Thursday, May 5, 2011

So...You Wanna Be an Actor.

I had an interesting dilemma yesterday during an audition for a film. It was a low budget thing my new managing team set up. Part of the whole 'grooming' process, I'm told, to set me up for larger projects. I got the script a couple of days earlier and had ample time to work on it. Problem was, it was just a horrible piece of writing. So bad, in fact, that I actually read some of it aloud to Angie and asked, in complete sincerity, 'Who in their right mind would green-light something like this?' It was that bad.

So anyway, I toddle over to West Hollywood to the audition and go in and do my thing. The role was a very loud and aggressive corporate boss type guy. It had lines like, "Well, I thought..." "That's your problem, you THOUGHT. I do the thinking around here!" Eventually (it was agent submission only so I didn't have to wait too long in the crowded lobby) I was called in and the girl (maybe the director? Not sure) says, "I'd like you to do it really loud. No subtlety. Just scream it." Thus the dilemma. I was being asked to purposely do bad work.

I made a snap decision and ignored the direction. I played it low and menacing, without unecessary vocal pyrotechnics. She was unimpressed. I left, breathed a sigh of relief, and drove home.

Now, don't get me wrong. I enjoy a good shouting scene as much as the next guy, but that was not the case here. This was not an isolated piece of cliche' writing to make a point about the character or the situation. No, the ENTIRE script was written like this. Years ago (not so much in the past couple of decades), soap writing was usually of this calibre. You know, late seventies stuff on As the World Turns or General Hospital. That type of stuff.

The point is I made a choice not to play this crap with the ham-handedness it deserved. I won't get the role because I chose not to follow her direction. And if I had to do it again, I'd do it exactly the same way.

This is a vivid example of the downside of being an actor in a city that, on the whole, doesn't appreciate actors. Now, of course, that's a gross generalization, but you get my drift. I may not have landed the role but I slept really well last night.

Angie and I had a good laugh about it as I described it all and then I just turned it off and moved on with my day.

Whenever stuff like this happens to me, I'm always reminded of a moment that occurred about 27 years ago in Davenport, Iowa. I was on a non-union, bus and truck tour of 'The Fantasticks.' I was playing the role of 'El Gallo.' It was a cheap little midwestern tour originating from a company called 'The Old Creamery Theatre' (now, there's a catchy name) and basically we drove from small town to small town and did the show in various civic centers. In fact, our programs had a typo in them that said my character's name was 'ED GALLO.' I was very young and had signed up for the tour because at the end of it I was promised my Equity Card (this is back in the day when it was a lot tougher to join the union). Anyway, at one point we found ourselves doing a 'promotional' in a small, strip mall in Davenport, Iowa. My old and dear friend, Johnny Bader, was on the tour with me. So we're standing there in the middle of this little mall, people walking by us completely oblivious to what we're doing, singing songs from the show, and there I am, sitting atop a small stepladder warbling out the song 'Try to Remember' over a tacky sound system, holding a microphone with silver duct tape all over it, in full costume including a big, black, ill-fitting sombrero and black, tight-fitting, spandex pants and no one, and I mean NO one, is paying the least bit attention to me, and John looks up at me while I'm singing and says, " wanna be an actor."

I barely got through the rest of the song I was giggling so hard.

And that's exactly what I heard in my head yesterday as I was acting that poorly conceived, badly written scene. " wanna be an actor."

See you tomorrow.