Archive for category Acting

Donnie and Amanda take a road trip…

July 1 starts the new fiscal year for the Oklahoma Film Commission rebate program.

That means, if you are an actor, July in Oklahoma means that there are lots of opportunities to get acting gigs.

So, Don and I start submitting. We knew that we had submitted for a gig for Wednesday. Tuesday I head off to my day job, planning on checking messages on my lunch break and again after work.

When I looked at my phone at 4:30ish, I had a ton of messages.

The casting office had texted us at 12:56pm that we had been cast for the gig. They were sending an email. You had to confirm the email by 2pm.

Yep – that was a whole whopping 64 minute window there.

Don had his phone with him the whole time, and got the text in time. But, the email never came through. And you needed to confirm via EMAIL and he never got it.

I went to my lunch break and contacted them back saying that we were available, and was the slot still open? (Yes, I know it was way later than the 2pm deadline, but I wanted to try.) At that point – (by now it’s after 5pm), we learned that the location was way, way, way further away than we knew.

Don still hadn’t gotten that first email. I contacted them after 5. We both figured that we can kiss this gig goodbye.

At 6:36, we got the confirmation text. We got the job!

Yeah!

We knew we had a massively long drive to get there. We can do it. But I am scared of an early call time, and I have done NOTHING to prepare. Haven’t checked over the car, haven’t gotten cash for the day, haven’t prepared snacks/water/drinks/emergency supplies, haven’t prepared wardrobe, etc.

After we are confirmed on the job, we get an email with instructions. It is all basic stuff, bring three outfits (they told the location of the film’s setting and what type of attire is desirable), no cameras on set, don’t approach the main actors, behave on set, etc. Just basic stuff. And luckily for us, the call time is 2:30pm.

Whew!

Wednesday we have a time set when we are going to leave. Each of us has wardrobe, emergency supplies, and we each brought snacks/beverages. 99% of the time, production provides water &/or food. But having been stranded on a gig once, without basic supplies, I will do everything in my power to not go through that again.

We stop for lunch along this (very, very) long drive. At least we are fueled up  – food-wise I mean. The weather is gorgeous. We have had days earlier this month with massive heat already, but lucky for us, a cool front on Monday took the temperature down by about 20* (F).

Since I couldn’t take pics on set, and I can’t share details, here is my one photograph:

We saw a whole lotta highway on the way to this gig! LOL

We got there early. We found a circle of folding chairs under shade trees. We asked if this was where we were supposed to be?

It turned out to be the best afternoon. Everyone on this production treated everyone with dignity and respect. That goes such a long way towards making an acting job be a good experience. At first they said they might get a trailer for us. But the weather was so nice, and it was pleasant, and our green room was a nice afternoon spent under shade trees. The on camera location was close by. They had great craft services. The business next door opened their restroom to the production. Our basic needs were taken care of.

The best part was the other actors that day. We met some great people. It was fun to hang out and share stories (both acting and non-acting stories). We exchanged contact info. It is great to meet like-minded people who do what we do.

We all laughed – a lot!

For privacy reasons, and to comply with our instructions, I won’t reveal any specific details about the gig. We were released a lot earlier than I thought we would be. It would have been fine if we had had to work late. I was expecting to get home about 4 am. Getting home any time before that would have been nice, and we got home well before that time.

That being said, I was still pretty tired. Don drove all the way there, and most of the way back. (Thank you!)

I hope everyone out there is doing great – and I send you all best wishes as you are out there, too, in pursuit of your dreams!

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The community of “The Theatre”!

There is one thing that I didn’t anticipate about being a playwright.

The theatre is all about acceptance. It is a safe space. It is about sharing. It is…a community.

Being accepted into this group, fills one with warmth.

I didn’t anticipate this. It is enough to have someone select your play for performance. It is wonderful to be invited to see this performance. It is astounding to know that a whole group of strangers have volunteered their time and efforts to work on your play, and memorize, and practice, and rehearse, and on and on. There are cues for them to learn. They have to set up lighting and sound cues. The stage managers have to set up the stage in seconds – and they have to get it right. The actors have very limited time in the performance venue to get used to the ins and outs, work their blocking, work with their scene partner, and still “sell the performance”.

I am only the playwright. In a sense – I have the easiest job. I sit – (probably in my pajamas) – in my easy chair – with my laptop on my lap. And I write. I can do this at my leisure. On my own time. I can take as long as I want to craft the play. I can rewrite. I can throw out the elements that don’t work. I coordinate back and forth with my writing partner. We bounce ideas off of each other.

It is a thrill when we, as playwrights, get to go to a theatre and see our play performed.

I had such an honor this past weekend at the 2019 Stillwater Short Play Festival. They utilize blind selection, and I consider it an honor that they have chosen our play to be performed. This is the fourth time they have chosen us.

Our play this year is a comedy called “Speed Dating” by playwrights Amanda Ball and Karen Ball. It has four speaking parts – one male and three female.

I had the opportunity to meet two of the performers in the lobby,

Klayton Valega and Veronica Allen.

 

The other performers in the play with speaking roles were, Sharyl Pickens and Courtney Octoo-Lee. Extras were Jacob Boyd and Archibald Octoo-Lee. The play was directed by Debbie Sutton.

It was fun. I laughed out loud! So did the rest of the audience.

What fun! To see something that began as a seed of an idea, to be brought to full fruition by a group of strangers…strangers who become a group-with-a-purpose and accept me as one of them!

I thank you!

Out of this community, like a spiderweb, lines grow between other plays, groups, peoples, projects, and theatres.

Mr. Valega and Ms. Allen (pictured above) told me that they met because of our play. And because of that, they ended up doing another play in the festival called “Last Dance” by playwright Len Cuthbert.

And, in my humble opinion, this play “Last Dance” was the best play of the night. I had tears in my eyes.

Whether you laugh or whether ‘your eyes commence to puddling up’ – it is The Theatre that brings us together!

Thank you all for including us.

 

Below are some photos of the day:

Theatre in the round

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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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