the journey to paid professional performing artist

Archive for the ‘rehearsing and performing’ Category

fun show

Never discount how great a fun show can make you feel.

I recently performed in the Tap Pups “Encore Performance: The Show.”  It was so fun, I wish I had joined the group earlier!  It is a very special group.

Vicki’s Tap Pups is a group of adults who tap dance.  Some danced when they were younger, some took it up as adults.  But the thing they have in common is their energy.  Everyone is so welcoming, supportive and positive.  Even the instructor makes you feel like a million bucks.  She has the talent of pushing her students to their personal potential.  If you have an injury or condition that prohibits movement, she understands.  But if you don’t, you’d better be full out!  It’s wonderful!

And the production was more elaborate than I thought it would be.  A professional production crew mixing music, video, lights and stage dressing.  It was really quite a spectacle.

This show is the first time I’ve danced on stage for more than a year, and the first time doing a dance-only show in almost three years.  It was great to be on stage, surrounded by people as joyful in dance as I am!


maybe i can do anything

"insane" Anna

So, in the last post I wrote that I wasn’t comfortable with interactive theater yet.  At the time I wrote it I had had one really good show, and wasn’t sure if it was just a fluke or not.  Well, since then I have had two more dinner theaters, and they have both been loads of fun!  I don’t know what happened, but I’m glad it did.  I was getting worried that this was something I’d never enjoy, that it would be the first performing experience that I wouldn’t master.  I guess I was wrong!

I have been trying to learn from the more experienced actors around me, like I did when I performing in Sylvia

1)  I have been taking more time to figure out things about my character.  Since the actual script doesn’t encompass all, or really even half, of what you will say all night, you’re free to make up a back story for your character.  Taking cues from the script, and then running with it.  And if for some reason another actor discounts what you said about yourself, so much the better.  It will make one of you look guilty.

2) Pay attention to the guest characters and how they can help you.  We, the actors, are given the situation of the characters given to some of the guests.  The guests don’t know however.  I’ve been working out how they relate to my character, so when I come into a room I have at least something to say to that person.  If a room is quiet, it’s a good way to get people going.

3) Figure out random things to say.  This is good for me, since improvising right in the moment is difficult for me.  Having not taken classes, I’m not sure if this is how other actors do it as well.  This really worked with the last show I did, since my character was insane.  If a guest was pestering too much on a subject and I wanted distract, I would just say one of the random phrases I had come up with.  For example “my cat likes to chase butterflies under the water.”  The guest of course asked “where is your cat?”  And I respond “yes,” as in my cat’s name was Where.  Would have worked with “What’s your cat’s name?” as well.  And then that “who’s on first” sequence went round and round for a while.  It was perfect!

With a few strategies to get going, I now am having a much better time.  Hopefully I can get into the dinner theater in my new town once I move.  I’ve been told I’m funny, which is easy when you’re playing a crazy person.  But still, I never thought of myself as funny.  I wonder what more there is out there that I can do…


So, the past few months have not been stellar for me.

I have been dogged by a couple of not-so-fun productions and a series of unsuccessful auditions.  This would get any performer a little down.  There is also now the probability that I will be moving, which means learning a new area and building my theater self again.

But thanks to one Ballet Hispanico master class that I (thankfully!!!) decided to go to at the last minute, I think I’m back!

To be a performer, you have to be stubborn.

You have to go to every class, every audition, practice every day, even if you don’t want to.

The past few months have been a total failure.  And I have learned some things from the stress of the not-so-good times.

I am getting paid to act in a murder mystery dinner theater now.  I guess that means I’ve reached my goal of being a paid performing artist.  Though I’d like to be paid to dance, but this is a start.  It’s very interesting and very different, and I can’t say I’m used to it yet.  Interacting with an audience can be nerve-wracking, and acting improvisation is something I’ve never done.  Dance improvising I could do all day, but make me open my mouth and it’s not so good.  But I think I’m learning.  It’s just not consistent performances so it’s difficult to get into a rhythm like I do with stage shows.

I have learned that I like a more hands-on director.  After experiencing both, I definitely like one that has a clear picture of what they want and doesn’t compromise.  Now I have to learn how to work with the other kind and not be miserable.

Most importantly, I have learned in the past few years what I have to do to get established in an arts community.

1)  Audition for community and professional theaters.

2) Keep taking classes wherever and at as many places as I need to get what I need.

3) Send my materials to all the production companies in the area.  (I know I haven’t done this so far, but I’ve been thinking about it for a while and I think it would be helpful.  They are always looking for new faces.)

I think it’s imperative to do this as quickly as possible.  The more you get out there, the more you’ll be informed about what’s going on in your new arts world and be able to take advantage of it.

The other thing I’m going to do is find a voice teacher ASAP.  I have a new place full of people who don’t know I’m not a confident singer, so if I can brush up on that aspect of my performance, I should be golden.

the next new thing-a british accent

For my next foray onto the stage, I will be performing the role of Wendy Carey in Little Theatre of Mechanicsburg’s The Uninvited.  This is not the Uninvited of the recent movie, but of the 1940s movie.

The challenge here, you know I always need a challenge, is that I have to speak with a British accent.  I thought I could do this, living in Canada when I was young, but it’s not an easy thing to do. 

In my nervousness or something, my first rehearsal I enunciated too much.  Without that I found myself slipping in and out of the accent.  Then, there were words that I didn’t know how to say or didn’t say correctly.  I’m wondering if growing up in Canada helped or hurt me for this accent.

It’s also been a long time since I lived there, and accents fade.  When I first moved here I remember people thinking I was from England, and that is no more.

I’m very grateful to my director for taking the time I go over things with me.  Hopefully I will give a convincing performance.

This experience has made me want to learn more accents.  I think they are valuable to an actress.  I tried out earlier this year for a role that needed a Cockney accent; my little British accent wouldn’t do, and I couldn’t learn Cockney in time for the audition.  I admire people who can imitate really well.  Perhaps if I had started doing this sort of thing earlier in life, it would have helped.  Though I am not one to let that stop me!  I wonder if those mp3 classes you can buy are any help…

hands off directorial approach

Every director has their own style.  and you have to adapt to each one.  I have now run into one that took me a while to adapt to.

This director had a very laissez-faire style.  In my acting so far (that’s only three shows before this one I’m talking about) the directors have been very specific on what they want you to do.  If it is ad-lib, they narrow what you’re supposed to be doing, and let you know right away if it’s not what they want.

From this one, I have been given zero direction on how I’m to deliver my lines.  She has corrected a couple of people on their delivery, so I must be passable if she hasn’t said anything to me.  It just makes me nervous because I’m not that experienced and actor and would appreciate some feedback, even if it is just that I’m doing well or on the right track.  It also makes me feel like she doesn’t really know what she wants maybe, and just letting us di whatever we want.  I know it’s community theater, but we still want it to be the best!

role repeaters

Cathy Rigby is still Peter Pan!

Let me preface this by saying that I am not whining.  I’m just making an observation.

This is something that I want to make performers aware of.  Especially if you are just starting out in the performing artist world and are out of high school.

In almost every show I have been in, at least one of the leads has done the role before.

From a performers perspective, this is unfair.  Especially in the world of community theater, one might think that opportunities would be given to those who haven’t had the chance to perform a certain role.  But this is a one-sided view (you know how I love my community theaters and all the opportunities they have given me!!!).

I think if I were a director, I might cast at least one veteran as well.  That is one person that you really don’t have to worry about.  And in community theater where you may have a number of novices, that would be one less thing to worry about.  Community theaters need to sell tickets too to keep afloat, so they need to put on good shows.

As a performer, I don’t know if I would ever want to repeat a role.  There are pros and cons.  If it’s a role you really loved, I can see wanting to do it again.  It gives you the chance to be the star again.  But it’s a different cast and director, and may not be the way you remembered it or you may not like the interpretation.  I guess if nothing else, it would be an interesting experience.

can’t do everything

Me as Sylvia in "Sylvia"

When you live in a place that offers you many opportunities, how do you pick?

My strategy so far is to audition for all the shows I’m interested in when I’m free.  I do the shows I’m cast in, while not worrying about what’s next until that show is over.  So far this has worked.  Even when I audition for more than one thing in a short period of time, I’ve only been cast in one thing at a time.

This is changing for me.  Community theater is still my life, as the professional work isn’t auditioning their seasons until the new year.  And since community theater is constantly auditioning, there is always something to look forward to.

I am currently rehearsing for Zombie Prom at Little Theater of Mechanicsburg, which will be performing the first three weekends in September.  LTM happens to be presenting a play, The Uninvited, in October.  It sounds fun, the director is a friend of mine, and it is a drama.  Up until now all I’ve done are comedies, so this will look really good on my resume.  So I auditioned and got in, and the part I wanted that will let me grow as an actress to boot!

I don’t know if I’ve even done two different shows in subsequent months.  And I will be rehearsing one show while performing in another.  This will be very interesting…

It has also forced me to look at my strategy.  Since these shows were at the same theater, it was very easy for me to know about it and audition for it.  I’m going to have to see how this overlap works, to see if it will work in the future. 

The only other time I auditioned while rehearsing was early this year when the professional companies were auditioning.  I had been keeping an eye on those opportunities for a long time and didn’t want to give them up.  Usually I’m a supporter of doing every audition you can, but I think I’m going to miss the Cats audition.  It makes me sad because I love that show.  But I’ve found out it’s not paying, and it runs until December 23.  With shows in September and October, and then the run cutting into possible holiday time, without it being paid I don’t think it’s worth it to even try.  It’s also an hour away from me, so it just doesn’t make sense.  I don’t think I’ve ever had to think so much about whether to do an audition or not.  This is a good thing?!?

However, I think after The Uninvited I will take a break.  Early new year is when the professional groups audition, so it will be nice to have time open for that.  Last year I was rehearsing a show over Christmas and that new year time, so it was hard to juggle.  Then there is a Theatre Harrisburg show I will audition for in February I think.  It’s again not a comedy, and I worked with the choreographer in Crazy for You.  That will keep me working through June.

Wow, that’s planning ahead.  But it feels nice to have a plan and know what I’m doing in the future.  Of course, you never know when new auditions will be called, so I still have to keep my ear to the ground!