Monday, December 9, 2013

How To Be Remembered On and Off Stage

I was sitting at Second City today and couldn't help but to eavesdrop on this group of young guys talking about their upcoming show today (It wasn't too hard to catch the conversation - they were speaking pretty fawkin' loudly).  One was pretty miffed about the way he got cast in the show (number of lines, type of roles he got, stage time, etc.) and wouldn't let it go.  His friend was doing his best to console him but in my opinion almost making the situation worse.  I spent 10 minutes fighting myself on making a comment on their conversation because I didn't want to come off as a know-it-all or as unsympathetic.  Finally, I mustered up the courage to put his situation in perspective.

I walked over to them and said softly, "Guys..."

Their faces froze like they just got in trouble.  Great.  Now I REALLY feel like a old man.

I said, "I couldn't help but overhear your situation and wondered if you would like to get some perspective from an 'old man' in this game."  Surprisingly, the perked up and invited me to have a seat.  I grabbed a seat and immediately went into a lecturing posture.  Cot damn I feel old.

"Dude, I've been in this game for close to 11 years and I have been put into your situation countless times," I assured him. "I know how you feel because I have felt that way many times before.  You're an actor.  You've been put in bit parts before. "  I stopped and looked at him closely.  "How old are you?"

"22," he responded.

I had to catch myself from scoffing at him when he responded.  22?!  C'mon.  It only reaffirmed what I was about to say to him.

"Alright, 22.  You're young, " I said.  "This won't be the last show you're ever going to do, right?  You're gonna keep doing shows and being involved with other people and at some point, you're going to forget that this ever happened.  You won't give two shits about it.  You'll look back when you're on the main stage in three years thinking 'Why was I trippin' over that?  Fuck those guys."  They both laughed out loud.  That was comforting. I wasn't sure if I was being condescending in my approach or not.   I felt like Edward James Olmos - "I'm getting through to deez keedz!"

"The thing to remember, " I continued, "is that people are not going to remember much of anything from this show.  They're not going to remember the dialog.  they are necessarily going to remember each member of the cast.  The thing they are going to remember is how supportive you were in delivering those parts in the best way possible.  Your friend here is right.  You could not have much of anything as far as lines are but you can get the biggest laugh in a scene by delivering that one line in such a way that the audience feels it.  You can rock an entire scene by just committing your heart and soul to that bit part.  People won't remember the tons of dialogue by those other cats, but instead they'll say 'Hey - remember that one guy who came out did that one funny line or thing?  I hope he does that again' and they'll continue to look for you as the show goes on.

Let me tell you a story from my own experience.  I was in a Level 3 show where we did a set of improv.  At the very end of the show, we did a set of musical improv - singprov.  So, I'm in this scene with this guy and the suggestion was 'gingerbread' man.  So, I come out looking like gingerbread man.  I started singing and then my castmate decided to rip my arm off.  I then continue singing as he rips off my other arm.  He then proceeds to rip off my head.  As he did that, I started falling to the floor and right as that happened, the lights went out.  The crowd loved it.  After the show, I never got so many compliments - about how well I fell to the floor at that moment.  Nevermind the 20 minutes of good improv I just did.  My entire acting ability was encapsulated in that 1 second fall I took.  My point is, you can't decide what an audience is going to remember or think about you.  You have to rock every moment you're on stage and hope that some of it sticks when they leave. 

You don't want to be that guy that is always asking for lines and parts.  Don't get me wrong.  You do have the right to question the casting but take it up with your director.  If after your director has made a decision you still get cast in the manner you were before, accept it.  Rock the parts you were given.  The thing people will remember always is how professional you were in accepting your role for a given production.   Take it with grace.  Support your team even if they necessarily reciprocate it at the same level you feel is warranted, because you after that production is done, you'll move onto bigger and better things. 

Now you can decide whether or not to be like me about the situation.  I sometimes tend to be vindictive about these situations and rock those parts to get back at those guys 'Fine. Don't cast me in the parts I feel I deserve?  Well, I'll show you all!'  Or, you can be much more mature about it and take it with grace and realize that this will pass.  I recommend the latter.  You'll be fine.  You look like you know what you want to do.  I know you'll rawk this shit.  Ignore them fools and do the best you can with what you got.  Just know, you're not the only one this type of stuff happens to."

After that diatribe, he let out a big sigh and asked me my name.  I gave it to him and while extending his hand for a handshake said, "Thanks Nelson. I really needed to hear that, man.  I feel a lot better knowing that and gave me a lot to think about."  I shook his hand and felt so good about helping him.

His group finally gathered to go into a classroom so I just iterated some of the key phrases above for him to take with him.  He had a huge smile on his face as he headed off downstairs to the dungeon of institutionalized learning.

Now, this type of sharing I can do all day.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Searching For Fullfilness Within

I had dinner tonight with a friend of mine who I admire and respect.  He's on my shortlist of people I wish I could perform as well as when on stage.  For everything going so well for the both of us, we both have our own respective follies and insecurities to contend with.  I feel we're sort of kindred spirits in that vein.

The thing that I realized I look for is outside validation instead of going within to get it.  It stems from issues I have with never really getting what I wanted from my father.  I wanted to always be loved and accepted as I was by him, but never felt I really got that from him.  so, a lot of my initial motivations are to get to the point people will love me and accept me.  For example, I went through a long week of "creative withdrawl" after my run with Specter of Treason finished.  I took two days off from myself to recover and then on the third day, I felt the familiar twinge of being creative beckon.  Then by the following weekend, I was fighting myself from trying to get into another production.  The motivation behind getting into another production was not because I felt creative unsatisfied but rather because I knew I was doing it to get people's attention and adoration.  So, I basically called myself out a number of times on social media to sort of shame myself into doing the opposite (not the best way to do so but it worked).

My friend is gong through the same thing in his life as well but his need for love and acceptance differ from mine in motivation and result.  The similarities in our situations was so strong that I gave him my "worldly" answer for dealing with his problems:
  • Find Your Passion(s)
    As I've gotten older, I've really started analyzing what it is I want to do with my life and what I wish to spend my limited energy on.  I realized that only those things that I am passionate about are worth pursuing head on.  How do you know you're passionate about something? You're willing to kill, maim, and destroy anything in your path to obtain your goal ;-)  That's how much the desire must burn to achieve the  desired outcome.  Do this first and as soon as possible.  It will frame the next  item.
  • Pursue Your Passion Incrementally
    A great day consists of a series of great moments.  Don't get caught up in planning the path of the outcome necessarily ("the how") but rater focus on the goal ("the what").  Break your pursuit of a given goal into smaller goals and focus on each on o f those goals from the onset.  Don't worry about how you're going to achieve each goal but rather the journey to get there.  This is incredibly hard to do even for me.  I get caught up in the drama of the pursuit of happiness a lot.  I'm working on going back to not planning a darn thing and allowing things to "just happen" again.  I was a lot happier and cherished each moment much more.
After our chat tonight, I know we both feel a tiny bit better about our futures.  Gotta keep working on these concepts and reinforcing them until they're second nature.