Monday, September 23, 2013

Auditioning, The Eyes Have It

I love directing and I love watching actors audition. I want to experience them as fully as possible with the material they've been given. I always provide sides to auditioners days in advance of the scheduled day. I want them to have a familiarity with the material; a period of time in which the material can sink in. For theatre auditions, rarely does anyone expect you to have the material completely memorized (as opposed to film).
For all you actors out there reading this please hear me on this. This one piece of advice I am about to give you can often have the largest impact on the casting director. GET YOUR HEAD OFF THE PAGE, AND SHARE YOUR FACE AND EYES WITH THE CASTING DIRECTOR. Please excuse all the capital letters, but I cannot emphasize this enough. No one wants to watch an actor read. We want to see you! We want to see your reactions, the subtle things, the magic that happens when the ideas and words express themselves in your face and body.
Now, in order to do this takes some practice. Here's how to do it.
1. Hold the script in one hand and keep it stationary throughout the entire scene or monologue so that you don't lose your place on the page.
2. Practice looking down with your eyes only to grab a phrase and stay in character while doing it. Try not to leave the reality of the scene.
3. Do not start talking until you have transitioned from getting the phrase off the page, to engaging with the reader or your scene partner.
Just by employing this one skill, you will be making a huge improvement in your auditioning results. At first you may be able to get only a few words at a time from the page, but as you get better at it, this will increase.
It's going to feel strange at first because you will feel slow and may stumble and have pauses in the wrong place. Don't worry, this will improve. And, it's better to be slow and perhaps a little awkward, than to have your head buried in the page.
If you agree, disagree, or have any other ideas please feel free to share them here.
Now get out there and show everyone you brilliance!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Donuts Are Forever

Ray Renati (Arthur) & Brandon Jackson (Franco)

So, as actors we rarely learn to savor the moments of success. Once a play, or a musical, or film is done, we tend to forget about it immediately on our quest for the next gig. At least that's my tendency. In an effort to change that habit, I decided to pay homage to my last theatre experience and to savor it for a while.

Let me first of all pay huge kudos to our director, Ann Kuchins, who had to endure the passing of her beloved sister at the same time she was directing this play. It was truly an heroic effort.

The Donut Shop

Also I would like to give huge thanks to my co-lead, Brandon Jackson who played the role of Franco. I have tremendous respect for his talent and dedication to excellence.

My dear friend Pat Tyler, who provided me with perfect costumes and a remarkably realistic fake ponytail, and moreover tons of moral support as I struggled to keep it all together.

Our wonderful cast, our fantastic set, everything just came together to create what is by many accounts a huge success. Our tiny 40 seat theatre could not accommodate the hundreds of people who heard about our show and wanted to see it. I really wish they all could have. I was also in charge of ticket sales for a while along with another Pear person, and I found it difficult to keep telling people that we just couldn't fit them in.

On the other hand, isn't that really a dream come true? Yes it is!

Playing Arthur P. was an experience I will never forget and will cherish for the rest of my life. I had lived with him in my heart for so many months that I feel sad to let him go. Shaving off my beard, cutting my long hair, and putting my script away for good all served as reminders that this wonderful experience has come to an end, but it will remain forever in my heart.

Thanks, to all. I love you.



Thursday, May 16, 2013

Durang Outdoes Himself

Billy Magnussen & Kristine Nielson

Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike. Yes, the title is quite a mouthful, and when telling people about the play, if you do see it, you'll just say "that Vanya thing" or something along those lines. But so what? This is by far Durang's best play yet in his long career. And in the hands of this superb cast, it shines far beyond my expectations. Usually, I go into a Durang play expecting over the top sarcasm and I usually leave exhausted or dissatisfied. And, it's not always because of the writing. Often it's because his plays are extremely difficult to stage in a way that keeps the audience believing they are watching the struggles of real people and not just strange cartoons of humanity. Often the actors and the director don't understand what is necessary to make his work shine. The key is that no matter how over the top the character goes or the situation dictates, the audience must never fully reflect on the fact that what they are seeing is so ridiculous it could never happen in a million years. You have to make them believe, at least for an hour or two. The way you do this as an actor is to commit one hundred percent to the shred of truth in whatever the situation happens to be and never, ever let go of it.

Now, in this new production the actors were helped tremendously by Durang in that all the characters had depth and something very real and believable at stake. This wasn't always the case in some of his prior plays.

And this cast with Sigourney Weaver, David Hyde Pierce, Kristine Nielsen, Billy Magnussen and Genevieve Angelson play this show to perfection. Mixing various Chekov themes, Durang and his troop create a tongue in cheek, yet still reverent homage to the great master.

Watch Video

Official Site


Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The One Man MacBeth

Last night I dragged my jet lagged body over to The Ethyl Barrymore Theatre to see the the otherworldly Alan Cumming perform the entirety of Shakespeare's MacBeth virtually by himself. Yes, he played nearly every character himself. Set in a hospital mental institution with two other actors serving as medical staff and occasional voices of the witches, they monitored Cumming character as he did the entire play in his hospital room. You got the feeling that Cumming the mental patient performs the play as ritual quite often and the staff was studying him for the sake of science. It was a fascinating way to justify the awkwardness of performing the entire play alone.


Cumming is phenomenal. He inhabits each character with just enough differentiation to prevent it from becoming farcical. In fact his only character that approaches silliness is Duncan, whom he portrays as sort of a "Queenly" King. It was welcome humor given the weightiness of the rest of his performance.


The thing that impressed me the most is that Cumming's MacBeth is not the hardened warrior, but rather a powerful man who allowed himself to be influenced by his wife and others into doing something he normally would never have done: murder for power. At the end he comes to this realization in one of the most heart wrenching moments I have ever seen on stage. I found myself completely empathizing with the man MacBeth and his unfortunate fate in a way I didn't know was possible with this character. The "sound and fury" speech was one of the best Shakespeare moments I have ever seen. This MacBeth became a boy lost, a boy realizing that he was utterly alone in the world, and that his past choices brought him to this hopeless spot. It was so sad and so utterly enthralling.


Tony Award winner (Cabaret) and two-time Emmy nominee (“The Good Wife”) Alan Cumming has returned to Broadway in a “bravura performance” (Entertainment Weekly) of Shakespeare's darkest and most powerful tragedy, Macbeth.

Directed by Tony winner John Tiffany (Once) and Andrew Goldberg, this “stirring turn by Alan Cumming packing theatrical thunder and lightning” (Daily News) is set in a clinical room deep within a dark psychiatric unit. Cumming is the lone patient, reliving the infamous story and inhabiting each role himself. Closed circuit television camera watch the patient's every move as the walls of the psychiatric ward come to life in a visually stunning multi-media theatrical experience.

You cannot miss Alan Cumming in this breathtaking 100-minute “radical re-imagining” (Variety) of Shakespeare’s notorious tale of desire, ambition and the supernatural.

- Entertainment Weekly

- Newsday

- New York Magazine