Archive for category Acting

We’ve been briefed!

We are thrilled and honored that one of our plays has been chosen for the Stillwater Short Play Festival.

The play is a comedy written by myself and my writing partner, Karen Ball.

The festival will be held the weekend of May 4 and 5, 2019 at the Town and Gown Theatre in Stillwater, Oklahoma.

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Hi Ho – Hi Ho – to the Theatre I go

I got a call on Tuesday night. One of my plays was going to be performed as a staged reading on Saturday night.

I did some rearranging and on Saturday, I was prepared to go to the theatre.

So, I get in my little car and off I go to Oklahoma City. I have not been to this particular theatre before. There is an element of the unknown on these situations: you don’t know where you are going, or what you are getting into, or what the event will be, or who the people will be, or how the play will be performed.

As a playwright, I put words to paper. I create a story. I build the *start* of each character.

It takes a theatre troupe to make a play happen, and it takes real actors to bring the play to life.

On this night, October 13, 2018, I had the experience of seeing REAL actors, inhabit these characters that I had dreamed up, while they performed my play.

I must confess…I made a total fool of myself, gushing over these actors. I probably gushed at them three times each. It was over the top and it was too much. I am used to limiting my behavior when something is bad (not letting on that I am disappointed, etc, not showing criticism in how a play goes down)…but I need to practice some form of restraint when things are too good.

These actors: Richard Ridley and Albert Bostick performed the play so much more fully than I ever envisioned. It was extraordinary. See…there I go again. They were THAT good!

The event was at Carpenter Square Theatre.

There was a reception at 7:10. They had a large offering of international foods in the lobby. While there, they were having a silent auction. The lobby had a showing from a local artist. Already the evening is off to a good start.

The theatre had reserved table seating for the playwrights. This was something I had not seen before, but to have a seat reserved up front. Wow!

The theatre itself is small. The audience is close to the action. As a result, the audience response is immediate. It is right there. The actors have a feedback to play off of.

Five plays had been selected for this play festival. Out of 45 that were submitted, one of my plays was chosen?!? One of my plays that I have submitted EVERYWHERE and has been rejected EVERYWHERE? It has been rejected so much, that I was starting to get a complex. Maybe it wasn’t any good? Maybe I should shelve it. Maybe it didn’t “Translate”. Maybe it was too depressing.

But part of being an artist (part of being a writer) is to say: I have a voice. I have something to say. There is a story here. Let me tell it!

So, with trepidation…I had submitted this play to Carpenter Square Theatre.

Imagine my surprise when a play that has been rejected dozens of times….finally gets…Accepted? Gulp!

I had made arrangements to be free on Saturday. Saturday rolls around. I don’t want to get out of bed. My stomach is upset. I trundle out to my easy chair and put on a Netflix video so that I don’t have to think about the world.

In general, nerves are not a part of my creative experience. If I am performing, be it musically, singing, acting or emceeing, I don’t get nervous. Try as I might, I don’t understand stage fright. I wish could understand it (to help others who do suffer), but I don’t.

The only things that have made me nervous in show business (so far) are playing music at weddings (I freaking hate weddings!) and…being a playwright. That seems to be such an odd situation. Playwright, nerves? I mean…I am not producing. I am not acting in the play. When we had our play performed in May (which also had great acting – 2018 has been the year of good acting) I didn’t have the nerves. I figured….great! I have conquered that issue.  Onto the next issue.

But, nope! All I wanted to do on Saturday was to go hide under the covers.

I didn’t want to gas up the car. Didn’t want to check the tires before the long drive. Didn’t feel like eating. But you need to eat, and then what is that going to do to your stomach? I had one last can of chicken noodle soup and I was panicked thinking I didn’t have any.

But you go. You put on your ritziest outfit and you get your cameras and you go. Because this is what you wanted to do. You wanted to be a playwright, so go be a damn playwright!

Once you are there, in the moment, you get your plate of food, and you sit at your lonely table, apart from the crowd – who all seem to know each other, and you kind of go….”I shouldn’t be here. I’m too small-time. Have I paid enough dues?”

Then people start coming over. This was one of the most welcoming theatre troupes I have experienced. The sense of community in the theatre warms my heart. Because the theatre is not about cliques and exclusion. The theatre is about inclusion.

And…to my extreme surprise…the people in this theatre embraced me. I have spent my whole life as an outsider (mostly by choice). When people include me as a part of them…and welcome me with open arms…THAT is something!

Actor Richard Ridley, Playwright Amanda Ball, Actor Al Bostick.

The play is entitled: The Girl on the Tractor.

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Playwright!!

My cell phone just rang.

It was a number I didn’t recognize. Since the majority of those are telemarketers, I didn’t pick up. Then the voice mail beeped.

One of my plays has been chosen to be performed this Saturday at Carpenter Square Theatre!

I gotta tell you – this does not get old!!!

Playwrighting is something that we came to late in our creative dreams. Growing up, I wanted to be a 1) country music singer, 2) mystery author 3) actor in major motion pictures 4) movie director….and then at some point after that…then came The Theatre!

I pursue each and every one of those goals (and a lot more besides). But as a writer…it is astounding to see your creation -which exists as words on a sheet of paper – come to life in front of you. It is a thrill to see an actor interpret your words. Yes…there are sometimes when you want a scene to play out a certain way. But…I enjoy the thrill of seeing someone find some interpretation in those words that I have not even considered.

Besides which – theatre people are cool! As a collective group: they share: they share their talent with the world. Being an actor means that something inside of you is bursting forth. That takes guts. Theatre people are courageous. Most of us avoid uncomfortable situations – but theatre people will play any situation or any character. Theatre people don’t mind the spotlight, in fact, they welcome it. Theatre people are about inclusion. They are all about embracing our differences and finding some way to be a bridge to human connection.

It is a huge honor to get to be a part of this community!

To the Carpenter Square Theatre troupe – thank you!

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Movie credits

Do you read movie credits?

I have always read movie credits? I kinda baffles me when you are in the theater, and as soon as the credits start to roll, people stand up to leave.

Back in the olden days…when we had the gentle sloping movie theater floors….I’d have to stand up at that point, just to see the credits. Thank goodness for stadium seating – where I can now sit down to read the credits. But I got in the habit of staying thru till the bitter end…because they put the music credits at the end, and I’d want to see who sang what song.

Then, it became a measure of respect…it takes tons of people to make a movie. If something was on the screen for two seconds, well….that may have taken eight hours to film. People work hard to make movies, even if that amount of time is not proportionally represented on screen.

So, I read names…names that I have never heard before and will never hear again.

Then THIS happens:

A movie that I worked on years ago came on late night cable. I have not yet had the opportunity to see it.

I watched it to see if I got edited in. Boom! I did. Twice – not that you can tell it’s me.

Then you watch the credits. As an actor,  I have made several movies for other people. I have yet to be included in the credits….

Until now! That’s me!

Seventh name down on the list.

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The Stevens Sisters

When you are a writer, there is nothing quite like having an actor bring your stories to life.

This weekend, we went to the theatre to see our play, “The Stevens Sisters” performed.

The organizations that presented the play festival are the Town & Gown Theatre and Troupe d’Jour in Stillwater, Oklahoma. The proceeds from the festival went to benefit a local charity called Kickin’ Childhood Hunger.

Our play was directed by Sharyl Pickens, and it was acted by Shelli Aliff and Sharyl Pickens.

This was the finest acting that I have seen on one of our plays thus far. It’s wonderful to see how talented actors can bring words to life. Before this, the play only existed as black ink on white pages.

Then you see it live and see it embodied. I don’t care how many times you see your work performed…this does not get old.

Theatre people are fun people! It’s fun to get to be around people who “do what we do”. For a couple of hours this weekend, we saw stories come to life in front of our eyes. The outside world drops away. You forget your troubles. You forget your cares.

“The Stevens Sisters” is by Amanda Ball and Karen Ball. This was the first time that Karen has had the opportunity to see one of our works performed live.

As a matter of fact, it was the first time she has been asked for an autograph!

 

Actor Shelli Aliff, Playwright Amanda Ball, Playwright Karen Ball, Actor/director Sharyl Pickens.

Long live the theatre!

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No vocal booth? Um…no problem

One of our voice over artists has attempted to record the voice over (VO) on his own – with his existing equipment. The quality of his performance was great! But the quality of the audio was lacking.

The solution is to record him with actual audio editing software, so that I could engineer the session, and try to record the best original source material at a clean audio.

We met at a hotel this week, and I had all my equipment with me. (It felt like I had more electronics in the car – than I had left at home! Ha)

Now…the problems: an unknown environment. This hotel has a heating/air conditioning system that has a continuous fan. You can turn the actual air conditioner off, but you still have a background noise. Who knows what kind of interference you might get from any electrical appliances?

And you have walls and objects that are going to bounce sound.

At first I set up a location for him to sit on a chair and talk into pillows. Nope. That ain’t gonna work.

There was a recessed area next to the cabinet where the television sat. I got a hotel blanket and we created a makeshift vocal booth. We positioned a chair very close to the blanket, so that he was facing a blanket and *hopefully* that is going to absorb sound bounce/block the fan of the air conditioner.

Make shift vocal booth

Then it took a whole lot of monkeying with the audio software to find the best settings. That just takes time. There is no way around it. Do an audio test. Adjust. Test again. Adjust.

Finally we arrive at  what…(I hope) is a good setting. Again, with audio engineering, there is no “one best way”. You make your best guestimate, and you dive in.

Voice over artist Tommy Ball.

When you engineer a session like this…it takes all your concentration. It takes all your focus. So rather than me running the alternate lines, we had a volunteer who, ever so kindly, offered to help (ie–she said she was leaving the hotel room for us to work and I am going…NOOOOO! You have to stay and read lines!)

Karen Ball feeds lines during the recording.

Her lines will not be used in the final recording. But it is critical to have someone help out in this way…to give your voice over artist something to play off of. You get a rhythm in your dialog, and having those lines spoken aloud really helps.

Bless him…Tommy Ball read take after take after take after take.

He put so much effort into this: first of all–being willing to take the gig in the first place. Then you learn your lines. Then you craft a ‘performance’ of how to sell your character. Then, you attempt to record your work in your own home on your own equipment. Whew!

Mind you – the other voice actor recorded his lines in my studio some weeks back. It’s not like the two voice actors were in the same room – working at the same time, and playing off of each other’s character.

No, it is that much harder – to work solo, to have no idea what the other actor is doing, and still “pull off” the performance.

What is the measure of a good performance?

Well, at our previous session – with different actors, we were outdoors, and the person who is on cam and on mike was so amazing. I glanced behind me, and one man had his hand over his mouth and his eyes were bulging out, trying to stifle laughter while we were recording.

This time?? Tommy “sold” that character soooo well, I had to clap my hand over my mouth to hold back the laughter, and hope like heck that I hadn’t made any noise that would ruin the take!

We have had so many volunteers, giving freely of their time and effort and energy – to help a movie get made.

But things are progressing.

“Head ’em up…move ’em out!”

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Things that rocked my world this week:

What has rocked my world?

Talented voice over actors – Keith and Tommy. Both of these voice actors delivered a performance above and beyond anything I could dream up in my head. The hardest part: maintaining silence during recording, because the work is so good, I want to laugh with delight!

What has not rocked my world this week?

Road construction to the north. Small yipping dogs to the south.

Add a recording studio in the middle into the mix. A non-soundproofed home recording studio.

Allrighty then…

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