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Thursday, October 28, 2010

Darryl is a Boy (And He Made Me Sweat A Lot)

Bambini! It's been so long. Not really, it's been a week and a day. In this post I shall recount for you my first official post-Wicked-post-return-to-NYC, mid-existential-unemployment-haze gig.

I find that many who enjoy acting in plays or musicals but are reluctant to pursue it as a career share a common desire for stability and control. These kind, unassuming folk (and may God bless them for their sanity) feel that, when there's enough rehearsal and preparation time, theater is a happy fun time of love, truth and beauty. But there's gotta be plenty of time to get comfortable with the material before delivering it to an audience.

The ensuing story will help illustrate how 95% of professional theater work is nothing like this.

So, if you're like me -- which is to say, an actor who is, ahem, between theater contracts -- nay, even if you happen to be in a production contract -- you might get asked to do a number of gigs outside of your job (or lack thereof) usually as a favor to a writerly friend who wants to showcase his or her new work. These gigs run the gambit from performing in classrooms in jeans and a t-shirt, reading the score from a binder, to dressing up all fancy-pants and delivering memorized songs in a concert setting -- songs which you've presumably worked on with a director or coach and have polished within a few reasonable inches of perfect.

Even trickier: when you say, "Yes, I'll perform in your gig," you often don't know what exactly you're getting yourself into until, oh, say, the day of the performance.

You want me to give you an example? Okay:

Some of you may have know the song "Darryl Is A Boy (And He Lives In My Closet)." I sang this song about a year ago in a concert and, because everything was sort of last minute, I had a lyric sheet to guide me through the performance. It was fun and low pressure, and went off pretty well. But it gets zanier.

Fast forward to present day, mid-October. The composer of the song, Michael Mitnick, asks me to perform "Darryl" again at a showcase of composers that are signed with William Morris Endeavor agency. Cool. I've never met Michael, but he's seen my YouTube, thinks the song suits me, and asks me for the favor. I am happy to oblige! It'll be totes chill, I think. No biggie. I've done this song before. I'll just do it again for some friendly composer folk.

Fast forward to day of the gig, October 25. I roll up to Playwright's Horizons (which, in understatement world, is kind of a well-known venue). That should have been a clue right there, but I am determined to trick myself that the gig isn't a big deal. I haven't rehearsed the song yet so I am scheduled to run it with the pianist during a 3-3:30pm sound check. (Gig is at 6pm.)

3pm no pianist. 3:15pm no pianist. 3:25 pianist arrives. We have five minutes to run the song.

The fact that we have such little time is, in and of itself, intimidating. Add this to the fact that the man directing the concert turns out to be Lonny Price, a legendary Broadway actor/director/writer and general awesome dudesome, who is at the rehearsal to watch and critique. Gulp. Okay, I run the song. I, um, sort of have it memorized? Basically. So I keep a lyric-sheet security blanket on a nearby music stand, and glance down only a couple of times. Okay great, says Lonny.  But then, in consultation with Michael, he changes one of the lyrics. Gulp. I get some more notes about the diction and rhyme scheme but -- yep, we're out of time.

The intimidation factor keeps mounting. After sound check I chat more with Mr. Mitnick about what tonight's event is all about. turns out that this showcase of new composers -- organized by arguably the most reputable and influential talent and literary agency in the world -- is going to be performed for THE MOST REPUTABLE AND INFLUENTIAL PEOPLE IN THE THEATER INDUSTRY. Yep: producers, investors, directors, and all them other folk whose names appear above the titles on theater posters. THOSE ARE THE PEOPLE I'M GOING TO BE SINGING FOR. I'M SO NERVOUS MY THOUGHT-SENTENCES END IN PREPOSITIONS.

Needless to say, I start sweating a lot, and not just because I am a raging Italian.

For the sake of Blog Drama, I wish this story had a truly awful ending, but, the truth is, after I sweated my brains out anticipating some terrible and violent conclusion involving me, razor-lined tomatoes, and a theater full of booing Broadway producers, it all went off quite well. Indeed, there was more intimidation to be had when I saw who else was performing (think Jenn Colella, Stephanie D'Abruzzo, Carrie Manolakos, to name a few), but it all ended up being quite a fun romp through brand-new-musical-theater land.

Indeed, even as the performance was upon us, there were still some unknown factors to be dealt with, like, who should move the music stands, or the microphones, when and where to enter and exit...but it all got worked out. You just have to pretend you're 100% confident and comfortable with what's going on. That, my friends, is acting.

Let me also say that I blame no one but myself for my copious sweating: the burden of preparation was on me, and it probably would have done me good to put more time into practicing the song several days before. But, yeah, I assumed the event was low pressure. And, it's like that age-old saying about what happens when you assume: you get really large pit-stains from anxiety.

So let that be a lesson to you all.

But, then again, it went well in the end, so maybe the real lesson is: just act like you know what you're doing and you'll be fine.

Also, don't do drugs.


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Bus. Guilt. Weakness. Opposites.

Taking a little retreat from the big city for a few days. I had this plan to write like five blog posts on the bus, but there was a weird med student sitting diagonally behind me who would not stop murmuring into his cell phone and I got distracted. Murmuring is pretty much a million times worse than loud talking. It is the human-voice equivalent of mosquito buzzing. What sad-sack person had that much time to talk to Dr. Murmur? Unless the person on the other end was also riding on a bus, I have no idea who would be willing to participate in such senselessness.

Okay, here are some more random facts about my life that may or may not lead to further explanation in future blog posts:

1. I feel EXTREMELY GUILTY that I haven't written back to the last batch of 15 or so fans who wrote to me in the final month of Wicked. It's, like, getting to be ridiculous. It's one of those situations where the longer I wait, the more ashamed I get, and the more desperate I am to do something insane and monumental in my replies to compensate for the time lapse -- like cut off my ear and mail it, or something. Too bad I don't have fifteen ears. Or do I.

2. I started using those weight-lifting machines in the gym. It's fun, but also impossible. It's been so long since I've used them. Turns out my upper back is extremely weak and can't, like, even move 2 pounds. I know: riveting news. But maybe this little tidbit will beget a longer post one day in which I shall expound on the perils of staying in shape as an actress (BAHAHAHAHA! AS IF I KNOW WHAT THAT'S LIKE!).

3. Acting for TV/Film is cray-cray. Last week's post was not an exaggeration: if you're being filmed, you literally should never try to act. Never try to do anything. Ever. More specifically, I found this little nugget emblematic of the theater/screen acting dichotomy:

When acting onstage in a play, an iron-clad rule is that you must "act on the line." In other words, if you have an objective and are performing some sort of action, you must use the verbal line to convey it. Don't sigh, or huff, or giggle, or do some sort of weird wavey gesture to convey what you mean, and then say the line. Instead, infuse the line with whatever sentiment the sigh/huff/etc was meant to convey.

Screen acting, however, is the exact opposite.  It is, apparently, rarely, if ever, about what's written on the page. The words don't matter. It's all in how you frame them, visually, and how the actor couches the words in his or her behavior, i.e. a glance, or a pause, or an exhale, etc.

Theater = Verbal. Film = Behavioral. Tell your friends!

There are, of course, many other distinctions between the two. More on this in later posts. (I think this is pretty interesting, don't you?!)

4. I'm singing "Daryl Is A Boy (And He Lives In My Closet)" this Monday at 6PM at Playwright's Horizons! I don't know any of the details about this gig, except that it's cool. But if it's open to the public, I will def post more info!


Thursday, October 14, 2010

I started taking film/TV acting lessons

I think this video best summarizes the philosophy behind on-screen acting. Just substitute "act" for "surf."

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Lots of Updates!

I exist on many planes of the internetosphere, one of which is, my official homepage. I am pleased to announce that, after hours of toil and sweat, it has undergone a facelift that would make even Joan Rivers jealous.

Behold! My Official Homepage: updated!

Updates include: new homepage layout, an extended bio, a photos by fans page, among other little tweaks.

If you'd like to submit your fan photo to appear on (and, I'm not gonna lie, the main prerequisite for your being considered is that I don't look horrendous), visit my Facebook Fan Page, become a member, and add your contribution! It will automatically appear on Facebook, but I'll periodically transfer a few to

Hope you like the updates! If not, well, that's your problem.


Monday, October 11, 2010

On The Audition (capitalized)

Last week I polled the audience about what I should sing at an upcoming audition. In true Felicia fashion, I abandoned all logic and decided to do something entirely different.

But this post is not about that, it's about the terrifying beast we call The Audition. And I'm going to capitalize it right there to make it intimidating.

Auditions stink. This much we know. But, in my opinion, the key to retaining sanity while being an ALE (Actor Looking for Employment (that's not an official acronym, I made it up)) is to cultivate a regard for auditions that straddles enthusiasm and apathy.

Why? One should be enthusiastic when it comes to preparations. Meaning: do the best you can. Given the time and resource limitations, this doesn't always mean you can memorize your audition sides, hire a private coach and learn a host of new music perfectly. But it means you can strive to do something like it. And, depending on the project and how excited you are about it, you can work hard to fall somewhere within the prepared-to-super-prepared end of the spectrum.

But -- and here's where the apathy part comes in -- actors go on a ton of auditions. To put all your actorly eggs in one audition basket more often than not leads to disappointment. So it's best to maintain a healthy emotional distance when going in for an initial audition, but then to rally the troops when it's time for a callback. At least that's my take on it.

(What's a callback? Callback comes after the audition. You're called back in to get a second (or third, or fourth, or fifth) look because the creative team sees potential in you.)

So, in order to maintain a healthy emotional distance, I've decided not to disclose the details of last week's audition. Because, whatevs, it was just an audition (<-- apathy, Figure A). I did the best I could -- given my limitations. I didn't hear anything back but, here's the fun part: a lot of times you'll audition, nothing will happen, but later on down the line something new and cool will come of it (<-- residual enthusiasm, Figure B).

In truth, part of my staying mum is out of superstition... maybe if I leave it alone, it will boomerang back to me later on? I'm playing hard to get with the Universe.


Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Evil links that I do not endorse but shall nevertheless relay to you, out of journalistic impartiality

Big news: I've decided to quit being insane and actually utilize the "label" functionality provided by Blogger, something I have heretofore eschewed as nonsense and used only in a nonsensical fashion (like by labeling my articles as "wiping my nose" or "I am a baby").

I would thus like to introduce to you the "resource" label, something which will be applied to all posts that might be (you guessed it) a resource -- i.e. helpful to youngsters (or oldsters, who am I to judge) and up-and-coming actorly folk who want to learn about the nuts-and-bolts of showbiz. Yesterday's post, for example ("Some of your questions, answered.") expounded on some terms that a few of my readers had asked me to clarify. Thus, it has been labeled a "resource" at the bottom of its text. NEAT-O! I will eventually cull these articles from the rest of the blog, post them onto a single page, and make them available as an easy-to-access link on the sidebar of Five-Trick Pony's homepage. In the meantime, simply click on the "resource" label wherever you see it, and Blogger will automatically bring forward all articles labeled thusly. In the span of one paragraph, I have used "thus" or some derivation thereof three times, not including this sentence. I feel ashamed, and exhilarated.

(Admittedly, I probably won't be able to contain myself and will still contribute a smattering of nonsensical labels, so you'll have to look out for them. It will be like Where's Waldo, except much easier and less fun, and when you find the labels, they won't resemble every man I ever dated from high school through college.)

Anyway. The post you are reading now is labeled as a "resource," because I'm going to provide you with something illegal (and AWESOME), that happens to be a -- say it with me -- "RESOURCE."

On the record: free sheet music is evil and terrible and kills baby seals and deprives writers of their due compensation. And is free. And awesome.

So in case I get in trouble for posting links to free sheet music sites (WHICH I'M NOT) I'm going to hyperlink-ify text, and you, my little detectives, must figure out what's on the other end.

Click here for pictures of Tom Selleck horseback riding.
Sign up for potato-throwing lessons from Elizabeth Taylor.

Thank me later.


Monday, October 4, 2010

Some of your questions, answered.

Q: What's a talent agent?

A: A talent agent finds auditions for their actor-clients by speaking directly with casting directors and/or accessing online breakdown services that publish audition information. He/she fields and filters audition requirements to the actor (i.e. date, time, what to prepare) and then negotiates the actor's contract should he/she book the job. An actor can either freelance with an agent (which means he/she does not need to work with them exclusively) or sign with an agency (agency = bunch of agents; this means the actor works with this agency exclusively; contract length varies, but usually begins as one year). Agents are paid when their clients book jobs, receiving a percentage of the actor's weekly salary.

Q: What's a secret agent?

A: A secret agent is someone who wears well-tailored clothes, carries gadgets, speaks in spy-talk (i.e. "transmitting intel in T minus oh-eight hours"), and fights evil organizations.

Q: What's a casting director?

A: A casting director works for a casting company and seeks out actors for various auditions. They are hired by production teams looking to cast a new or ongoing project. In most cases, the casting director does the initial screening of the actor candidates, then recommends, or calls back, actors whom he/she feels the production team should take a look at. Their expertise is manifold: not only must they have a thorough handle on the material for which they are casting, but they must also be highly perceptive in determining the best types of people to "fit" the role. Additionally, they must dip into their ken of experience and knowledge of working actors when determining who to call in for the audition. In short: talent agents (see above) submit their clients to casting directors; casting directors decide whom to let in the gate.

Q: What's a cruise director?

A: A cruise director does stuff like stage sing-alongs at midnight buffets. Somebody like this guy.  And God have mercy on their pitiful, seafaring souls.


Saturday, October 2, 2010

Help! I have an audition!

One of the recurring dilemmas an actor faces when presented with a new audition opportunity is: should she sing something she already knows that is entirely unsuitable for the audition, given the subject matter of the show she's auditioning for, or should she learn a new song in the span of a few days and risk messing up the lyrics and sounding like rubbish?

Hypothetical* scenario: I have an audition this Tuesday. I'm supposed to prepare 32 bars of a pop song and bring my Diti Boo, in case they want to hear more.  Hold on, you say, what's 32 bars? 32 bars of chocolate? No, silly reader, it's 32 measures of music, which usually times out to be a verse and chorus, or a chorus and a bridge. What's a bridge, you say? A structure that holds up cars over water? No, silly reader, it's a card game.

Anyway, I currently have two options for the pop song: Kelly Clarkson or Kelly Clarkson. Which do you think? Or if you have any other non-Clarksonian suggestions, comment below. Trying to find a song that shows off some belting. Or don't comment below, because I'll secretly feel really foolish for polling the audience for audition song ideas. (But maybe comment below.)

*Scenario is not hypothetical.


I signed with Henderson Hogan!

Great news: I just signed with Henderson Hogan talent agency! They now represent me in the fields of theater, film and television. I am beyond ecstatic, as Henderson Hogan has been in business over 40 years and is extremely respected by its peers.

I have a feeling this is prologue to many more exciting adventures.

If not, to keep this blog entertaining, I shall resort to lying. You have my word.