Thursday, 31 May 2012

T is for Tuesday.

Tuesday was supposed to be a busy day. I thought it would be when I woke up early in the morning. I was going to have two sets of rehearsals and teach in between in the afternoon. Supposed to be. Before my first rehearsal my classes were cancelled as my students weren’t performance ready for a show later this week and before the end of my first rehearsal my rehearsals for the evening were also cancelled. To add to this, the only rehearsal I had that day didn’t exactly go that well for me and to add insult to injury a choreographer messaged me to let me know that the cast for a musical I had auditioned for more in March was still not finalized. Perhaps in June the message from my inside source revealed.

I think everyone has days where they question themselves. Where they question their abilities, if they really have what it takes to make it. Today was my day. I usually love the fact that no two days of my week are cut from the same pattern, and normally the thought of a job that starts at 8 and ends at 4 or 5 would scare me half to death. But there’s something truly terrible about being lonely and depressed in the middle of the day. While everyone is busy with their work or class or lives.

The trick, I think, to this whole performance thing is just not to give up. I think those that make it are those that just carry on through the disappointment. Through the Tuesdays of their careers.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Dancing for auditions

When you audition for a musical there is a kind of model which is followed. You start with dancing. Everyone learns a routine from the choreographer, and then you dance in a group of four of five. Once this is done they call out either the numbers who move through to the next round, of the numbers who don’t: “Thank you for coming, but you can go” or some other variation of the same thing. Then you sing, and if they still like you they ask you to stay to read cold from a script.

Perhaps because these things start with dancing there tend to be a LOT of dancers. Skinny little people. And that being said, there is nothing quite like a dance audition to make you wonder about the merits of anorexia or at the very least to make you question you self-esteem and once healthy body image (I consider myself to have a ‘healthy’ body. It’s what helps me sleep after dance auditions). And entering the world of dance and musical theatre auditions is completely different to television and advert commercials and straight theatre. The first time I arrived at one of these a skinny blonde girl, in crop top and spectacular abs, came up to me: “You’re new”. Well…to me, you’re new too.
As an outsider, its sort of like entering into a secret society. All the same girls tend to be at the same auditions, so over time they get to know each other. And all they are able to talk about is the last audition they were at, or the last show they were in.

And yesterday I realised a terrible thing. When I arrived at the auditions I, for the first time, bumped into a group of four girls that had studied at the same institution I had. It was fantastic to see them and catch up. And you know what? We spoke about the last auditions we were at. The most difficult ones we had had up to now and the shows we were currently working on…

Sunday, 20 May 2012

The National Arts Festival is coming: My recommendations

Today I eventually got my hands on the 258 page thick program for this year’s National Arts Festival in Grahamstown. This year the festival runs from 28 June to 8 July, and is apparently the second biggest in the world.

There are literally hundreds of shows and this year will be the third year that I will be attending, as well as performing in the festival. Now the festival is divided into the Main the Fringe programs. The spots on the main are usually commissioned by the festival, and you need to earn your place to perform there. As for the Fringe…as long as you get your entry there in time you can perform. I will be performing in the Fringe program again this year in CHASING (directed and choreographed by Nicola Haskins). But with the literally hundreds of shows performing how do you pick which to watch. Here are my recommendations for the festival. I must admit my strong bias here, but I can guarantee you will not be disappointed in my selections.

In general I tend to stick to the Fringe program. Maybe it’s because a big part of me sympathizes with artist who are trying to make it. Maybe it’s because I know what it feels like to perform to an audience smaller than your cast. At least we were warned last year that this would happen, and hopefully the Standard Bank Ovation Award we won last year (despite our first few performances playing mostly to family, friends and complementary tickets) will help fill a few more seats this year.
Naturally, I recommend Chasing. How else. I am in it after all, and I truly believe in what we do. The Award merely confirms this!

Then I have to recommend Moffie (choreographed and directed by the Standard Bank Young Artist Award Winner for dance, Bailey Snyman). Between my brother and myself we know half the cast of dancers. None the less, it promises to be exciting, and most likely controversial if the picture in the program is something to go by.

London Road (Nicholas Spagnoletti) is performing again, which is definite must see, and serious. From Cape Town, and back again from last year we have Mafikeng Road, which I really enjoyed, and the amazing Miskien... (who along with The Anatomy of Weather performed in the Amsterdam Fringe Festival last year).

Body Language also returns, which I really enjoyed last year. Maybe even more so because I happened to be singled out for some of the jokes. Sitting in the front row of a comedic Fringe production is not without its risks.

I have heard from trusted sources of are the comedic Big Boys Don’t Dance is well worth the watches, and from personal experience I recommend Hats (I was part of the original cast of the first version of this play which is now a two-hander).

On the dance and physical theatre scene In Stu will probably be worth your while, and then of course Mother Milk from Andrew Buckland (Well, if you see mention of Buckland’s name in Grahamstown you should definitely watch the show). Personally I was hoping to catch both Fragile and Pudique Acide/Extasis, but the chances are I won’t be there while these shows are on.

If you don't trust me, and want to make up your own mind, or simply want some more info here is the link for the program:

My final recommendation, until I have properly perused the program will be The Long Table. Where you can buy a decently priced home-made meal and probably bump into the artist of that show you enjoyed watching today. I will definitely be there myself!

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Prepping for it.

I have been told many things by very many different people in the few years I have started this whole performance thing. The one thing I feel you have no control over though are auditions.

Now I have heard many different things from people. A lecturer told me, that as a girl (or women, depending on the role I’m auditioning for. I’m in that phase where it could swing either way) my acting skill and ability has nothing to do with whether I get cast or not. It’s all down to how we look, and that the elusive givers of dreams and work make up their minds within 20seconds as to whether they will give you a job, or sign you, or whatever the occasion may be. So before I go to an audition I make sure I look the best I can look. I’m cleaned, spruced, shaven, painted. I’ve constructed a look for myself that I’m happy with and it takes work, and time, to recreate it for every audition. It’s somewhere between the natural, crazy me and the poised side that I have when I need it.

My honours director in my first year told me I should expect to do roughly 100 auditions before I land my first job. “Just don’t give up” was his advice. My mother seems to concur. Whenever she watches a documentary, or hears a clip about some well-known personality she eagerly phones me to tell me about the setbacks this now-famous person had to get themselves from anonymity to where they are now. I appreciate this. Sometimes she phones on the day that I need to hear it most. And it’s good for us who are struggling to do what we love to hear that stars also struggled once. That people told them that they were foolish, weren’t pretty enough, or thin enough, or that they were merely dreaming.

A friend of mine said I need to become audition fit. That once I’ve done it enough the nerves will go away, and I’ll get good at gauging what the faces on the other side of contract want from me, so I can give to them. And although I’m a realist, I can’t help imagining what it would be like to get the part. How it would feel to be on stage, rehearsing, or being on set. What I’ll probably have to wear, where it might take me.

I don’t think there is a formula. I struck it lucky once and I know it. The one thing that I have learned from my experience is just enjoy myself. If I’m not doing this because I enjoy it there really is no point. I learned this during a dance audition. About halfway through the routine I was dancing l just let go. My technique wasn’t perfect, and I no one knew the routine properly, but I decided to just enjoy myself. I had driven all that way, practiced my song, practiced my pirouettes and now I was here, at this critical moment. And I just let go. I realised the moment that I started to enjoy myself that the whole panel immediately started watching me. Because I absolutely loved what I was doing, and that was the key. And the faces on the other side of the contract saw that.

So now I prepare as much as I can before the time. I know my music, and know the lines. I warm up, I have the backup of my backtrack, and I have the right clothes on. I am dressed for the part, my curls are in my place along with my mascara and my smile. But once I step on that stage (or in the cubicle for film) I just let go. I control what I can and enjoy the rest. I’ll still see how far this will bring me but at least I’ll be enjoying the journey.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Pay day!

Last week I received an email from my agent. It was completely out of the blue, and quite honeslty I wasn't expecting anything at the time. Attached to the email was a proof of payment into my back account, along with a spreadsheet, explaining how much money I had earned, how many hours of overtime I had worked. The percentage which my agent was taking and how much I would be paying in tax. This left me without roughly half of what I had earned that day being paid into my account. Hmmmmm.
My boyfriend has been dogging me for months to buy myself and iPad as soon as I get paid for this advert, as he has found his to be revolutionary in his life. I, on the other hand, believe in not spending money I do not have. And after this revaltion, I do not have as much as I thought I would.

Now as someone who has never received more than the copy of deposit slip, or an email informing I have been paid (Which was about R900 last year, and this year I peaked at R1400) this is quite something to get used to. And I had never paid tax before. Not that I had ever earned any amount which was significant enough to be taxed on. And 25% of my little earnings is quite something. Or rather, quite shocking for me. During the shoot for the advert I had now been paid for I had heard the two ladies who were doing our makeup discuss being taxed, and how, as freelance workers we were apparently in quite a high tax bracket. Now I know nothing about this yet. My mother, who strangely enough runs her own psychology practice wasn’t that much help either.

“As far as I know we can claim it back at the end of the financial year. I don’t know. We’ll find out”.

Hopefully this means that come the new year I can claim back that 25%, and that I have a nice little lump coming back my way. At least I hope that all the slips I’ve been saving and detailing the kilometres I drive up and down like a maniac isn’t for nothing!

The advantage is, that I know how much the usage percentage upon a contract, or call sheet works, and that overtime exists for actors!

I'm taking this tax thing as a learning experience!

Monday, 7 May 2012

Working Weekends.

For me, long weekends and public holidays have never meant rest. Even at school those days were always used for extra practice, or competitions. And even more so now that I’m in the performing arts. Public holiday are those magical days when there is no class, there are no submissions due, no new auditions to attend. It’s the ideal day to get your cast together. And so we did over this past 5-day long weekend.

Long rehearsals over long weekends are something that we need. It’s usually the most time we have to get our cast together. Long weekends and those precious Sundays which I have been told are actually supposed to be meant for rest. And although my rehearsals are scheduled in my diary, and although I have to plan my life around them, and yes and I cannot attend parties “because I have rehearsals” working on a physical theatre show rarely feels like work. I absolutely love it, and I love how I feel afterwards. Including the stiff muscles and the bruises. I feel like I have something to show for what I’ve done for my day. Bruises and all.

After this weekend though, I look like a victim of spousal abuse. Or in the best scenario I crawled out of some car wreck. I am working with our newest cast member on a sequence which requires a lot of partner work. We’re getting there, but I think the bruises are testament to his new relationship to movement, and my new relationship to having a lifts partner. It takes a while to get the type of work we do to flow. As one of the girls said after we finished choreographing the duets: “It will get there. However, I still feel like an old lady chasing a cat most of the time”.

Now when you work for a long time with a small group of people, especially with something as physical as physical theatre you become quite close. Perhaps it is because you are physically breaking those typically interpersonal boundaries by touching each other, and being in each other’s personal space that the rest seems to follow quite naturally. Perhaps its because the people in your cast are the people you spend the most hours in your day, and often most regularly.

The one thing that seems to happen, always, is the point where everything becomes sexual somehow. At one point in the show I am currently rehearsing on we bring a prop over one of the actors. “When do we go down on her?” one of the cast members remarked due to the timing changing. One of the girls snorted: “Was I the only one who heard that?” When he said it again accidently the next day (during the same part of the choreography) the entire cast burst out laughing.

You do have other awkward moments though. About two years ago we were working on a very difficult lift for a physical theatre show which required me, while standing on a cast members shouldering, to go down into a backbend (or crab stand) onto another actor’s shoulders. The first time we tried this it did not go smoothly, and I hurtled towards the floor from the height of about 1,7 meters head first. One of my friends caught me on the way down by placing an arm over my chest, and grabbing my breast. I did not notice, I happened to be more concerned with my impending demise at that particular moment. As he put me down all I heard was “I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m so so sorry”.
“For what?”
“I touched your boob.”