Archive for May, 2009

Excuse Me Mr. Director WHAT DID YOU SAY?

Had a first table read of the play I’m in the other night. Everybody was very nice. Not a psycho in the bunch. No one vying for all the attention or anything. It’s a theater company, so they have a lot of repeats, so the nuts probably don’t get asked back.

I kinda hate the first table read. Because even though I shouldn’t, I feel like I am meeting the other actors for the first time and they have never seen my work and they are judging how good an actor I am and there is not much I can do because I am still finding my way and I know I shouldn’t feel this way.
Anyway, the director has the aura of a former whiz kid or something. I know he got all A’s and probably skipped a grade and raised his hand a lot. And he was friends with all his teachers. And was in every club. You know BRIGHT. Talks fast. Thinks fast. That’s good. Smart is good.

So before we start he says, “I know everyone says don’t try to do anything on the first read, just read. But I don’t want that. Try to do something.” OH NO. So we all become laugh whores during the read and push for the laughs.
When we finish the play, he says he has a problem with two scenes. “I noticed people were yawning while you read those last two scenes.” He is talking about tightening up the writing of the scenes, but I know the actors who read the scenes can’t hear him now because the words “ YAWNING WHILE YOU READ, YAWNING WHILE YOU READ, YAWNING WHILE YOU READ, YAWNING WHILE YOU READ are now reverberating in their minds and they can’t hear anything else. Hence the uncomfortable phony panic smiles on their faces and the glazed expressions in their eyes. And their attempts to nod at the appropriate times to show they can actually hear him and know what he is talking about.

Eh, uh, I don’t think he should have mentioned the yawning thing. Actors are so hard on themselves and sensitive you gotta be careful what you say to us.

Directors need organization, talent, intelligence and sensitivity. I once worked with a film director who seemed to specialize in saying inappropriate things to actors. I was doing a scene in a kitchen where my character was desperate. We did a few takes and it went fine. Then the director said, “Just for the hell of it, take it really far. Go all out.” So we did the take and I was shaking and crying. When we finished the DP looked impressed and turned to the director and said, “What do you think? Should we print that one?” And the director turned to him and said, “No, no, that was way too over the top, no!” “Ah, HELLO I AM THREE FEET AWAY FROM YOU. I CAN HEAR YOU! I’M IN THE ROOM!” I thought. Thanks. Nice. I asked one of the crew about it. “How can he say this stuff? Does he think I’m an idiot?” “No,” they said, “he talks like that to all the actors.” Luckily for us, he ended up a film editor. In a dark studio. Where he doesn’t have to talk to anybody. Good thing.

Actors Get In Line

I woke up on Thursday morning to find this email in my inbox. It was sent at midnight on Wednesday:

“Hi Cranky,
I’m an undergraduate student shooting a short for my Columbia filmclass with Julie Wolfer. She recommended you to me personally. My project is about a reclusive former film star and her relationship with her guilt-ridden son. I’d love for you to be in it. Would you be interested and available this Friday? It’s such late notice but if so, I’d be happy to send you the script right away.
Thanks for considering this on short notice. Hope to be in touch soon.

It is Thursday morning at nine am when I am reading this. My first instinct is to say no. I mean I am Cranky, and it is nine am.

I’m wondering why anyone would wait this late to cast something they are shooting TOMORROW. Maybe the actress dropped out? That happens. So I decide to be a good egg and all and answer immediately:
At 9:00 am on Thursday morning I write:

Hi Michelle,
Do you mean tomorrow? How long is the script?
I think I can do it. Send me the script, OK?

So I wait for a reply. Nothing at 10. Nothing at 11. Nothing at 12. Nothing at 1.
I kinda need to know what I am doing tomorrow. And the window of opportunity for actually studying the script is closing, as I will be busy from three o’clock on today. So now I start obsessing about something I didn’t want to do in the first place.
I go to the computer at 1:45pm and write:

Hi Again,
Could you call me when you get this so I know if we are on for tomorrow?
Thanks so much,

At 2pm I get a called from a wimpy girl saying, “Ah um, oh hi, ah, actually I found someone. But now I need to find a guy to play the son. So I might not be able to film tomorrow. If I don’t find someone to play the son today to shoot tomorrow are you available the day after tomorrow if I have to do that?”

There are so many todays and tomorrows I am thoroughly confused.

She emailed me at midnight saying how she would LOVE for me to do it. I answered her at 9am. So what does this mean? Are there actresses poised at their computers between midnight and 9am ready to reply to casting inquiries? The answer would be YES. How many actresses got the “I’d LOVE for you to be in it” email? Why would you love us? Because we are breathing?
The “role goes to the fastest” situations are too weird. The worst example of this was when I went to an EPA for a theater out in the Hamptons. The bus from the train station was full of actors going to the same place. When we disembarked from the bus, everyone realized that we were all going to sign in and audition in that order. So they started to run. It was an ACTOR STAMPEDE down the main street of Sag Harbor. I’m not kidding. What did that look like to the residents of the town? People dressed up in city clothes, guys in jackets and women in heels and character shoes full out stampeding down Main Street. It was sooooo embarrassing. My friend and I refused to run. She has since dropped out of acting. We had to wait like two and a half hours to go in because we didn’t join in the panic jog.

Actors feel like they are always waiting on lines and sometimes get so used to being ill treated that if you like offer them a glass of water and a place to sit at an audition it is very appreciated.

I used to get my headshots done at a place on 14th Street, which has since gone out of business. It was uncomfortable and not nice. And there was always a huge line that was right there as soon as you got off the elevator.
The guy who worked the counter had a drinking problem and somehow kept his job. Maybe they figured he was good enough to wait on actors. I don’t know. Anyway, he was an evil drunken southern queen.

One day I am waiting on a line to pick up headshots and the evil queen sees me. He yells out the most offensive thing he could possibly say to me and laughs. I just turned on my heels and left. I was done. He came out from behind the counter and chased me into the hallway and said, “Oh, I’m sorry. I’m so sorry! Come back. I didn’t mean that.”

So I went back in with him. I did need to pickup the headshots. What else was I gonna do? I turned to him and said, “LOOK, I GET MY BALLS BUSTED ALL OVER TOWN. I DON’T WANT MY BALLS BUSTED WHEN I’M PAYING FOR PICTURES!”

Another actor on line immediately turned to me and said, “Wow! You actually have any balls left?”

To Show Or Not To Show That Is The Question

Cranky had to ask herself a hard question yesterday. I got a call for an audition and had to ask myself,” Do I really want to be in another show”?

Film – you’re in and you’re out. Theater is a bigger time commitment. And I’ve shied away from theater because I was traumatized by the last psycho director I worked with at LaMaMa.

So this group asking me to audition sends me the script. I don’t like it. The character I was auditioning for has another character put his hand on her breast – TWICE. Yuck. And the ending was completely stupid. This is where the English Major and the actress in my mind go to battle. Because you can be a SNOB or you can WORK. But you can’t be BOTH. Unless you are famous. And we all know I’m not famous, so I’m f____d.

So I force myself to work on it. They were very professional. Love that. They sent me the whole play to read and the exact sides I would be reading. And an appointment time. THANK YOU.

And by working on it, I realized the dialogue was actually really good. Maybe the play wasn’t so bad, and my phobia was tricking me into not liking it because I’m gun shy about doing theater. My neuroses was making me hyper-critical.
So when I got off the subway and I was walking through Hell’s Kitchen to the theater, I made a deal with myself. “See that restaurant over there? Well if you do a good job and get the part you can go there after the show,” I told myself. Good, bad or mediocre, every show has the upside of going out after with friends after. Cranky loves that.
Also, I told myself, “Just think of the bumper crop of new stories sure to pop up during the many days and days and hours and hours of a theater rehearsal process.”

So I was in a positive head when I went into the waiting area. I sat down to work some more on the script. I had given myself an extra fifteen minutes so I could sit quietly and get into character.

And as per usual another actress who was also auditioning came in and started talking REALLY LOUD to some guy involved with the theater. “Oh wow! Hi! Great to see you!! I know this is gonna be a great project, but I’m not sure if I will have time because I’m really involved with SOHO REP. They are such nice people there. But, I mean, I want to stay OUT THERE. I really need to be out there acting. It would be cool to be involved here too, you know?” she said/yelled.

I refused to be an audience for these antics. I got up and went and sat on the other side of the room. Especially since the actress was standing so that she had her ass in my face. Was she sending me a message? When the guy left, she turned around and gave me the phony “I hate you” smile. “I hate you too,” my blank stare back said.

A child actor went in to read before me. His Dad tiptoed over and put his ear on the door so he could listen. If Dad keeps this up his kid has NO CHANCE. Oh, and the mother called on the cell phone to wish the kid GOOD LUCK before he went in. Nooooooo. Gag me. Leave the kid alone.

Cranky opened her mouth and told the Dad, “You gotta let him go. Let him go…..” Dad chuckled and said, “ I get so nervous for him.” Yes, and pass your nervousness on to him and he will surely succeed.

I went in and read my two scenes and did a good job and everything. I overcame my theaterphobia inflicted by the insane Italian director. I allowed myself to be inspired. I utilized Cranky therapy. The promise of fun nights in restaurants AFTER the show did the trick.