Goings-On of the Theatrical Sort!

These past few days have been chock-full of performing and theatre, mostly good things.

First was my audition for Christmas songs at work. Though, don’t worry, Mom, we don’t start singing them until after Thanksgiving, that date will be here before we know it, and there was also a new dance to learn (I did not learn it. I had to go to my other work.) A week ago, we were sent a list of acceptable songs and their lyrics, and once we picked from that list, we could request a minus track. I chose Merry Christmas, Darling and What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve. Even though I practiced them a lot, I didn’t know how the actual audition would go. But it all went very well; I’ve been given both of those songs for the Christmas season, and I’m super excited because they’re ballads, which means I can, for the most part, stand in one spot instead of running all around and up and down stairs, whacking myself in the mouth with a mic.

After leading a tour, I headed to a rehearsal for that night’s staged reading performance. I was asked to come at 5:30 to work with my fellow lead. 5:30 came and went and the only person at the church (where the theatre is located, in the basement) was another actress from the show whom, even though I’d only met her once by that point, I couldn’t stand. She’s one of those actors who spends her time talking to other actors pretending to have a conversation while actually making sure she tops them. I can’t stand people like that, and I was very glad when the awkward director and a few more cast members showed up. Still, though, no sign of the actor with whom I was supposed to work. Slowly, the rest of the cast drifted in. By 6:30, everyone was there… except that actor and the other member of the cast he was driving.

We started running through the show without him, despite the fact that he was the lead, because we’d never run through the show with the whole cast before (sounds crazy, but most staged readings are very fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants, or at least under-rehearsed.) Halfway through, the two other actors showed up and I finally got to meet my leading man. He was very nice and good to work with, which is good since we had about twenty minutes to look natural as best friends. As soon as we were done running through the show, it was time for the festival to start. We were first up, but even so, we had some down time. Our cast was pretty big, and we took up the big room that we used as a dressing room during the other show I did there. Everyone was chatting… except for me. I may be an introvert, but with casts, it’s usually different. Putting on a show, even a short-lived one like this one, is like an instant bonding charm. But not this time; I hung around the sides of the room, not contributing to the conversation. Why? Because they were all like that girl I didn’t like. Everything out of their mouths was “When I played the lead in…” and “You get an agent by…” and “My dance teacher says I’m the best at…” and I just couldn’t stand it, especially when they started going through the city-wide casting notices and the annoying girl started reciting them because “I’ve already read every single one.” KILL ME. Suddenly, I remembered why I’d vowed never to work at that theatre again: the people.

The show itself was as good as the script would allow. The audience was pretty impressive for a staged reading, so that was good, and someone was recording, so if I ever become famous, you can be sure they’ll be showing a clip from this when I’m interviewed on a talk show. After we performed, I kind of just wanted to go home and work on my lines for today, but I didn’t move fast enough to get out before the next play started. It was overlong and only sort of watchable, so I escaped as soon as it was over. I will be keeping my promise from now on to not return to that theatre.

Today, I had my first day of filming for the movie. We were on location for the first half of the five-hour shoot, at a vet’s office, where my character’s best friend works. I love working with people from this university- I’ve done it once before, and they were super professional and I just had a great time. Today was no different. Somehow the funniest people in the world seem to major in film at this college and all of them happen to work on the same films I do. The sound guy, especially, was hilarious, and at once point we were recording my voice-over part that opens the film and I couldn’t stop laughing long enough to do that take. The person of whom I was not a huge fan was the actress who played my best friend. She kept giving me direction on how to say my lines (“I just don’t feel like it’s natural enough yet. Just talk to me like you’re having a conversation.” Oh really? Is that what acting is all about?) To me, actors giving fellow actors direction is a mortal sin. But she didn’t stop there- she also directed the entire crew. Now, there are times, especially on film, when speaking up is a good thing; one thing goes wrong continuity-wise (e.g. Actor A has her hair in a ponytail on day one of filming scene one and wears it down on day two of the same scene) and it could require hours or days of reshooting. But the things she pointed out were unnecessary and none of her business. But after we shot our scenes at that location, she was wrapped, thankfully.

We headed back to the university campus to shoot the bathroom scenes and my voiceover stuff and got lunch/dinner in between (Chik-fil-A, you are a bunch of jerks for hating on gay people, but you do make a good sandwich…) Setting up the shot involved unscrewing lights and poking them with boom mics, all of which was very amusing. Finally, it was time to shoot. The first shot was just of my feet tapping nervously, which, believe it or not, took a long time. Then we shot my side of the phone call (which we had shot the other side of at the vet’s office.) Shooting a phone call, or acting one out onstage, is much harder than you would think. Suddenly, I can’t remember where I look when I’m on the phone. At least in this circumstance, there was someone saying the other person’s lines on the other end. We did a ton of takes on that, and it was then that I figured out why I don’t like film acting.

First of all, don’t get me wrong- I have had a great time on all the films I’ve worked on. I had a good time today, and I’m sure tomorrow will be great. But it’s the camera that freaks me out. While theatre rehearsal involves just as much repetition as a film shoot, in theatre, if something doesn’t work, you just throw it away and no one is any the wiser. But film… your every move is not only being watched, but recorded. I also hate the sound of my voice, and I become irritatingly aware of it when I’m doing film in a way I never have in theatre, maybe because I use it differently. I am just so self-conscious in front of a camera, and it’s not even wondering if I look good or whatever, it’s just that it doesn’t come as naturally to me. I’ve been doing theatre for so long that the basics are pretty much ingrained, but during today’s shoot, my first since taking a serious on-camera class, all I could think was ‘Think toward the camera,” “Don’t move your eyes too much; people will wonder what you’re looking at,” blah blah blah. I’m just too distracted. So while I’d never turn down a film role… theatre is it for me. I’m so much more comfortable.

We wrapped today shoot around six, and when I got home, I checked my e-mail to find the messaged I’ve been waiting and hoping for for a few weeks: a short play I wrote, and of which I am very proud, is going to be produced by a new theatre company here in Philadelphia at the end of the month. I actually sent two scripts in, but this is the one I really wanted to be chosen, and I couldn’t be more pleased that it will be in the festival. It’s also a great opportunity to network with my fellow young Philadelphia playwrights and actors, and I’ll get my own dramaturg and director as well as my cast. I’m excited and nervous to see and hear this script for the first time ever; it’s something I wrote this summer as I was angsting away, and it’s such a delicate topic that I thought at first that I’d never show it to anyone. Four or so months later, it’s been edited by two people, submitted to innumerable festivals, and, finally, will make its debut as my third ever produced piece. Two days ago, I was offered a chorus role in Showboat at a good theatre, and I couldn’t decide whether to say yes or not. I ended up saying no, partly because if I did get into this festival, I’d need time to attend rehearsals and work with my dramaturg… and then I got accepted. I can’t wait to get started!

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