Monday, November 16, 2015

Our Time

Something is stirring,
Shifting ground ?
It's just begun.
Edges are blurring
All around,
And yesterday is done.*

100 days ago (give or take a few missed days here and there), I wrote a blog (Not a Day Goes By) and started an idea for The Actor's Friend: #100daysinthelifeofanactor. I started it to help motivate my students and, of course, myself.  I have accountability groups with The Actor's Friend and I love our time together. The most important part for me is to practice what I preach.
Day1: This is where it began,
Being what we can.

Oh boy, am I glad I did it! 

Feel the flow,
Hear what's happening:
We're what's happening.
Don't you know?
We're the movers and we're the shapers.
We're the names in tomorrow's papers.
Up to us, man, to show 'em ?*

For regular readers of my blog, you know that I use Sondheim lyrics as my theme. Often, I use just a few lines from a particular song but, in this case, I think I owe it to Sondheim and to us all to include it all! We all have moments of feeling down and the summer was particularly hard for me after returning from a summer stock gig. There were no auditions and it was so hard to stay positive. Instead of feeling sorry for myself I decided to be proactive.

It's our time, breathe it in:
Worlds to change and worlds to win.
Our turn coming through,
Me and you, man,
Me and you!Feel how it quivers,
On the brink ?
Gives you the shivers,
Makes you think
There's so much stuff to sing!*
And you and me,
We'll be singing it like the birds,
Me with music and you the words,
Tell 'em things they don't know!
Up to us, pal, to show 'em ?
It's our time, breathe it in:
Worlds to change and worlds to win.
Our turn, we're what's new,
Me and you, pal,
Me and you! *

I LOVE my actor friends. It is a tough business full of jealousy and competition but, with the right attitude, we can be the best support to one another. Maybe the positive American influence is getting to me, but I feel it. I feel so motivated and excited for others too.

Day 77: celebrating the life of one of my favorite teachers,
Anne Meara

Feel the flow,
Hear what's happening:
We're what's happening!
Long ago
All we had was that funny feeling,
Saying someday we'd send 'em reeling,
Now it looks like we can!?
Someday just began ?
It's our heads on the block.
Give us room and start the clock.
Our time coming through,
Me and you, pal,
Me and you!
Me and you!*

Day 98: When Chris Noth told me I should be on Broadway

Something is stirring,
Shifting ground ?
It's just begun.
Edges are blurring
All around,
And yesterday is done.
Feel the flow,
Hear what's happening:
We're what's happening.

Don't you know?
We're the movers and we're the shapers.
We're the names in tomorrow's papers.
Up to us now to show 'em ?
It's our time, breathe it in
Worlds to change and worlds to win.
Our turn coming through,
Me and you, pal,
Me and you!

Years from now,
We'll remember and we'll come back,
Buy the rooftop and hang a plaque:
This is where we began,
Being what we can.
It's our heads on the block,
Give us room and start the clock.
Our dreams coming true, 
Me and you, pal,
Me and you!*

*Our Time from "Merrily We Roll Along"
Music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Not a Day Goes By

From left to right: Bartender in Lolo's music video; Jack's Mother in "Into the Woods";
Gertrude Stein in "Little Wars"; Janis in "Composing Life".

Not a day goes by...
Not a single day...
But you're somewhere a part of my life,
And it looks like you'll stay.

As the days go by.
I keep thinking, when does it end?

Being an actor is not a 9 to 5 job. Thank goodness. 

I have just finished a contract playing Jack's mother in "Into the Woods" in a regional gig in Potsdam. It was exhilarating, motivating and thrilling to be working on such a wonderful show with great actors and I have returned to New York with a touch of the post-Potsdam blues. It is very normal for actors to have a rough period when a show closes. But work breeds work and the motivation to audition is stronger.

with Ryan Hook as Jack

That it can't get much better much longer.
But it only gets better and stronger
And deeper and nearer ---
And simpler and freer
And richer and clearer...*

I was lucky enough to return to auditions, a reading of a new play and my regular hosting gig at Polly's Follies, but that is not always the case. I have many friends who have long runs in Broadway shows and then periods of nothing. This is not a steady profession and, even with agents, managers and brilliant resumes, most actors have periods of "resting". 
This is never resting, though, in the sense of a holiday. Often the resting periods are when we have to work harder than ever. It is so easy to be motivated when you have a script to work on, lyrics to learn and an audience to entertain. Not so easy to stay encouraged with the daily grind of submissions, E.P.A.s or, even worse, the days when there are no auditions and nothing to submit for (summer is a typically difficult time in the industry).

I started to think of ways that will help keep the working momentum going. This is important for me as an actor, but also important for me in my role as The Actor's Friend. I run accountability groups and I try to practise what I preach. Yesterday, I went to an E.P.A. and it felt so great to be proactive. And, there I was, in the bathrooms at Telsey and the idea struck me. Do you remember #100happydays? I am starting #100daysinthelifeofanactor. 

And no,
Not a day goes by ---
Not a blessed day ---
But you somewhere come into my life
And you don't go away.

And I have to say
If you do, I'll die.
I want day after day
After day after day after ---
Day after day after day after day
After day
Till the days go by,
Till the days go by,*

Here is how it will work. Post something every day (if you miss a day, no one will punish you!) that is related to your acting. It could be something as simple as updating your resume, submitting for a role on Actors' Access, taking a class or even taking a trip to the theatre. Post wherever you like that suits you (Instagram, Twitter, Facebook) and tag @theactorsfriend with #100daysinthelifeofanactor. Are you ready for the challenge? I am...

Till the days go by...*

Not a Day Goes By from Merrily We Roll Along
Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim

Friday, July 10, 2015

So Many People

Polly McKie as Gertrude Stein 
with Penny Lynn White as Alice B Toklas
"McKie and White anchor the play with fairly 
miraculous specificity as the odd (lifelong) 
couple at its center"

I said the man for me must have a castle
A man of means he'd be, a man of fame
And then I met a man who hadn't any
Without a penny to his name.*

I dreamed of the West End or Broadway.  I still do.  But I am so thrilled to have been part of this brilliant new play and I was not paid a cent.  

Yes, I scoff and am frustrated with many of the Actors' Access casting notices (must be over 5' 6" and willing to do pay!) I do not encourage anyone in this business to be foolish about what you have to offer. Of course, we deserve to be paid BUT, there are certain projects worth working for. For the project and for yourself as an actor.  

with Dorothy Weems as Dorothy Parker
"Plays like this do not come around often; a well written,
well organized piece for seven strong female actresses."

I had to go and fall
For so much less than
What I had planned from
All the magazines
I should be good and sore
What am I happy for
I guess the man means more than the means.*

Recently, I met a couple of particularly jaded and bitter actors who scoffed my working for low pay.  I started to doubt my choices. Of course, I want a better salary but when I examined their lives versus mine, I started to realize how lucky I am.  I have chosen art over money.  Of course, it is not easy but, quite frankly, if you put your survival bar job above a possible low paid acting gig, you are not helping yourself.  

Of course, we all need to survive, but your survival job HAS to be flexible if you want to be serious about your acting career.

"Special kudos to Polly McKie who seems to embody Gertrude Stein;"

So many people in the world
And what can they do?
They'll never know love
Like my love for you.*

My love is for acting. For the work.  Not for fame. Of course, I am ambitious and want to work with brilliant directors on brilliant plays, but that does not always mean Broadway.   

"...commendable acting with special notice to McKie's
nuances of depth and emotion to Gertrude"

So many people laugh
At what they don't know
But that's their concern
If just a few say
Half a million or so
Could see us
They'd learn*

And the most important thing is that work breeds work.  Word of mouth in this business is more powerful than anything else. I met the brilliant young playwright, Steven Carl McCasland through Polly's Follies (a weekly musical theatre open mic I host at Room 53) and he invited me to audition for "Little Wars". I read the script and loved it. And this play was full of wonderful female roles. Something hard to find! 

As actors in this current climate, we often pay to be seen by casting directors and it is always better to be able to talk about what you are working on. And gives you an opportunity to invite people to see your work.

I am not saying that you should take any old unpaid acting work. Of course, you must have respect for your craft and yourself. But, once in a while, a great project crosses your path and there can often be so many reasons to say YES.

with Samantha Hoefer as Bernadette
"...the raucous Gertrude Stein
expertly played by actress Polly McKie."

So many people in the world
Don't know what they've missed
They'd never believe
Such joy could exist
And if they tell us
Its a thing without growth
They're jealous as they can be
That with so many people
In the world

You love me.*

*So Many People from "Saturday Night"
Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim