Saturday, November 26, 2011

I'm Going to Die Tonight

I know who is going to do it, I know when and where and why they're going to do it.
The only question left is whether ot not I will be able to lie still for 20 minutes or more while everyone else tries to put the pieces together and solve my murder.
That's right. Tonight, I'm going to be killed for the benefit of an audience AND that audience is actually going to pay money to watch it all go down! It's all pretty sick when you think about it - someone actually looked up the words "murder for hire" online to do one of two things:
1) Try to find someone they can hire and pay to kill someone else.
2) Hire a company known as "Murder for Hire" to hold a murder mystery dinner for a special occasion.
Thankfully, someone was not in fact looking to have me killed but rather looking for someone to pretend to kill someone else at their special event or occasion for fun.
I have been working with Murder for Hire now for nearly 4 years and in all the murder mysteries I have performed in, a woman has never been the one to be murdered. In fact, I've played the murderer more often than not. I am PUMPED to have the challenge tonight of being the one to be dragged into the room (preferably by the arms and NOT my hair), dropped on to the floor in the middle of the room for all the guests to gawk at, FACE UP with my eyes closed AND I have to lie there through dessert until the end of the performance without moving (if possible). 
In previous performances, there have been guests who went right up to "the body" to investigate gunshot wounds or see if the 'body' is still breathing or not. It amazes how many people ACTUALLY comment on the fact that the 'body' is still breathing! After all this time, people still think actors in murder mysteries ACTUALLY kill someone for the audience's entertainment.
I'm sure tonight's performance will have it's own challenges, laughs and unexpected audience involvement. I will be sure to update this blog post tomorrow to let you all know what it feels like to play dead to entertain others as well as inform you of the "interesting" things audience memebers are certain to do to me while I'm down.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

My Favourite Monologues for Auditions

As an actor, I have a sense of what works for me in an audition and how to use my strengths to my advantage.  As a director, I also know what I look for in selecting an actor to join a production of mine.
Before listing my favourite monologues to use in auditions I want to elaborate on two things:

Use your strengths to your benefit in an audition. If you are a fast talker - don't select a monologue which is meant to be performed as slow as molasses. If you are someone who paces or rocks on their feet - don't select a monologue which forces you to stay as still as a statue. If you have a deep voice - don't select a monologue meant to be read by a young boy who hasn't reached puberty yet. In a nutshell - select monologues that will work WITH your strengths rather than against them.

Select a monologue that is APPROPRIATE for the play and role you are auditioning for. If you are auditioning for a classic piece like "the Crucible" or "the Diary of Anne Frank" - don't select a monologue that Jim Carrey used in "the Mask". If you are auditioning for a contemporary comedy like "the Love List" or "Lend Me a Tenor" - do NOT select a monologue written by Shakespeare. If you are auditioning for the role of a sweet-princess type - don't select a monologue of a character telling a story about murdering their children. In a nutshell - choose a monologue that can be connected in SOME WAY to BOTH the play and role you are auditioning for.

Now that those are out of the way - here are my favourite monologues to use as audition pieces and my reasons for my love of them:

#1.the Iron Giant [movie] Hogarth: 
(wired on caffeine, talking very quickly) "So she moved me up a grade 'cause I wasn't fitting in, so now I'm even more not fitting in. I was getting good grades, you know, like all A's. So my mom says, "You need stimulation." I said, "No, I don't. I'm stimulated enough right now." So she says, "Uh-uh. You don't have a challenge. You need a challenge." So now I'm challenged, all right- I'm challenged to hold on to my lunch money because of all the big mooses who wanna pound me, 'cause they think I'm a shrimpy dork who thinks he's smarter than them! But I don't think I'm smarter, I just do the stupid homework! If everyone else JUST DID THE STUPID HOMEWORK, they could move up a grade and get pounded, too! Is there any more coffee?"
I love this monologue because it is fast-paced and is great for auditions requiring a show of facial expression and voice control. This is also a great audition for people who need to move around as this character paces while delivering his speech.

#2. Contact [movie]  Ellie: 
"I cannot simply withdraw my testimony and concede that this journey to the center of the galaxy, in fact, never took place.  Because I can't. I had an experience I can't prove, I can't even explain it, but everything that I know as a human being, everything that I am tells me that it was real. I was part of something wonderful, something that changed me forever; a vision of the Universe that tells us undeniably how tiny, and insignificant, and how rare and precious we all are. A vision that tells us we belong to something that is greater than ourselves. That we are not, that none of us are alone. I wish I could share that. I wish that everyone, if even for one moment, could feel that awe, and humility, and the hope, but... that continues to be my wish."
This is a great monologue for anyone needing to show loss, sadness, desperation and/or vulnerability. This monologue has many words and statements which can be visualized by the actor to create deep feeling and emotion in their voice.

#3. Blood Diamond [movie] Maddy:
"Do you think I’m exploiting his grief? You’re right, it's sh*t. It's like one of those informercials. Y'know, little black babies with swollen bellies with flies in their eyes. It's right here. I've got dead mothers. I've got severed limbs, but it's nothing new. And it might be enough to make some people cry if they read it. Maybe even write a check. But it's not gonna to be enough to make it stop. I am sick of writing about victims but it's all I can f*cking do because I need facts. I need names. I need dates. I need pictures. I need bank accounts. People back home wouldn't buy a ring if they knew it cost someone else their hand. I can't write that story until I get facts that can be verified. Which is to say until I find someone who will go on record. So if that is not you and you're not really gonna help and we’re not really gonna screw, then why don’t you get the f*ck out of my face and let me do my work?"
This monologue affects me personally on a deep, emotional level. This monologue is a prime example of showing desperation AND control. This is a woman who knows what she wants and what she needs. She is a woman willing to do whatever she must in order to get the job done.

#4. Addams Family [movie] Debbie:
"I don't want to hurt anybody. I don't enjoy hurting anybody. I don't like guns or bombs or electric chairs, but sometimes people just won't listen and so I have to use persuasion, and slides. My parents, Sharon and Dave. Generous, doting, or were they? All I ever wanted was a Ballerina Barbie in her pretty pink tutu. My birthday, I was 10 and do you know what they got me? Malibu Barbie. That's not what I wanted, that's not who I was. I was a ballerina. Graceful. Delicate. They had to go. My first husband, the heart surgeon. All day long, coronaries, transplants. "Sorry about dinner, Deb, the Pope has a cold." Husband number 2: the Senator. He loved his state. He loved his country. Sorry Debbie. No Mercedes this year. We have to set an example." Oh yeah. Set this! My latest husband. My late, late husband Fester, and his adorable family. You took me in. You accepted me. But did any of you love me? I mean, really love me? So I killed. So I maimed. So I destroyed one innocent life after another. Aren't I a human being? Don't I yearn and ache...and shop? Don't I deserve love...and jewellery? Good-bye everybody. Wish me luck."
This monologue is perfect for showing a character who has gone over the deep end and crossed the line where sanity and CRAZY meet. This woman feels hurt and taken advantage of (though clearly the problem lies with her and not the rest of the world). This character is cuckoo for cocoa puffs and I love it!

#5. Titus Andronicus [play & movie] Tamora:
(Tamora is caught having an affair and convinces her sons she has done nothing wrong)

"Have I not reason, think you, to look pale?
These two have ticed me hither to this place,
A barren detested vale you see it is;
The trees, though summer, yet forlorn and lean,
Overcome with moss and baleful mistletoe.
Here never shines the sun; here nothing breeds,
Unless the nightly owl or fatal raven:
And when they showed me this abhorrèd pit,
They told me, here, at dead time of the night,
A thousand fiends, a thousand hissing snakes,
Ten thousand swelling toads, as many urchins,
Would make such fearful and confusèd cries
As any mortal body hearing it
Should straight fall mad, or else die suddenly.
No sooner had they told this hellish tale
But straight they told me they would bind me here
Unto the body of a dismal yew
And leave me to this miserable death.
And then they called me foul adulteress,
Lascivious Goth, and all the bitterest terms
That ever ear did hear to such effect;
And had you not by wondrous fortune come,
This vengeance on me had they executed.
Revenge it, as you love your mother's life,
Or be ye not henceforth called my children."
 This is by far my favourite of Shakespeare's plays. This monologue is great for expressing deception, control, power and persuasiveness. Tamora uses the loyalty of her sons to her benefit by making herself to appear innocent and the truly innocent to be the ones who have done wrong.

There are so many great monologues out there and these are only five.  Keep reading, looking and researching and keep watching plays.

The most important thing to keep in mind when selecting a monologue for an audition is to choose a piece that speaks to you - if you don't like it or YOU find it boring, how on earth will you make it exciting for the director watching you perform it?

Break a Leg!

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Theatre Therapy

"Wake-up, make your lunch, grab a quick coffee and a granola bar, get stuck in traffic and construction on the way to work, try to find parking in the morning rush, get to work, deal with the day's challenges including deadlines, staff and management THEN get back into your car, get stuck in traffic and construction on the way home, get home, find out what groceries you actually have to make dinner, decide on a dish to make that will please the whole family, make a mess of the kitchen while cooking, scarf down dinner, clean the kitchen, maybe watch some TV, brush your teeth, have the kids brush their teeth, struggle with them to get into bed and go to sleep so mom and dad can maybe have a few minutes of alone time before going to bed themselves...and repeat."
Sound familiar?
THEN, once or twice a week, the schedule changes. Instead of going home, you go to a rehearsal.  You are greeted with hugs and caring words from your co-actors and crew.  You are welcomed with the thoughts, words and support of a whole team.  As a group, you work together to achieve the same goal.  You can talk about your daily stresses and worries, you can brag (or complain) about your spouse or kids and the group will understand.  Theatre IS Therapy - and it doesn't cost $100 per hour!
 Just last night, I attended the first production meeting of the "Twiddle Plays" which I will be directing and producing with my theatre company Maybles' Productions.  The purpose of this meeting was for the team to meet each other, learn about the company's values and goals and discuss marketing ideas.  The stage manager, sound designer, production assistant and leading lady were all present.  Over coffee we laughed, joked around and had the opportunity to start building the foundation of this production.
I was overwhelmed by their enthusiasm and support of this production.
When I left, I couldn't help but get a little teary-eyed for I felt like a huge weight was lifted from my shoulders. Having been stressed-out and high-strung over issues at work, I left that meeting feeling lighter, more confident and happy.
During this time when people are having less face-to-face time and more "Facebook" time, it is so important for people to have the kind of contact and connection that only Theatre can provide.
When the going gets tough - the tough do THEATRE!

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

ACTING - it's not just about 'PLAYING'

Many people think acting is either really easy because all actors do is prance around a stage in silly costumes speaking with silly voices, OR, people think acting is really hard because you have to do and say things in front of other people.  There is so much more to Actors and the world of Acting.
Actors don't just 'play'.   "[Actors] remind people that things can change, wounds can heal, people can be forgiven, and closed hearts can be open again." - Larry Moss

Acting is about making people feel, think and question themselves, others and the world.
Acting is a means of expression.
Acting is an outlet for individuals to show others deep emotions and thoughts that are experienced.
Acting is a way to pretend to be someone else, live in someone else's shoes, have someone else's family, have someone else's dreams and go through someone else's experiences.
Acting is a vehicle to be used as a way of expressing ideas, concepts and physicality that would otherwise be "socially unacceptable".
Actors take nothing from an audience except for applause, tears and laughter.

It is hard work.  Rehearsing twice a week, every week for 3 months to put on only 5 or 8 shows.  It's a lot of lines to memorize.  It means a lot of research into people, places, societies and times in history in order to develop a character.  

There are people who do not understand why actors do what they do. Especially actors in community & alternative theatre as they do not get paid for their time or hard work.  To people who ask "why do you do it?" or "wouldn't you rather do something that pays?" I simply reply by asking them whether or not they have ever volunteered.  

Acting is volunteering and it is rewarding.  Though we do not usually get paid, though we sometimes must endure critics, notes from directors, ridicule from adjudicators and snickers from an audience, we as actors dedicate ourselves to the art of becoming someone else.  We live someone else's life, go through their trials and tribulations.  We survive the torment of thoughts in their mind, sometimes die as them or worse, experience a loss far greater than any death.  We do this so that YOU as an audience member can experience these, through us, from the safety of your seat.

This is the gift actors give to us all for the mere price of an applause.