Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Stuff you hear in NYC

Living in NYC, you hear lots of things on the street (or in the park, or in the stores.) We are a city of walkers, and we are privy to other people's arguments, cell phone conversations, lunch orders, and random mutterings.

Sometimes, the things I hear are really funny.

This morning, for example, one of those Upper West Side Moms really had her hands full. She was walking a giant dog, and pushing a stroller with a toddler and an infant in it. The baby was crying, and the dog was pulling, and the toddler wanted the baby toy, so the mom says to the toddler, "HERE! Play with this hat!" The toddler said, "But I want a toyyyyy." And the mom said, "Play with the HAT! Hats are fun!" Poor kid- hats aren't fun. Mittens are fun.

Sometimes we hear noises, not voices.

Friday was garbage day, and our street is one-way. You do the math: Sometimes people in cars will get stuck behind the truck. And sometimes that can be frustrating. There are "No Honking" signs all over the block, so when some idiot decided to lean on his horn for several minutes without a break, it was cause for a hand full of neighbors to stream out of our apartments and into the street. We located the offending car and the still-honking driver, and knocked on his window, throwing our arms in the air, yelling at him to stop. "People LIVE HERE," we hollered. (Our street is tree-lined and residential, not the type of busy New York Street accustomed to honking.) It was a scene right out of a movie, and if the fella had honked for another 20 seconds, my very verbal neighbor was going to get out the crowbar and smash in his windshield. It was SOO New York.

Sometimes the things we hear are troubling.

Walking Hank in the park the other day, a big burly guy with a backpack approached us on a path. As he neared, I heard him say what sounded like, "Eating people is a good way to share, especially for gays and faggots." He then perched on a bench near a sleeping homeless person, and continued his rant. I was worried for the sleeping person, and saw the same concern on the faces of other dog walkers who passed by. I felt like I was going to witness one of those crimes that begins episodes of "Law and Order." It was pretty busy in the park, so I hope things turned out alright.

Yes, we hear lots of things here. Subway musicians, dogs in the park, sirens, different languages, babies laughing, car horns, feet hitting the pavement, boom boxes, rain, wind, and leaves falling.

And it is wonderful.

Friday, October 22, 2010


Right now, I am watching two of my best friends sleep on an air mattress in my living room.
Our dog is curled up on the bed with them, and at least two of them are snoring. It's heavenly.

Tasha and Amanda are here this weekend. They were two of the four witnesses at our wedding in April. They're like family, really. They get their own milk from our fridge, and know where the towels are. They know that Hank sheds on everything, and are fine using a towel as a bath mat until we pick ours up from the laundry.

Friends should be like that. They should give you a little grief for not calling, and they should bring up your most embarrassing moments over dinner. They should remind you to take an allergy pill when you have wine, and be really proud of you when you do something good.

Friends should support your dreams, even if they don't quite "get it." They should always treat you the same way, whether you've become some superstar, or you've hit rock bottom.

When I was in high school, there was a song that we sang at some of our assemblies. The lyrics went something like, "A friend's a friend forever, 'cause the welcome will not end- and a lifetime's not too long to live as friends." We'd all hold hands and sway and sing...it was Catholic school in the 80's.

As I sit here listening to some of my favorite people snore, I am grateful to have their friendship and unconditional love in my life. And I will go to sleep happy, knowing they are here.

And I will wish we'd stocked up on some Breathe Right Strips. Or ear plugs. They are really sawing some wood.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

A Real Eye-Opener

I'm busy. It's neat.

There's a ton of theatre in NYC, and so far, I'm doing OK being a part of things. Since my last update, I've been cast in a reading of Larry Loebell's new play, The Shanghai Kaddish. It's at 6:30 tomorrow (10/18) at Jimmy's No. 43, if you want to come hear it. Also.... (drumroll, please) I AM A BAT! I mentioned in an earlier post that I'd auditioned and gotten called back for the Bats at The Flea Theater, and I got in! We went to see their new show, A.R.Gurney's Office Hours, last night, and it looks like it's going to be a cool place to work. Check them out online.

While theatre is my "thing," there is a lot of on-camera work available here, and I've decided to hone those skills a little more. So, I took a two day intensive on-camera audition class with Bob Krakower last week, and WOW...I learned a lot. It was 16 hours of information overload, with lots of "slap yourself in the forehead" moments, or "A-Ha" moments for you Oprah fans.

I'm going to save you $550 right now, and share with you the most important things I learned:

1. Play what's in the script.
2. It's not about you and your feelings.
3. Be willing to be spontaneous.
4. Don't overly rehearse your sides.

For example: Bob asked a girl in class to describe her night last night. She said, "I did laundry, went to the grocery store, made dinner, and had a fight with my roommate." She did NOT say, "Well, I was feeling kind of blue, so I started to wonder what my problem was. Then, I started to feel better, but then I felt sort of hungry. And my roommate made me feel upset because..."

So, her night was about a series of actions, not feelings. Just like audition sides. Just like scenes in a movie. The casting people and producers assume you already know how to act- that's why they called you in to read. What they want to see is how well you work the frame, come alive on camera, and do what's on the page. Are you open and spontaneous? Are you easy to direct? They want to see your best version of you doing the actions in the scene.

OOH! He also said to always hold your sides during your audition. It's a psychological thing for the directors/producers in the room. If you're so memorized that you don't need the script, then they may think that what you're doing in the audition is all they're going to get. With the script in your hand, you appear locked in, whether you actually are or not. Holding it gives the illusion that you can go with the flow...be spontaneous.

At least, that's what Bob said. Take it or leave it. :)

There was a lot more- lots of anecdotes and examples, lots of watching ourselves on camera...I'll spare you the rest of it. But if you're in NYC, definitely take a class with Bob Krakower. It's an eye opener.

Dean and I are headed to see "The Scottsboro Boys" tonight, thanks to our good friend Seena Hodges. There was an ariticle in The Times this morning, so we're looking forward to it.

Enjoy your Sunday!

Monday, October 11, 2010

In da hood

I just got back from the gym. And I don't mean, "30 minutes on the treadmill, watching TV." I mean personal trainer gym. Personal Trainer at the Gym After Being Gone for One Month. I found myself apologizing to my trainer for being gone for so long, but really, I'm apologizing to myself. What does he care if I've been M.I.A. for a month? He's still getting paid. And I'm the one who's paying...in sweat, just like Debbie Allen in Fame.

The New York Marathon is fast approaching (November 7th, I think), and I'm considering signing up. I figure if I start walking now, I'll cross the finish line by then, and I won't even have to sneak a ride on the subway.

The neighborhood is bustling with people wearing scarves and cardigans lately, as the weather is cooling off a bit. Even Michael Douglas was wearing a puffy coat as he walked is daughter to school the other morning. Seeing them as I walked Hank was really neat. Neat because he lives a few doors down from us, and he's looking great for someone who has been so ill. Neat because it's clear he loves his daughter a whole bunch. Neat because they both looked at Hank as we walked past them, putting us one step closer to my not-so-secret dream of Catherine Zeta Jones petting Hank on our walk one day.

But seeing them also made me feel bad. Bad about myself. Bad that I was really no better than the horde of paparazzi that waits outside his apartment every school day to snap shots of this father-daughter ritual. I knew he'd be out there, and I wanted to see him in person. And you know, he's just a man. He's someone's father and husband, and he gets sick and gets better and goes to work and wears baseball caps, just like my dad. So, I feel like I invaded his privacy by taking that route the other morning, and I doubt I'll do it again. Leave 'em alone. Let the man walk his little girl to school. And let's hope he gets real better real soon.

Week Two of the Estrogenius Festival closed this weekend, and I made lots of new, cool friends. It can be hard to meet people here, if you're not in a class or show, or you don't work in a place with other people. The dog park is a great place to make friends, in case you're looking. (Granted, Hank may say otherwise- he's not so into making new friends at the dog park. He'd rather smell and drool and feel the breeze on his face, than have another dog sniff his privates.) I've met teachers, actors, retired people, and the other day, I met a cool couple who run a program called The Bully Project. Their aim is to end dogfighting in NYC by getting dog owners (mostly kids) to compete their pit bulls in other ways- agility courses, weight pull contests and the like. Teaching the dog owners other ways to love and train their pets. Check out what they do- they're really neat people with big hearts.

Today, I am going to ride the bus. To nowhere. Just around. In my next project, I play a woman who found a stack of money on the bus one time, and rides the bus all day, waiting for it to happen again. So, I'm gonna do some research before rehearsal today. I'm so glad I'm not playing a proctologist. Or a butcher.

Alright! I'm hitting the park with Hank. He is pestering me to publish his blog, by the way. He's got lots of entries stacking up, and just needs to find a catchy title before he launches it. Your suggestions are most welcome.

And if we see Michael Douglas, we will walk the other way. :)

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

A Whole Lotta Movin' and Shakin' Goin' On

When Dean and I decided to move to NYC, I vowed to needlepoint us a pillow that said, "We Did Not Move to NYC to Work in a Crappy Office." The pillow would remind us why we are here, especially on days when working other things (besides acting and writing) was getting the better of us.

While it's fun to update y'all on the crazy things we see here, I thought it'd be a good idea to let you in on what I've been doing professionally lately. (Mainly, so you won't think I'm roaming around the Upper West Side all day, hoping to run into Catherine Zeta Jones.)

Things have been going great lately. Tonight, Week Two of the Estrogenius Festival begins, and I have one of the main roles in the one act, Little Goldie and the Shines. It's been a great way to meet new people, and I was happy to be cast in the very first thing I auditioned for when I moved to NYC. It runs through Saturday at the Manhattan Theatre Source in the West Village.

Almost every day, I submit myself for roles in theatre and film, and have had lots of auditions and callbacks in the last few weeks. I've been offered two leading roles in two different plays, but I turned them down for different reasons.

In one play, the director (who is also the playwright) felt the leading role of a schizophrenic woman was too demanding for one actress to play for 14 performances, so she double cast it. (Apparently, she didn't know who she was dealing with- multiple personalities? I got that DOWN.) So, I graciously thanked her, and explained I'd prefer to be cast in a smaller role that was all my own than to share a role with another actor. Comparisons would inevitably be made, and it just seemed like a sticky situation to me.

In the other play, I was cast as the mother (I'm getting that a lot lately) in a play that I just didn't feel was well-written. It dealt with a lot of gay themes in very stereotypical ways, and while the role was substantial, it didn't feel right. It seemed to me there was a better way to tell that story, that the target audience deserved something more meaningful. But what do I know? I'm not a playwright, nor am I a gay man. It'll probably be a huge hit, and I'll be kicking myself.

But when we close one door (or two doors, in this case), a big ol' window opens, and THAT leads me to a really exciting project I'll start working on next week. The play is called The Dog(run) Diaries, by Andrew Kramer. It's a four-person show about the relationship between a teenage boy and an older man, and it's fantastic. It's well-written (even Dean says so), the characters are REAL, it's funny and touching, and I believe it will have a life beyond the two performances we're being given by the Prospect Theatre Company, as part of their Dark Nights Series. I play the boy's mother (told you so), and the role is a really nice one. The entire team on this project is smart and talented, and I'm just excited to be in there somewhere. If you're in NYC, we play at 3pm on Saturday, October 23, and 8pm on Sunday the 24th, at the Hudson Guild Theatre, 441 W. 26th Street.

I'm taking classes at a place called One on One, and am looking forward to a two-day intensive, on-camera audition class with Bob Krakower next week. (For kicks, you can click here to see my Actor Webpage on the One on One site.) I've just started there, so I'll keep you posted on what that place is like.

One final thing that was fun: I auditioned to be a member of The Bats at The Flea Theater. I had a callback Monday, and it went well, so we'll see how that goes. I may have been the oldest person there, but it was a great audition with a respected, really cool director (Jim Simpson), and that can be every bit as important as getting in. Hopefully, writing this won't jinx it.

It's sometimes tough to wrap my brain around the fact that is is my JOB right now. When I read plays to find new audition pieces, I am WORKING. When I go to class or to an audition, I am WORKING. And when I go to the park to get some exercise (or to the gym, if I can remember where it is), I am WORKING. Am I being paid in money to work? Not right this second, but I will be...soon.

And when I get back from working out, maybe I'll finally start on that pillow.