Tuesday, January 27, 2009


It's 12:30 pm and I just registered at the Four Points Sheraton Hotel in Fitchburg/Leominster, MA for the American College Theatre Festival!

I was nominated for the Irene Ryan Award Scholarship for my performance in the one act I was in back in December, Home Free, so now I'm here at ACTF prepping to compete at 4pm against everybody else who was nominated in Region 1.

I'm just chilling in my hotel room now, a little overwhelmed that this is actually happening. Actually, more than a little overwhelmed. More like crazy overwhelmed. I'm so excited to be here because for five days I will be going to workshops and performances and all sorts of incredible theatrical things and learning so much. There's wireless in the building (as you can see) so I'll update fairly often, hopefully. I'll be taking pictures and doing my best to relay all this crazy info to this page.

Orientation at 2:30 and competition at 4 - I'm about to be totally immersed in theatrical insanity for a week. :)

Saturday, January 24, 2009


I'm currently packing up all my doodads and clothes and scarves and socks to head back to college tomorrow morning. I'm such a disorganized bum - all I really know right now is my audition script is on the bed next to my Netflix, a notebook and T.S. Eliot's Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats. Cold reading audition for school tomorrow at 3 or 6, depending on how much I get unpacked and whether or not my drunk roomie is a pain in my ass.

My theatre lesson for today involves one of my favourite pasttimes and an essential part of everything I've learned about acting. OBSERVATION. (The O of ROCTT - I'll fill out the rest of the word and explain it's meaning later on)

Characters are people. To convincingly act like a believable character, you have to act like a believable person. Therefore, you have to act like a person to be a character. (Insert major DUH) The key to being another person besides yourself is details. I was taught to begin shaping new characters by experimenting with different walks and voices. The character you play won't walk like you or talk like you, so don't let them. That character isn't you (unless, by some twist of fate you are Chita Rivera in her self-titled show... but I digress), so don't let them even remotely appear to be you. You don't to be seen as playing a character, you want to be that character.

Nothing is more enjoyable to me than sitting in a public place, humming to my iPod, sipping some sort of delightful beverage and watching people stroll by. Casinos are a wonderful place to people-watch, as are airports and big cities. If you don't have any of those handy, then just people-watch wherever there are people. Notice the little things - do they swing their arms funny? Do they carry themselves differently than the person next to them? Is their walk because of their attitude or their shape? Find something unique about every person that you see, even if you see them every day of your life. Take note of something you never noticed about them before.

On campus, I find ways to amuse myself in the morning on my way to class while people watching. I pick a helpless victim in front of me and try to become them simply by imitating their walk. What does it take for me to manipulate my frame to walk like a 6'6" jock, or that professor dragging their rolling briefcase across the bridge? For my last show, I found myself secretly seeking out the pregnant girls on campus (I'm going to hell, I know it) to learn how they walked, since I played a pregnant woman.

Besides walks, voices are the next big thing. Young actors tend to either ignore this one entirely, simply not know how to do it, or overdo it to a point where the audience would like to remove their larynx and not give it back. Picking a voice doesn't mean you have to shoot up five octaves, drop three, or lay on an accent. Picking a voice is simply making it not your own. Does the character pronounce a few words slightly differently than you? Do they have a different way of emphasizing questions than you would? The dialogue given can be a big indicator of the type of voice a character would use as well. The language can often times dictate speech patterns and help an actor discover the voice of their character. You're onstage, not voicing a cartoon, so don't sound like one. Sound like a person. A person who isn't you.

Always be watching the people around you - the most mundane idiosyncracy could become a characters more subtle tic and make your performance that much more believable. Comment below or email me!
NOTE: Paul Cuneo, the wonderful writer of the Back Stage article, has his own online blog and has offered to do a Q&A session with my readers, if any of you are ever interested. (He commented my last entry about it) Go check out his blog and show some love- he has incredible articles that are much more helpful than my petty attempts! :)

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Proper Connections

From the January 15 - 21 edition of BACK STAGE magazine (or newspaper), a lesson in Proper Connections, written by one Paul Cuneo (editorial@backstage.com). He's the guy in the pink over there. He's an actor an the creator of the Movemental Technique for performers, and a teacher at Stella Adler Studios, LA. This is a condensed version of his article from his column in BACK STAGE, The Craft.

(If you're ever in New York City, do me and yourself a favor and grab a copy of it. Grand Central station, little shop where they sell candy and magazines and newspapers, little cubby hole by the floor. BACK STAGE. If you find anything good, comment it on the blog somewhere and let me know.)

Emotional links to props can reveal compelling character behavior.

"Props can seem like little more than physical objects needed to create a sense of realism of fulfill an external action (drink, carry laundry, shoot). The deceptive simplicity of an author's stage directions, such as Pinter's "She goes to the mirror, combs her hair" in the final scene of Betrayal, can lead one to believe that a prop, such as a comb, is almost incidental. But by consciously developing the same powreful emotional connection to a prop that you subconsciously develop to your personal nostalgic treasures, you can increase your emotional availability; have a deeper, richer, more truthful stage experience; and discover the most compelling physical behavior for a scene."

... "In order for that [prop] to evoke something in you emotionally, you must invest yourself in the prop to such a degree that losing it would feel like losing a part of yourself, the way it would if you threw out [an] old sweater [grandpa had given you before he died]. The actor in you will know this is all imagined, but you will, as Mamet would say, accept this new reality and allow it to govern your physical behavior."

Cuneo's abbreviated list of connecting with a prop:

"Hold the prop and notice what you naturally like or dislike about it, without worrying about attaching any memories yet. Note all the details of the prop, how you hold it, what it looks like, what it feels like, any flaws in it, anything worth noticing and anything not worth noticing.

Now imagine how you, as your character, came to have this prop. Imagine specific memories - for example, the circumstances under which you came to recieve the prop. Why is the prop even remotely important to the character, what memories does looking at it and holding it evoke, no matter how mundane? When, where, why, how did this prop originally arrive to them? It must move you somehow, internally, externally, big change, little change, something must change.

Physically act out the events of your imagination in your space - you'll remember everything more vividly. Use the prop when you do this. You are building your connection to the prop, and when there is a connection, the actions are convincing."

There is more about bringing it into a scene, but I haven't had time to try it out for myself yet and I'm not sure how to word it. Cuneo used the comb in a scene of Betrayal as his example, but since I've never read Betrayal and you might not have either, I decided not to bother. Let me know what you think!


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Ever felt the world stop and smile?

Les Mis. Last track of the show. Take out all the French stuff and character lines and that is the anthem of the future. Here's to our new world beyond the barricade.

My BACKSTAGE is out of reach right now, so the lessons on props and casting directors will have to wait. But as I learn, so shall you. That's the idea, anyhow. :P

Watched Waiting For Guffman and actually saw it this time (plenty of "holy shit, I don't remember any of this!" during the second viewing, though. Thank you to the Red-headed Slut, 2 glasses of champagne and 4 glasses of wine for that...). Brought to you by the creators of This Is Spinal Tap and absolutely hilarious. Community theatre is painfully awful (ask me about Kiss Me Kate sometime) - this movie makes it all worth the agony.

I could be developing a problem. I'm not sure yet, though it's been on my mind, but we'll wait and see.

My theatre lesson for the night, or, What I Learned About The Art Of Theatre 1/20 comes from rehearsing with my ACTF coach and scene partner this weekend. The ability to be real onstage involves focus. I'm a little rusty it would seem, either rusty or just not used to that level of focus.

For my Agnes of God scene for the Irene Ryans, my character is questioning Agnes about her mother, and as I ask questions about the abuse, my scene coach kept telling me to consciously think and analyze the responses, because any reaction, no matter how internal, is visible. If I am thinking, they can see it. If I am not thinking, they can see it. If I am not analyzing her answer and weighing the information against my knowledge as a psychiatrist, if that thought process does not occur, then the action that is seen is flat and uninteresting. At every single moment there has to be an acute awareness of every molecule of your being, and the intensity must never falter. Focus with all your might on reading these words, like as your read them you can burn them off the screen. Feel it like your whole body is blazing out your eyes. Do you feel the acuteness, that tension? That's what it should be like all the time. Every fiber of yourself intense and on point, not necessarily visibly, but your energy can be read as easily as your face. That's acting.

I found myself floundering in my lines because I was not entirely able to think those new thoughts and exist in that intense dual state and come up with the line with the right timing. It was like being given an extra set of limbs and not knowing what to do with them, or a filter being placed over my eyes and not having the ability to process what I saw around me. This sort of thing will just take practice. It's a cool feeling.

Waiting for Godot is being revived on Broadway starring Nathan Lane. Who's coming with me? :)

Saturday, January 17, 2009

A Horse And His Boy

[The title of a book by C.S. Lewis. It took me three years to finish it. I just kept putting it down, forgetting it, starting over, getting a little farther, putting it down, forgetting it, starting over.]

I saw Equus on Broadway today. It disappoints me that the first thing that will come to your mind is "Harry Potter naked!" I know it is, though. That's America for you.

Let me start again.

I saw Equus on Broadway today. I was moved by the power of words again today, swept up in the beauty and simplicity of the staging, captivated by the simple dimming of lights. I found myself desperately wanting to know what it was Alan saw in his horse's eyes before he tore them out. I realized that somewhere within me I already knew.

And once again I was reminded of exactly why I want to be onstage for the rest of my life.

Don't let the "Harry Potter naked" gossip keep you from seeing this show, if you can afford it. I have student discount codes available, if you like. This is not one to be missed. The script is simply astounding. Daniel Radcliffe has established himself as a very, very talented young performer.

Now that I'm done wallowing in my theatrical ecstacy and advertising, I read a few very enlightening articles in BACK STAGE on the train. I bought myself I copy before I left the city. I always do. One was about the relationship an actor should have with props, and how they aren't just objects to be moved, or that's what they're going to look like. The other was about whether casting directors would rather an auditonee be utterly devoted to theatre or actually have something else to their life. I'll comment on them later, but for now I need to absorb what I saw today.

Friday, January 16, 2009

A New Name is Inevitable

Last night was the culmination of a few weeks work into putting together a student run (as in written, directed, produced, performed by) staged reading. A group of college students who love theatre and need something to do with their spare time got together, scrounged some short plays and performed them for an audience of the artsiest folks in town, pretty much.

I was in three of the pieces, and I would have preferred an actual staging without the scripts in hand, but this was so informal and small and I have so much else going on that it wasn't feasible. It went off pretty well - the pieces were well recieved (laughter is always a good cue of that) and we actually had more people show up than we had chairs for them. A delightful surprise.

I'll put this on my resume just to fill up space, I suppose - it was small but it was theatre. I still learned something, or several things. Lessons learned through Winter Session Staged Readings:

1. Work on losing feminine traits if I plan on playing a male character.

2. Have a basic idea of what sort of performance we have in mind before planning it.

3. I am personally driven by character. It's how I work.

4. Don't forget black pants at home.

5. Don't take on three out of five mini-shows if I have ACTF work to do.

Out of all of those, I find that 3 is the most relevant to growing as an actor, along with 5 and 1. Five only because I've overloaded myself before (Summer 2006 = Footloose/Kiss Me Kate HELL) and need to learn balance, and 1 because dropping my voice an octave and tying my hair back in a ponytail does not do enough, in my opinion, to denote a masculine character. I wasn't satisfied with my portrayal of Luke/Lucifer (yes, I was the devil and rather amused), but I'm never satisfied with anything I do.

In a little postscript, me and my fellow players were accosted by a random man who began preaching about heaven and life after death to us, and I could only wonder what this man thought of us doing shows about lesbians and the devil with a shitfaced angel friend. I was a lesbian and the devil all in one night - if I'm not sprinting to hell, I don't know who is. :)

aurgasm.us - excellent website.

Monday, January 12, 2009

A Prayer for Us. Amen.

(One entry a day is a bit much for a self-professed blog hater, but a moment like this is why I made one in the first place.)

A he-said she-said that helped me understand what it is I'm doing with my life. I've bolded particularly profound thoughts.

HIM: it's just, and this is corny and i never thought i'd say something like this about a musical theatre song, but like this is exactly the reason i do what i do
HIM: making something out of nothing The need to express- To communicate,To going against the grain, Going insane, going mad

ME: it's not corny to someone who knows exactly what you're feeling, haha
ME: to starving for attention, hating convention, hating pretention
ME: for people like us it's not just a passion, it is part of the fibre of our souls - we couldn't not do it even if we wanted to. We create because if we didn't, we would destroy.

HIM: ya
HIM: and even then
HIM: i want to destroy everything you believe and make you rethink it

ME: destruction is a form of creation - I would destroy myself if I couldn't do what I do. Artists are so fucked up, but man, we are awesome at being fucked up. We have perfected being fucked up. We make it look easy and classy and beautiful.

HIM: haha
HIM: amen

ME: amen

Saturday, January 10, 2009


I have a rehearsal for an amateur staged reading thing today at noon and I have no way of getting there at the moment. And I need to get up if I intend to actually be there on time. Ah.

Going to see the tour of Footloose at the Garde this evening. I love going to see shows, not just because I enjoy them or enjoy the feeling of money burning through my debit card, but because I make it a point to learn from the actors - I watch them and try to absorb some of their technique and understanding. I feel that watching professionals will help make me a professional. That's all I want. To do this professionally. I figure that's the best way to learn - classes are fine, but I'd rather observe and mimic. Observing is the key to everything in the world. You learn to understand so much just by watching and figuring out how it works.

Some quotes on music I found touching.

"After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible, is music"
-Aldous Huxley

"That's what music is: entertainment. The more you put yourself into it, the more of you comes out in it." - Kurt Cobain

Thursday, January 8, 2009


I find something new every day that reminds me of my love for the art of theatre. I love rediscovering that passion - it reminds me why I do what I do, even when I get discouraged by the sheer magnitude of the struggle that awaits me. It lights a fire under my ass and makes me want it more, even when it looks impossible.

Players are “the abstracts and brief chronicles of the time;” the motley representatives of human nature. They are the only honest hypocrites. Their life is a voluntary dream; a studied madness. The height of their ambition is to be beside themselves. Today kings, tomorrow beggars, it is only when they are themselves, that they are nothing. Made up of mimic laughter and tears, passing from the extremes of joy or woe at the prompter’s call, they wear the livery of other men’s fortunes; their very thoughts are not their own. They are, as it were, train-bearers in the pageant of life, and hold a glass up to humanity, frailer than itself. We see ourselves at second-hand in them: they show us all that we are, all that we wish to be, and all that we dread to be. The stage is an epitome, a bettered likeness of the world, with the dull part left out: and, indeed, with this omission, it is nearly big enough to hold all the rest.

~William Hazlitt

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

For the Record

I want to make something very clear right off the bat, just for the record.

I don't like blogs.

Most blogs are nothing more than public diaries, and I'm not really a fan of publishing my innermost thoughts on my own issues for the whole world to see. That's Facebook's job. But if you're reading this, then you know that I'm blogging. And, unless I'm a compulsive liar, I don't like blogging.

So what the hell is she doing here?

Good question.

Welcome to Spotlight Sunburn. This is the diary of the cliche, the foolhardy and the unavoidable. This is a story that isn't new, isn't special, and, with a little luck, no one will read. This is the blog documentary (docu-blog? blogumentary?) of a dream, and a million others just like it. Maybe someone will read this and pick a different path, one that makes more sense, or maybe this will simply be more inspiring than it should be. This is what I learn, what I do, and all the mistakes I'm going to make in the years to come.

I am an actor. This is a guided tour of showbusiness, from start to whenever I feel like getting a life and not blogging about it.

Wish me luck, 'cause here I go.