Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Professional Disqualification

Last night, I sat in a group of five at a bar a couple block from my girlfriend’s apartment. We just finished playing about five rounds of Spongebob Squarepants bingo. We won the little boxed game as a third-place prize at bar trivia a ten minute walk away. We were all putting a dollar in for each round for the heck of it. I won twice, everyone else but my friend Larson, won once, so everyone who was up tossed our winnings back into the pot and bought him a beer. At least, I think that’s where the money went.

The next game we played was something they call the movie game. Someone names a movie. The next person in the circle names someone who was in it. The next person names another movie that person was in, etc etc. If you can’t come up with something, you’re out. If you don’t think the person who just named an actor or movie can come up with an associated movie or actor, you can challenge them, and if they can't name anyone/thing they’re out instead.

This is a game that highlights one of my main failings as a professional actor. I don’t know any famous actors or movies.

Here’s how bad I was: I didn’t even bother playing the first round. When the second round came, three people went, and Todd, the guy immediately before me, was given “Robert Downey Jr.” He looked at me and you could just see the pity in his eyes. He decided to try to be nice.

“Iron Man” He said.

I’d watched it once out of boredom on my laptop. I didn’t remember anyone in it.

“Was Don Cheadle in that?” I asked.

Everybody hemmed and hawed a bit. Todd said “Well, technically that was Iron Man 2, but I’ll take it.”

That went to Dana, who blanked and challenged me to name another movie with Don Cheadle.

I shrugged. “I dunno.”

Todd rattled off about half a dozen movies with Don Cheadle in them. I recognized Hotel Rwanda, but I’d never seen it. The rest of them I don’t think I’d heard of.

Movies just aren’t a big part of my life. I don’t have anything against them. I like a good movie as much as the next guy. But aside from a handful of group outings to this joke of cult movie called The Room, I’ve seen the inside of a movie theater a grand total of two times in 2011. Possibly 2010-2011, actually. I don’t remember seeing anything in theaters in 2010. One of the 2011 movies was a valentines day date to Gnomeo and Juliet (Dana has a thing for gnomes), and another was randomly seeing the Ides of March with a friend of mine.

It’s a bit of a handicap when people are trying to use movies and celebrities as shorthand for work I’m supposed to be involved in. I try to make an excuse saying I’m more of a theater guy. It sort of works.

I know that as an actor, Netflix could be counted against my taxes as a business expense. I’m sort of tempted, just to help get me in line with normal civilization, let alone my industry. But if I try that, it's going to take a lot of hours to catch up.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Left Outside

It's the things that go unexplained in this city that stick with me.

Like what you see to the left. It's not much of a picture, and I'm sorry, but I can describe what I found to you.

In the very lefthand edge of the shot is the front door to my apartment building in Spanish Harlem. The main focus is of the entrance to the building next door. It's around midnight last night. The streets are empty, and the only sign of life is a baby bottle, mostly full, sitting upright on the front step.

I don't know why it's there, who it belonged to, or really what was actually inside.

I'd just come home from the Shakespeare forum. On my way out, I got a hug from a friend who I had only seen half a dozen times since we did a show together in February.

"I never get to hear what's going on except in your blog," She said.

"And I haven't written in it." I admitted.

The trouble is partly time. I have eight tutoring students to take care of, several of them are... let's say "high maintenance." Also not knowing what to say. I've been to Chicago and back. And Seattle and back. I've learned some very big things about myself due to rather outwardly minor and uninteresting events that I'm still unraveling in my head.

I lose track of things in my life. Especially around this time at night, a little past midnight. I finished the novel. I haven't brought myself to read it yet. I have a performance next Tuesday. I leave for Seattle again the Tuesday after that for Christmas. I haven't done any shopping for it. I have a new television and the first video game I've bought in around five years sitting in my apartment.

I've gotten a half dozen brilliant ideas of what to do with myself over the last week, started half of them, and really not finished any. A lot of them involve voiceover. One involved graduate school, and not for acting. I'll probably write more about that later, but it relates to the "still unraveling in my head" category I mentioned before.

So if I can't give you a coherent story, I can at least give you an image. A tired twenty-five year old tutor coming home to find a baby bottle on the next door's front steps at midnight. I took a picture of it, and got a strange look from the only other passerby on the street. As if I'd set the whole thing up.

I didn't. And while it wasn't wondering who did and why that kept me lying awake and staring at the ceiling in bed past 3am that night, I'd still like to know.

Monday, November 21, 2011

The New Occupation of Wall Street

About a month and a half ago, I visited Zucotti Park. It was kind of a mess. I had a pair of German reporters pull me over and ask me why I was protesting. I told them I had been in the park roughly five minutes and would be leaving to get to my next appointment soon, and that honestly I was there to ask other people the same question. I didn't know what they were really doing down there. But they had some great signs.

Several weeks later, I visited again. The place had transformed. Maybe evolved is the better word. There was a formal nurses' station for all medical needs. There was a kitchen. There was a power station, where people biked on generators to charge all lights, equipment, and whoever's cell phones needed charging. There were cleanup crews and equipment, posted rules about noises and a complaints hotline for the park's neighbors sponsored by a community liaison. There was a shelter full of books with a large sign that said "Library." The signs had been replaced by posters explaining the movement, some of their ideals, and facts they wanted to bring to light.

They also had some oddballs. I had my ear talked off by a man trying to promote the letter ə in popular use as a way to change the world. Another had posted signs about 9/11 conspiracies and his campaign for president. But these were a lot more rare than the New York Post and other city tabloids would have you believe.

And the "people's microphone" is a lot of fun to watch in action. Heck, if they can bring a campaign speech by Michelle Bachmann to a halt, then they're obviously onto something.

So now that the occupation has moved away from Zuccotti Park, it's going to be showing up in some other interesting ways, including these:
 ...scattered Occupy events continue to take place in New York City. Protesters gathered near Mayor Bloomberg's home Sunday, there will be an Occupy Wall Street benefit show Monday night featuring Ted Leo, the So So Glos and Titus Andronicus. A group in Duarte Park has developed the idea of "Tenting," in which protesters, as Gothamist explains, "will set up tents in public spaces around town and decorate them with messages... then leave them behind. The tents will be uninhabited on the inside, but bursting with ideas on the outside."
Read more here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/11/21/occupy-wall-street-after-zuccotti_n_1105973.html

So I signed up for some mobile alerts from the New York general assembly tonight. Even if I'm going to be in Seattle for the next few days, I don't want to miss what happens next.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

First foray into TVland

I'm back from Chicago! Just was out for the weekend to spend time with friends and family, something I don't get to do nearly often enough.

So, back in New York, after doing a lot of other things, I met yesterday with a producer looking to pitch new TV shows. I haven't been keeping it a secret that I might want to try my hand at hosting a travel show some day. I've got the degree in international studies, the experience filming travel, and 65+ countries under my belt, so I'm all kinds of qualified. So I teamed up with my buddy who's got travel chops and a lot more organizational skills than I have, and we're trying to make something happen. But we've been searching for an angle.

My immediate idea was to try to film something aimed at the 18-39 year old demographic, a younger crowd that is more interested in trying to backpack to lots of different countries rather than stay in a resort in one spot. Word is though, that we need more character driven stuff and that instructional shows are definitely out right now as far as the networks are thinking. So we need something with a little excitement to it. Some suspense. Something leaving people wondering 'what if.' And unlike Anthony Bourdain, neither I nor anyone I'm working with has a bestselling book out to justify someone just wanting to follow us around the world with a camera.

I've got some ideas, we'll release them as they develop.

It's kind of funny jumping into TV stuff on one end of production while I'm only just now starting to dip a toe into the other end almost everybody else tries on: enjoying. I don't have a TV, but I might be shopping for one soon. With last month's paycheck, I think I can finally afford one, so I'm waiting for the holiday price drop after thanksgiving. There are perks to living just a few blocks from Costco, Best Buy, and Target.

But in the meantime, I have a novel to write, and 8.5 hours of tutoring to do today. Also some web design if I can hear back from tech support on why my boss's server isn't letting me log in. Back to the grind!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

I'm visiting Chicago and Seattle this month

I'm coming back to both Chicago and Seattle this month. I even made Facebook events for it because clearly I have more spare time than I'm admitting. So if you're in Chicago or Seattle these days and want to hang out... lemme know.

By the way, in case you were wondering, this is a picture of me, 18 years old, exhausted, on top of most of my worldly possessions after flying from Seattle to Chicago. It was a one-way flight, leaving my hometown to attend my first quarter of college. Some things change more than others.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Bad Actor. No Biscuit.

I'm in two performances this month. And I haven't done a single thing to publicize either of them. Oops.

They're both gonna be great! So if you wanna see them:

1)SWEET! Actors Reading Writers November will take place this Thursday at the the Three of Cups, 83 1st ave (5th st) at 7:30 pm. Please come, it's free, and I'll be reading a really funny personal essay by author Stefan Merrill Block.

2) Shakespeare Forum is having a showcase night two Thursdays after that (11/17) at Space on White, 81 White St at 8pm. I'll need to double check but I believe that is also free (though they will likely have a suggested donation of some sort). I'll be in a big scene from Winters Tale as Camillo, and then do really super angsty monologue as Posthumus from Cymbeline. If you like the Bard, you'll enjoy this.

Right. Now back to writing a novel. Because I've somehow talked myself into doing that in a month. Yes.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Happy... Halloween?

Because snow makes lots of sense right here, right now. I guess when stores start putting up Christmas decorations on October 15th, someone upstairs decides they should play along too?

It's been that kind of week. Discombobulated is the word that comes to mind. Like the way I realized just how rushed I've been every time I stop by my own home: after coming home from an audition, mucking my way through the "wintry mix", as my phone's weather widget calls it, I opened my fridge for a snack and found that I'd left my roll of plastic wrap on the top shelf next to the cheese and tortillas.

I've been bouncing around a lot. My job is all over the city, and even when I'm only working about six hours in a day, I will sometimes end up leaving at 9am and coming home at 10pm. It's all in the commute times between clients.

And then it ends up here tonight, after one audition (and possibly a callback-- I'll know by 3pm), I'll be going to my first Halloween party of the year, this one with a TARDIS in the bar. Apparently I've got two costumes this year. Two more than I have most years. Weatherizing them might get interesting (especially the one involving a lot of silver face paint).

Then tomorrow I meet a new client. Then I help an old client. Then I'm invited to party number two, with karaoke, and possibly with my second costume, if I can somehow find a way to get a nice dressy vest, suspenders, or both. May end up making do without.

After that, Monday, the real day, which I still don't know what I'm doing for, aside from seeing more clients, and possibly the Halloween parade, which I'd like to see. The problem is, the friends I've talked to about this idea are *over* it.

And then it's November. I'll have a performance on Thursday. I'll get to bill my clients for the month. And do laundry. I'm already out of clean socks, and my underwear supply is dwindling.

...and I'm pretty sure that was thunder I just heard behind me.

Here goes.

Saturday, October 15, 2011


I was recently offered a part I like in a performance I auditioned for. It took me two full days to even respond.

Work has been hectic. I went from not tutoring students to tutoring six students. Five of them have special needs. Two of them have me working in close connection with their psychotherapists. One of them I meet with at least five times a week.

I'm recording the voice of Avatarr, the smartass with all the best lines in the upcoming, fan-made video game, Wing Commander Saga. I'm being paid by a hilarious German dude named Anton in Euros, so long as I make the time to sit in my closet and yell things into a microphone about alien fighter spaceships and hit on any female character Avatarr comes in any kind of contact with.

I'm enrolled in a Shakespeare class that formally meets on Thursdays and normally has a free workshop on Tuesdays. I joke about it being the closest thing I do to church. Every week, I go to join the congregation while we share the words of a great book we all admire, led by a respected elder expert or two, drop off donations if we feel able, and then go out afterwards for refreshments and a social hour or three after. The space is a basement rehearsal room, the book is The Complete Works of William Shakespeare, the leaders are actor/directors, and the social hour happens to be in the downtown bar MI-5, but the idea is still kind of similar. Nice community. We're having a showcase night, for which my scene partner and I still need to learn lines.

I'm blogging for myself, backstage, and now have been asked to submit some of my favorite places to travel to Glenfidditch Explorers as one of their extensive panel of travel experts. Who knows if and when that will ever get done. I'm even still doing some couchsurfing stuff. I hosted one of my friends from my time in Shanghai a couple years back, and through her ended up sipping green tea with a half a dozen other travelers on the roof of a high rise downtown with a stunning view of just about every bridge on the East River just in time for sunset (see pic above). That was before we got stuck up there with no food or had the security guards try to throw us out. Makes me miss life on the road.

But in case you haven't noticed from the last few paragraphs, I've got a good handful of responsibilities tying me here in New York. Including now, an onstage performance with SWEET: Actors Reading Writers. I'll be reading a personal essay from published novelist Stefan Merrill Block.

So what do you think I should do now that I've got all these jobs and things to rehearse for? Add something else to do of course! I wouldn't want to get bored, now, would I?

So I'm making it official here and now: I am registering for National Novel Writing Month. By the end of November, I'll have the finished draft of a brand new novel.

Anyone care to join me?

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Drop Everything and Go

On Saturday afternoon, around 3pm, I was sitting in front of my computer in my Spanish Harlem apartment watching an old episode of a British Sci-Fi TV show in something like its thirty-second season, of which I've seen the latest six. I was waiting for the newest episode to come out in some form I could watch it. I don't think I was actually eating a bowl of cereal or sitting around in my underwear but I might as well have been, if it gives you an idea of the scene.

I won't say I was bored. I wasn't. Doctor Who is good stuff, if you're into that sort of thing. But I was sitting in front of a laptop, by myself, on a weekend.

Then I got a text message. It was my friend, Barry. It said "Hey I know it's last minute, but if you want to take the train out to Montauk tonight, you're welcome to stay here."

If stopping a spoonful of cereal halfway to my mouth while I'm mostly undressed, crouched in front of a computer screen helps get the gist of the image across, feel free to imagine it that way. I knew almost nothing about Montauk. I knew it was on the end of Long Island, and I vaguely remembered it mentioned in some movie I'd seen. That was it.

Didn't matter. That was all I needed.

I jumped out of the chair, called up Barry and started pacing. He was apologetic. He wanted to hang out, but it turned out there were no trains. Since I'd need to be back in the city by the next evening, it might not be worth the travel time. There was a bus, but it either left the upper east side at 5:30 and got in at 9:30pm, or left there at 3:30. And since it was already after 3:00pm...

I thought for a moment. Back at my computer, after a little searching, I pulled up the timetable and took a good look at that 3:30 bus. It made stops all along the east side before leaving, the upper east side, the closest stop to me, was the first. It passed just south of Grand Central Station around 4:00pm. Perfect. If I timed things just right...

I jumped up, packed a bag, called Barry up again to say I was coming, and dashed out into the rain. I raced up to 125th street to grab an express subway to beat the bus down to grand central. I swung out in time to grab more cash from an ATM for the bus fare, and rolled right up to the stop less than two minutes before the bus itself did. I was on, and on my way.

Getting on the bus felt good. But weirdly, what felt better was running through the rain with the bag on my back, out to catch the subway. Because once I was on the bus I was safe. While I was running, I was on an adventure. And it's been a long time since I had a taste of that. I'd forgotten how much I liked it.

That said, the evening and next day was some of the most relaxing time I've had away from "The City," as everyone calls it out here. Montauk is a beach town just east of The Hamptons. Technically it might be part of The Hamptons, depending on who you ask. But if you ask the people at the kinds of places Barry and I went, they would probably not take kindly to the insinuation. But that was because we were going into the kinds of places that didn't allow cell phones, yapping dogs, or, frankly, tourists.

So my Saturday went from sci-fi TV on my computer alone to seafood, drinks on the beach, watching mysterious paper lanterns and fireworks off in the distance... it was not how I'd pictured that day ending when I got up that morning. And then of course the next morning was more good food, more beach time, and then even more good food (first ever lobster roll at the place that made them famous, along with their seasonal pumpkin crab and lobster bisque). It was a great way to spend a weekend. All thanks to one text from a good friend.

Though I have to admit, the ability to pack a bag in under five minutes does help.

Next time you have a chance to just drop everything and go somewhere. Do yourself a favor and just go.
This entry cross-posted to my travel blog: JTrek.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Train of Work

If you know the transit system in New York City, take a close look and say what's wrong with this picture. If you really know the system, tell me how it happened, because I don't know.

I've been spending a lot of time on the subway system for a reason that really comes as a relief more than anything else: with the school year in full swing, tutoring work is coming back in force. I'm working with five different students on subjects spanning writing, math, chemistry, physics, English lit, US Government, and US/World history, plus a little computer skills and general organization. I still think this is the best non-acting related day job an actor can ask for. It strangely doesn't make me want to become a classroom teacher, just because I find the one on one work so much easier and more enjoyable. But it is a lot of fun. I've even been doing some at my boss' place which mean I also sometimes get to play with their three happy-go-lucky Portuguese water dogs.

This does mean that acting has taken a bit of a backseat in a way. I'm in a weekly acting workshop on Thursdays to brush up my Shakespeare, (first project is Camillo from Winter's Tale), but I haven't auditioned for anything in more than a week. That of course was for The Flea theater, whose auditions end today. I don't know what their timeline is for casting.

The basic problems are twofold. First, I'm busy with tutoring and stuff. But the second is that I've gotten picky. Last year I just wanted to prove I could act in New York, so I went out for anything and everything, paid, unpaid in freezing rain, clown-suits on street corners, whatever. I've now proven I can act here, so I'm getting more selective. Which is a good thing because it, not only does it mean I'm more likely to get something I enjoy, but it means I'm focusing my marketing on parts that I'm really appropriate for and will have a higher chance of being cast in.

But also it means I have to take the time to sit in front of my phone or computer and log in to actors access, or backstage, or Mandy, and submit myself to stuff. Instead of doing silly things like writing blog posts.

Like this one.


I think I'll go do something productive now.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Wandering my Afternoons

My life's been kinda packed this last week. And I can't remember a thing I did. I'm not sure how much I can ever account for myself without thinking pretty hard. I don't keep a daily diary, and I have hardly any fixed routine to anchor anything to. Not even my work day. I don't punch in at a set time, take my lunch, punch out and go to happy hour with the fellas after. I do sort of envy that life right now a bit. It might be kind of boring and repetitive, but at least it's organized.

Oh and it comes with a steady paycheck. That's something I haven't had in a few years. Not that I'm not getting paid, it's just not reliable.

I may not earn much money right now, but I'm picking up all kinds of skills, and as I'm starting to realize, I have a lot of free time. I feel like it's been about a full week since I had any unstructured free time.

Like when I took this picture. I was just wandering the upper east side, a bit hungry, heading home after a tutoring session and a walk in the park. I had my good camera with me for once, so I took this picture. how many people do you know who can do that? Wander a nice part of New York City at 4pm snapping photos. Not being a tourist. Not unemployed. Just happen to have some free time because of my lifestyle.

So. How do I have this lifestyle? Tutoring has started again. Between my current client list I have a 1 hour (or longer) appointment four days a week, and as my boss has pointed out, nobody's even taken a test yet, so I'm likely to get more from that.

I was also handed a great opportunity by a friend of mine and former coworker-- I'm now getting trained in basic web design, and getting paid a little bit for my trouble. Not a ton hourly, but I'm learning very useful and very employable skills with HTML, CSS, PHP and Drupal. I haven't brought it up yet, but once I master the basics of those, I might branch out a bit to Ruby on Rails to see what the world of web development is like. I've always like computers, and though the repetitive nature of coding has always made me cringe a bit, it's work I can take anywhere I can take a laptop and do on my own schedule.

I'm still waiting to hear from the folks at Grovo.com regarding my voiceover work. Hopefully should know what's going on with that in a day or two.

But most exciting of course is something that doesn't pay a dime. Tomorrow, I will be auditioning for The Flea Theater's resident company: The Bats. Hoping for the best!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

New Year, New Responsibilities

It's funny how, in the US, the first twenty years of lives the new year starts for us in September. The school year. So it is for me. It's a new year, not only because I've now been in the city for a year, but also now school starting again. As a tutor, that means I go back to work. Which is a very good thing. It's been kind of lean summer, money wise. Once I can get back to my students, I can stop paying rent out of my savings, and start putting something back in.

Not only that, but I've just been hired to do voiceover for Grovo.com, an internet guide to, well, the internet! I will be one of thee new voices on staff, and my profile is that of the guide to all things young and creative. They don't have scripts for us yet, but they will be using our demos and auditions to test drive a few things with study groups etc. and then hopefully have work for me soon! It's voiceover, so the hourly pay is fantastic, and the original invite to audition said they'd call me in two or three times a week, probably three hours a job. So I'm very happy about that.

Since it's a new year here, the second one, I feel like it's time to really start thinking about my long term responsibilities. And the main one of those that's looming in my mind, is that by July 2012, I will be 26, and no longer covered by my family's health insurance. I'll need my own. And since I'm not counting on being employed by a company that covers that expense, I'll need to navigate the murky waters of individual health care plans. Because after the things that've happened in my family lately, there's no way I'm going uninsured.

Similarly, since I'm not employed anywhere that gives me a 401k or similar, I've got to start thinking about retirement.  Grownup things. I've been putting things away into a small investment account for a couple years, and I realize that now is not the greatest time to invest in the short-term, but for the long term, when I'll want the money 40 years from now, it should go somewhere. So now that I'm on my way to being net profitable again, it's time to start managing those things myself.

I kinda wish they taught that stuff in school. Because as it stands I'm going to need to teach myself how all these things work.

Friday, September 2, 2011

525600 Minute Anniversary

When I exited Grand Central Station last night, I walked right past a someone playing bagpipes. It was almost a minute later that I realized, that one year ago, I would not have seen a bagpipe player in the street as normal. I've gotten used to things that would amaze most people. Life in a city with this many people is full of characters and events. And after a while, sadly, you start to take them for granted.

I have been living in New York for one full year, as of today. That makes this the first time I've lived in one city for a full year since I was 17 years old.

This photo is the home I made out of mostly an empty apartment over the course of a year. It feels a bit sparse , nothing inside it is fancy. But it's furnished and decorated, with electric heat and a/c. The walls are covered with memories from before New York.

I don't feel satisfied. I mean, I've made plenty of professional progress. I've been in three Off-Off Broadway shows, the last one paid on a union scale. I've performed the lead role in a short film. I've managed to live and pay for a one bedroom apartment in Manhattan by myself. But it feels a bit empty. Mostly because if someone sat me down and asked me for stories from my year here, I'd draw a blank.

Partially that's because of the competition. When you've push-started a car onto the German Autobahn, nearly gotten killed on a bike in the mountains of Peru, and ziplined off of the Great Wall of China, you become kind of a tough audience for yourself.

That and I think I've spent the vast majority of my time here preparing for the future. Most of the things I've done have been in an effort to get something else later. It feels like a long time since I've done something big for its own sake. I guess when you spend that much time preparing for the future, you don't really notice whatever is happening now.

But I have gained something: a genuine social life. Turns out when you stay in a place for a long time, you actually make friends. Not just people you have one great conversation over drinks and a couple days of hiking with. Friends you see every few days. You get to know their lives, significant others, music tastes, catch phrases. I hardly ever have to say goodbye anymore.

So, yeah, I miss adventure. Life feels a bit static. But it's good to have a simple, reliable set of people you know and trust.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Hurricane Cleaners

I've spent the last three days and nights at my girlfriend's place in Brooklyn, a 40-minute subway ride when the subway is running. Problem was, in case you didn't see the news, a hurricane hit the city, prompting the city to shut down all public transit. So the two of us along with half a dozen of our friends decided to spend the storm together, watching videos, playing Apples to Apples, Risk, and Rock Band, and generally doing what we could to stave off boredom.

Except for the transit shutdown, none of us were directly affected by Irene, which was downgraded to a tropical storm by the time it hit the city. We probably should have felt grateful, but I think most of us were just disappointed after all the hype that nothing interesting had happened. Walking around we saw a few limbs of trees had been downed in places. In the dark some of us passed piles of green leaves on the sidewalks, smelling prematurely like fall.

I made it home this morning, back into Spanish Harlem. While on the subway, out of it on my way home, and on my way to the gym and laundromat today, something about the place looked a lot better than it had before. I couldn't figure out why, but I felt like I was walking in the East Village rather than East Harlem.

Then I realized what it was. The high winds and torrential rains had washed all the garbage off the streets. No burger wrappers, cigarette butts, or anything else ripped up and crumpled on the sidewalks.

I realized that it was because there was so much trash around that I normally ignored the businesses there. But now that it had been cleaned up some, I kept noticing all these cute little restaurants, cafes, bars, and shops I felt like I'd never seen before. Especially further east, on 116th st, and up and down 1st ave.

I've been living in this neighborhood for almost a year now, but I still don't know much about the place. Mostly because I've never spent any time in it outside my apartment and a couple grocery stores. The only friends I know who live within a ten minute walk are a couple I normally only see in Chinatown at an acting forum they run. If I want to visit any of my friends, most of the time I have to figure out a way into Brooklyn, lower Manhattan, or sometimes Queens. It would be kind of nice to call someone up and walk to their place or somewhere we could both hang out for a change.

Meetup.com doesn't offer much, and neither does Craigslist apparently. I want to figure out some way to get to know people around my neighborhood. If only to take the commute out some of my social life.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Back In Town

Haven't heard from me? I was on vacation. Happens a lot. I spent the last two weeks in Washington state with a short trip or Portland, OR. I am now back in New York, and back in business.

I have to say, Seattle makes New York look old and dirty. Also behind the times in a few ways. I have to struggle to figure out how to recycle out here. Now in Seattle, not only is recycling in every store and restaurant, but so is composting. It's not a hippie campaign effort, it's municipal law. We caught the best week of weather in the entire year as well, so the place was gorgeous. Views every direction from everywhere. The south lake union area is really starting to grow...

Every time I drove past the new headquarters of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, I kind of had to stop and wonder. I know they're hiring like crazy right now, and I might have the credentials for some of the work they need, with my degree in political science and international studies, and my 60+ country travel experience. I'd live near my parents, sister and brother in law, nieces, probably in a nicer apartment for the same money...

But... that would mean an end to acting in New York. Maybe an end to acting period. I mean don't get me wrong, Seattle has some great theater, but NYC is home to Broadway, a good handful of major motion pictures, and 23+ national TV shows. If I'm gonna act professionally, I'm gonna act here.

So here I am. Back in Spanish Harlem, 25 years old, with headshot and resume in hand, ready to work.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

On Set

So. My first film.

Sort of. There were the two NYU scene studies, a couple pages long each. Then there were the three or four times I was an extra for something (the latest on Thursday, pictured to the left). Or the time I had a nonspeaking role in a (I believe still unfinished) vampire video my high school buddies were making. Somehow or another there ended up being footage of me, in a suit, standing facing a wall about two inches in front of my nose.

And of course there was my reality show about studying abroad in India.

But this is the first time I've been in a fictional, self contained movie, with a speaking part. The lead speaking part, actually. You hear occasionally from celebrities that acting for film is hard work. My impression so far is that that's not quite true. The work is repetitive, sometimes in somewhat uncomfortable temperatures for your costumes, and it goes for long hours, but it's not hard. What makes it seem hard is that you're usually surrounded by stressed out sleep deprived people whose work is hard. The feeling of hard work is sort of contagious.

I prefer Al Pacino's (alleged) quote: "If acting on stage is like walking a tightrope, acting on camera is like walking on a chalk line on the ground." If you mess up on film, you just stop and try again.

Really performing on camera feels a lot like rehearsing for the stage. Just a lot smaller. When you're on stage, you need to evoke the place, circumstances, mood, scope, and a lot of other things besides. When you're on camera, a lot of that is done for you by the lighting, set, makeup, costumes, angles, and editing. So you just have to make everything a lot smaller and more... natural, for lack of a better word. You as the actor carry a lot less weight of the final product than you would on stage.

So if performing for a camera feels like rehearsal for stage, rehearsing for camera is a different animal entirely. It's very detailed, but it feels really easy. I'm in each scene with one other character. One of my favorite things about this has been going to rehearse each day at the same location with a new actor each day, and sharing the identical walk back to the subway afterwards with each one. They each talk about something different, and have a different story about their acting career and how they got where they are. It's fun.

So today we shot half the movie, in chunks, out of order. Because we can. Tomorrow we shoot the other half the same way. Then the next day we finish up a couple final clips. Then the next day I fly out to the west coast to visit my family.

Man, this is going fast.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

My Next Project

I have just been cast in the student film Archetype, set in an upscale Manhattan architecture firm, where Mike, an intern, has been left alone in the office for the day, which he has been assured will be a quiet, uneventful one. I think you can guess how accurate that prediction turns out to be.

My character breakdown was as follows: Mike has interned at the architecture agency for five years but today he is left alone to deal with the difficult clients that demand his attention despite his low-level position. He is unprepared but unafraid.

So it's official: I'm playing Mike. Yes, I will be portraying a smoker on camera. No I will not actually be smoking. Filming takes place August 7-8, just before I leave for a couple weeks at home. It's my first film, and my first lead role on camera for anything with a script longer than two pages. It's a character and script I like, and the director/writer seems really cool.

Here's the interesting part. The script is based on true events. Very closely. So closely, in fact, that none of the names have been changed. That's something I might have to talk to the writer about, as, while I'm pretty sure I'll be fine, I don't want him to get sued. While hilarious, some of the character portrayals are not all that flattering. I'll keep you all posted on that, and of course how and where you can watch the finished product when it comes out.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Founding a Voiceover Business

My voiceover demo has finally arrived! This is something I thought I'd have months ago, but that's how most of my professional goals seem to work these days-- done, but a bit later than planned. If you want to listen to it, you can listen here by pressing play on the pretty red box below:

More to the point now, this means I'm going into business. I've put in the biggest initial investment and now have the most important calling card to use to get work.

I've sent out the demo to two casting directors and one agent, all of whom had previously shown interest. I've gotten enthusiastic feedback, but no jobs yet. Just as should be expected, sending out to three people is nothing. So now it's on me to make a few investments in the business. It's just a question of which to do when.

Here's a the basic checklist:

Send out commercial demo to as many people who cast stuff as possible: Naturally we need to do just a little bit of targeting so that it looks less like junk email. But the more people who know I'm in business, the more likely I am to get hired. Due immediately, if not sooner.

Redesign www.joelrputnam.com again to advertise voiceover as separate from my acting: Something I've wanted to do for a while anyway. I've been having fun futzing around with the Drupal web development platform, which is much easier to manage than my current setup. Due very soon.

Establish separate business bank accounts: This is actually something I sort of have already but haven't been using much. I've got my personal checking, money market, and credit card accounts with Chase, but I've also got all three of those things with Seattle-based credit union BECU, because they gave me better rates on overseas transactions. When I was overseas for 19 months, that was important. But still, since I don't yet have much in the way of expenses or income, this can mostly wait. At most, I can "loan" my business some money from my personal accounts, but that's it for now. Due once financial transactions heat up.

Produce narration demo: I can and hopefully will be hired for narration work based off my commercial demo, but it'll be easier to get this work with a dedicated Narration Demo. Most people in the business have both. I've got a private session this Wednesday to go over some scripts. I have a credit under my belt so that won't cost anything. The demo record, however, will. Even with an employee discount, assuming it's still good (haven't been asked to do any work for the studio in quite some time), it'll be around $350 for the recording session itself, plus $65 or so for each private session I want for prep. I'd guess I'd need at least one more, but I could be wrong. Due date indeterminate, but to be discussed this Wednesday at my training session.

Get Premium Membership on Voice123.com: this is the main online marketplace for voiceover talent. For free you can host a little profile on their site, but nobody will see it unless they are actively searching for your name, possibly not even then, as far as I can see. To show up in searches by voice type, get invites to audition for specific jobs, etc, you need a premium membership, and that's a little under $300 for one year. Due date indeterminate.

Form an LLC:  This is just for tax purposes, but I'd want to legally license my voiceover business for tax purposes. As it stands, if anyone employs me, an individual, for voiceover, and they pay me more than $600 in a fiscal year, we have to fill out 1040 forms to report income as an independent contractor. If they're paying me as a Limited Liability Company, they don't have to do that. Also I think gives me some minor tax savings if I file using S-Corp status, and, though this hopefully won't come up, limits my personal legal liability in the event of legal dispute. In other words, lotsa fun with fine print. Due once I start having clients pay me more than $600 in a year.

And that's kinda it for now. Anyone with business opportunities for me, let me know.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


My life has little to no set routine. It makes the days a little hard to track. It's not quite to the point you get to when you're traveling and don't remember what day of the week it is. You have the subway construction on weekends to remind you of that. But things I think of having happened weeks ago, I'll talk to my friends and it was actually two days prior. Things like that.

So, when I came in to dog-sit my tutoring employer's three Portuguese water dogs, it was a bit of change. They were to be walked from 8:00-9:00, 12:30-1:30, 4:30-5:30, 7:30-8:30, and 10:30-11:30. They're fed once at 9am, and again at 6:30. This is their life, each day they are in New York City. They had a routine.

Against all odds, it actually turned out to be kind of relaxing. Except for about half an hour at the beginning of the first day, when the cleaning lady was in the apartment, it was just me and the dogs whenever I was there. Life was pretty simple. Make sure the dogs were fed, watered, and walked at the times they were used to.

They each had their preferences with things. Cooper seemed to want to stay out all day, prancing around as soon as I took him to the hallway, and only reluctantly turning home after half an hour or more. Casey would stick to the shade whenever she could, stop in front of open doors with air conditioning, and drink lots of water immediately after she got back inside. Carlos couldn't wait to go back home. After he did what he needed to do, he'd tug and tug homewards, dragging whichever other dog I was walking at the same time with him. When they'd get in the elevator, Casey and/or Cooper would be looking at the ground or the walls, while Carlos would be happily panting at me, wagging his tail. All of them wanted to take a second and check inside the bathroom trash can each time before they left for a walk. All of them really enjoyed kids and meeting the other dogs we met. None of them barked.

I'd sometimes sit in the office they were in, doing stuff on the internet while Carlos licked my hand, his food bowl, or Casey's face, whichever seemed more appealing at the moment. Casey would choose her favorite stuffed bone to take a nap with on one of the doggy beds, while Cooper would just stretch out on the floor. Hanging out with them wasn't a bad way to spend an evening.

Plus I got to use a really nice kitchen to make a couple meals, and the laundry machine to do all my laundry, so I was happy.

The dogs' owners are back now, and I'm back to going to be anywhere from midnight to 3am, waking up anywhere from 9 to noon, each day having something completely different to do. It sounds nice, but a little routine like the dogs every once in a while makes it nicer.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Silver Birthday

I turned 25 this last weekend. You can see a good chunk of what the last couple years of my life have been about on these peanut butter and jelly cupcakes. Yes they were delicious. The cupcakes themselves came from my buddy over at Man Bakes Cake, but the designs were all Dana, down to the random bar sign with my family name on it we found over in west midtown months ago.

The whole weekend felt like a party. There was the big day itself of course, getting handed a bottle of bubbly at midnight on the house just as the dance floor started getting more and more crowded. Then a picnic on a perfect day in central park, walking by one of my favorite bands from Colombia playing live, a good dinner, then the main party in the Lower East Side in the middle of an art exhibition with impromptu live jazz.

What with the rooftop parties and karaoke in the days following, I felt like I was on vacation well into the next Tuesday, when I realized I'd missed a deadline to pick up my extra headshots from a theater and an important phone call to my college's career guidance office the previous day. Oops.

There's always something kind of sad seeing your potential turned into your story, even if it's a good story. It's especially weird realizing that things that used to be a huge part of your life just aren't really present anymore, (in my case things like basketball, biking, video games, international politics, salsa dancing... I should probably stop there). The story of what I've done the first 25 years of my life is one I think anybody would be proud of. But it's permanent now. No wondering what I'll do with that part of my life. But as anyone older than me will point out, I've still got plenty of life and potential ahead of me if all goes according to plan. Sure, I have regrets, but not many. I personally believe that anyone who claims to have no regrets in life is either lying or hasn't taken enough risks.

So here I am, a twenty-five-year-old professional actor between jobs, in Spanish Harlem, barely paying rent, while getting invites to Open Bar Surrealist Pool Parties on Facebook ("Featuring Five Award Winning Artists who will create live, surreal, larger then life installations, in and out of the pool, that will convince you there is something in your drink!") I've got a stack of new good books to read and $17.40 leftover credit to the Drama Book Shop that I don't know what to do with yet. No TV, shared internet with my neighbors, a weighted Piano Keyboard, a voiceover demo currently in production, Mariners/Yankees tickets the night before SAT tutor training, and airline tickets home for a couple weeks in August. And a few other things besides. Mostly plans. I have a lot of big plans and ideas. Who knows what will happen with them.

Happy birthday to me.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Let's Make Movies

Some brilliant ideas come out of nowhere when you're just chatting with your friends.

A demo reel is a sample of you acting on camera, so you can send it to casting people to get film acting jobs. I don't have a demo reel. A lot of my friends don't have demo reels. Either we haven't been in any films or we don't have usable footage of our work.

I was talking about this with a friend of mine. The conversation went something like this:

C: I may be in a web series filming in albany
 me: wow, that's great! 
2:25 PM what kind of web series?
2:26 PM C: thanks... it's a comic book kinda thing
 me: I'm intrigued
2:28 PM C: haha it's a one liner, but i am hoping it develops into more
  it's about a super hero who knocks up a super villain and they try to raise the kid together
 me: Wow
  that's hilarious and awesome
  Where do you hear about the auditions for these things? I'm trying to take a short break from theater to break into film stuff
2:29 PM so to speak.
2:30 PM C: nice... i actually met those guys at comiccon
  it's not paying or anything
 meshrug possibly something for a reel? I don't have one of those yet
2:31 PM C: me neither... someone just asked me for one yesterday and I hated that I didn't have one to give
 me: we should draft some of our friends to make a bunch of shorts so we all get reels
  mini 48 hour film fest
2:32 PM C: that would be awesome!
  I would definitely be in for that

And then I though about what I'd just typed. And I started liking it. And I sent it to my girlfriend, Dana, asking if she'd write for it. She liked the idea too and said yes. So I posted on Facebook and sent a few more messages and more people said they want in and want to tell their friends... I think we might have some attention.

So I'm going out of town for a couple days. Tonight five of my friends and I are going down to join Dana and more of our friends at the beach for two or three days, for the holiday. When I come back, I think I'm going to have the outline of something big that will end in demo reels for me and a lot of my actor friends, portfolio builders for my writer friends, and resume builders for my directing, cameraman, sound design, and film editing friends.

It's gonna be short, ultra low budget, and it's going to be awesome. More announcements to come.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Up Ladders and Down Hills

If corporate America is a ladder to climb, I think acting is like a ski resort, minus the chair lifts.You do your best, climb or otherwise somehow get to the top of the mountain and into a show, then you do what you love and ski down. Then you're done and you have to figure a way back up the mountain again.

So I may have just had a great run with a fun show, but I'm back at the bottom of the mountain. It's odd because you've got this instinct that somehow because you've accomplished something, you should have climbed higher like those 9-5 folks on the corporate ladder over there. But you haven't. You're really right back where you've started. If you want to act again, you need to find another gig.

And the funny thing about it is, every single actor goes through this. From the recent graduate of Middle-Of-Nowhere community college with an associates in "general arts" on up to Mark Rylance and Natalie Portman. You do your job, then your job is over, and you have to find a new job. You may have just had a spectacular run down a triple black diamond with cameras from all over the world following you, or you might have just rolled sideways down the bunny slope. Either way, you're at the bottom of the mountain and if you want to ski again, you've got to find a way to the top of a slope.

It's sort of reassuring in an egalitarian sort of way. Sure the stars have some power through their name and can probably convince somebody with a snowmobile to tug them up, but another star will want that seat, and there are only so many snowmobiles going around. We're all just trying to get back up that mountain.

It's cool for me in particular because last September. I came to New York to see if I could be a professional actor. It's June, and the answer is yes. I just deposited my last check from my most recent show. I am a professional actor. Done.

But beyond that, this lifestyle makes your goal set more interesting. As someone climbing the ladder, your goal is pretty simple really: get to the top of the ladder. On a ski slope, it's a bit more nuanced. You get an idea for what kind of slope you want to ski down. There are all different kinds, and no direct way to get to any of them.

So I've reached my goal of acting professionally. But for "real actors," it's not a check box, it's a lifestyle. I don't know if I'd put myself in that category of actor quite yet, but I seem to still be submitting headshots and resumes, so...

When I first got to New York, I met with a professor of international relations. I talked to him about pursuing a masters degree in the subject, but told him I was here to act first, in the short term. He asked me how long I'd do that for. I told him that if it didn't work out, I could see myself getting sick of it after about a year and a half.

It's been nine months. I've hit my main goal. So I don't know if it "not working out" still applies, but we're halfway, and I'm not sick of it yet. I just need a new goal.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

I'll have a regular post up later, I'm sure, but I thought I'd share this little something fro the New York City Gay Pride march first:

Congratulations to GLBT community on winning marriage equality in the state of New York. To the 44 states remaining, take it from me, a straight guy--- no, better, take it from a T-shirt I saw today: "Some dudes marry dudes. Get over it."

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Missed Connections Monologues

Well this is a sad and mildly hilarious way to learn about New York and pick up new monologues at the same time.

I occasionally host couchsurfers at my apartment in East Harlem. On my couchsurfing profile, I have a standing offer to help any of my guests who happen to be actors with their audition monologues. Last week, a surfer took me up on the offer. We worked on his Malvolio a bit, plus two different contemporary monologues. Then we compared notes on where to get monologues from. Of course you can get them from plays, but you can also easily get them from books as well. Poems, magazines, whatever.

But then he suggested one to me I hadn't thought of: Craigslist. Specifically, the "missed connections" and "rants and raves" sections.

So I spent a little time looking a few over. A lot of the posts are unusable, but the missed connections... well, I'm going to share a few of my favorites from both sections with you. These are things that I can just about picture on stage.

I think if you did a little bit of editing (completely normal for audition monologues, even Shakespearean ones are usually cut) a good actor could use any of these for an audition. Especially the last one, which I'm personally going to use if I can ever get it down to just two minutes.

You did, in fact, take the A train to get to Harlem (the quickest way). You had curly blonde hair pulled back and yeah yeah yeah listen: I'm not saying I'm in love with you or anything. I'm just saying that looking at your face made my heart stop.

I've been in this city long enough that this doesn't happen to me anymore (thankfully). Pretty faces come and go. For the most part.

Just before your stop, you managed to collect everyone's attention. And then you took it all with you when you left.

Well, at least I'm still thinking about you. That explains why I'm here. Two hours later.

So... I hope that guy is dating your friend. Or dating some other gal, I don't know, I don't want to say "I hope he's SINGLE," that's just mean.

Which means I shouldn't say I hope you're single, either. So I won't.

But, you know, I have to say something. Even if it's just: have a great night. I hope I run into you again.
For the past few years, I've often stopped in the food stores on Brighton Beach Avenue to take out some of the hot and cold ready made salad bar foods. I just can't do that anymore. I wonder, what are people thinking about when they approach a salad bar and start to take their food. In one place in Brighton Beach yesterday, I saw an old man stick his fingers in the mashed potatoes to taste them, a older woman, touched the item labeled fish cutlets, what might that exactly be, and then a younger guy took food, put it in his container, then sealed it, then opened the container and dumped the food back in the salad bar. A little girl about ten years old, was sticking her finger in the trays set up with fruit cocktail.

A few blocks down, I went into the bakery -. This place smells great, but the way the food is arranged-- it's serve yourself, there are no wax paper to grab items, with, serving utensils provided are dirty looking the bakery goods that need to be kept cold are but here again, this is an open type unit where people just stick there fingers in and out of the goods. This gets the customers touching every piece of cake and cookie on display for purchase. I don't know how the Bd. of Health lets this take place.

But the best happened in the third store today. the one a door or two down from the bakery, here in this store, i stood back and watched all the pigs at the salad bar and finally, I saw a young Russian guy, look at everyone touching and playing with the food, and HE got disgusted. At his own disgusting pig people.
I've heard that looks matter quite a bit to men when they're choosing a woman to settle down with in a legitimate relationship. Apparently, serious men seek out women whom they feel they can "show off," as a symbol of their success.

So, why do all my exes end up with busted chicks? I'm not the best looking woman and I'd never claim to be. I also know that beauty is in the eye of the beholder... However, these women are blatantly less attractive than me, and I dare say most. They also tend to be less educated and are in a lower socio-economic bracket than I am.

I'm BETTER. I don't want to say that, but I am; comparatively speaking, that is. I feel like a bitch saying this. I'm not a bitch. If they were ending up with highly accomplished, beautiful women, I'd understand. But when I see them dating homely hoodrats, I truly fail to understand what gives!

Oh, and I'm great in bed. I do everything, OK.
If you are reading this, you know. Bikram Yoga Lower East Side, Tuesday night 6pm class. We were standing next to each other in the first row... started innocently enough, but eventually turned into the hottest fire burning hell of a class I've ever taken. Most of the people layed down but we persevered. You: late 20s, cute black rimmed glasses that you kept on for most of the class until they, presumably, fogged up beyond use. I'm the athletic red head in the green sports bra who said "DAMN" as soon as the last savasana started. You grabbed me after class as I was passing by, to exchange sympathetic "good job"'s and spoke about when we usually come to class.

I wish I would have asked for your name or gave you my card! Hopefully it's not too late.. let's meet up and talk about yoga, and not yoga.
I've never ever done this before, but now I am.

I feel like a complete loser but I had to do this (my roommates are making fun of me as I type this even though this was their suggestion.)

You had short blonde hair and you were so wonderful that I couldn't even keep eye contact while talking to you because I was so taken aback.

This is ridiculous.

Coffee, tea, "drinks," food, anything that is considered normal I would gladly take you to; though don't expect the conversation to be all that interesting because I probably won't be able to do anything except compliment you.

Why didn't I get your name or number? I blame it on you though, you made me a bumbling fool. (They're still making fun of me, when I came home I actually did the whole door closing behind me, lean back on it and sigh heavily "thing.")

Though I'm sure you will never see this thanks anyways, you were quite lovely in every sense of the word.

What insignia was on your headphones?
This was on Friday at the Met. I remember you from the elevator when we were going from the 1st floor to the 2nd floor. You were the guy wearing the red sweater... I held the door open for you and you smiled at me. I saw you again in the Cubism section. I was standing in front of The Actor painting by Picasso. You were looking at Matisse's "View of Collioure and the Sea". You were standing there for a while, sketching in a brown notebook. I was about to approach you, but froze up and ended up tripping and falling into the painting leaving a small tear.
I think you left before the security got there.
If you read about this in the news the next day, I'm the girl from the elevator.

Last night you stole two of my cameras outside Angelica's Kitchen on 2nd Avenue and 12th street.

I figured you'd try to sell them here, unless thieves are photo enthusiasts. You might make an honest living taking photos of shit you stole, hell that might make a great Gallery Title, "The Shit I Stole: Reflections on Urban Living in The 21st Century". You might even get into Francesca Woodman-style self-portraits that you could take with my stolen cameras, make them real artistic, with a shallow depth of field, that's what you can afford (or I guess, can't afford because you are a damn thief) when you have a 50mm prime lens attached to the Canon A-1 (that's the black one that you stole) that opens up to a 1.4. Fuck yeah, I'm giving you photography lessons, so at least you can shoot right, I mean what the hell were you gonna do with two cameras that no one wants anyway-- don't try to sell it to some Midwestern tourists in Times Square, man, don't sell it in Times Square in general. It's a 35mm film camera, who the hell wants to pay for processing now that you can take a picture with your cell phone? Why didn't you steal my cell phone instead? The camera on it is a piece of shit, and you would be making much more money off that, and I hate my phone so you'd be doing me a favor.

In your grubby hands you have a Canon AE-1-- that's the silver one with a zoom lens on it. Also you can really impress some chicks with the blue-jeans denim strap that comes with it, because you will look like Peter Parker in the sense that you will resemble a nerdy high school photographer from the late 70s. You should really do yourself a favor and get some polyester pants. You will not impress anyone else, however, because it's just about the most basic student camera Canon's ever made.

Finally, there are some miscellaneous shit in there:

a Firewire 800 Cable - this will not be much of use to you

Camera Logs - like you'd even understand them

a half-read secondhand copy of Albert Camus' The Plague - Listen, you dick. I was 110 pages into that and until I buy another secondhand copy of that book I'll never find out what happened to Dr. Rieux and the rest of the people in Oran.I dunno, man, maybe you're in the middle of an existential crisis, that's why you're stealing shit, right? to assert your existence or whatever. well, you should read that book. you might get a kick out of it. just don't use it for kindling for your garbage-can fire under the 59th street bridge.  

Three rolls of shot film - This is what I'm pissed off about the most. I took some pictures over the weekend with those cameras and they're still loaded with film. I hope you didn't open them in daylight like an idiot, not knowing that the little cardboard square that said "Ektachrome 64" under the viewfinder meant that it's LOADED, you fuck. There are shot rolls of Portra 800, 50D, and 1600 in there (film speeds-- the higher the number, the more sensitive the film, you jackass) that are pretty important to me, and would have absolutely no use to you. If you could do me a favor and drop those off at Forum Photo on Waverly and Washington Square East-- ask for George (I will not ask him to punch you in the mouth), or just drop it off under the name "Jerk McAllister". You can even shoot the rest of the rolls in those cameras and I will pay for matte prints with a white border for you, so you can show your thief buddies all your photographic skills. I can already picture the great canted angles and center-framing you're cooking up while looking for someone to take those cameras off you so you can get your next heroin fix.

Of course, I'm perfectly aware that you might have just been a Good Samaritan and returned it to a police station or you're looking for clues around the the case to determine who it might belong to. If this is the case, then you can disregard all that mean shit and I hope you email me about getting it back. I'll even throw you a couple of bucks and buy you lunch. But I'm also perfectly aware that if this was the case it would be raining gumdrops from marshmallow clouds and we'd all be singing showtunes. So, more likely than not, you stole it, and now you're trying to sell it on craigslist.

So fuck you. 

Monday, June 13, 2011

Opening Night

Have you ever impersonated someone? Have you ever impersonated someone in front of them? Have you ever impersonated someone for twenty minutes without pause alone on stage in front of them, their sister, their mother, their employer, plus your girlfriend, your friends, not to mention your father who has flown across the country just to see you, and all mixed with a random assortment of strangers who have paid money for the show?

I don't get stage fright. But I have to admit, my first stage performance in New York City under the Actors Equity Showcase rules, which was incidentally the closest I've come to a one-man show, made me a little jumpy on and off for the twenty-four hours leading up to the stage manager's call for places.

My father flew into town to see the opening night of my show. We were walking through the 51st and Lexington subway to an escalator down to the E line when he told me that he'd always loved the moment right before you go onstage. It's certainly a moment you remember. Weirdly, I usually have an easier time remembering that than any moment on stage. He agreed with me on that one.

There are two other actors in the show, and they're doing the some thing. A twenty minute solo impersonation of a real figure that they find interesting, maybe even inspiring. Before the house opens, they have to go to the other side of a stage and stay there.

So when I was pacing back and forth alone in the dressing room, I had no idea what kind of reaction I'd get from all these people. I wanted  the audience to be entertained. I didn't want them to go away scratching their heads about why they paid as much as they had for their tickets, or thinking "yeah I mean, it was okay, I guess." I wanted them to understand that if I didn't sound or look exactly like Danny, it was because I was just trying to make a good piece and that you know I had so little time actually with Danny to observe and learn how he talked and moved. And I really really didn't want to mess up any of the facts.

I guess I wanted a lot.

I go through a little routine before acting. It's like the special little dribble on the line every basketball player does before taking a free throw. It doesn't matter what it is, so long as its yours. For me, it gets mixed up a lot as I go with different breathing exercises and stretches, but at some point before I ever go on stage for any performance or audition, I almost always do a quick recitation a few of you already know by heart: "To sit in solemn silence on a dull dark dock, in pestilential prison with a life-long lock, awaiting the sensation of a short, sharp shock, from a cheap and chippy chopper on a big black block." Possibly a bit grim, but it runs through just about every consonant sound I can think of.

And then I go onstage. I do remember bits of my show. Actually I remember a lot of what it was like. Hearing the laughter, even in the parts that really shouldn't get laughs. Thinking I was making my character too comical, and dialing down the funny, dialing up the cool. Catching the huge smile from who must be Danny's real sister. Not quite daring to look at Danny himself. Telling the story. But it all kind of becomes a blur until...

The theater director stuck his head in the dressing room right after the show to ask me to come out for pictures with Danny. And that was when his sister came to me and gave me the best compliment I can hope to receive for the entire run of this show:

"You nailed him. You had him exactly!"

I guess I got what I wanted, and a little more besides. Speaking of which, I had a little surprise waiting for me when I walked into the dressing room for the first time of the night.

At no point in the rehearsal process did anyone mention money. I didn't ask. I assumed the show was unpaid, just like my last two off-off-broadway gigs. Sometimes on the first night of shows, the director leaves a little note for each of the actors, thanking them for their work. So, when I went in the dressing room to get changed, I wasn't that surprised when I found an envelope with my name on it.

"I forget the protocol" I said to the others "are we supposed to wait to read these until after the show is over?"

"What?" They said. "That's your check."

Turns out I'm actually getting paid to act in New York. Nine months after my arrival, in my third show. Not, you know, a lot, but in my mind it's the principle that counts.

image courtesy of The Metropolitan Playhouse (facebook)

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

R.I.P. Ben Putnam, 1999-2011

One of my two cats died last night.

When I was thirteen, my mom took me to an animal shelter not far from our house. We found a pair of seven-month old kittens curled up together. One was orange, one grey, otherwise identical markings. We were told that they were litter mates, and were due to be moved the next day.

We tracked them to their next location before the store could open. The orange cat sat in the back while the grey one ran to the bars to say hello to anyone who walked by. A lot of people just wanted the grey cat. I wanted both. We got both.

When they opened the cage, the orange cat, scared, backed into the furthest corner he could find before the handler could scoop him out.

We brought them home and kept them in the kitchen for the first day, teaching them where the litter box and food would be. We opened up the house to them, room by room. The orange cat wouldn't let anyone near him.

I found a stick and started dragging it on the carpet in the dining room. That got his attention. He stared at it. Then crouched, and then finally pounced. I wiggled it around a bit, hesitated, then tried to pet him. He didn't acknowledge it yet, but he didn't shy away either. It was a start.

My father was out of town, and got home very late at night, heading straight for bed. The grey cat, naturally very curious, hopped up onto the bed with him to say hello. Then she ran back downstairs, mowed a bit with her orange brother, and brought him back up with her to make introductions.

After a month and a coin toss, the orange kitten was named Ben. His grey sister was named Ashley. She grew out lithe, curious and social. He grew cautious, coy, and fat. He wouldn't let many people pet him. I was one of the only people he'd approach. Even I had to sort of chase him down a bit, until I finally touched his head, at which point he would suddenly remember "oh yeah, I kinda enjoy this," and rub his face and body hard against my hand.

Sometimes he'd get my attention and then lead me to a dining room chair, his favorite place to be pet. He would hop up onto the seat, and then rub against the back of the chair, back and forth, purring loudly enough to be heard across the street. When I wasn't in my room, my big desk chair was his throne. He shed so much that I had to put a towel down on the chair for all the fur. He had big paws, and the longest tail of just about any domestic cat I've met. He wouldn't snuggle the way Ashley would, instead hopping on my bed in the early hours of the morning to pace around me in circles, purring loud enough to wake me up, sometimes pouncing on my toes if I accidentally wiggled them under the covers.

They grew up snuggling together, grooming each other, occasionally getting into pouncing matches and territory fights. They went through a phase when they found a garbage sack of ski socks where they would drag them into the basement to make a nest. If they heard a can open, they were there instantly, and while they showed a surprising disdain for a lot of food (chicken for example), they inhaled canned tuna.

I remember so many moments growing up with Ben. How I accidentally got him to do a backflip as a kitten. How his claws would get so long that he'd get stuck in the carpet until one of us would free him. My late efforts to turn him into a lap cat, despite all his protests. They just keep coming to me when I'm supposed to be thinking about something else.

As Ben got older, he slowly opened up to strangers. First he waited until he could actually see the strangers before running and hiding. Then he waited until they tried to touch him. Then he just shied away if they tried to touch him. Then eventually, he let people he didn't know say hello. By the time I came home from my post-college travels, he was downright social.

I saw him of course when I came home for the holidays last year. I think they might have gotten a couple little catnip toys for Christmas. I left the day before New Years, making sure I said goodbye to both of them. They looked great, and were both very much themselves.

About three days ago I called home and found out that Ben had congestive heart failure. He'd lost at least four pounds. His backbone was clearly visible, and he was moving very slowly, wheezing at times. The worst though was when he stopped eating. That was about a week ago. Not even tuna did it anymore. Then he stopped drinking water.

Then he got to the point where he needed shots every six hours. After consulting with home visiting vets, my parents made the decision to put him to sleep.

Ashley was apparently more confused than anything else. She'd come up and nudge Ben. Poking at him a little.

They gave him a sedative, then the final injection. He passed away peacefully in his sleep. Afterwards, my parents went to my desk chair, the one he loved to curl up in, took the towel from it, and lay him inside its folds.

That was last night. Around midnight my time, my mom called to ask what she termed "an odd question." She wanted to know if she could dig out a couple of my old stuffed animals and rub some catnip on them for Ashley to play with. She said it seemed to be a good distraction, because otherwise Ashley was wandering around the house looking "distracted" and occasionally yowling.

I think I kind of know how she feels. She didn't know this was coming either. Just because we never knew how to explain it, she never really got a chance to say goodbye.