Archive for category Acting
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!)
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!”
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.
The original title of this blog was going to be:
Suffering…for your art!
From time to time, as the opportunity arises…I take on an acting job.
For a few weeks, we have been getting casting notices for a major project that is being filmed in our area. It sounds like it’s a pretty Big Deal. So, I tell my partner “It’d be nice to apply for this (and possibly get hired) and get it at the ground floor (meaning…maybe they’ll use us again.)”
I apply. I get hired. Wow. That is something.
I know the day I will be working, and the city in which I’ll be working. Now, our state is geographically large. And so if you want to be an actor in this state, you make up your mind, “I’ll go where the work is.” That means you better make up your mind, real quick, that you’re gonna have to get in your car, and drive to these gigs. This particular gig was close to my home. Wow. Miracles! For once, I’m not driving Far Away to work.
The day before the gig, someone is trying to get ahold of me. Would I be available to work at 6 am, in another location (of course–this one is much further away!)?
So, I say I’ll do it. That means I’ll have to get up at 3am, in order to roll out to get there. Dressed. Hair and makeup ready. But I am game. I’ll treat this whole thing as a lark. An adventure.
Yeah. It’s early. This’ll be my third day on about 7 collective hours of sleep. But I am an actor. I am in showbusiness. I want to be a part of whatever is going on. So…it’s an adventure. I’ll leave in the middle of the night, and drive to the middle of nowhere, and be an actor for the day.
My call time is 6. I get there at 5am. Sun not even up yet. I kill time outside the set, but go in at 5:30. It’s a field in the middle of nowhere. I park my car. Other people are rolling in. I walk up this lonnnnnggggg driveway and try to find out where I check in.
They direct me to the catering tent…where there is a spread unlike anything I have ever had on acting gigs before: real, amazing food! Carved fresh fruit. Omelet station. Every juice imaginable. Choices. So at 5:30 am, for all this to be ready, what time did catering have to get there and be prepared?
I am used to sets where the extras are kept in a separate area and fed much “lesser” meals than they feed the crew. So for us to be welcome to such food is amazing.
When you are on these gigs, there is a certain way you behave. You do not engage people in conversation. We are all there to work, and ‘bothering’ someone is a disruption. As an extra, you go where you are told. You do what you are told. Either obey instantly…or do not even take the gig.
On this set, as I’m walking up this long driveway, the first person I see greets me and says hello. I say hello back. Another one greets me, then another.
Wow! That does not happen!
This set has the most equipment trucks of any I have ever worked. I’m gonna say probably 20 to 25 trailers and equipment trucks are there.
So, I still don’t know what the project is or what’s going on. They are not allowed to tell us any details. Finally, and not from any official channels, someone tells us what the project is.
And it is a doozy! Much more than I could have imagined. And YES…I want to be in on this, be a part of such a huge thing.
One actor had guested on the current most popular TV show a few weeks ago. One actor is on a show that is on RIGHT NOW. I am watching it on Netflix, right now…and HE IS the reason I am watching this particular show.
This is cool. Trained chefs. Amazing food. Actors that I admire tremendously. Of course, I can be entertained just watching the equipment go by. The setups. The choices they make.
On this scene they are filming cars on a highway, and they have two classic cars there to work with. That is fun!
But they have technical issues. We do not get to work the scene. I understand that. Things happen. But we are in this tent, with access to food, water, bathrooms, and they have ductwork with air conditioning piped in. So, that is pleasant and reasonable.
We got there at six. They have lunch ready before noon. Crew meal time was 1:00, but they let us eat the food that the crew ate – prepared by chefs, all amazing and wonderful and fresh food!
The extras still have not been to set, but at least we have shelter, food, water, provisions and bathrooms.
And after lunch, they start taking it all away. At 1:30, someone came over and said something about “You’ll do xyz paperwork to check out when you leave.”
And that was the last any of the extras heard. For hours. Catering packed up and took the chairs away. We had no shelter, and no access to chairs, baking in that Oklahoma summer sun for hours. No access to food or water. Just there. We all ended up lining up next to a fence, that had some shade.
From 6 to 2, I was having a good day – glad to be a part of something interesting.
From 2pm on….it ceased to be fun.
No shelter. No place to sit. No access to food. No provisions for water. No information.
IT WAS MISERABLE!
I finally went wandering and asked for a granola bar and said that we were baking out there.
Finally about 5:30 I texted the casting assistant (who had hired me, and was not on site), and explained all that and asked what to do. She said that that was unacceptable, and she was going to call them. At about the same time, one of the extras stopped a PA who came over with a handful of water bottles. I said “What about supper and chairs?”
Well, they brought us sandwiches, but still, we are stuck there, with no provisions.
Some of the teamsters had pulled 2 chairs out of a van, and I mean the van seats, and I had a lawnchair in my trunk, which I went to get. But that is not enough for everybody.
In 94* Oklahoma heat, you do not want to get dehydrated. So, up till 2, I kept drinking water and I had a Sprite, just to stay hydrated. So, that means you need to go to the bathroom, A LOT.
Then, they loaded up the bathroom trailer, and took it away.
Stuck: no shelter, most people standing, we had a sandwich, after several hours without – we now have access to water, and no bathroom.
And the extras still haven’t been to set to work.
Later, the PA came over to us, after being made aware of our plight, got some info, and said we can’t leave, because they might still use us in the shot. By now, we are all “over it”.
I don’t want to wait until I am in trouble, so after 7pm, I asked, “What do we do about a bathroom?” I mean, I can get in my car and drive 10 miles to the nearest town, but that means, going down the long driveway and getting on the highway – where they have traffic blocked for filming, and disrupting all that.
Oh…they have a bathroom trailer down at the highway, where they are filming.
It’s too far to walk. I say I can drive my car down there, but I wonder if that disrupts filming? They get a runner to take us there in a van.
As I am coming out of the women’s room, I step down onto the ground, and the star is there. Waiting.
He was the nicest gentleman you’d ever want to meet. They tried to get him to go in line ahead of people and he would not do it. I said, “But you’re working, you go on ahead.”
So, I broke that rule, which is…”don’t bother the stars when they are working.”
The van takes us back to our fence where are standing.
By now, and it is starting to get dark, they come in from the highway. They haven’t used us, and the equipment guys are packing up. We aren’t going to act that day.
From 6am (actually 5am-since I am early) to 2pm, I was fine. After 2pm, it was NOT FUN ANYMORE.
Still, we stand around, when the equipment is being trucked out and we are obviously not going to be used anymore. I go ask, “what do we need to do to check out and leave?”
“You can’t leave yet, not until we get permission.”
The person who had filled out our paperwork got his box and left. Still we are stuck there, no shelter, no provisions, no chairs, no bathroom.
They finally say, “Such and such person will check you out and it’s probably going to be another 25 minutes.”
No shelter. No chairs. No food. No provisions. No bathrooms.
I have HAD ENOUGH!!!!!!
I gather my things, and I left. 8pm. Most of the crew is gone. We were not going to be used in the scene. Still they treat us like chattel without providing the basic necessities of life…..
and I walk.
I got my things, put them in my car, and left.
I wanted to be a part of this experience. But not like that.
I know that things happen. They had major technical difficulties. They were supposed to have this shot and be done by early afternoon. Things happen – beyond their control. I understand that.
They hired extras to play a role and play a part, and we didn’t get to do that. I am okay with that. Up till 2pm, when we still had provisions, I was okay with it. I was there to work, and if I didn’t get to, I am disappointed, but you roll with it.
After 2pm, to be stuck there, without basic human needs being met…That is not acceptable.
It was a miserable day – for everyone. I cannot imagine the brutality of working a crew job. Hours upon hours upon hours with a hugely physical job, in the brutal heat. It didn’t seem to bother any of them to not have a bathroom, but perhaps they had access to a trailer with a bathroom. They knew where craft services was, and could go get water, but no one had made that provision to us.
I soooo felt for the stars. In fact, I was worried about them, out in that relentless heat. Dehydration is not something you want to mess with. Sunstroke. Heatstroke.
I kept texting my partner throughout the day, and it went from “Wish you were here!” to “this is horrible…I’m glad you are not here.”
But later, on the phone, after I had left, I said, “We will never treat people like this! Not on our set!!!!”
What is the takeaway here? I didn’t check out on their paperwork. Do I get paid? I have no idea? Do I only get the base rate they offered, or since we had sooo much overtime, do they honor it?
Have I created a ‘black mark’ on my record with the casting office? I don’t know.
In the Oklahoma film industry, and I have a whole lot of experience there, this is not the norm. Yes, there will be bad days. There will be delays. I understand that.
But in the film industry in general – why are these working conditions tolerated? The crew acted like this was not unusual. I heard, more than once, “In New York, this is normal…”
It is normal to force people to work for hours on end, without basic human provisions?
What kind of industry is this? In every other industry, there are guides and limitations to what you can do to people? I mean…even truck drivers have limitations on the hours they can work at their jobs.
Why is the film industry the only industry lobbying to make people work MORE hours? Without having access to basic provisions like water and bathrooms.
Was it last year, or the year before, when the crew member on the Longmire set worked something like 20 hours, got in a vehicle, fell asleep at the wheel and died in a car wreck?
At that time, there was a lobbying effort called something like 12 and 12. 12 hours on. 12 hours off.
One crew member told me she had worked (I think not on this gig, but a previous one) 20 hours a day, been given 5 hours to sleep and get up and work another 20.
We have labor laws in this country. That is an unsafe working environment, under any circumstances.
It doesn’t take but just a little effort to treat people right.
What is the takeaway here?
All I know is….after getting up at 2:45 am (on less than 4 hours sleep), and driving a whole lotta miles to get to a gig, that I arrived at before dawn….then sat there, on the clock for 14 hours – without working, and I still have a very long drive ahead of me (by then…one of the other extras came by and saw me, and asked “Are you okay?” and I answered…I am worried about being safe enough to drive home.) … when I have baked in the sun all afternoon and gotten dehydrated…
By now – I am worried enough about my health to behave in an unprofessional manner. Yes, I walked out without permission. But if I am concerned enough to worry about my safety to even get home…is it worth it?
Both my mom and my business partner said, “LET ME KNOW WHEN YOU ARE HOME SAFE!”
Is it worth it?
I have had one other acting gig where it was this brutal. And on that one, we were indoors, had chairs, and had water – all day.
14 hours out there. 8 good hours. Then it went downhill. No basic provisions for the rest.
No it’s not worth it. I do not want to work for these people again.