So much to do! So much to do! Just keep swimming… just keep swimming…
In the past month and a half I have:
1) performed in two very different showings of BALLS! at the rEvolver Festival,
2) workshopped two separate musicals: Carry On (the show being birthed from the 24 hour SMACKDOWN competition) and TITUS: The Light and Delightful Musical Comedy of Titus Andronicus,
3) acted out several parts of TITUS as part of a public reading for further feedback,
4) officiated my sister’s not-actually-official wedding on an island,
5) Opened The Most Honest Man In The World in an extended 75 minute edition as part of the Toronto Fringe Festival.
Phew. Six more performances here in Toronto to go, as well as preparations for William vs The World in less than a month’s time in Saskatoon, plus more fringe stops in Nanaimo, Victoria, and Vancouver, as well as another TITUS draft sometime in the next couple of weeks.
Now to go handbill some more lines. Wish me luck!
(if you wish to come see The Most Honest Man In The World in Toronto, my facebook event page is here: https://www.facebook.com/events/1619597668286790/ and I just received an excellent review from Mooney on Theatre, who called it “engaging, emotional, and oftentimes very funny.” Check out the review here: http://www.mooneyontheatre.com/2015/07/03/the-most-honest-man-in-the-world-spired-theatre-2015-toronto-fringe-review/ )
A quick update on current and upcoming projects!
For the VERY FIRST TIME EVER, I have made it onto the poster of something I am performing in (other than on posters I produced myself)! One week down, four more nights for the only not-for-children haunted house in town! Creepy Andrew skitters about until Halloween night!
And then, on November 4th, at the Rio Theatre, I am in my second ever burlesque show, Weird Al Burlesque! Yep. Expect to see a man become a spy. And expect a spy… to Spy Hard.
I am also now a spare puppeteers for Cassie And Friends , a society for children with juvenile arthritis and other rheumatoid diseases! Occasionally performing an awareness puppet show at schools around the lower mainland. And briefly appearing in this news video! : http://globalnews.ca/video/embed/1612634/
And, from December 4th to the 21st, at Studio 1398 on Granville Island, I will be performing in Fighting Chance’s production of Little Women! (Katharine Hepburn, sadly, is not a part of our production.)
But wait! There’s more!
The Confidential Musical Theatre Project lands in Vancouver on December 8th! No rehearsals, just everyone showing up on the night and putting an amazing show together.
I have no idea what the show is yet.
And that takes my performances into the new year! I am also writing a show for a local theatre company for an upcoming fringe festival, just applied with The Most Honest Man In The World for a few fringe festivals, and am soon to jump back into workshopping a children’s show for touring in the new year.
Life is full and excellent!
And for those of you who have read to the end, here’s a bonus entry I made into a penny arcade comic contest. Their art, my words. Had to be on an Australian theme:
Snapshots on a few things I learned this past term, outside of class time…
What I learned from acting in This Property Is Condemned
- To always play my characters as being intelligent – as having intelligence behind their eyes. By doing so, I immediately become more observant, and look for new tactics and ‘ins’ in order to achieve my objectives. And eyes are the windows to the soul, after all. Gotta open up the curtains.
- Playing objectives strongly (which means knowing them really well, first), creates better, stronger listening.
- You’re listening for what you want to get.
- Sometimes, it works to, before a performance, embody all the pain another character feels in order to get them in the right place – to interrogate them, mock them, demand of them, belittle them. This was hard for me.
- Directly resulting from the prior thought, sometimes you’ve just got to let the gal REALLY HIT YOU before a show for her to really get into the emotional truth of her character. Thankfully, TPiC wasn’t a long run. 😛
- When the audience reacts/distracts, listen even more intently to your scene partner.
- React. Even if that means the blocking changes. If this feels too uncomfortable, you may not really know your character well enough, or be listening strongly enough.
- When you listen for ways, avenues, possibilities to pursue your objectives, the show will work.
What I learned from acting in a scene from Picnic:
- My instinct is to shy away from the sleaziness of a character, to not play it, even when it’s there in the text. There’s a difference between being an advocate for your character and ignoring what’s on the page. Learn to revel in the sleaze. 🙂
- I realize I am now perfectly comfortable kissing someone while in character. Back in high school, I wished I would get cast in certain roles so that I could do a stage kiss, because I didn’t have nearly the courage to kiss someone in the real world. Would have been nerve-wracking, back then. But I am older, wiser, more experienced now. I’ve even occasionally kissed in real life! 😛
What I learned from acting in Titus Andronicus
- Audiences are less likely to laugh than usual, after just witnessing a 15-year-old girl be raped and have her tongue cut out and thrown at a tree.
- Don’t try push the comedy. Didn’t work.
- Running on several nights of 5 hours of sleep makes it difficult for me to pay attention to everything happening onstage and get my lines out with decent pacing.
- For certan roles, it’s fine to start finding them by using characteristics from a pre-set template. In my case, I modeled the minor character Aemilius, a government bureaucrat who crowns Lucius as emperor, after Mike Novick from The Jack Bauer Power Hour (aka, 24). Piercing eyes, stern disposition, primary desire is the stability of the administration.
- Fellow collaborators muchly appreciate personalized thank you cards. 🙂
What I learned from acting in a scene from A Doll’s House
- (note: last year, I had performed the exact same scene, but as the woman, Kristine Linde (in a corset, no less), whereas this time, I was playing it as Krogstad.)
- I have a better recollection of the lines my scene partners say than I thought I did! Didn’t take long at all to get back into the words of the scene.
- It is A-OK to experiment with different blocking options each time you run the scene, so long as the director knows that’s what you’re doing, and so long as you’re keeping aware in the moment of each decision and feeling which one works best.
- Sometimes you need to give your scene partner permission to touch you.
- I’m getting better at seeing when I, or my scene partners, aren’t following through on our impulses. Figuring out why that is, requires communication.
What I learned from assorted Improvised Theatre shows and events and whatnot:
- It is really satisfying to jump back into a previously created and established role, and to continue on with that person’s story and arc. Pretty much why I enjoy collaborative storytelling (often with D20s). (Die-Nasty auditions.)
- If an opportunity seems too good to be true, take it! It may just be silly-awesome-unbelievable. (The butler gig.)
- Some shows are doomed from the start, but if that’s the case, take a moment to assess the situation, and figure out how you can put your best effort in to make what you can of it, because the original plan just ain’t going to work. (An Impromaniacs gig where the audience had been sitting around, listening to award speeches for over two hours, and then… well, as Chris Gabel so accurately captured:
Thank you ladies and gentlemen… that concludes tonight’s awards presentation. The bar is now open and there’s cake at the back of the room. Feel free to help yourself. Oh… and now… the Impromaniacs.
- Some nights, everything goes right. (Theatresports/Theatreshorts.)
- Some risks pay off so much better than you ever hoped. (Improvising a song to the title of “Stars on the Horizon” at the Phoenix Coffeehouse.)
- Theatre is ephemeral. (not having any recordings of said song. I was certainly too much in the moment to remember it. So it remains just an experience for the people in the room, as theatre, especially improvised theatre, so often is.)
Found out tonight from my Vancouverite friend Jullian Kolstee that I have been picked by lottery to perform in this upcoming year’s Vancouver International Fringe Festival.
My immediate reaction? Practical. Okay, now I need a script, I need to actively look for costume pieces – to make costume choices – and set pieces. And to decide whether I am using a second actor, or trying to pull off this show on my own. I’ve never performed by myself for more than five minutes – to do so for an entire Fringe show…
In a reaction that startles me, I’m oddly confident. No dread, no fear, but rather, a strange mix of eagerness, apprehensiveness, ambition, power, and hope. I believe, I FIRMLY believe, in my ability to pull this off and put on a good show people will talk about with their friends. Maybe even make them really feel. I believe.
What is the show, you ask? Well, I submitted an idea I’ve had for a while, but never put to paper in my concentration on acting over the past couple of years – The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party. The Hatter, chronicling his life, from a regular person to his getting stuck in Wonderland, to his decision to turn to madness as a way of coping, or possibly as a way of finally finding happiness. I seem to have a preoccupation with people who choose the imaginary over the real, the absurd over the concrete. Perhaps because I have been doing so much of that in my own life.
I could have been a mildly successful, highly rational scientist. But I’ve chosen something different. I’m an actor. And a writer. And an improviser. And a man who hopes. Who believes.
And while I’ve been working on this aspect of myself for the past five years at least, it’s only in the past little while that I’ve felt the confidence, the assuredness, that what I hope for, what I believe in, I can achieve.
I recently stood up before the majority of the theatre department at UVic and did something I’d never done for an audience before – I improvised a song. Asked for a song title, then belted it, lived in the moment, came up with each line as I went. And I may have been quivering a little beforehand, but when the song started, I just went for it, because I knew I could hit the right mark.
This school term, I acted in a SATCo (Three Angry Pigs), in a directing scene (Picnic), in a directed study (This Property is Condemned), in classwork, in Theatresports, in improv shows with the Impromaniacs, and in Titus Andronicus. I chose to do EVERYTHING because I knew I could.
I recently auditioned for a weekly improv show. In the audition, I performed alongside nine others, including many with decades more experience than I have. But I knew I could get the callback, and I did. We’ll see how that goes on Monday.
I signed up for the Vancouver Fringe Festival because, for whatever reason, I believed I could pull it off on the unlikely chance I was chosen. And I can.
Reflecting back on all this, I feel like one of Dorothy’s friends at the end of the film, finally getting my confidence not through a magic bestowal from a phony wizard, but from years of personal growth, from hard work and positive thinking. That’s not to say I’ve not got a long ways to go… the great challenge of this Fringe show aside, I’m still not confident enough when it comes to my own physical body (thinking of doing a handstand makes me squirm for some reason, and I know I can be in better shape) or when it comes to relationships (though that area in my life is just sparkling right now). But when it comes to the act of creation… I’ve never felt so able.
Possible one-man-show, in the big city, built from scratch? Bring it on. From now until my birthday at the end of Fringe, September 18th, there’ll be a spark of Madness in my eye. Can hardly wait. 🙂
Ah yes, the ever interesting question…
One of the key areas I’m focusing on this school year, is that of finding my limits, of seeing just how much I can cram into my life, of seeing just how that affects me. When I’m productive, I’m happy. But how much can I really get done?
Most days at school, I arrive ~9am, and leave ~9pm, give or take a few hours. This includes three real classes, one class I’m sitting in on (but not paying for or receiving credit for), two on-campus jobs (at the SIM lab and as a Peer Helping Student Coordinator), being the Fine Arts Student Senator on UVic’s Senate (including a temporary turn on the committee for appeals, as they needed me), and acting in four different theatre shows (A SATCo – Three Angry Pigs, an MFA Directing project – This Property is Condemned, a directing scene – from Picnic, and playing Quintus and Aemilius in VSS’s Titus Andronicus). I also did a shift as an SAT exam proctor on the weekend for a novel experience, and hung lights for the SATCos earlier today, for a refresher. Oh, and I’m performing in Theatresports next Sunday. And those are just the bigger items on my agenda.
Here’s a sample week on my calendar:
When I see that page, I don’t feel overwhelmed, I feel organized. In control. And with all that on my plate, for the most part, I’ve found that if I can schedule it, I can make it happen. If it’s something I legitimately want to do, and I can assign it a timeslot in my schedule, then I’ll be there. Except…
Well, the exceptions come as a result of one little side-effect of this schedule: I haven’t been getting enough sleep for the past month
and a half. Consistent seven hour nights. And when I don’t get enough sleep, it’s not that I make the wrong decisions, persay, but rather, that I make the right decision, then ignore what I’ve already chosen until it’s too late to do what I wanted to. My brain still works, but isn’t always successful at kicking me into action.
Tonight, for example, I was looking forward to going to a friend’s birthday party, but also wanted some alone time. The decision was clear – to spend a bit of time at home, then show up to the gathering a little late. Except the ‘bit of time’ grew (without becoming more rewarding), because it’s easier to stay at home than to grab a bus. And because I’m somewhat sleep deprived, laziness won out over the decision I had already made. Sorry Jesse.
Which is really rather funny, because this means I am legitimately complaining about my own laziness, in the midst of that formidable schedule. 🙂
But wouldn’t doing so many things make it hard to focus?
Surprisingly, no! Quite the opposite, in fact!
If I weren’t organized, then yes, I would be juggling too much in my head at once. But I have systems: I write a little agenda every night for the next day, and manage that incredibly useful calendar seen above.
I couldn’t possibly keep all my scheduled opportunities in my head at once, so I trust my systems, which allows me to really focus on each individual task, each item, one by one. Effective single-tasking, not frantic multitasking. I don’t feel stretched at all.
So, Andrew, what have you learned?
What I’m taking from this experience is that, if I get enough sleep (and possibly eat well enough, and have exercise in my life – though those often fall by the wayside as a result of a lack of sleep), my schedule can be filled from sun-up to sun-down, so long as it’s full of activities I find rewarding. My own personal breaking point, my limit, is not in how much ‘free time’ I have each week, but in whether or not I am taking good enough care of myself, physically, to abide by the intelligent decisions and choices I have made.
I’ve also been developing my awareness of when I feel less fulfilled, when I lose a couple of hours on the internet or in a game (when 20 minutes would have done), when a class just isn’t worth my time, or when I back down from a possibility of spending time with excellent people.
Ah, but Andrew, sometime you will just need to bite the bullet and spend a good deal of time on something that ain’t fulfilling.
Do I? Do I really? I mean, maybe you’re right. Graduation’s coming up, and who knows if I’ll swing my way into an awesome and fulfilling job… maybe I’ll be stuck editing company memos somewhere so I can pay rent and student loans… but what if, the magic what if, I don’t? What if I can charm my way into an ever happier, ever more fulfilling life? Ain’t that a possibility too?
For now, I do so love my patchwork quilt of a schedule, and until such a future is forced upon me, I’m going to take my time and enjoy it.
So long as I can get myself enough sleep, that is. 🙂
- How to Reboot Your Sleep Cycle and Get the Rest You Deserve [How To] (lifehacker.com)