It Has Been A Wild Ride…

 

Brushes and Bars
This is a view from one of the windows in the Gilroy Arts Alliance.  Wonderful little place and home to the fabulous Limelight Actor’s Theater.

Dear Gentle Reader,

I have been trying to write this post for the last week and couldn’t quite figure out how to say what I want to in the shortest way.  So “Delete” has been my BFF for a while now.  😄 In a way, I felt a prisoner to my desire to live in the world of theatre as much as possible. I spent hours upon hours in commutes up and down the Bay Area from San Francisco to Hollister and many places in between.

At the beginning of the year, I was tapped to do the “Tango Tragique” for She Loves Me at Foothill Music Theatre, which opened in February.  I ain’t never done a tango before.  Not only that, my partner and I had to build this S & M-esque relationship with each other and the music for the number to be seen in the right way.  Luckily, I had a wonderful partner and choreographer to show me all of the movement, but creating that relationship was a little more challenging because the two of us dancing this number were big ol’ goofballs. There was so much giggling or “oh, shit! Sorry”s cuz one of us would do something that wasn’t quite right. It was way fun, but too short. LOL! Of course it didn’t hurt that the show has some great numbers brought to life by a fabulous cast.

In March, I opened The Subject Is Love, and I wrote all about that here, so if you’d like to read more about that one, just click the link. I will say that I loved that little show and thought we could have easily went on to do another 2 weekends.

In April, I was asked to jump into a role for the western regional premier of The Boy From Oz as Chris Allen.  He was the other half of The Allen Brothers with Peter Allen.  I had to destroy an Australian accent.  Wait, I had to use an accent.  Destroy is just what ended up happening to it.  HA! It was an interesting experience? There were some good things but many things that didn’t go as planned. The first was being added to many numbers that I wasn’t originally supposed to do. Not that I minded, but I had to add those things on top of the stuff I was supposed to learn.  I had 5, (5!) rehearsals to get everything down, and never actually got to run the entire show until preview, which started 2 hours late because that theatre was friggin’ haunted.  That’s my story and I am stickin’ to it. There were a LOT of unfortunate mishaps during the run of the production, but the cast was always solid.  I will say that the one thing I learned from the experience was to look into the company.  See what the reputation is before jumping in.  It is a lesson I wish I had learned sooner, but had that been the case, I would not be friends with some truly amazing performers.

May brought the opening of Cahoots!  I know, I know.  WTF is Cahoots? Trust, kids, I said the same thing. It is the story of a dinner party gone wrong.  For the first time, I got to play someone that wasn’t cheery or upbeat. My character (Al) was on a mission at trying to get people to buy into what some would call a paranoid mindset because his brother was murdered nearly a year ago.  Al has this huge monologue addressing this perceived threat and baits the others into a debate that ends badly for poor Al.  I loved the audience’s response to Al.  They wanted to hate him, but couldn’t completely because they understood that under this need was still unresolved sorrow and his desperation stems from the belief that no one is taking him seriously. In an unexpected turn, the company’s season ticket holders voted Al Best Supporting Character.  So (according to one theatre goer) “this charming A-hole” was totally worth playing. Bonus points: no accent.  😂

So, this brings us to good old June!  The beginning of Summer, my least favorite season.  I am sure that I mentioned somewhere that the Sun and I have a hate/hate relationship. But… let’s talk about that some other time.

June… I open as Max in Lend Me A Tenor! This was the craziest part of the whole ride.  Not only was it a wonderful feeling to be a part of a fundraiser for the Michael J. Fox Foundation, but it was incredibly challenging.  I mean incredibly. Now bear in mind: this is just my ego talking here.  Every show an actor goes into requires preparation. Who is this person you are portraying? Why are they doing that (pretty much every action they do in the show)? What is underneath that reason? As the rehearsals progressed, I found myself becoming frustrated.  I felt like my prep was pointless as I kept hearing “don’t do that” or “say it like this” more than I thought was possible. Now, this was just because the directors had a very clear idea of what they wanted and I was off the mark. I try to be as trusting as possible with all the people I work on a project with, because A. you are all striving to create the best thing; and B. no one likes creating in an uncomfortable environment. Besides, it is always the right thing to do.  After the third or fourth week though, I had to simply stop saying, “sure, no problem” or “sounds good” so that I can ask “why.”  It wasn’t just that I needed clarification of why I wasn’t allowed to do something, but so I had a chance to explain why I was and if my motivation wasn’t clear then maybe I would be offered suggestions.  Everyone does something for a reason, now let me explain why I think Max would do this motion.  Now, every person has a different interpretation of a role based on their life.  My Max wasn’t going to be the same as anyone else’s and I kept feeling like I was being allowed less and less to be my Max.  By opening night, I just wanted to complete my job then go straight home. While I had time to sort through all of the events leading up to that night, I realized that I was failing to do my best for these wonderful people with whom I get to share the stage.  So the next performance, I said “fuck it all” and let go of all the personal feelings I was having and just focus on playing with the cast.  I did what I was asked to do. That’s when the show began to solidify for me. I was disappointed in myself that it took so long for me to be able to understand this.  No show was ever the same exactly.  New small things were tried every night, mostly in the line delivery. Not only was the cast a heaping ton of fun on stage but they were just as awesome backstage too.  The overall experience was great as usual, but it was still a challenge.  And of course, one only grows by such challenges. Behind the scenes, the producers were spectacular. By the way, Italian accent needed and it was ok.  Not great, but ok.  And I was ok with that.  Because Max wasn’t Italian, just pretending to be.

Having thrown myself into so many productions that were constantly overlapping, I found it exhilarating. Now that things have calmed back down, I feel that the realization of being able to juggle this number of projects has opened me up to new ideas about myself.  I will have to think on them a bit more before I can fully write about them.

In the mean time, I still have one more show to complete before the year is out:  ASSASSINS.

Have you ever pushed yourself further than you thought you could?  Was it something you loved?  What did you find out? Maybe you can help me put into words what I am feeling.

Until next time, dear reader, I hope you continue to find things that you enjoy and do them with love.  I promise I won’t forget to write much sooner next time.

 

But Are They Paying You?…

The Love Of Money

HI Gentle Reader!

Can you believe this is the first post of 2016? Would you believe it if I told you I am working on completing 4 different shows in the next 5 months?  It’s true.  I will get to some of that in a second.

Going back to the question at hand… are they paying you?

I have had a number of people ask me this question in regards to my next project.  My current project is just a little dance number in “She Loves Me” at Foothill Musical Theatre, which is playing its last weekend beginning Thursday.  The next project in the works requires that I commute to Hollister which is about an hour outside of the San Jose area, if the traffic is not too bad.  I don’t mind the drive at all. I enjoy any car ride as long as I have something to shamelessly sing to/with.  Currently, it is a toss up between Hamilton and Something Rotten.

While I do need to take some time away from the survival jobs to make it to rehearsals on time and pay for plenty of fuel, it isn’t an unreasonable question to ask. When I tell them the answer is no, I am given the “oh damn!” look.  You know the one.  It looks kind of like a combination of smelling something bad and sucking on a lemon.

I am glad my friends are looking out for me, but I do have my reasons on this project.

I call this a “gotta do it” project. Think of it like facing your fear.  My next project is with the San Benito Stage Company’s Sidecar production.  It is a cabaret style show in a quaint little bar in a building called The Vault. The show itself is called “The Subject is Love.”

I have always loved to sing, dance, and act. My preferences of the three disciplines are in the exact opposite order than what I just listed them.  For some reason that I didn’t understand, I would always get in the most trouble for singing.

Both my parents were big popular music lovers. So of course, I grew up listening and loving the radio’s top 40.  Once I was introduced to musicals (Thanks, Tawni!), my interest in the regular music that the rest of the people around me listened to waned. I began to collect as many cast recordings as I could get my hands on via the local libraries.  I loved to sing along with these magnificent songs that held so much story and emotion.  I didn’t just sing though, I belted out these songs.  I was constantly told by my family to shut up. I was a terrible singer.  I could never do something like that (be in a musical).

This negativity was around me every day for years, because I couldn’t help it that I loved these songs so much.  Subconsciously, it made me believe that I couldn’t sing and that I would never get to be a part of something so incredible. Now I could be bitter at this mental block I have been given by my family, but I realized, oddly from watching America’s Funniest Videos*, that it wasn’t because I was bad at it.  It was because I was maybe a tad loud, but mostly because it wasn’t the style of music that my family was used to. Since they weren’t, they believed it was terrible music and wouldn’t stop to really listen to it.

To this day, I have this anxiety of singing in front of others, especially at auditions.  It is one thing to be in a role and embodying a character as one sings, but it is a whole different show when it is just you as yourself singing a song for a group of strangers.  ‘But there’s the whole karaoke thing, you can’t forget that!’ one dear reader exclaims. I reply, “Yes, but there’s the whole alcohol thing , you can’t forget about that.”  I think somewhere in the back of my mind there is that cluster of voices from long ago echoing those negative phrases still. For those that have known me a long time, they could mention Smokey Joe’s Cafe, but even then our director created a story arc for the show which gave way to creating characters.

Yet, I have this crazy idea that I would love to perform a solo cabaret show sprinkled with a couple of friends  and with this mental block I don’t see how I can make that a reality. I have had the opening number all staged for the last 5 years.  Maybe it is 6. By facing down this insecurity of mine, maybe I will finally scale this seemingly insurmountable wall that I put up when it comes to singing and get my ass in gear to complete this goal.  And who knows, maybe my other auditions will level up! Let’s keep our collective fingers crossed. Until then, I shall continue to sing with whichever great cast recordings I have on the road with me.

Do you have any favorite songs that you like to sing along to when you are driving down the road?  If you were only allowed to belt out one really good number, what would you choose? Let me know! Maybe we can post videos of us doing just that.

Take care, Gentle Reader.

*I tried to find the video but finally gave up. In it, there is a young boy singing a show tune.  I can’t remember if it is from Cats or Annie but his older sister is screaming for him to be quiet.  The boy was actually on pitch and singing pretty well.  So the video brought back a lot of memories.