Tuesday, March 31, 2009

My "aha" moment for the day - a story of knives, dirty talk, stabbing tables, and one shitty stand up comedy routine.

Deepening Exercises - The mystery cause of PTSD in theatre students. Creating a scenario that allows for a pseudo-reality of the monologue situation. In my class we reenacted spousal abuse, rape, animal abuse, murder, and being mugged, plus various other situations that applied. The idea is to create an event that can be drawn on as a real memory without actually being raped or raping someone, or whatever event is necessary.

I thought I was going to have to sit through some sort of drama-trauma-rama involving half-dead butterflies in a small, dark room, but it turns out my professor couldn't think of anything so we just ran my monologue through and discussed arc and pacing. Then, when I couldn't work it properly, she had me say my depressing as anything monologue like a stand up comedian, to mask the pain with entertainment. Which is exactly what I'd tried to do from the start, but she led me in a nice roundabout circle. I was frustrated by the notion of marrying the emotion I'd found before and the wierd, morbid humor I'd forced out of it, but Billy explained it beautifully. The circle she led me in was so that I could find the emotion, since I'm already good at dry humor, so that when I had the pain I could hide it - you can't hide something that isn't there. Aha.

Performing it for a grade Thursday. Might suck. Might not. I need a wine glass between now and then. Maybe I'll just snatch one from home... they won't miss it, I don't think.

And, side note: The irony continues - Performing a scene from The Odd Couple with Billy and Victoria. Guess who I'm playing?

I've realized my lack of tolerance for condescension.
I'm getting two scenes for the next Acting I project, Kaia informed me, asking me first if I'd be willing to do that, and I said sure, I wasn't doing much for the rest of the semester, and I got a dry smile and a quiet "That's what I thought." Not appreciated. Not that she's privy to the angsting I've done on the subject, but still. Condescension = cruel and unusual.

Next up: DRAMATICS March 2009, "Take Care of Your Voice: Simple ways for actors and others to keep the instrument in shape," article by Eric Armstrong, condensed for blog by me.

Monday, March 30, 2009

When Your Face Matches the Backdrop

I realize now I never did get around to explaining what that photo with the pinned butterfly was, but I think I'll hold off on that for tomorrow or another day this week, seeing as how my deepening exercize will be tomorrow and if I do get PTSD you'll be sure to know about it.

Practiced singing techniques over break. That's about all I did over break, actually. Though I did go to see a friend up at Hallmark Institute of Photography and get my headshots done.

Things I learned about doing headshots:

1) I am not a model. Never will be. I accept this.

2) Have a shitload of different tops - I brought more than we used, but Karen kept going through them and trying different textures and colours to see what flattered me best. Typically I'd seen lots of women in strappy tops to show off their shoulders, but that didn't really look so hot on me. Might be my transluscent or the shitty quality of my complexion. Advice I recieved from a friend who did her time trying to make it in the business said that you should wear what you're comfortable in, not what you "think" will look pretty or get you a part. Be comfortable and you'll look comfortable.

3) Loosen up your face. I kept making random faces between a few shots just to make sure my smile didn't look frozen or my eyes didn't look dead.

4) Try not to have your headshots done on days where you are broken out or need a haircut.

It was a lot of trial and error, for both me and Karen. She'd never done headshots before, neither had I, so we just kind of worked with what we knew and tried what we thought might work. She did her camera/lighting/flash/set stuff and I tried to look charming and sweet and sexy and at least she succeeded. For a little while, at least, she'll do them for me for free, so she's my supplier of headshots for now, and she didn't do a half bad job. When I pick a final (after she photoshops the hell out of my skin) I'll put it up and explain what we were doing at the time.

Maybe a white backdrop for a pale ass bitch like me wasn't the best choice, but she said she can tone it in photoshop, and this is only my first attempt ever, and I'm not dishing out 700+ bucks for a session, so I'm willing to accept mistakes and fix them later.

The photog in question has her own blog - and though she neglects to update it, she does have some stuff there. She's developing her own website though so it should be up sooner or later. Karen Olivia Photography is the blog, but it will eventually be KC Marston or something like that. Check it out.

Snagged my copy of DRAMATICS when I was home - next up, how to take care of the voice. A week or so too late, but better late than never.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Spring Break

I'm not going to Cancun, I'm not going to Florida, I'm not going to California, Myrtle Beach, Las Vegas, Santa Cruz, Spain, Montreal, Italy, New York, France, Sydney or Amsterdam. No sun or waves, no smiling, sunburnt photos, no expensive hotels or family trip. I'm staying right here, in my little hometown. I have the latest spring break of any college I know, so it's going to be a long, lonely week of battling this sinus thing I've got plaguing me.

Did my first on-camera audition Thursday, for a CPTV program. I'll describe it later, in detail, since I have to think back on it to figure out what even happened.

Next theatre lesson: how to develop PTSD through deepening exersizes and method acting.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Hinds and Harts in the Dark

Hind: Old school word for doe
Hart: Really old school word for stag

Art imitates life. Life imitates art. Pick one. They're both right.
This evening's discussion - Art imitates life.

This sort of goes back to what I mentioned some posts ago, about observation and such. Everything you live in your life is a tool to use as an actor. Let me repeat myself.

Everything in your life is an acting tool.

Every experience you have and every feeling you feel gets stored away in your little brain as a memory, and since it really happened to you, it's a rather real memory. Use them. No one can see inside your head while you're onstage - acting is an illusion; the better the illusion, the better of an actor you are. If character A is grieving the loss of a family member - most people know what grieving the loss of someone or something close to them feels like, even if it isn't exactly what the script is dictating. Don't play grief - feel grief. You know what these feelings are, so find them and use them.

That means that you have to start being aware of yourself. Notice what pain feels like (this might sound a little masochistic and fucked up, so PLEASE NOTE I'm not saying go freaking cut yourself in the name of your art), notice how you walk when your knee is bruised, notice the flood of adrenaline when the car you're riding in slams on the brake, try and notice what you look at first as you trip and fall. Little things, big things - just stash them away in your head for later use.

Par example, mes amis -

In my acting class I'm currently doing a monologue about a woman who was just at the funeral of her best friend and dance partner. Through a series of unfortunate events, she winds up staying the night at this strange family's house, and the room she is staying in is covered in pinned up butterflies, and, alas, they are alive when she wakes up. Morbid, no?

What does this have to do with paying attention to experiences? No, I was not at a funeral this weekend! No, I was not surrounded by half dead insects beating themselves to death against the walls of a strange room! Yes, I had a horrifying and nauseating brush with death!

Aha. New vocab word: substitution. Replacing an event or memory you have not experienced with one that is similar and you can manipulate to suit your needs.

I can delve into my mind and pull out some form of terror and misery and lump it into the text and get a decent emotion and action for the part where she relives the butterfly incident, sure, sure, can't we all? But I was lucky (what a horrid twist of that word) enough to be able to experience trauma, horror, nausea, shock and misery this morning, and I got to shelve that experience and keep it in my mental files for later use. On my way back to campus, dad and I hit a deer this morning, and all I want to do is forget it, but each second and each reaction is important to me as an actor. I can take apart the moments and use them again (and I'm sure this isn't healthy, but this is the sacrifice we make for our art), so instead of mentally seeing butterflies I've never known, I can substitute them with the glowing flash of one huge deer eye and the broad tawny side of a doe just before that heart stopping thud and crash. Simple and yet complex enough to bring a beautiful sense of realism to my character's muted anguish.

Of course you can shelve non-traumatic experiences too (e.g. my frustration at the internet being down again this afternoon), but this was a very detailed example and I wanted to share it. I'm also not sleeping well for many reasons, that being one of them.

I'm auditioning for a CPTV something on Thursday. I'll fill you in on the details as I find them out.

Friday, March 13, 2009


Les Blancs only needed two women and they called back three, so one of us had to go, and I wasn't surprised that it was me - I don't think it's possible for a director who loves his students as much as Dr. Bill does, and who has worked with them since they were my age, could have denied either one of them their final senior show. I thought about it after callbacks and realized I would have felt guilty of taking that away from them; If in four years from now I only have one more show left and some spunky little upstart freshman snagged a role from me, I won't be too happy. But Bethany and Victoria both deserve the roles they got, and I am so happy for them. I'm really incredibly okay with the final cast - I want the seniors to have this last chance to shine in college. I'm just starting - as much as I want to get back onstage and to prove myself, I am brand new here and already I've been acknowledged incredibly for what I can do. It may be tough, but I can wait. My friends here have all been informing me that, for the next three years, the stage will be mine, and although I don't want to wait, I think I can hold on just a little bit longer. I say this now. In a week I'll be bitching and moaning again.

I love them all so very much, and I really don't want them to go. They've got to, though. Most of them have been here too long as it is, and though I would have given anything to be onstage with them, I tried, and not this time.

I'm better about these auditions because last time it was rigged and really messed up, but I did what I set out to do here. I shook it up - everyone thought they knew the final score, but callbacks tonight were really nerve-wracking. No one had a clue what was going to happen. I have, with one show and a few auditions, established myself here. That's why I'm happy, for the time being. I'm nineteen years old and have done more for my acting in a year than I thought it was possible. There are opportunities in my future, and as much as I don't want to wait anymore, it's sitting within my reach now.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Ade Ark Oars

Callback list for Les Blancs went up this morning, and my name was on it! 17 people are on the callback sheet, only three of which are girls. There are two female roles. Three girls called back. Me and two graduating seniors. I'm sort of torn between exhilaration from just being acknowledged and terror for knowing the battle I'm gearing up for tonight. I'm bringing my A game, that's for damn sure. I'm that sneaky little dark horse freshman who poses a legitimate threat, which was my only honest goal for these auditions. And now this wierd, frightening hope is getting me all anxious - I don't want to hope because the odds are in no one's favour right now, and hope hurts sometimes.

I'm not going to think about it. I'm not going to analyze the situation. I'm not going to calculate my odds. I'm going to just hunker down and do what I do best, and, with a few broken legs, maybe something good will happen. Kicking ass is my game, people. I want it. I want it so bad.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

"Now, give me back your scripts."

Auditioned for Les Blancs yesterday, and it was the most interesting audition I've ever been to - not much surprises me at auditions, since they're usually all the same thing. These looked like they were going to be the same as always (read these sides from the show, read this scene with someone else, read it this way, read it that way, thank you, callbacks later this week), and I've stopped being nervous for school auditions because, by my ever so accurate calculations, I had a .00005% chance of being cast in this show (two female roles again) so it's not going to be the end of the world if I don't get cast.

Anyway, I read a scene with a friend of mine, Aki, and we reached a certain point and the director says "good, stop. Now, give me back your scripts. I want you to do a little improv."

Oh joy. Improv?? Improvisational skills being put to the test at a freaking audition?

We had to do the scene we had just read over again, but without scripts and just improvising the words and feelings of the characters - it was unexpected and a little nerve-wracking. Improv is one of my weakest points, but I must have done all right, since the director asked me to stick around to read for something later. Maybe because I wasn't under any pressure to be funny.

"Later" meant three hours after I read, but I wasn't counting. It was fine just sitting around chatting with people, and then, at 8:45, the majority of the other auditionees had departed after reading and being dismissed. Only four of us were left, having been asked to wait around. Billy and Victoria went in to read first, and then Josh and I were after them. We read the same scene I had read before, which was a bit of a relief because I had a better sense of what was going on and what was in store after we read. It was still startling to be told to put the scripts down and just start acting, especially in the slightly tense atmosphere of the audition room.

I did much better this second time around, I feel, which was a good thing. It was wonderful to be able to do even a little scene with Josh, since he's so very talented and I've wanted to be onstage with him since he directed my debut college show, Home Free, last semester. It was a nice change to audition with someone I knew and who knew what the hell they were doing instead of like my audition for the last show (which we won't discuss, since it frustrates me.) The improv was a little rough for both of us, since neither of us were completely familiar with the characters or the situation, but we got through it well enough and made the director smile and even chuckle a bit. It was just a matter of suddenly finding a bit of a character frame to snap myself into to become Dr. Marta Gotterling - her condescension was easy enough (me? condescending? no...), and having Josh's distinct, timely responses to work with made it that much easier to work the scene successfully.

My goal for last night was to go in and show him that, yeah, I may be new, and yeah, I'm young, but you just watch me, I can do just as well, if not better, than these older girls who come in and audition too. I have this wierd complex about me right now, because of my status in the department and my age, I just feel this burning desire to prove myself and show that I am good enough and worthy to be onstage, even as young as I am. I got onstage once this year already and knocked their socks off, and I just want the opportunity to do it again. I want to be that girl who tips the scales and makes a director take the chance on a new face. Namely mine.

I wasn't as enthusiastic about this until I read really well last night. And now I can only hope that I get a callback and the opportunity to do it again.

Dammit - sometimes hope hurts more. If I'd just done okay and hadn't had that much fun, I wouldn't mind so much if this turns out the way I've been anticipating. Sometimes I hate wanting it so bad. Passion takes a toll on you, that's for sure.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

That Smile

I've rediscovered my infinite adoration and interest in the classic Hollywood and Broadway scene, the poise and glamour that each of the leading ladies and leading men had about them, that air of fame that didn't radiate as "celebrity" but as "star." Their talent and beauty just fascinates me, just watching them onscreen and marvelling at how stylized everything was and yet how we can still be totally in love with the films of the Golden Era of Hollywood, despite our modern obsession with bang-bang-shoot'em-ups and seemingly Baroque sense of extravagance with our CGI addiction.

There's something incredibly classy about them that is incredibly lacking in culture today. The smooth jazz tones or brassy belt shaped by lyrics that were anything but tawdry and crass - and even if they were intended to be that way, there was a dignity to it. Class.

And that was just them as people - as performers they were something else. Their style is far removed from the modern screen or stage, but I still feel like there's something to learn from them. Everything comes from something else. I want to emulate their talent and their class and their beauty, something real and tangible preserved in black and white celluloid.

Name those ladies, if you can. :) Some of my favourites, for many different reasons.