Monday, April 25, 2016

Teetering on the Proscenium’s Edge

In our last show, we built a proscenium in a black box. Our ‘just out of school’ SM insisted we build a rail around the front of the stage, as ‘if an actor fell off, it would ruin her future career’. (Stupid comment number 4216 in my book.) She threatened to quit if we didn’t build a railing across the proscenium. We didn’t, and she didn’t quit – unfortunately.

For the past 6 years, I’ve made myself an advocate, near martyr for the theatre as a whole. No one wants to give a shit about the theatre, just their career. (Maybe as I've given up on having a 'career,' I'm free to be the janitor.) What I’ve done, I’ve done willingly and never asked for a single thank you – though I gotten 2 or 3.  I did it freely, at huge risk to my mental and physical health.  Last week, in the ICU, it didn’t look like I would make it, and I was OK with that. It made me take note of the things I have and haven’t accomplished.  Among those were changes to the 34 year old Equity Showcase code or the pay-to-play audition scams that pervade our industry. Yet, I cannot do these things alone, and actors, who feel themselves minions and not artists, are mostly too afraid to step forward and defend themselves for fear of repercussion.  As a theatre, we’re worse off than we were 100 years ago. But I cannot fight for people unwilling to stand up for themselves. We’ve been trained to be talented, agreeable drones. There’s no art there.  (See the previous column.)

ReGroup is in its 6th year. We’ve never made a single cent. At this point, it’s understandable, but every time we announce a show, it gets poached from us by one of 2 theatre companies. HOW RIDICULOUS?! I can understand this shit happening in Hollywood, where there’s MONEY being made, but poaching 80 year old forgotten scripts that don’t make money, is just ridiculous.
And Equity doesn’t care. I criticized Madame President, whom I campaigned heavily for, for being a jock sniff for Hamilton in a multi-page Variety essay. When there are so many pressing issues ready to tear Equity apart, she writes a fluff piece promoting Hamilton.  Just what the 50,0000 members need!

And as far as Equity protecting its members, a union member who saw our last production for free – with his union card - interrupted the show, then posted all kinds of nasty shit about us and me – including he hopes I need more brain surgery, I’m so fat, etc – online, while blocking us from responding – Equity can’t do anything about that?  (Even though there are whole websites where he’s done the same to other theatres, yet has NO credits himself.) I wrote Equity about the problem, to which they replied, I need to put my complaint in writing. ?????????????????????

So, maybe, when I’m feeling better, I’ll take the one foot off the proscenium. Maybe not. I can’t fight battles for drones too weak to stand up for themselves, even when that means fighting their own union.

We get the theatre we deserve.
Until we breed a braver class; I think I am done.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

The Most Important Word for an Actor Is...........

(Names or gender may have been changed to protect the guilty.)

In this business – in New York City, just when you think you’ve heard and seen it all, someone stoops even lower.  

That brings me to the main lesson taught in most schools now – the most important thing about acting – it’s a single word… Can you guess?

Where it once was ‘objective’ or ‘spine’ or something active, it is now ‘TYPE’. The character doesn’t matter, the play doesn’t matter, all that matters is knowing your ‘type’ and sticking to it. What 'type' are you most likely to play? The first time I heard it was in a ‘Business of Acting’ class at NYU my freshman year. We were told we’d never make it in the business if we didn’t know whether we were a ‘Pacey’ or a ‘Dawson’. (Hell, I’d been studying with ‘Joey’ for years before, and I'm certain she didn't know she was a ‘Joey.’ She just knew she had a rich daddy.) Sure, it’s good to know what you’re best for, but dear God, it’s called acting. (And even at NYU, the money factory that it is, the 1 hr business class was a supplement to 28 hrs a week of actual training.)

During a recent production, 2/3 of the way through the run, I had an actress tell me she wasn’t going to play the character as written or as I’d directed – as it wasn’t “behooving” her career. She was a bombshell, and would never get cast as a dork, so she was going to disregard the play and everything else, as casting people need to see her playing her ‘type’.  Luckily, Lady Brilliance got no laughs that night, which were crucial to her, as she was not playing the role. She changed back – unless she knew there was a Casting Director in the audience – then damn the play and the other actors.

‘Type’ is what they teach today, especially in these $50 for 4 minute workshops that are all the rage and that I am fighting tooth and nail. ‘Know your type. Play your type. Be yourself. ONLY.’  How boring! And yes, this actor, errr... actress is a regular at these things.
It’s called acting!
A production is about honoring the playwright.  Sorry to shatter some notions, but it’s not about your career. You’re not acting in a vacuum. If you want to do a one person show all about you, than do it yourself. Don’t fuck with someone else’s show.  If you’re part of an ensemble, do not change your character to fit your ‘type.’  If playing against your ‘type’ is detrimental to your career, then you need to find another career. 
Again, a lot of this goes back to teaching – aka these commercial 4 minute ‘classes’ that don’t give a damn about talent or craft as many of them wouldn’t recognize talent if it bit them in the ass. They want you to ‘play’ yourself; it simplifies things for them – but real talent and real casting directors can see you become something other than you are.  (To me, that’s the exciting, fun part of being an actor.)

So yes, while there is a point of knowing the business side of acting, when that becomes the primary focus, you are fucked. You may get cast once but never again. And as big as NY seems, it’s a small world after all.