only were these incredible opportunities to work with super talented people, these projects were so diverse and new... We all were making discoveries as we went along!

So last night I was asked to perform in a reading hosted by the Hell's Belles creative team. They're working on a new musical called How to Marry a Divorce Man, loosely based on the novel, and it's really cute. It reminded me of my one woman show, Love in 35 Minutes, which I may have to revisit some day.

For How to Marry a Divorced Man, I played a vintage boutique owner named Glenda, and let me tell you, this character was a HOOT! Breezy and fun with a dash of punk rock. It was a blast!

And the cherry on the cake was being reunited with a bunch of folks I'd already worked with! From another staged reading, there was my Vienna castmate, Richard Binder, to whom I played Mrs. Sigmund Freud. There was Babs Winn, whom I supported on a crazy country sketch for The Onion. And I got to meet their friends and spouses, very talented folks who played other roles in our Divorced Man reading.

It was such fun and made me think of other shows that have "made it" like I love You, You're Perfect, Now Change. You just never know what show will strike a chord with today's audiences and really take off, and I admire the heck out of all artists who take the chance to put their work "out there" for all to see and hear. You have to take that chance, because you never know what might create your "Big Break," and it's a great chance to keep to grow!

Friday, March 05, 2010

Auditioning is different from Acting

It's audition season here in NY, and there is a lot going on. I hit at least one audition a day - sometimes 2 or 3 if I can swing it. One day, I even hit 4! It was awesome!

And when you get an encouraging nod or a compliment from the person on the other side of the audition table, it's like a green light. One director this week said he'd been thinking about me for a particular role, had wanted to call in me, and would most definitely be calling me back. That was cool. :)

Now, most actors will say how much they don't like to audition, and yet, there was a gal I took a class with last year, Bonnie Swencionis, who simply said, "I'm into auditioning. It's what I do."

I loved her attitude! And don't you know, all her work, taking acting classes and investing in audition technique, paid off! She got the lead on a web-series called Haute and Bothered. And I've never forgotten her go-getter attitude.

This year, I feel like I'm truly enjoying the audition procress. Every audition is an opportunity, not only to do my work, but to learn and grow and to meet all the other folks involved in this industry.

I feel like I get stronger with each audition. For one, there's all the prep work that I do for each audition. Practice and play, I call it. But the audition itself is very different from just acting or singing the piece you've prepared.

And that is the message of this week's blog: "Auditioning is different from acting."

Mark Sikes talks about it in his Casting Corner, and Alison Pill mentioned it in her interview with Backstage.

She said, "I've learned that auditioning is a different set of skills than acting. It's about personality and charisma and the ability to walk into a room and feel confident. You get that after years of doing it. Or you learn to fake it real well."

Alison is playing Annie Sullivan in The Miracle Worker, which I can't wait to see. I played Helen Keller as a kid, so it's a show that's very close to my heart.

And I love what she said about walking into the audition room with confidence. I'll take that a step further and include joy in that walk.

It's something I've been discovering lately, and it's a point Karen Kohlhaas makes in her classes at the Atlantic Acting School, which is ironically where I met Bonnie (in the Fearless Cold Reading class). The minute you walk into the audition room, you are assessed. Before you even speak. Sounds a little scary, doesn't it? But it can be exhilarating!

Like Karen says, "You are literally taking the next steps towards making your dreams come true... the minute you walk through that door."

So why not enjoy it? :)