Archive for June, 2009

Week 4

June 28, 2009

So, apparently New York passed a law in 1992, after the lobby bombing of the World Trade Center, that security officers could not be security officers without certification.  This was “to improve the standard of hiring and training security officers.”  I learned this in my first eight hours of mandatory security guard training on Friday.  That was just about the only I thing I learned in those eight hours.  We started 50 minutes late while the instructor wandered around.  He gave us an hour and 15 minute break before noon and then, a couple hours later, an hour and a half break.  We watched two videos.  We copied down some stuff from the board.  Took a test that was written by someone who doesn’t speak/write English.  The rest of that time was spent listening to this guy babble about relationships, why people kill themselves, the moral corruption of the city, how money changes people, girls talking a lot, and living your dreams….and he had the thickest accent of all time (he was a Mexican that spent his teenage years in England).  The only thing I could figure is that maybe the law set the requirement at 24 hours of training and then they figured out that they couldn’t possibly fill 24 hours with what you need to know to be a “good” security guard.  So, they hired a guy that could talk endlessly and aimlessly for hours and happened to be an ex-cop.  Phew!

The last 2 hours of that training were much easier to endure though because, while I was talking to my dad during the second break, someone called and left a voicemail.  That voicemail told me that I was getting cast as Bobby in Rock-A-My-Soul (which was the callback audition where I got to keep reading with all the other girls).  It’s not a paying gig and I have yet to see a full script so I have no idea how big the role is…but it’s really nice to finally get this first “yes” out of the way.  Quickly:  the story is based on the 1995 Susan Smith case where she told police that a black man had stolen her car while her two kids were inside.  Everyone bought it; the cops were looking for him, Oprah had her on, the Today Show had her on, she was a figure of national sympathy and then it turned out that she made up a story and killed the kids herself by driving them into a lake.  I am the boyfriend that doesn’t like kids and helps her plan the murder and the lie and is hoping to make a bundle of money off the story…which is eerie how similar that is to at least 4 complete days of my life.(?)  And….IT’S A FREAKIN’ MUSICAL….(what?).  It might not be any good but, if nothing else, my resume will now have a New York credit which helps a lot when they see that somebody here wanted you. 

Learning that put a little pep in my step.  So, for the first time since being here, I auditioned (twice on Saturday) with actual confidence instead of the fake kind and still felt good even when the audition was over 2 minutes, or 30 seconds, after it started. 

Speaking of those auditions, I finally broke down and wrote a monologue.  We have a few different monologue books in our apartment and the so-called comedic monologues wouldn’t make an 8-year old laugh…I’m not really sure why it’s impossible to find a decent comedic monologue but it is.  So, Saturday morning I wrote one myself and made sure there’s opportunities to do different voices and act a little crazy and would at least make the casting directors smile.  I only had about 20 minutes to write it so I don’t think it’s going to set the world on fire but at least now I have something that I can feel confident doing for almost any comedic audition…instead of learning and trying a new one for every audition.  I think I’ll try to make an effort to churn out a few more (some for Jenn too) and just focus on rocking those and leave it at that.

That late night sort of knocked Jenn out of commission for a little while.  Her fibromyalgia, for one thing, did not like one bit Jenn wearing a lot of non-approved makeup.  (Basically this means that Jenn is taking medicine to clear out her fibromyalgia and ingesting or applying or chewing certain products that have specific chemicals in them block the medicine from being able to do its job…so it sets her regimen back a few days and makes her feel like crap.)  And her body is not meant for a slumber party sleeping schedule.  So, Thursday auditions were out of the question for her once she attempted to get up and Friday and Saturday weren’t too hot either.  She was awesome, though, and fought the pain enough to get a whole bunch of needed domestic chores done on Friday while I was “training”.  That was a big help and hopefully she’ll be back to normal for this week’s auditions.

My next two training sessions are Wednesday and Thursday this upcoming week and my first rehearsal is Thursday night.  Rehearsals will be Monday and Thursday night and Saturday afternoon.  Then the show goes up August 16–30.  Work will start soon and, thank God for the timing, I can make sure my work schedule fits around rehearsal.  I have no idea though how I’ll be able to balance a steady work schedule with rehearsal and still audition for other things and make sure I don’t have any conflicts for two weeks in August.  I’ll just have to trust that God already has that planned out and will work it to the good.

Some observations:  I have to give New York City credit for this:  there are so many noises going at once in this city and so many different smells floating around in every square foot of this place, that you can fart full force basically anywhere (inside or out) in the city and no one will have any idea.  Personally, I love that.

I made a few friends in the last show I did in Peoria.  One of them was a nice gal named Saskia (she’s German) who grew up in New York City and lived a few years of her adult life in Boston.  When she found out I was married she was a little weirded out because, in her mind, we were too young.  I’m 26 and my wife is 27 and we’ve been married for 2 years…and that was crazy to her.  She explained that people “out East” don’t get married much and definitely never before around 35 or 40 years of age.  Wow…she wasn’t lying.  In the midwest, you see someone more than a couple years past college age and you assume they’re married and are surprised if you don’t see a wedding ring.  You never see ornamented lefty ring fingers in this town.  Every now and then on an Asian 40-year old but that’s about it.  I was telling an older guy about “my wife” the other day and he stopped me and asked if I was “legally married”.  I didn’t know there was another kind.  I got used to knowing that I didn’t have to worry about people getting the wrong idea because they would notice the wedding ring but, out here, people don’t even bother looking for the ring (even when you subtlely wave it around in front of them) because they’re not used to ever seeing them…I guess.  Anyway, it’s different…a little weird.

Don’t take your central air for granted (if you have it).  Please.  Please know and understand what a blessing it is that you have.

Getting better at “learning the city” for me means getting better at utilizing Google maps before I ever leave the apartment (it even has the stinkin’ subway stops on there–crazy).

The smell of manure lingering on a homeless man really clears out a subway car….lots of places to sit then.

Week 3.5

June 25, 2009

There are a lot of classes available and advertised out here.  There’s classes on how to audition better, how to get rid of your accent, how to sing, how to act, how to play the electric guitar, how to write scripts, how to not look at a camera that’s filming you, etc.  Though it’s not advertised to the public, I am now sure that there is a class (for directors and the like) on how to make the person auditioning for you feel like the biggest waist of flesh ever put on this earth….and now I know where they rehearse.  There is a studio called the Ripley-Grier studios which is two large floors of a building filled by a maze of rooms and hallways all used for audition and rehearsal space.  Apparently, there are many days when there are just plenty of auditions for you available in that one space.  My first experience with this was Monday.  I went to three different auditions that day, all in Ripley Grier.  The first two were going on at the same time so I put my name on both lists and walked back and forth to see if my turn was coming.  It ended up that the audition for a new musical was moving a little faster and got to me rather quickly.  Jenn auditioned 10 minutes before me and left with a confused and dissatisfied look on her face…I didn’t think much of it.  I walked in and there were 3 men:  a cheerful, portly accompianist/the music director, an old, bearded man who forgot how to eat months ago/the director, and some dude.  The third dude was apparently a mute and I noticed immediately that he looked to be perpetually passing a kidney stone.  We were to sing 16 bars of a ballad and 16 bars of an uptempo song.  I began with the ballad and forgot the words halfway through.  The director smiled and said everything was okay and asked me to start again.  The music director filled me in on the words I forgot.  Everything felt nice and easy.  About halfway through the song this time, something in the room changed…I’m not sure what it was but the cheer had gone.  Before I was quite finished, the director simply put his hand up at me and looked down until I stutteringly stopped singing.  “Don’t you have anything more…classic Broadway musical theatre style,” asked the director?!  The music director informed him that I did not, but said that he wanted to hear the next song anyway.  I almost got through the next song when the director again gave his wordless “stop” gesture, this time shaking his head at the floor.  He closed with, “Nope.  Thank you.  That will be all.”  The music director chimed in with, “ehhh.”  The dude continued passing his kidney stone…..aaaaand I felt terrific.  So, on to the next one.  For this one we needed to give two contrasting monologues in two minutes total.  This was for a traveling company that deliver live plays of classic literature to schools and such.  Apparently it had been a long day already and the lady still had to drive back to Boston (so said the monitor).  Part of me wishes I could honestly say that she began snoring during my two minutes because that would be an efficient way to capture the look on her face and the feeling in the room.  I left the room wishing I, instead of memorizing two new monologues that morning and working to deliver them with gusto and emotion, had simply spoken Amy Grant lyrics at her for two minutes as loudly as possible…so then it would feel like the joke wasn’t on me.  The last audition was an open call for union and non-union actors and was just 16 bars of whatever you felt fit the show.  There was a long wait with silences being filled dutifully by union actors speaking just loud enough about how unwelcome me and my kind were.  The show was “Forever Plaid” so I decided to sing my ballad from before.  The really important casting director–ok, here’s a tangent:  casting directors are nobodies (like me) that become casting directors and automatically are the most important somebodies in the world because they are hired to hold the keys to at least someone’s next paycheck and at most whether someone will become a somebody or fade quietly into entertainment nothingness.  I don’t yet understand how these “CD”s make this transformation but when it happens, their mere prescence invites the kind of fakeness you just don’t see anywhere else.  They walk in the room and tell everyone who they are and sort of hold for applause…just a moment.  Then they say something (anything) and the room erupts with laughter, and the casting director smiles to himself/herself as if they’re imagining all the swell things that will be said about them at their massively attended funeral.  This back and forth continues for a few minutes until the CD breezily walks out to the audition room as if inviting everyone to look forward to the most fun audition anyone has ever experienced.  Then I walked in and for 25 seconds I sang and stared as he looked at me like he wanted to vomit and console my parents for having me.  I’m telling you:  it has to be a heck of a class.  Three different auditions and three completely differing styles to make a person temporarily regret life…AMAZING.

The next day I had scheduled myself a busy day but, carrying the baggage from the day before, I could not talk myself into participating in the morning session.  I did have a callback scheduled for the early evening and that actually went quite well.  I had just sung a couple songs for the initial audition so this was the reading part.  I was reading for two parts and there were a lot of girls reading for the parts opposite me.  There were a couple other guys but after they read once, the director just kept calling me back in to read with all the girls for all their scenes.  It felt like a Peoria audition.  I probably got to read 18 times in about an hour and a half.  I’d feel really good about my chances but after all that screaming and crying in a southern accent, he asked me to sing again before I left.  My voice was tired so the songs weren’t great.  Either way, it was fun to get to act for more than 2 minutes…and with other people.

Wednesday, I did not audition but instead traveled to the other side of Queens (Queens is a lot bigger than I thought) for a job interview.  It was for a security guard firm.  “So, tell me, why do you want this job?”  (Uh, sitting at a front desk for long hours watching people walk in and out of a building and asking them to sign in and out…oooooh where do I start).  I paid for the mandatory training and I start my 3 days of training on Friday.  For some reason, I’m holding off on that “yay I have a job” feeling until it actually starts…I’m not sure why I don’t trust it but I think it points to how defeated I feel on a daily basis if I can’t believe that I have a job when someone says “Great, you’ve got the job.” 

Jenn got called back for another movie audition next week, which is great–she worked hard for that first audition.  On the other side of things, though, she got to experience forgetting the words to your monologue halfway through and just waiting for 15 whole seconds in silence until the words come back to you… but otherwise she felt really good about that one.  She is filming her short movie as I write this and won’t get home until around 4am.  She has been pounding the pavement for jobs and going to auditions daily….she’s so much more disciplined than I am.

Finally got to go to small group….there is a lot of discussion that can come out of The Great Divorce (by CS Lewis).  That was nice.

Some observations:  that whole misconception about all guys in theatre are gay…had to have started here.  More than once I have been in a room with 50 other guys and been positive that I was the only straight one in the whole lot of us…odd.  I’m starting to realize this does, however, create an easy atmosphere for starting conversations/networking with non-predatorial girls.  Since I’m not a girl, I’m not their competition so they don’t hate me.  Also, since they assume I’m gay, they don’t assume I’m trying to pick them up.  It makes the waiting much easier getting to talk with someone that you’ll probably never see again and, therefore, don’t have to be overly cordial with.  Those connections got me an interview at a bakery just the other day.  How about that.

I met a girl at an audition that wasn’t born a girl….biggest chick ever.

3rd week

June 21, 2009

Last Saturday night Jenn asked me to pray as we were falling asleep.  We had picked out a church on the internet that we were going to walk to and try out.  At least we were waking up in the morning with somewhere to go and something to do but we were depressed.  Jesus said to us (to everyone paying  attention not just to Jenn and Eric) to ask and it shall be given, to seek and you will find, to knock and the door will be opened.  Sometimes I forget that because He also said when introducing the “Lord’s Prayer” that God knows what you need and desire before the thought can even come to your lips so not to waste your time on flashy and frivolous words but to pray simply.  I know there is a time for each way of speaking to God but its hard to know when is when until that time is upon you.  All this to say that up until that prayer I had not simply asked, seeked, or knocked.  Jenn asked me to pray.  I prayed that God would have something go our way, that he would throw us a bone, and that he would find a way to encourage us…among other things.

Sunday morning we walked in late (my fault as usual…seriously..not jabbingly sarcastic) to Astoria Community Church.  It’s in a Jewish synagogue being rented out on Sundays by the modestly congregated Christian church.  We sat down in the first aisle seats available.  It was enjoyable through worship time and then, before the sermon, the pastor asked everyone to stand up and greet somebody around you.  Sitting directly in front of us were two mid-twenties married couples.  Sitting in front of them were a random assortment of single mid-twentied people.  Small talk ensued and it turned out a couple of them were from Illinois and had siblings living in our hometown, Peoria.  The whole meet was pleasant enough that we knew we were all looking forward to continuing the conversation after the sermon.  The sermon then cemented that we had a found a home church in New York City.  The message was based around what to do when feeling insignificant.  I won’t redeliver the whole thing but it was EXACTLY what we needed to hear.  The conversation with the other “young adults” picked up right after the sermon and from that we had a large lunch date and new midweek small group Bible study.  Going out to lunch with them made it obvious that full-fledged friends were in the making, a support system was growing, and there will be ears to listen for Jenn and I besides our own. 

Now…this was not a perfect week and things are not in a place where a conservative parent would say, “boy howdy, they’re in perty good shape out there.”  We still don’t have jobs.  We still don’t have a carousel of agents and casting directors vying for our attention or anything close to it.  But every prayer I prayed was answered.  That I would get seen at an audition in a place where that was unlikely, that my voice would perform to the best of its ability with no warmup in a stressful situation, that I would have renewed energy, that Jenn would get a role,  that Jenn would come out of a bad depression, and more….all answered.  Atheists/evolutionists would call this coincidence and the friendlier ones would attach “cute” onto it.  Then I would have to say that I have lived the most happily coincidental life ever recorded the last 5 years or so (especially).  There was nothing earth shaking in the list of events this week.  There was, however, a reminder that what we do have (as always) is a God that answers prayers, a God that protects and encourages, a God that is as much here as in Peoria or China or anywhere else…..a God that LOVES His children.  That was something to be thankful for.

So, Monday morning I went off to the equity/union building which was home to both of Jenn’s “sorry we’re not seeing non-union actors today” experiences.  I memorized a monologue the night before and decided to go with a song I already knew.  I waited in the side lobby area where they make it very obvious that you aren’t important while you’re in “their” building.  There was a colorful cast of characters waiting with me, including a long-haired fella who liked to pace while staring at those he’s passing as if he was thinking of eating you or trying to intimidate you…I couldn’t decide which was more likely.  There was also a girl that, with rapid conversational efficiency, was unofficially crowned the coolest girl in the room due to her having been in a show once with “a professional director” and because of her impressive monologue where she “talks, like, really really fast.”  My favorite was the been-there-done-that,  flat-voiced blonde woman taking it upon herself to inform everyone “how things really work out here” and whom was only missing a cigarette and a rasp to completely fit the cliche.  The audition was for a state theatre’s entire season.  I waited for 2 hours and was then called into the sacred ground that is the union lounge…..it looks like a lounge.  I auditioned for a couple of humorless ladies that probably wrote me off the moment my monologue ventured into the “frozen horse poop” section.  After singing my song the best I’ve ever sung it, I walked out feeling pretty good.  It’s the first time in my life that I actually felt that dorky sensation that succeeding isn’t necessarily getting the part/job/etc. but the actual success is simply trying…odd.  I went home for a couple hours and went to NYU for another audition which wasn’t the most well-organized event I’ve ever seen but it felt important.  That was probably due to the overwhelming number of guys that were waiting to read for the two available roles.  It took forever and by the time they got to me they were stopping people 10 seconds into a scene to say “that’s enough.  thanks for coming but you can go.”  I was reading with another guy and about 30 seconds into the scene they told him to go home and asked if I would read the monologue.  I couldn’t really feel good for myself because it was really awkward and I felt bad for the other guy, whom I thought was pretty good.  I read it–not as well as I would’ve liked, but I thought it was a pretty successful day. 

Tuesday brought on an audition that required 16 bars of a gospel or r&b song and 16 bars of a more legitimate theatre song.  I was pleased with that given all my listening-to-boys-2-men-and-singing-along-in-my-sister’s-room-while-entering-puberty-and-lacking-a-social-calendar training.  The audition ended up being in some guys office in a regular ol’ office building which was strange.  The acoustics were actually pretty fantastic in said office and I was surprised with how well it went (thank you for existing, jazzy/gospel version of “I’ll Fly Away”).  I got a call-back from that and I go into read this Tuesday which will mark the first time I’ll get the experience of saying the n-word in front of a group of black people.  I’ll have to make sure to shake all their hands afterwards…or get them pie perhaps.

Wednesday brought on a Shakespeare audition that I couldn’t convince myself to go to (auditioning like this takes a mental energy that I need to build endurance for) but Jenn went because she did not audition Monday or Tuesday.  From this we learned that it is unwise to attempt to memorize a Shakespearean monologue the night before delivering it under pressure.  You can’t really get away with making up words and “getting the jist of it” with those monologues.  However, after slinking out of the audition room that day, she did get a call that she had gotten a role in a short student film that we both auditioned for the previous week.  It’s only 5 minutes long and she has two lines but, heck, she notched our very first New York City role up on our imaginary board…..it was just nice to get a “yes”.

Thursday we had an out-of-town friend to meet for lunch.  We met Carolyn in Peoria but she currently resides in Chicago and decided to come to NYC for a few days.  We met her, a friend of her’s, and a mutual theatre friend (all from Peoria) for a few hours and fun was had by all.  Lots of Peoria-referencing jokes, theatre complaints, silly stories, tickle fights…it was great and we were grateful for it.  Then I had an audition which cautioned “come prepared for improvisational movement”.  That statement was new to me and I was slightly nervous.  It ended up being walking around a room while the director barked out character descriptions (“movie star with a hairy chest”…”woman with a long cigarette”) and then watching as we walked as we thought that character would walk.  This had absolutely nothing to do with the play we were auditioning for but it was really relaxing and…well, fun.  After that small group exercise, I was asked to read a monologue from the show (apparently I improvisationally walk REALLY WELL).  He actually stopped me a few times to give me these sort of organic directions about what to do with my forehead or my toes or eyebrows.  Then he let me do the whole thing at a slow pace.  It was the first time in awhile that I was directed and it was the first time since being here that I didn’t feel rushed or hurried….it was so nice.  The director and his assistant were very complementary afterwards but I have no idea if I got a part in the show and probably won’t for awhile…but it felt good to have fun performing, even if just for twenty minutes. 

Friday brought along no auditions but a lot of calling and emailing for Jenn about auditions and jobs.  I mostly watched her and then applied to be a dog-walker for about 4 different companies.  I would not have guessed dog-walking to be such a booming industry here but it is.  Saturday, Jenn practiced a lot and I auditioned for an improv group at the New York Comedy Club.  It’s a small venue but casting directors and agents often visit (not to mention it would mean the wonderful release of performing now and then).  It went well (don’t give me a pink wig and expect me not to work it) and I got a call-back for next week. 

Things are moving in the right direction with God’s blessing.  There’s still a long way to go.

Some observations:  New York City water looks like milk.  I can’t imagine how filthy it must naturally be to cause the need for so many chemicals.  When it’s in something clear it looks normal but as soon as it puddles up in a mixing bowl or a frying pan it looks like you had a mouthful of 2% when your friend made you laugh it through your nose.  Also, it destroys pee-bubbles.  Your pee stays yellow but the bubbles dissipate almost immediately after hitting the water.  So if you’re ever in New York and look down after peeing…don’t freak out.  Your kidneys are still doing their job as long as the color’s right.  Thank God for Brita.

If you’re in New York and realize you feel way too good about yourself…either go to the Actor’s Equity building at 165 w. 46 street and tell everyone that you can that you’re an actor and need to be seen immediately…or find the nearest “extras” casting agency and have the big, angry lady with a ten-year old perm tell you you’re not qualified to stand in the background in a movie.

If you’re ever in New York and feel like crap…pray.  If you’re ever anywhere feeling anything…pray.

2nd week

June 13, 2009

Alright, this has been a tough week but Jenn and I are working our way out of the few days’ depression we’ve been suffering through.  This “trying to get your foot in the door” is the emotional equivalent of being in junior high and you make a joke in class and the coolest kid in school laughs.  So, not really knowing yet where you belong you try to sit near him at the Cool Kids Table at lunch.  As soon as you sit down, conversations go the opposite direction of you.  You try to butt in but they ignore you and treat you as uninteresting.  You try to laugh when they laugh and they stop laughing just to make sure you understand you’re not wanted.  You decide to never try that again but then two days later the coolest girl chats it up with you for 15 whole seconds in the hallway so you try again and the same thing happens again.  That’s the emotional part of it but the frustration part comes from if the awesome class trip at the end of the year–that you’ve saved for, you’ve prepared for and you know you would be the best person to lead it– can only be gone on by people invited by the coolest kid in school….and you know that some of the dorkiest kids you’ve ever met in your life–they stick their fingers through their zippers to talk to girls for poop’s sake!–are going to get invited.

It is difficult to not get cynical doing this.  You wait at a union audition wondering if you’re even going to get a chance to sing your song or deliver your beautiful monologue to prove you’re better than the scrap heap…and you watch person after person waltz into the audition without waiting a minute, probably just making a “quick stop” in the middle of a busy day.  They are in the union, so they can do that…you think “how did they get in the union?”  “she’s kinda fat”  “that guy’s a weiner…look at him, he’s a freakin’ weiner”  “she doesn’t even have knees”.  You can’t figure out how in the world they got what you can’t get and suddenly they all turn into terrible people…WHICH DOES NO GOOD.  ……………….(sigh) we are called to glorify God in all that we do, including getting rejected by people who don’t know as much about their own project as we do…including watching others take for granted what we think we’re seeking.  He has already provided.  He has already planned.  So…trust.  And…honor..Him.  And..obey Him.  (sigh again)

Details outside of ranting:  Interviewed for a job as a janitor at a dance studio and thought I had an in because the gay guys working the front desk went out of their way to flirt and express interest in me while ignoring the 40-50 year olds waiting with me.  Alas, no call back.  Went to that stock video model shoot…1 minute and a half of pictures after a half hour on the train…got my rejection email yesterday.  Went to a reading for a short film and apparently confused the director by not being straight out of an after-school special clinic…the not yelling loudly when upset (every time) thing really weirded him out…got the rejection email yesterday.  Sent out more head shots.  Sent out resume for regular jobs.  No calls back.  No replies.

Jenn and I went to a student film audition together at the New York Film Academy.  Some weird movie done by a couple of guys that don’t speak English very well but seem very nice…we’ll get a call in a couple of days about that one.  I would like to say I’m not holding my breath but I’m not cool enough or busy enough to yet be able to do that–just audition and forget about it.  Anyway, the New York Film Academy is a wonderful place where the entire 5-story building is devoted to that and seemingly has movies being made, written, or studied 24/7.  That sounds amazing to me but I’m sure it’s expensive and graduating from there would guarantee nothing.  Jenn went on her own to another audition there the next night.  She gave a great monologue with a lot of power and emotion…then had the director tell her to do it again but, this time, deliver it like a cold reading with no emotion please.  What? 

Jenn and I also went to a union play festival audition in hopes of waiting and being seen later on.  It took about 50 minutes to get there and the lady at the front told us that the monitor had made the announcement just a few minutes prior that they already had their contractual allowance of non-union workers filled so they would not be seeing any for auditions.  Jenn went on her own to another one the next day and the monitor said “it looks great, things are moving along nicely so I’m sure we’ll be able to see you non-union actresses today…but it won’t be until after lunch so go ahead and take off and come back around 2:00pm.”  After concerting much effort to waste 4 hours, Jenn arrived at 2 to find a note on the door reading, “We will not be seeing non-union.  Thank you.”  She’s sent resumes and made calls for regular jobs.  No calls back.  No replies.

I read that Ed Harris said once that the last thing you get to actually do when trying to be an actor is…act.  So, every opportunity to do so (every audition), enjoy it and have fun.  In this setting, that is a difficult task.  I’ve had auditions where I get to deliver three crappily written lines covering about 20 seconds.  I’ve had auditions where it’s me alone acting in front of a camera for about 45 seconds while some guy in the corner reads the countering lines as a sophmore having to read aloud in English class would.  Jenn’s had the best when she got to actually deliver a minute-long monologue.  I guess I just never realized how fantastic a community theatre audition really is before.  You get to perform 2-5 pages at a time…with other people who are trying just as hard as you are–giving you something to work with…you’ll get to read at least a few different scenes usually a couple times.  You get to act.  How in the heck do you convince someone you’re the guy; that you’ve got all the talent necessary (and then some) to make that character into something great with…1-3 lines.   At this point, I don’t think you can.  So, they audition people for hours and then they go with the person who is the right height, has the right hair, the right face, the right shoes for what they have locked into their heads.  We’re trying to work this thing out within the system…but I’m pretty sure we hate the system.

Some Observations:  On a lighter note, the subway is full of unpredictabilities.  A white trash couple screamed obsenities at each other at the top their lungs for about 10 minutes the other day.  It took me awhile to figure out what they were so mad about because it was just noise with them screaming over the top of each other.  Then I heard the line:  “No, no, no!  Now you’re bringing up yesterday!  You didn’t want to go to the place because you said you didn’t think I liked chicken!  But I like chicken!  I f–ing like chicken!”  The rest of it was easier to understand and continued to hover around that same subject.  They got off a few stops later and, after they were through the doors and halfway up the exit stairs (still screaming), a really brave guy in a suit stood up and angrily cussed them out and told to take their business elsewhere (he worded it differently).  My guess is he told his friends he made them get off the train with cold, hard intimidation. 

Another guy sang as loud as he could while sitting by himself.  It seemed as if he was trying to get used to singing in front of people or something…he seemed so determined and kept his eyes fixed on the ceiling all along.  Other people on the train looked very annoyed and wanted to tell him to shut up I’m sure.  Personally I really liked it.  His voice was pleasant enough and he was singing good tunes (some Etta James, some Motown) and that’s something you don’t get in central Illinois…except for the crazy guy who dances on the street corners with his boombox.  I enjoy all the random musical acts that pop on the train–there was a fantastic two-person mariachi band the other day that made the two minutes between stops the best part of my afternoon.  It is kind of awkward when you get the “I have no legs.  I have two children.  Any change you can give would help.  Please help.” guy.  The tradeoff is worth it though.

I think I’m feeling slightly better because of a couple things:  I started writing a screenplay and they can’t tell me that’s not good enough until it’s done which is months away at least…take that!  And I finally got to play some basketball.  It was a 40 minute walk to get to the courts but it was worth it.  One thing I’m definitely still better at than most New Yorkers and I didn’t have to audition to prove it…..and then someone came around and said I couldn’t play on that court unless I was in the union and I punched him!  That part is untrue…except in my mind.  Some small communication with friends and family really helped too.  I guess when you’re used to mattering to more than one person, it’s difficult to go days feeling like your husband or wife is the only person who cares at all about what you have to say or how you’re doing.    A few reminders lately helped clear that out.   Uh..peace out.

the trip out

June 8, 2009

I will let the “About Me” section preface this for anyone reading that isn’t friend or family member.

Saturday morning:  leave Peoria in overstuffed moving truck and drive 6.5 hours to Columbus, Ohio to stay with my (Eric’s) Aunt Rose and Uncle John.  The drive was uneventful but we were blessed to have a homecooked meal and warm conversation courtesy of Rose and John ready for us at their house.  That helped a lot.

Sunday morning:  then they were awesome enough to cook breakfast for us before we left.  So, we’re counting on a 9-10 hour drive on this day to then stay at a motel in New Jersey.  We were actually ahead of schedule for most of it.  Pennsylvania is gorgeous to drive through, though I’d have to give the highlight award to hearing New Kids On The Block on the radio right before crossing into New Jersey.  I was getting tired by then but, apparently, nothing pumps me up more than hearing “Hanging Tough” 15 years too late.  Also, New Jersey is freakin’ beautiful!  All I’ve ever heard are parking lot references and similarities between NJ and hell…or Cleveland…or Milwaukee.  Anyway, we got to the last 10 miles before our bed for the night and then came our first taste of New York City traffic.  That last 10 miles took an hour and involved some of the most bewildering exit ramps I’ve ever seen.

Monday morning:  we left around 6:30am at the advice of a friend, though our apartment was only 3.5 miles from the motel and was mapquestedly estimated to take a mere 15 minutes.  An hour later we arrived to the huge blessing of a triple long parking spot available directly in front of our building.  I cannot imagine the day if it had been otherwise.  We did not have planned help for that day except for a few friends that said they might be able to make it later if auditions didn’t take long.  I personally was thinking that God would simply place really friendly (and physically imposing) neighbors in our path.  Instead he provided a more impressive, though more difficult, miracle.  He made it possible for a 115 lb. wife still easing out of fibro-myalgia to help her husband move a couch, an overstuffed chair, a dresser, an entertainment center, box springs, mattress, coffee table, two end tables, bookshelf, desk, and 65%-of-a-14-foot-moving-truck-worth of boxes up three flights of narrow stairs over the course of about 7 hours.  Not what we were expecting, but amazing nonetheless.

Some observations:  When the gas prices first went way up, media spoke of the stubbornness of drivers still driving the same amount regardless of the cost.  I never really gave that concept much thought until I encountered Monday morning traffic into the Big Apple.  It seems as though New York City officials have done everything in their power to discourage driving (a roadway system that doesn’t appear to have been updated in 60 years with seemingly built-in delays and blind exits galore, absurd tolls–we paid $26 in tolls on that one 4-mile trek, and pot holes big enough for most cows) and yet there are still millions of people driving into the city every weekday despite the prevalence of trains and busses going in and out and all around the city all day long.  Amazing.  I am so glad we didn’t even consider bringing our cars with us.

I don’t know if a memo went out but the agreement among New Yorkers seems to be that if asked for directions, they are to be as nice and patient and courteous as possible, but outside of that they can’t possibly be expected to bother.  I doubt we could count on two hands the number of able-bodied men we saw just watching Jenn grunt and struggle with a couch or some other bulky piece of furniture with me coaching and overcompensating on the other end.  Kind of frustrating for me…made Jenn want to kick a pony.  I guess we should’ve asked for directions on how to move furniture up stairs.

the first week

June 8, 2009

So, the first couple of days were dedicated simply to trying to unpack and make our new home as stressless as possible.  To get away for a few hours, we did venture into Manhattan on Tuesday to get all the necessary “look at all the acting jobs available” papers and chill out in Central Park.  Looking through those classifieds-for-performers was another reminder at what a long  journey we have ahead of us.  Most of the ads are, of course for union people and for those who don’t know, getting in the union is like…

–hey I’d like to be in the union

–oh, well you have to be in a union show to be in the union

–so how do I get into a union show?

–by being in the union

–awesome

There are backdoors here and there to get credit that could qualify you for the union including going to union auditions and hoping that after waiting around for hours somebody comes around and says “auditions went a little faster than expected (or something else along these lines…sometimes they’re trying to save money even) so we will now be seeing any non-union people still here.”  If that doesn’t happen, then hopefully you got to finish a good book or become a sudoku master.  There are also non-union shows that actually pay and enough of those will qualify you eventually but those shows are much fewer and usually involve a lot of travel.  Jenn went to a non-union musical audition that would’ve taken us to China on Wednesday just to get her first one out of the way.  Most of the stuff I was interested in required sending headshots and resume through email and we couldn’t get a cable guy to us until Friday.  So, outside of cleaning our apartment, my productivity was limited to applying for a job at a place where you have to stay in character (someone creepy and campy) while serving people their burgers….which is exactly why I left Peoria.  Nothing like kicking stability in the face with a boot full of looking-like-an-idiot.  My dream of getting my SNL on was also temporarily crushed that day when I stopped into NBC Studios and found out that Saturday Night Live doesn’t actually have open auditions.  They only invite people they have heard of to come audition for them when they need it.

Eventually cable-guy-Friday did arrive though and we were able to send out dozens of emails pretty quickly.  Looking at the landscape, I guess what I’m going for is to get myself into as many short-films and indie-films as possible, as quickly as possible to improve my resume, meet more people and be able to put together a DVD highlight reel of on-film performances–which is what most of the feature-length films and the agencies looking to represent upcoming talent want to see before giving you a chance.  There is also some voice-over work out there that we will be trying to figure out soon.

So far those emails have gotten me 3 auditions coming up this next week including one for a modeling gig for a stock photo/stock video shoot.  The idea of beating out 24 other guys for the job and getting a few hundred dollars and years later seeing myself walking around looking pensive in a herpes commercial really makes me giggle. 

Hopefully tomorrow a few more audition offers will come in and I can feel like there is actually a point to moving all the way out here.  It”s been a long week of realizing my friends are not here to go see a movie with or shoot around and my family can’t invite us over for dinner just when we really need a night out of our own kitchen.  This is going to be tough but I know that being out here is a part of God’s plan for us…however it ends up.

Some observations:  that yelling out of the window thing actually happens.  People in the midwest do not stick their heads out of their windows to yell at somebody they’re displeased with…but the movies weren’t lying–they do it here.  First and most impressive experience was Tuesday morning.  We have to recycle here and apparently a lady in the neighborhood goes around to all the apartment buildings and collects cans from the recycling bins to get money for herself for them.  She was doing this in our courtyard and making a bit of noise and then shirtless guy with stereotypical NYC accent leans out of his third story window and “You have gotta be f-ing kidding me..I don’t wanna hear this outta my f-ing window, now you gotabout 10 seconds to as quietly as humanly possible move those f-ing cans from under my f-ing window so I don’t get f-ing mosquitoes and f-ing flies in my f-ing apartment or I will bust your f-ing head, you hear me?”

This went on for the next 40 minutes in 5 minute intervals.  If Eddie Murphy came down our street singing “to be loved, to be loved, what a feeling…”  there would be audio consequences.

I’ve been reading “Epicenter” by Joel Rosenberg; fantastic book and I would recommend it to everybody.

That whole “oh wow, you’re living in New York, there’s so much to do in New York” thing is kind of a load….of crap.  If you want to/can spend A LOT of money, there’s a ton to do.  If you are addicted to pornography, stuff your schedule every night of the week.  Otherwise, eh…Central Park is nice and then it’s your small apartment and no one but your wife knows you or wants to hang out with you.  So……really looking forward to auditions.