Monday, January 26, 2009

Not Alone

Last week I got a phone call in reference to one of the grad school applications I had turned in around the start of January. It was from The New School for Drama in New York City, to which I had applied solely on the advice of a friend who was admitted to their program last Fall.
They were calling to say they’d like to schedule an audition with me. This is an accomplishment in and of itself, because they stress they don’t even grant an audition unless they like what they see in an application. I knew I was taking a risk applying with them. Money is tight and application fees aren’t cheap, so I may well have flushed the money down the toilet for all I had as a guarantee I would be granted some face time with them. I was honored when they called me.
I spoke with a man who told me they still don’t have my letters of recommendation. I explained I’ve been working for six weeks trying to get a hold of my last instructors, all of whom a) live in Moscow, b) have no email, and c) speak no English. It took a month just to get in touch with a third party willing and able to help me out. He seemed understanding – even though we’re past the postmark deadline, I have to try and make certain they get there at all. Then he wanted the name of my monologue and two-person scene.
Jigga-wha? Two-person scene? WHAT two-person scene?!
As it turns out, he was asking about the two-person scene detailed in the audition requirements. How silly of me. I should have checked there. Every audition I’ve ever had in my life (not many, I admit) wants two contrasting monologues, typically one classical (i.e. Shakespeare, or that time period) and one contemporary (last 100 years or so). I admitted I had no idea, admitted my embarrassment, and apologized for being unprepared – he admitted that many, many people make the same mistake of overlooking that particular.
Lucky me, I had already contacted a friend I was with in college about brushing up on my monologues. She agreed to do a scene with me, and we’ve spent since Friday going over plays and debating the pros and cons of various contrasting combinations. She came damned prepared, too, pulling from her play library and extensive knowledge and research to help me along.
Collaborating with a colleague has galvanized my intent in a way I never would have achieved alone. She hits hard with the truths I need to hear – about headshots, and working hard. She proposes ideas and concepts I wouldn’t have discovered on my own. Best of all, she’s showing a dedication to helping me move forward like no one has before.
I’ve been able to fall asleep since then secure in the knowledge that I’m not in this audition by myself. I picked a partner who shows as much enthusiasm over this project as I have myself. She feeds my confidence that I’ll be able to show this school and the others what I’m made of, that I deserve a spot within their ranks.
It’s my turn. It’s about time someone with the power to grant my wish realizes this.
And if you’re wondering – UCLA and CalArts have yet to contact me about my application, but my audition with The New School is January 31st at 10:00 a.m., with A.R.T. February 4th at 11:20 a.m., and DePaul February 21st at 7:45 a.m. Good luck messages are more than welcome J

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


I had an experience last night that has taken down my pride a notch
Applying for graduate school and remembering the physical requirements for the movement classes thereof reminded me, in yet another way, that I’m way out of shape. I get no small joy from exercise, especially jogging – but snow and ice upon the ground and temperatures that don’t rise above the teens have put that particular activity at a standstill in lieu of a thaw. So, reminded and inspired by Lee Adama about the benefits of a jump rope (even if it was a body double), I went out and bought one last weekend.
My apartment, thankfully, has a high enough ceiling to accommodate, and a quick shuffle of my furniture gives me the horizontal space I require. I discovered, not for the first time, that a new physical activity is difficult no matter what you’re used to. Weight lifting doesn’t much prepare you for the rigors of rock climbing, and jogging is not the same as jumping. Nonetheless, I enjoyed myself until I got a look at my reflection.
I have some extra weight around my middle, and I’ve accepted that. Even in my Superman costume I was overweight, but being so taught me enough about how to carry myself and position my arms in such a way as to block my extra padding from view. The one space I can jump, however, is right in front of a window. Thankfully, I can keep the blinds closed. Thankful, too, am I that the windows were recently heat-sealed, providing a thick sheet of plastic over the windows. I have am ambivalent, however, about the fact that said plastic provides a reflection of my shirtless torso as I bounce repeatedly.
It’s gross.
Combined with pushups and sit ups, I know I’m building a good exercise rĂ©gime without having to leave my apartment, the likes of which I’ve not had since I owned a Bowflex and a punching bag. When I look at my reflection, I see the remnants of sculpture in my shoulders and chest. Below the breastbone, however, is an extra sac of guts I’ve always referred to as my winter coat, rippling in a way that reminds me of every shot of Homer Simpson in slow motion.
I’ve always been a firm believer in a harsher translation of the serenity prayer – either accept your situation, or do something to change it. If you’ve done neither, you’ve lost your right to complain. I could choose to face the other direction when I jump, but I think taking a good look at myself gives me an important reflection (yuk yuk yuk) o f the way I really look, and exactly how far I have to go before I’m proud of what I see.
And now that the pattern of my life has begun to alter from mundane repetition, the blogs should appear more often.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Statement of Purpose

A little something I've been sending to the grad schools to which I've applied.
The process of character creation is one of attempting to attain an impossible perfection. Characters are not people, but rather simulacrums based on a marriage of skills. Leonardo's Mona Lisa or Michelangelo's David aren't people, but are excellent still-life representations thereof. In collaboration of the writer, the actor, the director, and the designer(s), a representation of humanity can be seen, heard, touched, and even interacted with. The goal is to make them as real as one can—to the observer, to the other actors, even to oneself. But as close to reality as things may become, a character is never, really, a person.
A character has no emotions, but rather borrows its emotions from the actor. The words it speaks are composed by another. Its appearance, its mannerisms, and its movements are all practiced, reviewed, and rehearsed to a degree unparalleled beyond stage and screen. Yet when the time of performance is at hand, we artists take a journey with the audience into a state of belief—or, a suspension of disbelief—that they're bearing witness to reality, that the words aren't scripted and the one speaking them hasn't also spoken the words of Hamlet, Willy Lowman, or Jean Valjean.
Actors go to great lengths to make the journey to emulate and represent humanity. We analyze and interpret the text. We adorn ourselves in the makeup and costume chosen for us. We draw upon our memories to tease strong emotions to the surface. Most importantly, we do what no other artist does; we allow ourselves to believe in a set of given circumstances. We believe in the who, what, where, when, why, and how, transcending ourselves into living art that, when successful, is a more accurate representation of humanity than any other artist can achieve.
I graduated from the University of North Texas in August 2001 with a sense that I had wasted my educational opportunities. A poorly performing student, I allowed the comfortable, unchanging environment to subdue my ambition and nourish my fears.
In 2004, I realized that my complacency had led to stagnation. I was unchanging and unmotivated, and I hated it. I felt within myself the growing desire to make something more of myself lest I end up feeling the weight of my dreams crushing my existence. No longer satisfied with my course, I applied for graduate schools.
My path led me to attend the Stanislavsky Summer School, a six week course at the American Repertory Theatre in 2005. There, I learned more about myself and my abilities than I had ever known. Through the instruction and training I received, I discovered I was as talented and capable an actor as I had ever believed I could be. My intelligence and dedication meant I only had to be given direction once. My physical size and confidence therein gave me a strong, commanding stage presence. My imagination and talent to turned me into a vehicle through which characters sprang to life. I pushed the boundaries of my comfort zone and experimented with instinct and improvisation, setting new goals and new limits for myself.
That winter I travelled to Moscow for a second six week course. Exposure to a foreign environment expanded my capabilities further as I discovered what it is to be an actor on an instinctual level. I learned of how actors communicate and connect with one another without conscious thought. I discovered the importance of creation without use of dialogue.
I also discovered how limited I could be without instruction. Alone, I found a limit to my willingness to explore. Without the direction and encouragement of others, I don't allow myself the full depth and breadth of my capabilities, tending to stay—emotionally and physically—where it's safe and comfortable. My desire, through this program, is to break the limits and boundaries of my comfort zone, expanding my versatility to new levels. I hope to tap into new methods and avenues of discovery, and to achieve a more complete and expanded sense of self. My goal is to turn the most I can currently accomplish into the least I will be able to achieve. I want to be ever growing, ever expanding, and ever changing into something new—something better.