Thursday, July 31, 2008

I'm ba-ack

So, I had all these plans to blog my ass off while in Colorado on my summer gig. I was partially so disappointed by the town (not in the mountains, air pervaded with eau de derriere du vache, terrible paycheck shenanigans, all sorts of professional merde) that I couldn't bring myself to write about it. Then, after a time, my computer got stolen out of my locked room in housing.

I will describe my experience in a nutshell: I have been hit over the head, about the neck, and smacked on various extremities with the ruler of wake-up-and-smell-the-last-time-you-work-at-this-level-dodohead. I have several girlfriends who are instructed to punch me full in the face if I start to hem and haw about taking more work like this.

I did get the chance to play an amazing role I will play roughly 40 more times in my life for the first time, made some wonderful new friends who will be on Broadway in a matter of years, and be close enough to my family to make a much needed trip home. Yay that...and scene.

Soooo, I'm back in The City. Today, I jumped back into things by being a reader for a Broadway workshop. I'm the person people act with when they come in to audition. In this case it was a musical, so people come in and sing one or two songs, then do sides (portions of the script) for the character they're auditioning for. I read the other character(s) in those scenes, usually while sitting in a chair. Often I'm playing up to 3 different people in the scene, male and female. My job is to give the actor something to work with, be as present as possible, and make them look really good.

There are many wonderful things about this gig. First of all, it's like an audition workshop. Even when it's not everyone on Broadway coming in, like in this audition today, I witness some fascinating behavior, see some great pieces (which I totally write down and use), and remember that no matter how talented you are, you still have to bring it when you're in the room. This is a musical, fairly broad although it still has some good meat to it. They were asking people auditioning for ensemble to bring in a short, comic monologue in addition to the two songs they ask everyone for. One guy came in with two dark songs (even the up-tempo! I wish I could remember what it was, but it's hard to find an angry up-tempo) and his monologue was even more so. After he left, the book writer deadpanned, "I can't imagine a better monologue choice for a musical comedy."

Another woman sang a really cute up-tempo and the director asked what it was from. She told him and he asked who had written it. "I'm so bad," she said, "I just can't remember!" She had probably gotten the song from the actual score of the show, so the composer and lyricist weren't listed at the top.

"I wrote it." The book writer said from behind the table.

Ho. Ly. Shit.

Now, luckily, it was low-key room, fairly good spirits, all egos stealthily cloaked. He wasn't pissed or making a point, just stating a fact. The poor actress handled it well and even sang another song but, seriously, I died a little.

Second, it's a great reminder that even if you're fantastic, sometimes you're just not right for the show or role. The lead role in this show is a nebbishy, Woody Allen type, except translate that to musical theatre. One man came in, I'll call him the Jewish Clark Kent, gorgeous black hair with, seriously, a curl on his forehead, great horn-rimmed glasses, khakis and a button-down. The kind of guy you knew was ripped underneath his Arrow shirt. He had a great voice, was a great actor, but was too serious and understated. A legendary film actor, who was in the original movie the show is based on, came in and was brilliant, but may not end up being as broad as they want. Totally honest and amazing, but not it.

[I just remembered something else. The director regularly asked people about their special skills. One guy had "Yanni-esque" piano playing listed, for example. Well, Jewish CK had "Old English pronunciation" down. Damned if he didn't give the first 4 lines of Canterbury Tales in a perfect, Old-e English-e accent. Of course, his rendition was somehow romantic and hot, unlike the priggish hilarity of my junior English teacher - the same teacher I talk about here. I did get a little hysterical but managed not to embarass myself or anyone else. JCK also listed Greek pronunciation, explaining that he had to choose between acting or linguistics. He sure chose the more lucrative career... Mind you, the director's sister is the head of the Medieval Literature Department at the University of Edinburgh. Do. Not. Lie. On. Your. Resume.]

Third, you experience some amazing stuff you would never see anywhere else. A huge Broadway star rocked an R.E.M. song that no-one else would have done. Another Broadway regular did an amazing up-tempo where he did cartwheels made other choices no one else could have pulled off. One guy sang a song called "Marry Me" directly to me. One man sang a Maury Yeston song and, at the end, the door to the hallway opened and Maury Yeston poked his head in. "I just heard my song being sung so beautifully and I had to see who it was!" He was down the hall having a meeting and happened to pass by. "I'd have to say that's a first." The auditioner said after the composer left.

Fourth, I have a 6-hour audition for something I would never, ever get seen for right now. I just don't have the credits. I get to play 4 characters, and do some fabulous back acting, since I'm sitting front of the team. At the end of the day they asked me to sing. I rocked it. Correction, the pianist rocked it because I didn't have my book because I'm a complete spaz. I never, ever go to one of these without my book of audition songs, I just spaced it. I did have a headshot but a lot of good that does me. So the pianist asked what I wanted to sing and just played it with me. Now, my second one was a standard, but the first was not. I marked through it and she just followed when I sang it (a good 7th below where I normally do, but whatevs). Un-freakin-believable.

So, I'm back.