Saturday, July 10, 2010

Onward and Upward...

Played to a small house last night.  Which had me a little nonplussed as I left.  Four reviews, three of which were in the the large publications that couldn't have been more complimentary, and still we struggle for an audience.  The notices could not have been better had I written them myself.  The NoHo Arts district is not that far from where I live, neither is the stretch of road known as 'theatre row.'  There are small theaters everywhere in this town.  Literally hundreds of them.  From 30 seats up to the 99-seat Equity Waiver types.  There are more small theaters in this town than Chicago, maybe even more than New York.  And they all seem to rely on friends and family for support.  I do not see a core audience of devoted theatre-goers.  Maybe I'm wrong, but I don't see it.

However, as I left the theater last night, there were three people waiting at the side stage door.  They were overwhelmed with the production.  Really moved by the proceedings.  I'm hazarding a guess that they were not stalwart theatre-goers, but instead 'friends of Bill.'  The play had sincerely spoken to them and they were in tears.  For all the angst and strife and debilitating ham-handedness that went into this process, when I speak to people like that, it all rolls off me for a moment.  The play had made a difference in their lives.  They, the three of them, were truly Salinger's 'fat lady.'  The people I wanted to reach, even if it was only three.  The people that we act for.

I had two film auditions yesterday, one of which was so casual and callous as to be funny and the other really nice and professional and serious.  The first I attended, right across from Paramount Pictures, was in a tiny office in a casting director's suite of rooms.  The guy didn't even look up as I did my thing, the cold reading of the few lines in the script.  No camera, no direction, nothing.  Just in, read a few lines, out.  The whole thing lasted less than two minutes.  At first I was incredulous.  Now, mind you, this whole process of auditioning for films is relatively new to me.  I'm not used to it.  There were about ten or so guys sitting around in the outer office, guys about my age, obviously there for the same role.  In and out each of them would go as I sat there.  This is moving really fast, I thought to myself.  When my name was called I trundled back to the little room with my pic and res and, the casting director briefly acknowledged me, put his head down to look at my picture and said, "Okay, whenever you're ready."  I read the four or five short lines, waited a second, realized the audition was over and left.  By the time I got out to the parking lot I was actually laughing at the pointlessness of it.  He never looked up.  I'm not sure he even caught my name.

The second was in Los Feliz.  I think it was, anyway.  There they had a camera up and a very nice casting associate that explained the quick scene, read opposite me and chatted amiably when it was over.  It, too, was in a small office and there, too, were a bunch of guys my age clearly up for the same role.  Now, these were not big, star-studded films I was reading for, but rather small, low-budget, SAG things.  In the first I was playing a British, nerdy, sociopathic, murdering entomologist (yes, that's right) and in the second a slimy, lustful producer.  And this morning I have yet another of these small-budget film auditions.  This one a sad and disillusioned father who's son has decided to flee from the draft during the Vietnam war.  The reading is at Universal Studios, which is very close to where Angie and I live.

Los Angeles, I think it comes as no surprise, is definitely a film and TV town.  That could not have been made any clearer to me yesterday.  Unless I'm hired to do something for one of the big theaters in town, The Geffen, Circle Theatre Group, whatever, I think my stage days are over for awhile.  Too much work, too little (if any) pay, too little appreciation.  It's time to make some money.  The stress of mounting my own work on stage is just too much for me right now.

I was talking to a couple of friends yesterday following the auditions, John Bader and Rob Arbogast, and they both told me this is the way it is.  Both have done a ton of TV and film work out here and both sort of gave me a bemused, 'told you so' response to my surprise at the brevity and off-handedness of the audition process.

As I said yesterday, I learn something new every single time I audition for something, anything, and yesterday was certainly no exception.

It was a sloppy, if impassioned, show last night.  As always on Fridays, after a week away from the words, I struggled here and there to find the exact phrasing.  There were some terrific moments and some others that were a bit adrift.  But the soul of the piece was there and the three patrons that waited for me at the stage door made it all worthwhile.

My goals for the play have been met.  The good work has been recognized.  I've gotten representation out of it.  And even though the process itself was nearly the death of me, as Angie continually reminds me, I've gotten exactly what I wanted from it.  And not only that, I had the opportunity to work with some top-of-the-line, crackerjack actors.  Rob, Brad, Tara, Bonnie and Melanie are simply wonderful artists and performers and it is a pleasure to share their stage every night.

So onward and upward.  Five more performances left of Praying Small.  I shall charge the breach with every single one, too, and not let up until the last shell has been fired.  But once the last shell IS fired, in the words of Chief Joseph, I shall fight no more forever.  Or at least until I get my dander up about another project that I simply have to put up on stage.  The next time, however, I'll have artistic control and I'll make sure all the cards are in place for a genial process.  I have an idea for a new play that I've been thinking about for about a week now...a play I'll write for a few close friends and put up for a limited run somewhere.  I've been outlining it in my head.  A murder mystery, of sorts.  A good piece of drama to sink our teeth into.  Roles for myself, Jim, John, Brad and Rob.  I'll put it in the hopper and maybe write it someday soon.

In August Angie and I head back to Missouri for a big engagement party.  Angie is very excited and happy about it.  And, generally speaking, if Angie is happy about something, so am I.  Moving on.  Trying something new.  Writing what counts.  As my buddy, Brad Blaisdell, said last night in the dressing room, "Don't sweat the small stuff.  And ultimately, it's all small stuff."

See you tomorrow.