Thursday, December 31, 2015

Confessions of a G-List Actress: LIFE ISN'T FAIR

So this is happening to me a little more often than I would like, and with professionals:

I look online and find an audition.  Play or Film it doesn't matter, but let us say I find an audition for a show I have always loved and wanted to be a part of.  Oooh, for example; they are doing Proof at a small professional theater in GA.  Their page says they are doing season auditions and in order to be considered for Proof, I need to come to these season auditions.  The rest of their mainstage professional season either has been cast or only consists of parts I would never be good for in a million years. Their second stage season (which by the way only pays $100 for the entire run of a show and is littered with shows I would never do) is wide open.

So out goes my headshot and resume along with a letter stating that I have looked at the season and am especially interested in the part of Catherine, but would accept the part of Claire, but I am only interested in auditioning for Proof or the Mainstage Season.

Shortly after I receive an email saying how glad they are to have me coming.  Here is my audition time and date.  Please fill out this sheet.  Bring...yada...yada...

Sometimes I have even been known to submit an email a week beforehand stating something along the lines of, "Hey, I am really looking forward to auditioning for Proof at such and such time.  Are there specific sides you want me to prepare or just to come in?"  

To which I will get the standard, "oh you will just be reading from the sides they give you when you get here."

I book the hotel, take off the allotted time, look to see if there are auditions for other things in the area, usually there aren't, and make sure the dog is safe. I am good to go.  I drive the five to eight hours and check into a hotel that is likely costing me $130 a night.  I, hopefully, am only staying one night, but let's be honest, I will be staying two.  At some point, I drive by the theater to check on the location, check the traffic, and see how long it will take to get there in decent traffic.  I make adjustments to my schedule based on how traffic is and when my audition is.  If it is between three and seven I know I need to add at least an hour to my travel time.  I check online, as I have for weeks, to make sure the parts are still listed online.  They are.  

I sleep, get dressed, eat well, and continue to prepare for the madness.  And this is just the preparation to get to the audition.

I am very excited.  I love the show proof.  I read it and re-read it.  I studied films and movies and plays that have been performed of Proof.  I read up on math and work on how I walk, talk, think and act.  Everything about me says, Catherine.  I show up, early, to my audition with my glasses in hand and an outfit that says nerd with a purpose.

I walk with confidence to the table and hand them the headshots and resumes and state with a smile, my name.  

"Ok thanks, and what were you auditioning for today?"

"Well I saw online you were auditioning for Proof so I drove here and am ready to go. Claire is fine but I really want to play Catherine."

At this point the poor girl running the audition looks at me in horror.

"OH!  Those parts were cast months ago.  We were just auditioning for the second stage."  I smile trying not to punch the poor girl in the face.  In know it's not her fault, but, I have emailed and emailed and reiterated many times in those emails, that this is my reason for showing up.

"Your website had those parts listed.  I even checked the website this morning and according to your website, those parts are up for grabs."

"Yeah, our web host hasn't updated yet."  Or, "They had auditions five months ago."  Or, "Sorry the show was precast, hope you didn't drive very far."

At this point, my heart is no longer in it but I do go through the trouble of auditioning.  Why not? Maybe the equity actress playing Catherine will come down with a terrible case of pregnancy and get so fat she can't play the part and they will need the understudy to step in and I will just happen to be that person.

This has happened a lot to me in my life.  I drive hours in one direction to arrive, ready to audition for the great role I was destined for.  Louise in Gypsy, Hedda in Hedda Gabler, Ulla in The Producers.  I hint and inkle and, on occasions, ask flat out well advance of driving ten hours.  I am told over and over again, the part is up for grabs.  I get there, sign in, and at that point am told, "Oh the part was never available.  Some friend of the director is playing the lead.  We just need Chorus."

I find a film script online with a part in my age range that I know I can play better than anyone.  I am told, "Oh yeah come to the audition.  We really want to see you audition for this part.  You'd be great!"  

I arrive to looks of horror, "Oh my gosh.  I am so sorry.  The Director slash writer wrote the part for an actress he saw in an indie at a festival.  Sorry.  Yikes!"

Now, quite often in these situations, I get offers for smaller parts.  Sometimes co-starring roles.  No big.  I may or may not accept them.  However, it bugs me to no end when a "professional company" is the one who does this.

In fact, I think, when it comes to shows, you either need to pre-cast every role or none at all.  The few times I have helped put on a show, or put on one of my own, I have pre-cast the entire thing.  Now once or twice when I did this with something I wrote, the studio said, "we can keep you but we are recasting everyone else the way we want."  But this is their money.  I can't say anything.

I also admit one time to having asked for video submissions for a part I already had.  This was to see how people read the character and to see if I saw another character in them.  I never called these people to audition for my role face to face.

When you pre-cast one role, you are now forced to cast that show around one actor, maybe two.  Really, this is a detriment to your production.  Now the show revolves around an actor, and not the story.  

Well, this actress was brilliant, but he is a red head and we can't have two red-heads on stage because it would look weird in the light.

We loved his performance but we can't have Laertes be taller than Hamlet.

Sorry.  We thought you might be good for the role of trailer trash wife, but now that we see you in person the only real part you fit is the lead and we already have her.  (Sadly this was an actual statement from someone.)

I find when shows are precast, there is always a problem somewhere.  There was a film I shot forever ago.  I was playing the ugly nerd girl and they had already hired their girl next door cheerleader type.  The entire time the AD and DP were trying to get the director to give me the larger role because I was "better looking than the supposed 'hot chick'"  Needless to say the fights in that movie just kept on giving and the project imploded.

Really, in the end, what I am asking for is not difficult.  If you pre-cast one role, pre-cast every role.  If you can only pre-cast one or two roles, don't precast at all.  Seems so simple, and actually saves headaches, and angry actors.

Oh...and never call in an actor for any part they can't audition for.  That is mean.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Bitter Bloggings from an Optimistic Actress:Plan B

I remember being told once, if you do what you love you will never work a day in your life.  Well that is true on the days when I am doing what I love, but not this day.

This day I am hoping that I can keep myself from leaving a job I tolerate for the money.  Most of my co-workers are nice enough and work REALLY HARD so I can't really want to leave because of them.  No, I want to leave due to the bile of failure creeping its way through my pores.  9 months of this year I made a living acting and now I have to suffer through the doldrums once again and get a *gulp* real job.  So there I am, bartending my way through the survival job and hoping I get through the day without a total meltdown.

A man comes and we get to talking.  He's nice.  He wants to eat and have a drink and maybe get a pretty face to talk to him.  I oblige.  My acting comes up, I admit I lead the conversation a bit, and he asks the standard, "What have you been in that I would have seen you in?"  Because the only way to know if I am a valid actor is to have been in something you may have seen.  I know he doesn't know but why is that always the big question?  I let it go. 

"Lotta Theater,"  I smile.
"Oh really?  You work at *insert theater*"
"No that's a community theater and I only do theater and film that pays."
"Then why are you here bartending?"
"I gotta eat too.  I still haven't cracked the code to living on love, art, or the universe, but if I find out I will let you know,"
"Yeah my daughter wants to be an actress."

To pause, and kinda go off on a tangent, every single time someone tells me that I want to tell them the same thing.  NO!  STOP THEM!  TELL THEM NOT TO WASTE THEIR LIFE!  Unless you have billions, then she might actually make it.  And if you have billions are you single?  But I don't.

"Really?  That's nice."
"Yeah, that or a lawyer."  We laugh and then he drops the question of all questions.
"So what's your plan B?"

Before we get to my response I always wanted to be an actor.  I had moments where I thought dentist or law might be nice, but then I realized I just don't like people that much.  They kinda suck actually.  Seriously, Lawyers and the people who drill on your teeth love you.  Police, love people.  Doctors, they think people are great.  Actors, musicians, and artists...not so much.  Don't get me wrong, 90% of the actors I know put on a great front but they only really care about you if you are trying to get them where they want to everyone else in the world.  The other 10% are the best actors ever, like Daniel Craig, Streep, and De Niro.  I do find it funny the best actors are the most honest, or maybe it is an act.

We spend every hour of our life trying to avoid people.  The reason I tend bar is I hate serving,  I hate having to deal with the rudeness in people, and people come in with sour expressions as battle armor in a restaurant, I seriously think they come in expecting things to go badly sometimes.  There is an invisible wall with the bartender, they are revered and feared for their knowledge of beers and wines (which is made up basically 99 % of the time) and their ability to harness the powers of vodka and tonic.  The bar itself provides a buffer between me and people.  And they really don't bother me.

Not saying I 'hate' all people mind you.  Hate is a very strong word.  What it comes down to is I am actually quite introverted and tolerate people to a degree and my BS meter fills really quickly.  I tend to find a few people I can stand to be around and hold tightly to them; I believe these people are known as friends.

Now, when I refer to actors, musicians, and artists I tend to refer to purists.  People who believe it is all about the work.  Miles Teller is a purist.  Daniel Day-Lewis, purist.    I suffer from being a purist in a world of superficial ideals.I mean honestly, who cares if you are looking for a brunette and get a red head who can do a better job, dye her hair.  Blue eyes preferred but get a great guy with green, hello colored contacts.  The only time that things shouldn't change is if you are trying to cast anyone but a black individual as Othello or cast an all-white version of The Wiz that doesn't begin with Somewhere Over the Rainbow.  If you are determined enough to put the work in and can do a great job, I am all for some good acting, who cares if they had to spend a few extra dollars to make your hair longer.

In general, purists want a buffer between themselves and people.  Think about it.  We seal ourselves from human interaction and fix ourselves in a safe environment with an invisible wall.  We want fake relationships with people who are tantamount to strangers.  We want to connect to humanity not by touch or contact or exchanging words, but by baring our emotions.  Acting is basically the world's oldest profession but with emotions.  You just want to make someone feel something for a few minutes, be that sensation good or bad.  We love those weird parts of people on one else looks at.  We thrive on the imperfections, the dirt, the squalor.  We drink in the happiness, triumph, and beauty. we observe people and know them better than they know themselves and yet we don't dare personally connect to people because we don't want to.  Maybe it would just be too hard.  Maybe we'd just dislike them anyways.

Anyways, my Plan B.  How many of you thought, well if this doesn't work out I will go back to school or go work for my dad? What is your plan B?  What are you going to fall back on?  It's important to have right?  A career you can go to when the realities of acting come creeping in that you won't book that majority of auditions you have.  And in the Southeast, if you are booking everything it's because you are the only talent around.  I know a lot of people who have fallen tot he wayside to their Plan B.  Some of them didn't even know about their Plan B.  A good friend of mine became a firefighter.  When I said, "I didn;t even know you wanted to do that," he responded, "Neither did I."  Kids, family, other careers; all of this is Plan B.  When you reach that point the dream is gone, what will you do?  It's really an important thing to think on.

I honestly don't think we think on it enough. We just figure that something will come along.  What if it doesn't? What if you can't eat even with your two serving gigs?  Someday you might think, this just isn't worth it.  I want to be able to travel.  I want to see things.  I want the money to live comfortably.  What is your Plan B?

You ready for my answer?

"There is no Plan B.  I become the actor with the career I want, or I die trying."  Trust me, in 32 years I have had the time to think long and hard on this.  There never really was a Plan B.  Acting is like breathing.  And when it comes time to quit this crazy bar job and go act, I will likely skip from behind the bar and run into the loving arms of making only $50 a week.

"But you can't go back to that job," you say.

I don't ever want to.  Bartending isn't plan B. It's food on the table.

"But you can dialect coach and teach CPR."

Yes I can, and it will keep me fed for my one true career and goal in life.

"You can always teach acting."

At this point teaching acting as a career is failure, and failure is not optional.

There is no PLAN B.  This is happening or it's not, but I am not putting something in my way to stop it.