Archive | July, 2011

LA Is A Theater Town

25 Jul

In the past week and a half I’ve been ingesting a whole lot of theater. It wasn’t on purpose, it just so happened to be the thing to do every other day. And what a wonderful thing it is to do! There’s been a lot of debate recently about whether or not LA is a theater town. It’s actually not a new debate; I’ve heard over and over all my life how LA is not a theater town at all and that only Chicago and NY really count. But, I would like to argue that it is. LA Theater is by no means a perfect community, and there is a lot we can work on and places we can grow, but it is here! And I’m talkin’ Good, Original, Creative, Theater.

Here’s a rundown of what I saw and why it was great:

Superior Donuts @ Geffen Playhouse

Well, I talked about this last week when I used Superior Donuts as an example for Something to Strive For, but I will repeat the gist of why this production was awesome: all-around strong acting, writing and directing. Yes, it is the Geffen, and they have big budgets and equally big price tags on their tickets. But I think the Geffen is still relevant. They are doing new work, like Superior Donuts, slowly acclimating the typical theater going audience to stuff other than outdated and always produced shows or classics or musicals… ya know, the mainstream stuff as far as theater goes.

The Pity of Things @ Theatre of NOTE

NOTE is always pushing the envelope with new work. (That’s what the “N” in NOTE stands for, by the way.) What I love about Theatre of NOTE is that it will tackle material other theaters wont touch. There is something to be said for that. I also love how it fosters its own- two of the five pieces are written by NOTE members and a third is written by the wife of a NOTE member. And as always, stars NOTE actors who, without fail, deliver solid performances.

Further more, this show celebrates the company’s 30th anniversary season. As NOTE was founded on producing new one act plays, it’s fitting that they included an evening of one-acts as part of the mainstage season. In a town where everything is constantly changing- a nightclub undergoes a facelift and a name change every year, a freeway gets expanded, stores and restaurants close and open- sticking around for 30 years is an impressive feat. What it says is, not only are there passionate actors out there hungry to make this kind of new and interesting theater, but that there are audiences who want it, too.

Broadsword @ The Black Dahlia

I’ve been itching to see a show here ever since my boyfriend told me about it and the 2006 (I believe) feature it got in American Theatre Magazine on “Hot, Hip and On the Verge” theater companies. The reason I was so intrigued is because its roots sound similar to my own beloved PianoFight- a tiny 30-seat space in a funky non-distinct store-front on a nothing stretch of Pico Blvd., led by a young and eager twenty-something, a mere 4 years old (at the time of publication), focused on West Coast and World Premieres, its budget made soley of ticket sales, rentals and donations, and no paid staff. In other words, this theater is run by pure passion. Much like PianoFight. And that gets me really excited!!

I’ll be honest, I was shocked at how small this theater was. Never again will I complain about doing “99-seat” theater (which is code for 40-50 seats crammed in a tiny black box with poor circulation and shitty backstage). This space was legitimately tiny. You couldn’t squeeze more people in here even if you wanted to. I was also surprised at the very round about way you get to the theater. First, you walk in through the store front on Pico, which is a large open lobby-like space with walls proudly displaying nicely framed posters of past productions, pretty much empty except for a bench, two chairs and a little counter where a nice young man (perhaps that Eager 20-Something?) checks you in. Then, when it is time to “open house”, he actually leaves his little ticket station, locks the door you just came through and leads you out around and back through a small parking lot behind the building, down a couple of steps and through a back door until you are inside their little theater. That’s when I realized that the lobby space probably turns into their “back stage” once the audience is seated.

Real Housewives of Shakespeare @ The Second City

Yes, it is exactly what it sounds- Real Housewives of New Jersey meets the leading ladies of Shakespeare. An original story interweaving the ones we know from Midsummer, Twelfth Night, R&J just to name a few. Obviously a comedy, and a very clever one at that, clocking in at just about an hour, this was an awesome way to spend a night out. I’ve actually never been to Second City (a lot of firsts for me in the theater going world) and was excited to see a show there even though this wasn’t actually a Second City production (and, full disclosure, my friend and fellow LA PianoFighter wrote it– awesome).  Aside from the clever writing and cool multi-media (the actors taped TMZ-like segments before hand so it felt like we really were watching a hit reality show) what I loved about this show is the people involved. It goes to show how LA can be and is a theater community- I knew the playwright, producer and four of the leading ladies. This kind of thing is exciting to me. Talented people who know other talented people doing creative things together.

Hurricane Season @ Eclectic Theatre Company

This was an interesting evening of one-acts that we the audience got to vote on (much like PianoFight’s annual ShortLived playwriting competition). The night I went were three pieces, all very different from each other. The first two were about 20 minutes and the last one was an hour. What I enjoyed about this evening, was how different all three were, not just in plot but in style. The sold-out crowd and quality acting again goes to show that there is a place in LA for original theater. Also, once again, it proved to be a small world- one of the actors in a piece is someone who was in a show I produced last year.

How LA becomes a small world as I continue to see more and more people I know or have worked with, the quality productions and the overall enthusiasm from both actors and producers goes to show that there is a theater community. Also, I realized, all five of these shows were of new work, which means each one of these theaters took a leap of faith in their own way. And I’m sure there are dozens more doing the same…

Actors Need Vacations, Too

18 Jul

So, I’m taking this trip next week. I’ll be gone for two weeks, sans phone and internet and computer. No casting submissions, no emails about readings and plays and workshops, no auditioning, no phone calls…. It’s like everything is on hold. I’m in this limbo. I’m already feeling anxious to coming back and I haven’t even left yet.

Well, that’s not a good start to a vacation now is it?

It’s odd to think of taking a vacation from a job that’s as ambiguous as acting is in LA. I’m not clocking in anywhere, or have long hours at the office daily or anything like that to warrant a break. But I do work a lot (though most unpaid) and deserve a break just like the rest of us (I’m convincing myself here… I got less than a week to put my anxiety in check so I can actually enjoy this vacation!) Hourly casting submissions, daily auditions driving all over town, pick up shots for a webseries, weekly follow ups to get that hard-earned footage, updating your website, tweaking your reel, production meetings, dance classes, writing sessions, actor check-in meetings, seeing new work, casting director mailings, researching your type and current shows and realistic agencies…. it all adds up. That’s work. And, not to mention, the work that actually pays the bills.

I know that acting takes work, I just need to remind myself that it is work that counts. It’s work that is building towards something and it’s work I need to sometimes take a healthy break from. Also, it is work that isn’t going anywhere–it’ll still be here when I get back. As I let my thoughts snowball, I have to realize that there will always be breakdowns to submit to. So what, I don’t submit for two weeks. They’ll be there for weeks after that. I have to realize that I’m probably not missing out on anything; that opportunities will still come up when I return. In fact, I’ll probably be more pumped to hit the ground running when I get back than I have been these past couple of weeks. I need a recharge. As positive as I became towards the end of my post two weeks ago, I still feel kinda in this Dry Spell. A complete change of pace, change of environment, change of people, change of time zone– it actually might be just what I need.

So, there are two things I need to remember as I embark on my mini journey next week:

1. I deserve it. I’ve earned it. I could use the break.

2. LA and my acting career is still gonna be here when I get back.

Something to Strive For

11 Jul

Saturday I had the privilege of seeing Tracy Letts’ latest play, Superior Donuts. I saw his pulitzer prize-winning August: Osage County about two years ago and it was the one of, if not the best plays I’ve ever seen. It made me laugh hard, cry hard, think a lot. I can’t say enough good things about it. So, needless to say, I had high hopes for Donuts! It was showing at the Geffen, which believe it or not I’ve never been to (those tickets don’t come cheap!). As I’m an actor and theater-lover I’m of course going to have my nitpicky opinions, but all those aside, this was a great show with great actors. And of course, as an actor and theater-lover, I cannot help but imagine myself–dream of myself–on that same stage doing work of that same caliber working with actors of that same level of talent. It’s something to strive for. Ten years ago, or even five years ago for that matter, this may have seemed like a pretty far off dream but what I realize now is that I’m getting closer:

– I remember when I first entertained the thought of moving back to LA from SF to do the acting thing once and for all. I started to seek out good theater. I went to many different theaters around town, one of which was Theater of NOTE. I was lucky I even got in because I was on the waitlist. The play was Erik Patterson’s He Asked For It (Patterson has since gone on to gain some noteriety around town). I was impressed from the line out the door to the professional set to the top notch acting (and hefty credits) and I sat in that audience dreaming of being on the other side. Well, two years later I was.

– At the Geffen the other day, I bumped into two actor friends I knew, one is a very talented Broadway (and film &tv) actor while the other was actually understudying a role in Donuts! Knowing the two of them and seeing them there made me feel connected to the Geffen and that whole tier of theater, like I was part of the club too. Goes to show that after a while, it’s a small world after all.

– I did have the privilege, once, to audition for a Center Theater Group show at the Taper. And I had the privilege of getting called back. This was a dream come true. I used to only want that phone call- the call to come in. And I got it! Now my dream is bigger, but I think so are my chances.

The Dry Spell

4 Jul

It’s inevitable. I’m in it. The Dry Spell…………..!

I feel stagnant, bored, doubtful… scared. It was a busy first couple of months of the year and then bam, nothing, nada, zilch.

When there is a long period of time with few auditions and even fewer (read: none) bookings it’s pretty hard to hold on to my confidence, and my dream. What’s wrong with me? Am I not talented enough? Skilled enough? Have the right look? Is a career in acting not meant to be?

This, of course, is the irrational freak-out actor side of me. Well, I’m not going to say it’s entirely irrational because it makes perfect sense that after a run of little auditions and no acting you’d be questioning a few things. But, I do have this one piece I hold deep inside of me that knows, just knows, it is simply a “dry spell” and nothing more. It doesn’t mean anything. I have everything I need to carve my path. In fact, I should take this as a blessing- when I’m busy as hell with acting and auditioning I actually wish I had more time to do all the other projects and things I no longer have the time to do. Well, here ya go… now is that time! And I have been using it wisely, I believe. I revamped my website, had some much needed hang out time with good friends. Much, much needed beach and pool-side relaxing time. Reading A LOT. And writing even more.

I also have to remind myself that even dry spells aren’t really dry anyway. Fortunately, I have really awesome people that surround me to point this out. In the past three months that I have been in this supposed slump, I’ve started a bi-monthly artist support group with a friend, regular bi-monthly meetings with my theater company, performed in the Endless Weekend Tour, attended the PF Company Creative Retreat, completed the rough draft and preliminary edits of a feature-length screenplay, participated in a reading for a new movie, started ballet classes, performed in a staged reading of a new work at a theater I’ve never performed at before, moderated a panel at the 2nd annual Hollywood Fringe Fest, caught up writing my novel, started writing a play and I’m sure there’s even more stuff I’m not thinking of.

So, I guess I just dispelled my entire blog post. The Dry Spell is a myth. It’s not dry. Just because one minute aspect of all the gazillion aspects of making an acting career is on a hiatus does not mean you’re not doing anything. In fact, I’m feeling pretty good now that I’ve reached the end of this post- I’ve been busy!