the journey to paid professional performing artist

Posts tagged ‘actress’

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.

trusting the casting team

You’d think that after a while there would be nothing new to discover.  But even as I keep auditioning, each experience is new.

I just auditioned for Zombie Prom at the Little Theatre of Mechanicsburg.  If you’ve ever heard of this show, you will know that it’s like Grease: basically teenage roles and late-thirties and above roles.  This director has listed as specially wanting the teenagers to play as 18, and the two adults to play as 36.  I look young for my age, but I don’t know if I can play that young.  And I’m not even 36 in reality yet.  Being that I look younger than I am anyway, I don’t know how well getting an adult part would work.

But it all depends on who else shows up at the audition as well.

There were two nights of auditions.  The night I went there were only three other people there.  And they were all under 18.  So from that group I would guess I’d be pegged for the adult role.  However, I went there to get the romantic lead.  (My resume is getting too many character roles on it, like Gloria in Bye Bye Birdie and Sylvia in Sylvia, so I want to get it more rounded out.)  I put on a 1950s-esque skirt and blouse and put my hair up in a bouncy, curly pony tail with a big ribbon in it.  I was the only one who tried to look the part.  I put in the audition form that Toffee was the part I wanted, but that I would take anything.

Hopefully my effort will work out for me.  Though, I also realize that an appropriate boy would have to audition.  This is where my anxiety really comes from.

I’m getting better at my nerves for auditioning.  Reading isn’t so bad anymore.  I think the singing is still the worst.  Though it’s better after having had to sing for Sylvia.  I’m hoping if I get a role it will make me even more confident singing.

What I’m really nervous for now is being put with someone who is way too young for me.  The one boy that was there the night I auditioned was very outgoing, but almost half my age.  I think that would be way too weird.  It’s going to be bad enough doing a romantic lead for the first time, but if they paired me with someone like that, it would really be an experience.

But that is what I’m in it for!!!  I auditioned because I like the accomplishment of something new, even if it preceded by fear of the unknown.

And if I get the adult role, it’s not the end of the world.  It may not diversify my resume, but it’s probably a more fun role.  And it’s a good role.  I would have to sing by myself, which hopefully would up my confidence in singing like I said before.

I have to trust that the directors would not cast me at all over casting me in a role that wouldn’t fit.  If I’m too old for a teenager and too young for an adult, I’m fine with that.  It’s their name on the show, and I wouldn’t think that would look good, so I have to trust.

always learning

I’ve been thinking about the many auditions I’ve done now, and I think I’m finally learning something that I never thought of before. 

When you are taught about interviewing for a job, they tell you that the interview is about you finding out  if the company is right for you, as well as the company finding out if you are right for them.  It’s the same as auditions!

An audition is the interview of the performing artist.  The casting director is looking to see if you are a fit for their show.  And if they’re good they are looking to see if you’d fit with their organization as well.  But you can tell if you would like to be part of the show as well.

With a dance audition, you can feel if the movement being given feel right in your body.  You might look good and get through the audition, but if it feels like it will ruin your body you can turn down the job anyway.

With theater you can see if you like the show or not.  If you are unfamiliar with a show, Wikipedia and previous reviews only go so far.  Once you get to the audition and start reading or singing from the show, that when you’ll get the best idea of if you like the show or not.  If it ends up you find the writing or style annoying, it might not be the show for you.  Also, you might be able to tell where the director is going with how the characters are going to be portrayed, and if his ideas really bother you, this might not be the production for you.  (However, it this regard remember, he is seeing the whole where as you might be looking at a narrower vision.  The whole might end up fabulous, see this post.)

You can also test out the other people who are auditioning.  If you are in a room where you do not appreciate many of the other people’s talents, then you might not want to be part of the show.

So don’t be in a bubble.  Learn everything you can from the audition.  And you just might be able to make a few friends along the way as well!