Archive for August, 2009

Weeks 11 and 12

August 26, 2009

The show in which Jenn and I met was called Praying For Rain.  It was a drama at the lab theatre that didn’t really have any sort of hook synopsis to get people interested.  We had a couple of performances that barely drew 25 people.  I figured those would be the lowest attended performances I would ever be apart of…and I certainly didn’t think that anything in New York would beat it.  Well, through five performances so far, 28 is our high with our low mark coming in for our Sunday night performance with…4…people.  4.  I believe it speaks to the adversity this cast has had to overcome just to get this show going that we were still able to put out a high-energy, high-effort performance in spite of feeling kicked in the gut after our first glance out at the audience.  Any other show I’ve done would’ve been crap if we looked out and saw that but it was only the 6th time running the show all the way through so maybe there’s still some excitement over doing it without getting stopped for some ridiculously petty detail that needs fixing while gaping holes in continuity still prevalently exist.  Anyway, it finally feels like we have a pretty good show…at least as good as this show could be.

Auditions for the showcase troop’s full play are this week and if I got into it that would mean a little bit of extra money come showtime since the 4 actors in the show will share 60% of the profits…which admittedly will be pretty small I’m sure.  Also, the monologue challenge is less than a week away and the director said that even I don’t win, he’s positive that I will get called in for an interview with at least a couple of agents.

Having Jenn’s mom here was really nice.  She fought through having more than one night where both Jenn and I were completely unavailable due to work or rehearsal.  The rest of the time was spent exploring and having fun.  She and Jenn got to see Mary Poppins which they raved about.  I didn’t get to take part in much but the last two days she was here we all got to go on a tour boat around the city which was very relaxing and informative and to the “Top of the Rock”.  The top floor of the Rockefeller Center presents a gorgeous view of the city that I wasn’t expecting–especially getting to look out over the whole of Central Park.  Those were some nice and surprising treats. 

Working midnight–8am three straight mornings while going to a 3 performance day and night or 7–8 hour rehearsals is a terrible existence and I don’t recommend it to anyone.  Therefore, I am motivated beyond what I could’ve been otherwise to land as many commercials (once an agent or two are in place) as I possibly can.

My friend from college (Becca) came into town and we got to hang out for a few hours the other day.  Then some friends from my irreplaceable group back home in Peoria are in town this weekend but I have 7 performances in 4 days so I won’t get to hang out with them as much as I would like.  Overall, August will have been a busy month for visitors which leaves me happy.

I am still slowly working on my feature-length screenplay but I got another idea the other day.  The director of the showcase group said that our resumes really need at least 5 credits in the film/tv category and I only have 2.  So, I think I’m going to start trying to plow through on empty days and whip out 4 or 5 short-film scripts (about 20 minutes) and go to all the film schools and shop them around.  I’ll present them to people/students needing scripts to direct and produce with the understanding that if they agree to take it, I get to cast it…and then I’ll just cast myself and Jenn and, if needed, other people I’ve met that know I could trust and whom could use the resume credit.  The one thing going for me is that I’ve read through quite a few student-film scripts by now and they’re nearly all crap…just absolutely no good on any level.  I know I can do better, and if I do, maybe the filmmaking students will see it as an opportunity to make something decent for a change.  I don’t know if it’ll work but I’ve heard worse ideas.

Some randoms:  Tension levels have been running high lately within certain factions of the cast of this musical.  Because of this, there is a lot of tough-guy talk in the locker room and it amazes me how every single guy “will put your a** on the ground if you keep trying to get up on me.”  Basically, nearly every fella in the cast can beat up everyone…ever.  I stopped being good at math about junior year of high school but I’m pretty sure that someone has to be wrong.  Actually everyone but one has to be wrong…and if you factor in Chuck Norris then even that one is wrong.  And I’m positive that I could beat them all up anyway so it doesn’t even matter…..(and yes that irony was intentional).

Just saw a preview for some movie with Jamie Foxx where Gerard Butler took the role that I would’ve demolished and used to send me on my way to stardom.  Why couldn’t they just wait?  Freakin’ Gerard Butler. 

I forgot to take socks to the theatre the other day.  I really didn’t want to do the show sockless so, when I saw some seemingly spare socks in somebody’s personal shoes, I took them.  I was hoping to quickly return to the dressing room after the show and return the socks to the shoes they came from with no one knowing any differently.  About halfway throught the 1st act, though, a buddy (real nice guy but we’re not close) from the cast came out smirkingly seething that “somebody stole my socks…they actually stole my socks…who the…?”  I then explained to him why someone might steal his socks and then eventually admitted that it was me.  An awkward moment then followed.  Now I have to do laundry a lot sooner than I wanted.

I haven’t had a farmer’s tan this bad in a long time.  There aren’t really any pools to go to and it’s tough to find time to have a day at the beach so the only way to fix it is to be one of those shirtless douchebags at a public park…not sure what the solution is…”YOU MUST SACRIFICE ONE!  IS IT DIGNITY…OR PRIDE?!”  That was actually a quote from the spartan warrior yelling-voice in my head.  If you quote the voices in your own head…what does that mean about you?  Whoops…thinking time’s done.

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Week 10.5

August 13, 2009

Last entry, I forgot to mention the best NYC story I’ve heard to date.  I won’t tell who I heard this story from but you don’t have to know that to feel strange and laugh hard.  So, somebody had a friend who was dog-sitting for her friends.  She was supposed to check in, feed him, play with him, and walk him once in the morning and once at night.  The first few days were fine but for the nighttime visit on the 3rd day, the girl walked in to discover that the dog, who was about 12 years old, had died.  Knowing that the owners were not going to be home and that she didn’t want to be blamed for it, she decided to take the dog’s body to an overnight vet to get checked for a diagnosis where she would then call the owners and inform them of what happened and let them decide what to do with the body.  She looked around the apartment and could not find a pet carrier which made sense since this is an 80-pound labrador we’re talking about.  After searching the apartment some more she settled on the biggest suitcase she could find to transport the rather large body of this dead dog.  She dragged and carried the thing down a couple blocks and up the stairs into the subway.  Once on the train, sweating and panting, she was approached by a nice looking young man who was sympathetic to her exhausted disposition.  He said that it looked like a really heavy bag and asked her what was going on.  The girl knew the truth sounded creepy and embarrassing and might get her arrested on suspicion of being a psychopath…so she made up a story about a crazy roommate and her abusive boyfriend and how she just had to get out of there, so she stuffed everything she owned into this one suitcase and was on her way to another friend’s place across town.  She was rather proud of herself for improvising so quickly and convincingly and the nice young man continued talking to her about the woes of bad roommates and angry men.  Once she indicated they were at her stop, the young man asked if he could at least help her carry her bag to the bottom of the stairs out of the station.  She was grateful to not have to struggle through the turnstile and down the stairs with this dog-filled luggage and had grown rather comfortable with the guy during their 15 minutes of train-conversation, so she accepted his offer.  This being New York though, he, of course then, pushed her to the ground and ran as fast as he could out of the station and and down a side street that was too dangerous for her to follow……………..Now this did add an extra layer to her already awkward explanation to her out-of-town friends (as well as a large piece of missing luggage) but what in heck is that guy gonna be thinking when he opens up that suitcase?  The possibilities are vast in number and variance but my bet is that he eventually decided he wasn’t going to get nothing out of it.  So, on a hope that the rumors about Chinese people were true, he dragged that thing to the back door of every restaurant in Chinatown and then sold the smelly suitcase for $20.  I can’t even venture a guess on what kind of dough one would get for labrador…but after almost dying from shock and disgust, I doubt he agreed to anything too cheap.

So, I barely made it through the weekend of late work and no sleep with a little hint of softball and rehearsal…but I did.  One of the pastors picked me up from work at 8:05am on Saturday morning and drove me to the tournament and I got there just as our first game was starting.  Over the course of 3 games, I got to make 3 Sportscenter catches (including one from which my knee is still bloody and disgusting), knock in a few RBIs and run the bases a bit….but we got trounced all three games.  On top of that, all the other teams in the tournament and in our bracket were completely Korean.  I already hate to lose but my apparently-racist-patriotism made this even tougher to swallow.  It was really nice to compete though and the fun made it worth it.  I got in a few hours of sleep after the tournament before going back to work at midnight.  Then went home at 8:30am and busied myself to stay awake so I could be at church for worship team rehearsal by 10am.  Got home around 1pm and went to musical rehearsal from 2-9:30pm.  This weekend I also have to work three straight midnight to 8am shifts.  This time, Saturday morning awaits with a 9am–4pm musical rehearsal and then the same church deal Sunday morning before needing to be at the theatre for our opening show which is at 2pm.  Now I have an excuse to have college stoner sleeping  habits during the rest of the week….so I guess that’s the positive.

Speaking of musical rehearsal:  for those with experience in theatre…imagine being within two days of opening night and still not once having run the show through start to finish….not even once…now throw in the fact that you have two different casts that both haven’t run the show even once.  That is the case here.  We had an atrocious rehearsal on Sunday which got us about 2/3 of the way through the first act.  Then nothing on Monday.  Then a short music-only rehearsal on Tuesday.  Then Wednesday (last night) an attempt at cue-to-cue tech rehearsal which would then lead to a run-through….but only got us through 2/3 of the first act on simply the cue-to-cue (how is that possible with 6 hours of rehearsal time?  Well, it basically ran as if they had pre-hung the lights and then were doing the light design for the show on the spot…so it averaged out to about 1 cue per 15-20 minutes).  Now we don’t have rehearsal Thursday or Friday with 7 hours planned for Saturday and us still needing to finish the cue-to-cue.  If I had the lead or a really big part, I could at least think that “if I just do the best job I can possibly do, then the show could still be saved”….but I don’t so I feel helpless and scared of being tremendously embarrassed.  I cannot imagine a worse experience from the technical side of things.  The cast is, mostly, terrific which is the only reason this thing has a chance.  But every aspect of the behind-the-scenes work is as ignorant and childish as I can possibly imagine.

Jenn’s mom got in town yesterday all safe and sound.  Although the week will mostly be girl-time for the two of them, it’s nice for me personally to have someone familiar and bright-eyed with us here.  Mom Von-Behren has a lot she wants to do this week and she’s very excited about it.  It happens that I have a very busy week this week, which will cause me to miss most of it but the long-term effects are at least a happier wife…which is never bad.  Hopefully we can help her have a great time.

Some observations:  I got to see my first homeless guy peeing right out in the open.  It was on the steps leading into the subway station.  Some people started yelling at him, others mockingly applauded and exhorted him as classy…the overwhelming feeling that came over me was…actually jealousy.  What freedom!  Now this feeling did not stem from his placement in life….just from the fact that he was peeing right out in the open.  I was not longing for the expectation-free, responsibility-less, no-room-for-fresh-guilt existence of the homeless guy.  I just really like peeing outdoors and to be able to do it right out in the open with no mind paid to who might walk by or if they see my thingy…now that would be something. 

Sometimes there is no room for sensitivity within honesty.  I need to stop fearing this and its potential repercussions…..so does everybody else.

Week 9.5

August 6, 2009

So, the very first thing I actually prefer here compared to Illinois has presented itself.  In the midwest, there’s that saying “church on every corner” and it’s pretty darn close.  Therefore, almost everyone has some experience or memory of church or church people–positive or negative.  Since almost everyone has their own personal feelings about “that whole God thing” already and those feelings rarely agree with the person next to you’s feelings, talking about Jesus is taboo and off limits in nearly every setting.  I have discovered that here– in this place where there certainly is not a church on every corner and where it’s easier to find a porn shop or drug dealer than a house of God– those negative connotations of the mere discussion of Christ don’t exist (at least not nearly as prevalently).  I have begun making actual friends with a few people in the cast of Rock-A My Soul (the musical I’m in) and a few good acquaintances.  Twice in the last week I have gone out after rehearsal with a different friend and God worked it so my testimony naturally came up.  That led to a deeper discussion of Jesus and where that person was in their faith and where they would like to be that, both times, lasted over an hour.  Other things were discussed in the 2-4 hours of hanging out but Jesus kept coming back up……AND THEY’RE BOTH STILL MY FRIENDS.  My past isn’t pretty, and I wish I could take it all back just because they are all moments of me purposely turning my back on God, but it was obvious that without my past these people and I would have had no common ground to start from and no footing for them to begin to respect where I am compared to where I was…and be in a bit of awe of how powerful He actually is…..gee whiz, Jesus is amazing.  It’s also really nice that He gave me friends.

I work this weekend Friday, Saturday, and Sunday midnight–8am and Jenn works Friday and Saturday until 2am.  This will be the first heavy work weekend for both of us together and it will be an interesting test.  Including– can I not completely freak out that work is threatening my ability to get to my all-day church softball tournament on Saturday.  I want to play really bad because there has not been enough athletic competition out here to sustain me for two weeks, let alone almost ten weeks.  But, apparently wherever there is a lot of grass, the city purposely doesn’t put a subway line anywhere near it.  So, I get off work at 8am and our first game is at 8:30am and I can’t possibly get to the fields on my own.  I’m worried deep in my heart….which might be unhealthy but I can’t control it.

This has still been a really rough time for Jenn’s body.  Her fibromyalgia is doing a job on her and we’re not sure if there is an end in sight.  Fortunately– with all the days the pain has kept her inside our apartment– her sister got her the first two Twilight books for her birthday.  I now know more about Twilight than I ever wished to but have also gained a healthy respect for my wife’s ability to knock out really thick books in a very short amount of time if given nothing else to do.  Good for her.  However, after hearing so much about them from her, there was a moment when my manhood was in jeopardy.  I opened up the first book somewhere near the middle and read half-a-page.  I laughed really hard for a solid 5 minutes and put it down knowing that I would never again feel the urge to join the frenzy.  It HAS to be a girl thing.

I’m getting kind of pumped for this monologue challenge.  I’m blanking out as to whether I have written about it previously but I’ll describe it briefly.  It is through this actor’s showcase group I’m in called The Actor’s Project NYC.  40 actors signed up for it and each one will deliver a 1-minute monologue.  There are 5 industry judges (casting directors, agents) that decide the final 5 actors and then the audience chooses the winner.  After enough troop meetings with the showcase group and little private meetings with our artistic director, I really like my chances to get into the final 5.  From there, though, I have to hope that the other 4 finalists are like me in that they are bringing nobody to come see them.  Even if I killed it (uh…did a really good job) I can’t win if one of the other finalists has 35 friends in the audience.  The prizes for winning are things like free headshots and career coaching and audition classes and other things that are all career related and cost a lot of money out here.  It’s the day after Rock-A My Soul finishes up so there will be a lot of exposure for me for that short bit of time.  Now I’m just hoping a really great agent happens to be around to take notice.

Jenn’s friends from college were in NYC and met us for lunch a few days ago.  The wife of the couple just made her Carnegie Hall debut last month, which we went to, and you would have no clue that this woman is rising star in the international opera scene either by being in the same room with her or talking to her about opera.  She makes no judgement on other people’s pursuits or talents and carries no entitlement or self-importance.  If Jenn and I ever do “make it” I can only hope that we carry ourselves with that kind of grace and modesty with genuine respect for the talent of those around us.  She was a terrific example.

Some observations:  I don’t know about other people but when I’m talking with people in the midwest I can usually get a pretty quick read on the type of person they are as far as their drug usage goes.  Like, this person has never done any illegal drug…or this person used to smoke a lot of pot…or this person still smokes a lot of pot and used to do cocaine and mushrooms.  I never had an issue with or any desire for drugs but I was around a lot of  people who did.  My compass, however, is completely invalid out here.  Overhearing some people talk in the cast talk about that sort of thing has totally blown my mind.  I guess spending your formative/party years out here means hardcore drugs aren’t that big of deal to you.  Very strange.  Thank God I didn’t get here until now.

I feel sorry for people that are so unable or unwilling to see or admit the failure in their lives that they compromise what constitutes as truth or success.  This mostly applies to Christians in their walk with Jesus.  This compromise doesn’t make any sense at all.  God Himself says “my grace is sufficient for you” and that His strength is magnified in our weakness.  Why not just admit just how much He demands of us and, therefore, how pathetically feable our efforts and “victories” are….then rejoice that He still loves us and cherishes us despite this.  Sigh. 

New York never learned how to make a stinkin’ milkshake.  I long for a thick midwestern chocolate shake so bad.  Out here…it’s just really expensive chocolate milk.  I mean, it’s unhealthy, so I figured they would’ve had it mastered and improved and somehow added butter or bacon to it but…no.