Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Big Ruly Mob

Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert held a rally in DC yesterday. They prepared for an attendance of 60,000. They got over 200,000. Have you ever thrown a party where you expected twelve people to come to your house and instead got more than forty? That's one packed living room.

The rally was due to start at noon. Around 10am, I left my friend's place in Vienna, Virginia, to get on to the second to last stop on the orange subway line to DC. I found a line of people for the subway ticket machine that stretched roughly fifty yards out the subway station entrance, doubled back around a corner and then went another sixty or so yards the other direction, going halfway across a highway overpass. I waited half an hour, moved about ten feet, called my host and asked if I could pay him to use his pass for the day. He drove over, and I bypassed the line.

Next came the subway. Luckily there had only been one stop ahead of us. The subway cars were only moderately full. When we got in, it started looking like a Seattle bus at rush hour. Two stops later it looked like a New York subway at rush hour. By the next stop, the only cities I'd been to that I could still compare it to were Bombay and Beijing. One woman behind me asked for help because her feet weren't touching the ground anymore. By the way, we were still in the suburbs at this point, and had at least six more stops to go before we'd reach walking distance of the rally.

But we did get there, right on time, at noon. And we got to see what might have been my favorite part of the rally: the signs. If anyone had ever watched a rally of some sort and thought of a funny thing to put on a sign, this was their first opportunity to actually do it. This includes signs saying things like "Ideas I disagree with may still be constitutional," "My arms are tired," "I don't know what this sign says but daddy said there would be ice cream," "FYI, Hitler's been dead since 1945" "My ideas are too complicated to fit on a si," and perhaps my favorite and the most simple of all: "Meh."

The crowd was somewhat large and dense in the way the the pope is somewhat religious. There were speakers and Diamondvision screens set up, roughly enough to deal with the 60,000 they had predicted in their permit. I didn't know that yet, but I did know they they clearly didn't have enough. I spent half and hour squeezing my way forward, hoping to get a view of the stage, while The Roots and John Legend performed as openers. By the time the guys from Mythbusters came on, I had almost reached the front, but was way off to the sides, and I couldn't hear or see a thing. So I joined the oozing throng going the other direction, backwards, in time to hear a huge chant at the back: "Lou-DER! Lou-DER! Lou-DER!" A somewhat self-defeating chant because, by it's very nature, it had to stop completely every few seconds to see if it had had any effect.

So I changed tactics and instead of going for a good view, I tried my hardest to get in front of some speakers. I succeeded just in time for Jon Stewart to start talking (he asked everybody to leave the place cleaner than we found it, possibly, if there were any landscapers in attendance, with a few extra topiaries that had not been there before). I could see one screen in front of me, 3/4 of which was obscured by tree branches, another screen to my left at an angle which made viewing anything on it impractical, and the stage in the distance if I annoyed the small family behind me and stood up on my toes. Two people to my immediate left, who had each come separately and did not know each other, turned out to be from Seattle.

The rally stayed safe, a bit aimless for the most part, but mildly amusing. Just not quite as biting as the show of either person. There were a lot of unexpected musical guests which were fun to see, like Cat Stevens and Ozzy Osbourne. At the same time. Seriously, they were trying to play over each other, were interrupted several times, and then left in feigned disgust. Honestly, it's funnier to write about than it was to watch.

Then came a series of funny awards for sanity and fear mongering including an award for fear awarded to Facebook, though Mark Zuckerberg himself was not there to accept it because, as Colbert put it, he values his privacy a lot more than he values yours.

Then a debate: Stewart (accompanied by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, R2D2, and a hotel TV remote) vs Colbert (accompanied by a gigantic paper-mache Colbert torso and waving arms, video montages from major news networks, and a mysterious voiceover dude named "Chuck"). Somehow the debate ended with John Oliver showing up in a Peter Pan outfit. Don't ask me, I don't understand either.

The final ten minutes of the rally left the actual rally part, when Jon asked for a little sincerity. My friend Ryan later summed up the next few minutes as "a set of cliches." But I thought there was more to it than that. It was a good speech (transcript available on several news websites, including the bottom of this one) The main point was that people may disagree with each other politically, but we still get stuff done every day. Best take-away quote, in my opinion? "If we amplify everything, we hear nothing."

The crowd milled around and the then slowly dispersed. It takes a long time for a crowd of hundreds of thousands of people to do that.

Stewart at one point very early on in the rally said that the only thing that really mattered about the rally, really, was what people said about it afterwards. After having read a few of the news reports online, I have one piece of advice for the folks who didn't get to see it up close: find reports written by people who were obviously there. The hour-by-hour summaries and live blogs and "my day at the rally" articles I've seen appear to be much more accurate than the regular news reports. The New York Times report in particular reads like it was written by someone who had not been there at all, and had possibly written it about a day before the rally actually happened, filling in a few choice blanks after the fact. You can do better than that.

So, was it a good time? Yes, it certainly was. And, in my opinion, that was the real point. And now I'm off to a slightly different kind of good time: the Greenwich Village Halloween Parade.

Friday, October 29, 2010


I know this is supposed to be a blog about New York City and acting. But I'm gonna take some liberties since I know that the vast majority of people reading this are personal friends of mine. So you won't mind a slight change of subject, will you? I'm pretty sure all the people reading this will enjoy what I'm going to write for the next entry or two.

I'm not in New York City right now. Right now, I'm writing this on my netbook on a bus to Washington DC. I'm going to to the rally being held by Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert tomorrow.

If I don't have something from this worth writing an entry about in a couple days, I will be sorely disappointed.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Eastern State of Mind

When I was in places as diverse as Syria, New Zealand, and South Korea, people would always ask me where I was from. I'd say Seattle. There was a standard list of responses I would get from people all over. It usually included at least one of the following: Microsoft, Starbucks, Boeing, Grey's Anatomy, Frasier, Jimi Hendrix, Nirvana, and Pearl Jam. They'd have a pretty good idea of where the place was. Once, when I preemptively started explaining where Seattle was, the Kiwi woman I was talking to told me (somewhat indignantly) that New Zealand schools taught their students all about where different American cities were.

Strangely, that doesn't seem to have happened around here in New York City.

When I was out getting a haircut a couple weeks ago, my stylist asked me where I usually went to get my haircut. I told him I'd just moved here. He asked where from. I said Seattle.

"Is that near Atlanta?" He asked.

To be fair, he was born in Uzbekistan. But he'd moved the USA as a small child and had been in New York for sixteen years.

The banker I sat down with a couple days at a Chase branch later did not appear to have any such excuse. He swiped my debit card to pull up my account information, and we made small talk. He asked if the address I had on file was the one I wanted to keep. I said yes, as I wasn't yet sure that my current New York address would be my permanent, long-term one. So he looked again at the address ending in "Seattle, WA."

"So," he said, making more small talk. "What brings you here from Wisconsin?"

Out on the west coast, we tend to think of the two coasts with pretty much equal weight. We've got San Francisco, they have Boston. We have Portland, they have Baltimore. We have Los Angeles, they have New York City. The plane rides between them are long and expensive, but sometimes part of life if you're working in the kind of profession that requires travel.

But the sense I get out here is that anything "out west" is somewhere far, far away where little happens and nobody is really known. Except for LA, which people have heard of and regard with a certain amount of awe and suspicion.

And that's how I ended up in the one place in the world where people both speak some English and don't know where my hometown is.

Then again, in a city where the main part of town is an island and where the other people from other parts of town or the suburbs are referred to derisively as the "Bridge and Tunnel Folk," I don't suppose I should be that surprised. After all, it is the center of the universe, right? ...right?

Friday, October 22, 2010

Shaking the Floor

When my friend said he had two free tickets to go see Two Door Cinema Club, I jumped at the chance. The show was at Webster Hall, one of the big old venues in the Village. I'd spent half my summer listening to their album, and had no expectation of actually getting to see them perform live. The concert was fantastic. The floor was literally bouncing like a taut trampoline. If you ever stopped jumping or bobbing with the music, you could feel at least a couple inches of give, up and down with the beat, because the crowd was just that into it.

Every once in a while, it will really just hit me where I am and what I'm doing. Usually this would be when I was traveling somewhere. But this time, in the middle of an excellent encore, it really hit me full force: there I was, a young twenty-something starving artist in New York City, seeing an up and coming rock band in concert, a few hours after rehearsing my own show for the first time. I don't know who or what is responsible, but whoever it is, thank you!

I got the tickets right after taking the stage myself for the first time in town, the night before. But that's a slightly different story. It starts as follows:

We got out of the subway stop at Penn Station and started our way around Madison Square Garden. Three bottled up text messages frantically jangled my cell phone as soon as I was enough above ground to get a signal. I read them, and started to pick up the pace.

My Chilean guest behind me kept pausing to take pictures. I couldn't really blame him, but we were going to be late, and four of my friends (two of which I'll probably be living with sometime soon) were waiting for us.

We were headed for Magnet Theater. Home of the Magnet Mixer. I didn't honestly know what exactly this was or what it meant. But Barry had told me two things that had me hooked: first, it was improv, and second, I could get on stage and do it with them. I hadn't done any improv onstage since high school. That's too long.

We found the place, hooked up with where I should be, and I went back to sign myself up on the list. The guy in charge asked me what my background was.

"I'm a professional actor, I took two years of improv classes in high school, and I'm currently in a sketch comedy show at the 45th st Theater."

He clearly got the idea, and made a little note next to my name. He warned me that, since I'd come in well after the 11:00 call, I probably wouldn't make it on set. I said I understood, and we took our seats.

The show runs as follows: two MCs have a list of names. They call down two or three people on the list, who then come on stage. The lights turn down low, and a 10-second clip of music plays. The lights come back up, and the people onstage improvise a scene based on the music. The lights cut them off at the appropriate moment, and then the MCs call out two or three more names. Lather, rinse, repeat.

We saw some hilarious stuff. I don't even know how to describe it properly. I didn't expect them to call me up, because I was late. So when they did, I was a little surprised. They played an old time jazz number, so I immediately think film noir, grab two chairs and make like a private eye with my feet on the desk. Then my scene partner opened with the line "That was the best senior prom ever!" What's an improviser to do but to simply act like a Chicago gangster from the 50s who's just come back from his senior prom with his buddy? I put my arm across his shoulders and tell him confidently that yeah, the band did it right, and the night was something, and that when that dame smacked him one, I thought she meant it in a nice way. And we were off to the races.

After the scene was over, we bowed, shook hands with the MCs, who then yelled "wait a minute!" Half the audience echoed this. One MC mimed a microphone, and handed it to me. I took it, tapped it, and looked nervous.

"Joel? Tell us, is this your first time performing at the Magnet Mixer?"


That would be when the dance party erupted. the DJ blasted, of all things, Barbie Girl, by Aqua (I'm ashamed that I even know the artist's name), and everybody got up and danced. It was only half a minute long, but still.

I made my way back to my seat, and my Chilean buddy held up his iPhone. "I recorded the whole thing!" he told me, in Spanish.

After the show, the MCs and regulars introduced themselves, asked me if I was coming to more of these (yes I hope to), and invited me to come with them to a bar down the street. That's when Barry told me about the tickets to Two Door Cinema Club.

I'd say life's pretty good right now.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Blog Alert: Backstage Unscripted

I've just begun to write for Backstage on their blog by actors, Backstage Unscripted. My first post is right here. I'll be posting there about once a week, and it'll be different material form what you find here on Constant Audition (because it says so in my contract ;p). Enjoy!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Announcing My Stage Debut in New York City

I've been cast Something Outrageous.

I mean that literally. With intentional capital letters. The sketch comedy show called "Something Outrageous" goes up November 20th at the 45th st Theater. First rehearsal is next Thursday, where I'll get my script, and we'll divvy up the parts. Rehearsals are in the middle of the day, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays.

I'd like to note at this point that my cell phone has developed the odd habit of playing music, unprompted. A week ago, while I was in the middle of listening of an NPR report on the latest in Israel and Palestine, a song from American Idiot by Green Day started playing (right in the middle of the song when they say something about not believing everything you hear).

This time, just now, when I was looking up whether or not the 45th st Theater falls within the contractual borders of Broadway (it does, but doesn't qualify as Broadway in terms of size), Death Cab For Cutie's "Different Names for the Same Thing" came on. I don't know who or what is making this happen, but whoever it is has a very subtle sense of humor.

Oh and by the way, I was also called back for the part of Scrooge for A Christmas Carol. Supposedly callback auditions are tomorrow, but while they've phoned me to say they'd email me the details, I haven't gotten the email yet.

Finally, as long as I'm announcing good news, here's another item I've mentioned to a few people but not yet on Constant Audition. I've been invited to blog for Backstage. They have a special blog called Backstage: Unscripted for working actors. I'll be posting different things there than you'd find here (it says so in my contract) but I'll give links back and forth, so it'll be easy to follow.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Some Wednesday

What a day. Rolled out of bed at 8:30. Didn't get back home until 3am. First a meeting to register with a temp agency. Then a meeting with a potential fourth roommate and their four-bedroom in Lefferts Garden. Then meeting with my original potential roommate to be drug around by the nose by a realtor who just didn't have what he'd claimed to have in his ads. Then an audition. Cancelled another apartment viewing. Then home for the first bite to eat since the bagel at 9am. Then out for yet another apartment viewing, this time with both my likely future roommates. Break for a burger at the Shake Shack. Then to Penn Station to pick up a French couchsurfer and get her to my place. Then finally change into formal clothes and go downtown for a job as an extra in a music video.

I'd gotten the call for the music video the night before, while I was with some friends at a pub trivia night in Williamsburg. A simple, non-union gig. three or four hours, starting 9pm, $50. I figured why not. I got an email the next day with the details. The artist was someone I'd never heard of (not surprising, given that it was only a $50 job), and the theme was "red carpet event," and we were supposed to dress accordingly.

I came down in a black suit, with sunglasses hanging from my pocket. At night. Karma decided that sunglasses at night was too pretentious, and would later make sure that they got stepped on before the shoot was over.

But before that, I called the background wrangler and told her I was running late, due to having to pick someone up from the train station. The shoot had been delayed one hour already anyway, so when I got there at 10:30, I hadn't actually missed much. In fact, all I'd missed was half an hour of my thirty-odd fellow extras standing on a ninth floor balcony sipping soda and munching trail mix.

We watched the artist singing. Well, lip-syncing, anyway. The music was a good, catchy R&B number. I pulled out my phone and decided to look this person up.

Turns out Chrisette Michele is a Grammy-award winning singer, signed by Def Jam Records. Shows what I know. Listening to conversations around us, it became pretty obvious that the white extras had no idea who she was, and that the black extras knew all about her.

I'd read a quote earlier that day from Alfred Hitchcock. It went something like "I never said actors were cows. I just said you should treat them like cows!" Hitchcock would have been proud. We were herded from location to location for three hours, without actually doing anything for the camera. Most of the time we were outside, and the lady extras in their red-carpet dresses were clearly freezing. I met some really interesting actors and got some great tips, but none of us were too happy by the time we were finally called upon to do something en masse for the camera around 1:30am. Still, we did it. So if you see Chrisette Michele's new music video sometime in the next couple of months, when it gets to the paparazzi scene, look for a guy on the left with a black suit and red shirt.

In the meantime, the auditions keep going, and they keep surprising me. I submit headshots and resumes for several things every day, and sometimes get invited in to an audition as a result. The two latest were from a theater with a nice flash website who were putting on a Christmas Carol, and something that listed almost no information except for the title "Something Outrageous" and a call for 20-something actors who will do something comedic in a bar. I figured the former would be a formal, reputable theater gig, and the latter a sketchy internet video.

I had it completely wrong. I showed up for the Christmas Carol audition, and found it was in a church basement in Brooklyn, near the expressway. Most people auditioning looked like they were fresh out of high school. I'd signed up for Fred, the Nephew, figuring it was the only age-appropriate part I could audition for. But by the time I got up there and heard the massive stutter on a fellow auditioning actor, I ended up reading for Scrooge as well.

I told the name of the theater company to some friends after, and they cringed. It was a community theater they'd seen a performance of before, and hadn't liked. Rumor has it they cast according to favorites, who they know, rather than what they see in the actors. Possibly this isn't that different from the big leagues?

I next went to the "Something Outrageous" audition. It was in a theater just off of Broadway, with a professional setup, and a producer currently working in LA. The guy running the auditions turned out to be the son of one of the original founders of Second City (a.k.a. the Compass Players at the time), and almost certainly had run into my father at some point in college. The show would rehearse in the daytime, three days a week, has two confirmed Saturday performances, and will likely extend.

At both auditions, women actors outnumbered men at least ten to one. Such is the industry, apparently.

I'll hear back from both within the next couple days. But now, I'm off to show my couchsurfer around town. More to come later...

Monday, October 11, 2010

A Walk in the Park.

If there's one thing I miss in New York City, it's nature. But that was before I discovered two things: The Ramble and The North Woods.

I started my day in a conference room of the Hilton, in Midtown Manhattan. I dropped off a few resumes, met a few people, wowed onlookers at a voiceover academy booth, and entered in a couple free raffles for a free set of headshots and other assorted goodies. After picking up an inside tip on a work-exchange deal with one particular class, I headed out into the street, a couple hours earlier than I'd expected to finish.

There was a big street fair with food from all over the world. Tacos, Kebabs, and more. I spotted a sign for Colombian arepas, but, they were five dollars. To anyone who's been to Colombia, that's a bit like charging five dollars for a bagel with cream cheese. I passed. I turned uptown and started walking, towards Central Park.

I was at 55th street. Central park runs from 59th st at the downtown end to 110th at the uptown end. I'd never walked the full length of the park before. I had a few hours free. So I decided to go for it.

At first, it was the central park I'd seen, up to this point. Clipped grass, trees placed strategically, tourists and street performers walking concrete paths, and the occasional statue. But once I got a little ways past the boathouse, I passed a sign warning of rabies and animal bites, and I was in the woods. That was The Ramble.

It's not a hiking trail in the Pacific Northwest, but it was the closest I'd seen in months. According to signs I passed, it's some of the best bird watching space in the country. If the quiet older couples with camera lenses the length of my forearm were anything to go by, it lives up to its reputation. It's a woodland space of dirt, animals, birds, and plants that naturally grow there, instead of being planted by blueprint. Feeling my feet walk on uneven rocks and roots made me feel much more at home than the smooth concrete paths ever did.

The North Woods were the same way. There's a hidden entrance near the northern baseball fields. A dip into the landscape takes you into a small tunnel, echoing with burbling water. On the other side is a small forest with a wood-chip and rock path next to a stream. And the leaves are just now starting to change color.

Two hours after I'd first entered the park from midtown Manhattan, I was out again in Harlem. I needed to swing by my place before heading to a housewarming party in New Jersey. The same party where I would later get a phone call telling me I'd won the raffle for those headshots.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Smoked that Audition

This photo has absolutely nothing to do with what I want to write about tonight. But it is hilariously New York, and deserves to be shared.

Moving right along, you might remember my first jaunt online looking for auditions. I went to craigslist. One of the gigs was the film project I was part of (and still will be part of when my director gets around to emailing us with call times to the next shoot). The other, I described thusly: 'a play staged by "The Unknown Artists" looking for a 20-something male, amusing, slightly geeky sidekick character.'

Well, I wasn't totally sure what to expect. I read the description of the character, named Adam Elsis III, which didn't ring any bells. It was a funny sidekick who is chasing after the woman of his dreams and his favorite holiday, and then something about a random year in the middle ages. Then it got confusing. despite the fact that the year only has three digits, Adam apparently enjoys video games and can draw a movie parallel to any situation.

Well, I figured it would make more sense later. So I prepped a couple of monologues, double-checked the address of the studio, printed out my resume and headshot, and caught the subway to my first professional stage audition in New York City.

I felt confident. 'Funny, geeky sidekick' is almost exactly what I played in my last show in Seattle, and I had a good monologue straight out of that. I'd picked up a great dramatic monologue to pair it with out of a play nobody seemed to know. I felt good.

I got from Times Square to Pearl Studios on 8th Avenue in plenty of time. I checked in on the fourth floor, met the stage manager, handed off the resume and headshot, and collected a sheet with a few questions to fill out. At the very top was the title of the play: 420.

It wasn't until then that it clicked. 420 wasn't the random year in the middle ages. 420 was the holiday Adam was chasing after. I was auditioning for the part of funny sidekick stoner.

Any of you who know me personally probably know that, while a huge chunk of my friends partake, and I actually favor the legalization of marijuana, I've never smoked anything in my life, and never intend to. Not cigarettes, not weed, not even hookah. It's a personal thing, going back to a family I saw get ripped apart by drugs. I treat it the way most vegetarians do when it comes to friends who eat meat. I don't make a thing out of it, and I have no real problem with other people's preferences. I just happen to have my own on the matter.

And there I was, about to audition for a play called 420.

Well, I thought, I'm not there to play me onstage. I'm there to play a character. And I think, weirdly, this is one I can play.

They called me in. I gave my monologue. It felt.... okay. Not terrific. They asked me to wait outside. A few minutes later, I was handed a "side" (set of lines to read with a scene partner). In this case, I would read for Adam, while someone else would read for another character named Ryan. These were a couple of Adam's real lines:

"Well, we gotta get her drunk. Not 'there's vomit in my hair' drunk b****, just "I love nine because three times three is nine and I love three times three" drunk b****!"

"I was dreaming that is was 4/20 and that we had gotten apartment 420, and that it was 4:20pm and that that bag of peanuts cost $4.20 and that we were having a small gathering of 4 to 20 people and that we toked up and watched half baked, then toked up again and Watched super Troopers."

I don't care if I'm a straight edge in real life. This was going to be fun. Besides, this is a cold reading. Monologues are a challenge, but I eat cold readings for breakfast.

They called me back in, and I read with the guy already cast as Ryan. By the end, I got him to break character and burst out laughing, even though I'm sure he'd read and heard my lines at least half a dozen times that night alone. At that moment, I didn't care whether I got cast or not. That audition was a definite victory.

So, in my email inbox the next morning, I read this from the company:

Hey Joel. I wanted to say that you gave a really wonderful audition tonight. We have, however, decided to go in a different direction. BUT... I keep a very special file of actors that stood out and call them again for upcoming Unknown Artists projects all the time. I definitely see us working together in the future ;)
Thanks again. Great audition!

Like I said. Victory. Besides... for all I say about how much fun it would be to play a total stoner, I don't know how well I'd actually fit in with a show called 420.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Actor's Convention

"Mr. R----- has been in the business for years." The assistant next to the table told me. He was in his forties, dressed like he was trying to be in his twenties. The man next to him, clearly the higher-status gentleman of the stage and screen, in his sixties or so, stood in his fitted jacket and fixed silver hair, his attention on something else.

"His classes are the best," the assistant continued "but they're limited. We only have a few slots and we send them out by invitation only. I sent my daughter to him for-"

The assistant was cut off by Mr. R----- himself looking up from the last people he'd been talking to (without much enthusiasm) and lighting on me. I introduced myself. He asked me about myself. I stayed professional as I could. Relaxed, honest. Mr. R----- perked up visibly.

"Do you have a resume and headshot with you?"

I hesitated.

"Yes, I'm looking around for a more professional headshot, though."

"Well, well let's see it."

I handed it over.

"That's not bad, this is a good picture." They nodded seriously at the headshot, flipping it over to see my resume." Mr R----- leaned over and gestured me his way, pointing to his flyer.

"You have a good resume here. I'm very interested in you. I have this class that I'm offering, by invitation. It fills up fairly quickly..." And he went on to explain that, like many other such "classes" in his town, three casting directors would be there. And they would be looking for new talent. He had one class in November and one in December. He wanted to know if I was interested. He jotted down a quick note about December on my resume, and made sure I got the class description and his card. He nodded confidently.

"I've got a good feeling about you."

I thanked him, and walked past the table, squeezing through the crowd. Mr. R----- watched me and waved as I left, then he turned back to some of his notes, while his assistant handled the other actors that were lining up in front of their table.

Sometimes, I think my life would be happier or more interesting if I were just a little more gullible.

I pulled out another copy of my headshot and resume. The resume, aside from one small theater in Seattle, and a web exclusive show with NBC was almost all student plays. It's a beginning actor's resume. The headshot is a black and white job I got for free with a family friend. Until this Mr. R-----, every single person in New York who had seen it told me that I needed to get a color headshot instead.

One of the funny things about people is that we all know we're special. You especially. No I don't mean just anyone, I know who is reading this right now, and you're special. Seriously. Don't think I'd just write this to anybody. I know exactly who reads this, and I have good feeling about you. You're different.

...aren't you? Well, I'd like to think I am. and anyone who tells me that sure makes me want to trust them. And pay them hundreds of dollars to take a class from them.


I made my way around the end of the row, squeezing between the other headshot-toting actors on the floor of Backstage's Actorfest 2010 convention. The table I had just left was one among four rows of tables of acting coaches, studios, unions, websites, photographers, and agencies represented that day, all vying for actors' business. I took a u-turn and headed for a name I recognized: Actors Connection.

Actors Connection is one of a handful of recognized groups that specializes in the "classes" I'd just described. They technically do teach you things, but most people signing up for them don't sign up just to be taught. You see, in the United States of America, it is illegal to charge money for a job interview of any kind. This includes auditions. So, some people figured out that if you call something a "class" instead of an "interview" or "audition," you can get away with charging. So they get some interested casting directors and agents into a room, and charge actors a small fee to take a "class" with them that just happens to end in an audition in front of them. Some actors are above taking such "classes." Other actors happen to like getting cast.

I walked up to the table and started talking to one of the women there. She was short, several months pregnant, and didn't waste anybody's time.

"Let's see your headshot and resume."

I pulled mine out.

"Okay, first of all, you need a color headshot. You can't come take our classes with this." She flipped the black-and-white print over, "Don't put your address on your resume. It's dangerous. Can I write on this?" I agreed, and she quickly made three changes, calling what I had written "cute" but not what should be there. Then she went on to describe her class catalog.

While another actor asked her a bit more about details, I got the attention of a tall, male colleague of hers. I asked about Mr. R-----. He had never heard of him. I started describing what he had told me. He quickly adopted a forced, blank expression, and I could almost hear the inner mantra in his head of 'thou shalt not speak ill of anyone else presenting at Actorfest,'

But when I repeated the words 'I have a good feeling about you,' he winced and murmured "I'd turn and run as fast as I could." He backtracked a bit, looking over Mr. R-----'s flyer, but still concluded. "I've never heard of this guy. I don't mean he isn't for real but.... buyer beware. That's all I'm saying."

"That's what I needed to hear." I said, "Thanks."

I dropped my resume off in a few casting directors' drop boxes, and went back to mingling and picking up business cards and brochures.

Then, because this is New York, I ended up several hours later and ten blocks north, watching a crowd of 4,000 strangers calmly wrap each other in toilet paper and start dancing to music that only they could hear.

And then I was at an afterparty swapping zodiac and graffiti stories with a Brazilian dancer and a New York independent filmmaker. And then I was on the upper west side at a party in the nicest apartment I've yet seen in the city, hosted by a friend I had run into for the first time in almost three years hours previously. Followed the next morning by meeting the man responsible for my being an actor at all for brunch.

The problem with blogging in this town is that you get enough material to fill a book before you've spent two consecutive nights in your own bed.

Friday, October 1, 2010

My Saturday

I was going to this.

Then I found out about this.

Tomorrow is going to be an interesting day.