Sunday, April 18, 2010

A Purveyor of Plays...

Spent a few hours doing a photo shoot yesterday for the Praying Small poster which will be plastered all over L.A. soon.  It was an interesting two hours.  Chad and Devon were brought in to do it.  Both photo guys.  We worked on two shots.  Not sure which one they will use.  The first was me staring into the camera with a bottle of Maker's Mark ostensibly floating in the air beside me.  Interesting and visually arresting image.  Not sure what it has to do with the play, but the image is cool.  The other I liked more.  Or at least I think I do.  I'm not a photo guy so my opinion is fairly pedestrian.  But these guys really knew what they were doing.  Lots of technical camera talk.  The second shot was of me staring at a half-full glass of bourbon while seated on a bench in a nebulous black and white place.  That one had a little more realism and for that reason alone, I liked it.

We only shot pics for about two hours, maybe three, but I decided I had a little more respect for models when we were done.  It required a lot of concentration on my part.  Stillness and concentration.  I don't like posed shots but this was different.  When I had something going on in my head, the shot invariably came out better.  The camera never lies.

Took a quick lunch and then came back and started rehearsing a few scenes with Rob Arbogast, who's playing the ill-fated character of Roman in my play.  Rob's a really good actor and a director's dream.  Me, not so much.

Rob played the title role of Dracula last year at NoHo.  It was, apparently, the theatre hit of L.A.  Massive sets and beautiful lighting and fog and the whole nine yards.  Plus I'm told Rob flounced around naked a lot which I'm sure didn't hurt the box office.

The other large supporting male role in the play is Greg played by the seasoned, veteran actor Brad Blaisdell.  Brad has been around forever and has done a ton of film work.  He's one of those actors that you may not know his name but once you see him you say, "Oh, THAT guy."

I have a lot of fun when I work with these two actors.  Mostly because we slip seamlessly into our work.  There is no jarring moment when we start acting.  The energy is the same as when we just sit around and talk.  The difference being that we're working.  I like that.

Also they have my name on the marquis at the theatre now.  Huge letters.  I've only been on a marquis once before in my life.  In Wichita, Kansas, of all places.  Went down there to do Moon for the Misbegotten, a talky Eugene O'Neil play, some years back.  When the producer called me in Chicago to ask if I wanted anything in particular while doing the show, I said, quite spontaneously, yes, I'd like my name above the title.  Oh, yes, of course, she said.  When I arrived to start rehearsals I saw, in massive neon letters above the huge theatre, "Clif Morts in Moon for the Misbegotten."  Made me smile.  I'm sure everyone in Wichita would pass that marquis and say, "Oh, look!  Clif Morts is doing Moon for the Misbegotten.  (pause)  Who's Clif Morts?"

I get that a lot.

Today is another day of memorization.  I hate it.  Makes me want to faint.

Another thing I like about Rob and Brad, before I forget, is that they don't spend a lot of time trying to act.  They just go about the business of saying the words and that's that.  Sometimes when I work with younger actors I can see the wheels churning..."Now is my dramatic moment.  I must start acting now."  Drives me crazy.  In a play like Praying Small, the script does all the acting for us.  We just have to say the words.  Such an extraordinarily difficult lesson to learn.  But once learned the work immediately visits an entirely different plateau of quality.  The Olivier quote from one of his books comes to mind, "I am not an actor.  I am a purveyor of plays."

Another beautiful day in sunny Southern California.  Angie is making bacon and egg noises. The puppies are playing ferociously.  The work is coming along.  The air here in the valley is crisp.  I'm healthy and reasonably content.  Things are just fine.

See you tomorrow.