more than one of you have asked, and i'm so excited to have more than one reader that i've decided to answer straight away, rather than make you all look it up.
Q. why "ghost light"?
A. to begin at the beginning. a ghost light
is the light they leave on in the theater after all the lights have been turned off, it's that famous looking lightbulb at the top of a long skinny stand on wheels, without any lampshade. the reason for a ghost light's existence are threefold:
- back in the day, theatres needed a way to vent the gas overnight so the pipes didn't explode. ghost lights ran on gas, so this was a low cost way to vent.
- to light the way for the last person out and the first person in the theater.
- to scare away the bad ghosties, and attract the good ones. this way, too, the theater never goes dark.
so, it has some symbolic meaning for me:
- the ghost light is solitary.
- the ghost light is works through the night, after everyone has gone home.
- the ghost light is chasing bad spirits while courting the theatrical muse.
- the ghost light lets off steam.
- the ghost light lights the way for actors.
- the ghost light looks like a tall skinny bald man.
so there you are.
strangely, i've only recieved one self-addressed stamped postcard. now i understand that agents are busy and everything, but when nearly all of them asked for a self-addressed stamped reply mechanism, i thought that meant that they would use it...
on the good news front, it looks like an actor friend of a friend may have some useful contacts. more on that as it develops when i meet her at the end of next week.
carrie and i will be going to chicago for an exploratory trip at the end of july, and i thought it would be a good chance to get a jump on the job hunt. i haven't done this sort of thing this actively since i got out of school seven years ago (can it really be seven years?) so i needed some help.
i decided to get moving again on the artist's way.
which i had done, well, seven years ago, when i got out of school. for those of you who've done the program, you know it has its ups and downs. for those of you who don't, it's kind of a twelve-step for lapsed artists... that is it uses a lot of the twelve-step tenets and substitutes creative blocks for alcoholism or drug abuse or whatever. so when i did it the first time, i was fresh out of a very intense conservatory program, totally lost, with no sense of self. plus i had just been dumped. hard. so the program was mainly about that for me the first time. this time it became about gearing up for this new adventure. unblocking as much as possible, allowing myself the freedom to work in whatever arena, and c. so approaching it from a whole new angle was nice. i finished a couple months ago. as always, the morning pages seemed like a great idea at the time, but after twelve weeks of writing every morning, i got bored, and dropped them. that's part of what this blog will be about, actually. a good place to write.
i also decided it was okay to be new at this again. so i looked at some books like how to sell yourself as an actor
. i found the organized actor
to be particularly helpful, with some handy tips for logging auditions and formatting cover letters and stuff.
based on some of that stuff, i built a couple of databases in filemaker pro, which i'll be able to sync to my handspring treo. one is a theatrical contacts database, where i can keep historical notes on my dealings with everybody. i built a related database with audition information, so i can track each audition -- time, date, project, who was in the room, what i prepared, did i get called-back, etc. this links to the contacts db so as to easier note histories.
i did some research and found a number of theatre companies in chicago, and based on size and reputation, got a mailing together to a few theatres, agencies, and casting directors.
i wrote a basic cover letter, with some variables that were filled in by filemaker, namely references. for example, some of you may remember when i posted over in mattyspace that i did this reading with austin pendleton... well, he was so impressed with my work at that reading that he told me he would make sure i got an audition at steppenwolf. this is the sort of thing that got used in the references field.
i put together a self-addressed stamped postcard with easy replies for everybody: "yes we got your materials, and we'd love to meet you. call for an appointment," and c. i put it all together (the letter, the postcard, the pix and resumes), put them in envelopes, took a deep breath and sent them off. that was the thursday before july 4th.
monday the 7th i got my first response. my phone rang, and the number that popped up had a 312 area code, so i girded myself and answered. it was the goodman theatre
calling to schedule an audition. that was quick. first audition in chicago: july 30, 2003 10:30am, at the theatre where the super acclaimed bob falls directed revivals of death of a salesman
and long day's journey into night
got started. what do they want me to prepare? two contrasting contemporary monologues.
ok. i haven't had to do monologues for an audition in ages. i have 4 or 5 shakespeare monologues in my repertoire because i love shakespeare and it's fun to work on, and more often than not, shakespeare festivals will ask for a monologue... but i haven't been to a general audition in at least two years, and even then i didn't like the piece i was doing. i had already decided to get back to basics and retool the monologue i done for my college auditions, the one i am certain gave the juilliard auditors an inkiling of what i could do back in the day. so i tracked it down at the library of the performing arts (very obscure piece from a canadian play written in the 70s), and started working it up to speed. but what to do about the second piece?
i looked through monologue books, knowing i was not going to find the answer there... no less a person than my new mentor austin pendleton had just said within my earshot not one month before that monologues from monologue books are deathly, because everybody does them. i knew this, of course, but i was stuck. then i had a flash. one of my favorite authors of literature has a huge epic sprawling book with a whole lot of dialogue, and perhaps i could nick something from there... i had a piece already learned from this novel, but it was in the third person, and had been worked up more as a piece of performance art for the gorilla rep perennial talking jazz
and i pretty much need the jazz backup to make it work. so i looked for something else and came up empty. until i remembered a book of short stories of his that had a running gag of interviews with various subjects. therein i found my monologue. hurrah. armed with two contemporary and several classical monologues, i feel ready to face the world.
i talked to the casting director of steppenwolf
, after austin had talked to her, and found out that they were having auditions the week i was there and she would rather see me when she didn't have to squeeze me in. this could be good or bad, i think, but i'm going with good, because her demeanor was very positive, and she said she was very excited to meet me when i got settled. i think it will be a good interview/audition session, where we can really get to know one another. this is where i function best.
for every two steps forward, we have one step back. a couple of days agao i received my first self-addressed postcard, with the don't-call-us-we'll-call-you box checked. this from an agency out of the ross reports who had once represented an aqcuaintence of mine.
here's the thing, as carrie pointed out: i have two auditions at two of the biggest theatres in chicago. at this point i don't need an agent. and who says i won't get one later?
so, that's the update. i have one more contact to exploit, and many pics and resumes circulating in chi-town, with many more to go. i need new pictures, but had neither the time nor cash to make them happen for this go-round. i hope laura--carrie's mom, who just happens to be a great portrait photagrapher--and i will be able to get a good session in this summer. we tried once already under less than ideal circumstances, and i think the next session may just give us gold. i know there's more to do, and ther're always the little naggy things that you wish you'd done differently, but it's always that way. i have to let it go. the entire business is like that really. with film, you get the chance to put together the absolute best you've got. with theatre, it changeds every time. you learn something new every time. and the great thing is, you get to apply it tomorrow night.
so here i am. on the cusp of a new old career. poised. ready. a director i worked with at juilliard said actors are like gladiators. you have to strap on your armor and get out into that arena. he would sort of act it out a little as he explained this theory to us, which seemed so very apt to me then, as it does now, and he would strap on his "armor" and say, in a very grizzled voice, "i'm goin' in!"
armor on. sword raised. battle planned.
i'm goin' in!
I decided to start this blog as a way to chronicle my life as an actor in a new city.
as a new yorker for the past 11 years, i had a pretty good idea of how the system worked, and made my way in it... even if the path i chose was a little less than, shall we say, profitable. i went to the regions, i day played on soaps, i auditioned and auditioned and auditioned. my main work though, was downtown, where i could stay at home and do fulfilling work. and i worked quite happily in the ranks of gorilla rep, inverse theatre, metropolitan playhouse, and others... i did my time at NADA with aaron beall, and even started my own company with the incredibly beautiful and startlingly talented carrie grace murphy, which we called Tyrannosaurus rep
("there's no time like the cretaceous!"). i acted, i directed, i started my own workshop, Cues & All
: the cutting edge verse resource. i got involved with the london shakespeare workout. all the while receiving mail from my alma mater, juilliard, asking me for money which, even if were inclined, i couldn't give them.
so too did i wait tables, tend the occasional bar, answer phones, paint apartments, coordinate seminars. sometimes i was lucky enough to get a support job in the business: i coached and taught semi-regularly, and i was the company manager for food for thought productions, the one-act play reading series at the national arts club.
anyhow, carrie and i, now engaged, had been talking for years about getting out of this city, and finally decided to make that happen in the winter of 2002-3. the marriage proposal really set things in motion, i think, compounded with her impending graduation as an acupuncturist and herbologist. it was time to implement the five year plan, which included children and settling down and summer homes (we hoped) and all the stuff that goes with being grown-ups.
seemed like the right place.
easier to live there, we kept hearing. cheaper, nicer, happier. a big city with a midwestern sensibility. an hour and a half from milwaukee, which is carrie's hometown, and still the base of operations for her entire family. "it's so fun!" we also heard often. plus, it has an incredible theatre scene, more vibrant than even new york's i keep hearing. somehow it just seemed right.
moving to a brand new city means leaving all my contacts behind. which led me to thinking: i will basically be starting from scratch. yes i have a good pedigree... complete with lots of juicy new york credits and reviews, and c., but i don't know anybody in chicago. i will be sending pix and resumes to people totally unsolicited. i have no representation there. even when starting from actual scratch here in ny, i had juilliard to help me get an agent. in chicago i will be alone.
so i realized i have 2 choices. look at this as an obstacle, or look at it as a springboard. i'm going with the latter. i have that rarest of chances: to do it all over again
i've already started, and i thought i'd chronicle my progress here.