Tuesday, November 01, 2011

This blog is defunct

Thanks for coming here! I am currently updating regularly at http://scottleewilliams.blogspot.com. All the archived content from here, is now there. See you there!


Wednesday, October 08, 2008

I was not wrong

So that was awful. Simply dreadful. Me, the producer, the director, and the stage manager in a 6 by 10 room, all of us watching me flail around trying to find distinct physicality for 6 different characters. One of the problems is a disconnect from my body that manifests itself in a particular stiffness. That's one. The other problem is far more destructive.

Director: OK, let's try it again. I really want to see the difference between this character and the last.

Me (clueless, feeling totally out of ideas, desperately ransacking my brain to think of how people actually move, since I've now apparently become a robot who is propelled around the room by glitchy algorithms that cause him to twitch like a deranged flamingo): Yeah, great. Let's give it a shot.

Voice in my head: You suck. The director is sorry she has to work with you. You have no connection to real people, and you are a bad human being.

(flailing attempt at characterization, all the time fighting to maintain emotional equilibrium)

Director: OK, can you try that again?

Me (panicking now): Sure. Absolutely. Let me just see. (pause to catch my breath internally, draw a complete blank on next gambit. Fuckit, wing it.)

(try again, only bigger, trying to ignore the rising black tide of anxiety)

Voice in my head: You totally suck.

Repeat ad infinitum.

Leaving the rehearsal (after two excruciating hours), I swore I would never act in another show ever again. Jesus. I was wishing I wasn't in this one. I had no business looking at a script, let alone getting on a stage.

As soon as I was done and was by myself for an hour or so, I felt better. Calmer. More like myself again, but still. What a mess. So, I've got homework. To find pictures of possible triggers for the characters, and to find essential "psychological gestures" for each of the 6 characters.

Oh, and to look at old people. All the old people I've ever known walked around like 50 year olds until they suddenly were confined to wheelchairs at the age of 95. I have no idea how old people walk, move, talk. It's like an entire demographic effectively stopped existing for me. Need to rectify that pretty quickly, considering I play an old coot who happens to be the last surviving extra from the movie The Quiet Man.

So, I've got a day to learn how to loosen up, shut up the voices in my head, learn how to walk like an 80 year old man, and get a passable Irish dialect.

Wish me luck!

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Tuesday, October 07, 2008

There is you, and then there is your body

The first rehearsal, the read through, is actually where I feel the most comfortable. I can make ridiculous choices, nobody cares, and nobody will really judge because they are too busy wondering what you think about them. Plus, there's no strain of "where do I stand, where do I move, what's my line again?" I feel like I can go with impulses and make choices and try things. It's when I get on my feet that I start to feel stiff and wooden, like I'm trying too hard.

Part of it might be that once I have found something, I like to stick with it, even to the point where the impulse is no longer authentic. I operate on instinct and have a regrettable tendency to get bored with myself. I get self-conscious later in the process, as opposed to becoming more confident. If I were to diagram it, my process might be:

1. Initial receiving of script: abject terror. Why did I decide to do this? All the time eaten up in a rehearsal process, and really I'm not that good an actor, I have no idea why I keep putting myself through this.
2. First reading: Oh, hey, you know, I'm pretty fucking good at this. I love reading. I'm making choices, getting laughs, trying things. Yeah, this is gonna work out awesome.
3. Rehearsal process: Oh, God, why did I say I would do this? I'm a fraud, obviously. The only reason I haven't been called out on it is that the director is trying to make the best of a bad situation. Jesus.
4. Memorization: why did I smoke so much pot in college? My brain is a fucking sieve! (unless it's Shakespeare, which is remarkably easy to memorize for me). Please God, don't let me go up like I did at that summer stock theater that one time. Jesus.

And if I'm lucky:
5. dress rehearsals: Oh, this isn't so bad. yeah. There might be some moments here and there that are working. OK, I get it, I get it.
And if I'm VERY lucky:
6. End of Run: Oh, man, I'm just really starting to nail it every time. Shit, can't we extend? They love us! C'mon, man! Just one more show.

We enter phase 3 tonight. Pray for me, bitches.

BTW, without indicating why, I would like to say I am also a little worried about the show coming to completion, given the recent economic downturn. Cash Rules Everything Around Me, dollar-dollar bill, y'all. Here's hoping this show gets off the ground.

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Monday, October 06, 2008

New Show - Stones In His Pockets

The premise - 2 actors playing 13 characters, most of them Irish, 2 of them women. 2 acts. Not a small play. A few weeks of rehearsals and then a solid weeks worth of shows. While my girlfriend is preparing to leave for two months on her own acting odyssey.

OK, I'm a little nervous. Put this together with the fact that we had some issues with the casting initially, and you have a rocky beginning to the process. We initially had someone else all set to play opposite me, but he had to drop out, so we had to do a few days of casting, and it was tough finding anybody who was up to snuff. Luckily we found the guy we did, as I think he will bring up the level of funny from my semi-ha-ha to rollicking rofl levels.

We do our first read-through tonight. I've been listening to dialect instruction CD's and Irish podcasts, hoping to absorb the accent. Scottish is dead easy, and English I've been doing since I was a little boy, but Irish is tough to do without sounding like an Irish Spring Commercial reject, or a refugee from a Lucky Charms factory.

I took this job specifically because I knew that it would challenge me, and so it has, already. I just want to make something beautiful and funny and fun.

I'll be writing impressions (hopefully more cogent than the above) of the rehearsal process as often as I can. Talk to you soon.

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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

What I learned from blogging (almost) every day.

I thought I'd write a longer post to talk about what I've learned from writing (semi-) regularly on my other blog: Four Every Day. It's been an interesting experiment, and there are are a few interesting lessons that have come up.

1. Blogs are not comics

This may seem obvious, but a blog diary, no matter the constraints you put on it, will never be the written equivalent of a webcomic diary. I started Four Every Day as a response to the awesome comic American Elf by James Kochalka. I loved the simplicity of it, the everyday-ness of it (in the sense of it being both daily and ordinary). The form of a slightly surreal diary thing, constrained into simplicity and a relative minimum of verbiage, really appealed to me. But, you know what, I really can't draw. Just not my strong suit. This has always bothered me, but I decided to really just constrain myself in other ways, and see what came out. Unfortunately, even though the four sentences thing is pretty interesting, as an exercise, it's just not as cool as comics. Comics have specificity. Writing can have it, but comics have it almost by definition. It's inherent. If you draw something from your life, it will have to be concrete. It will have space and weight and location and, unless you are drawing, say, concentric jagged lines or something to represent anger or whatever, it will be a drawing of something, and it will be somewhere (even if it is only in a blank space on the page). Comics are real pictures even if they aren't of real things. And that makes them cool.

So, the point is: I need to get out of my head.

This leads to my second point:

2. Specificity!!

I noticed that the best posts (oh, you think I don't read them obsessively. Yes I do!) are posts that take place someplace: the subway, my house, a particular street. The posts I've enjoyed the most have a specificity of place and action - somebody speaks, somebody does something. It's so easy to get all abstract and up in my head, and this form really brings out the disconnect between reality and my brain.

Good comics are almost of necessity specific. Good writing should be, too. I am discovering that I still need a lot of work there.

Point: try to write as if everything weren't happening in a vacuum. Names, places, weather, light, heat, sounds, smells - make it happen in four sentence.

3. (Almost) Nobody Cares That You Have a Blog

Blogs and webcomics differ in this aspect as well: There are very few people who will actively read your blog when you write about your mundane little life. This may be because I'm still learning the craft of writing, or it maybe that I don't "promote" as much, but truth to tell, I'm not sure that it matters. I read numerous webcomics - one's that I've found through other blogs, other webcomics that have links on webcomics that I like. Some of these guys sell advertisements, some sell t-shirts. Almost nobody does it full time, but most of these guys talk about going to the conventions or doing a signing, selling merchandise, and I think that's great. Most of them are supremely talented.

You can't really do the same on a personal diary blog. You have to be willing to talk about issues in which your readers are interested, and almost no one cares about you. Or me, for that matter. I'm sure there are people who aren't my friends who's blogs I read, but I couldn't name any off of the top of my head, and the reverse is true - I'm pretty sure that only a few random friends read my blogs. That's OK.

Some people might make money from blogging, but as far as I can tell, I'm not one of them. As much as it pains me to admit, I have an enormous ego, and there was a part of me (ruthlessly supressed but still present) that wanted folk to be beating a path to my door. Maybe I expected hundreds of views, and a summons from the Great Blog Gods to take my place at the table of bounty and book deals. "Come," they would say, "good and faithful blogger. We have prepared a place for you, and no one will ever question your l33t blogging skillz again." Yeah, I'm a tool. I mean, not that I really expected it, but I sorta did, a little.

4. Everyday isn't easy

If you're the kind to do the math, you'll notice that I have done fewer blog posts than there have been days. To put it kindly, I have not written 4 every day. To be exact, I am 55 off of my goal. So I missed, since December 10th, 2007, almost 2 months. That is just piss-poor. Yes, I must learn to be more kind to myself, I must not allow my perfectionism to diminish my goals, etc. But come on! Come on! Two months? Come on! I didn't think it was that many so I went and counted. I maybe off slightly in my count, but as I read it, I missed:

2 days in December
2 days in January
14 days in February
19 days in March
13 days in April
7 days in May (so far)

(the disrepancy occurs because there were a couple of days I posted more than once per day). Still, I think I'll put off saying if the experiment is a success until I've posted everyday for, say, 90 days. That seems reasonable.

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Friday, April 11, 2008

Things that I thought I had just thought of, but which after a quick google search, turned out to be pretty unoriginal:

Neckbeard the Pirate.


Tuesday, April 01, 2008

As above, so below. As within, so without

Passing a bunch of men unloading stuff from a large moving van, I remembered reading a list somewhere that of the ten most stressful events in life, moving house was near the top-- right up there with death and divorce. For the first time it struck me how most every time you see people moving in or out of a place, you're witnessing a paradigm event in their lives. Beginnings and endings. Great happiness or anticipation ("We're moving to Rio!"), or at the other end of the scale failure and fear of a future they never anticipated but has now arrived. I'm thinking about all those people in the US who are losing their homes because of the mortgage crisis. When we see a moving van or hear someone is giving up their flat we usually shrug or ignore it. But the reality is in one way or the other, it is proof that lives are about to change profoundly. You've experienced it yourself whenever you've moved. Almost every van we see represents some kind of intense human drama.
- from Jonathan Carroll's blog

Whatever you've got going on in your life will become manifest in the world when you move. If your internal life is orderly and well tended, your move will express that. It's never easy, but it won't be as hard.

But if you've neglected your life, put things off, tried to kill your best impulses and avoided making hard decisions about what to keep and what to discard, it will be so much more difficult that you can imagine. Karma always comes back.

That's what I learned in March.

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