Hugh Laurie auditioning for House

I’m always telling my clients, “Play the life, not the lines.” That’s why I suggest NOT to worry about memorizing your lines for you your auditions. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s great if you know your lines by heart (notice I said by “heart” not by “head”), but at the audition, what the CDs and/or producers and director want to see is your performance as the character, not your memorization skills.

Too often I see actors blow auditions because they forget a line. Why put this pressure on yourself? HOLD THE SCRIPT! We assume by the time you’ve got the role you will have the lines down, what we can’t assume is that you can inhabit the role.

My theory here is exemplified by this video of Hugh Laurie auditioning the for the role of House. He is using the script and he is fabulous.

Learn this skill, how to snatch the line off the page (theater actors already know how to do this because they usually don’t need to be “off book” until at least a week or two into rehearsals).

A good way to practice this skill is to read to a child from a storybook. (If you don’t have a child handy, read to your pet, or a plant!) “Once upon a time there were three bears…” When you read a story to a child you are not “off book”, but you are attempting to make the story come alive. You make eye contact, you inhabit the roles, you don’t keep your nose buried in the book. Do this for (at least) ten minutes every day.

USA Film Festival

In late April I had the pleasure of being a jury member in the Short Film competition of the USA Film Festival.  The festival itself was fantastic! So well produced and attended.  I saw two great feature length documentaries–the sumptuous and riveting Dior and I, directed by Frederic Tcheng, and the fascinating Tab Hunter Confidential. I recommend them both highly. I  also got to see the classic Nicolas Roeg film from the 70s, The Man Who Fell To Earth, on the big screen with the marvelous Candy Clark in attendance.

The judging itself was grueling. My colleagues, director John Putch, and actor/director Christina Beck and I, were sequestered in a small hotel room(armed with diet cokes,raw almonds, and dark chocolate), where we watched 75 short films in 2 and ½ days!

It was so inspiring to see the range of works in competition. Yes, a few suffered from weak scripts and/or poor casting and production values, but many were absolutely wonderful and equal in quality to works produced by big studios.

Some of the films have really stayed with me. Particularly Against Night,  a beautifully directed drama about a Russian cosmonaut that reminded me of one of my favorite films of all time, Slaughterhouse Five,The Way of Tea,a powerful film about a Muslim man making peace with an angry racist (we awarded this film First Prize), and the documentary, War Within the Walls, that illuminates the world of  Vietnamese children who were born with birth defects caused by Agent Orange. War Within the Walls focuses on the journey of one young man,”Chau,” who was raised in a “war remnants” orphanage. Despite not having the use of his hands (he uses he mouth to paint) and no financial or educational resources, when he gets out of the orphanage he finds a way to fulfill his dreams of becoming a professional artist.  I urge you to see it if at all possible. Chau’s story is incredibly inspirational and it’s also very important to get the word out about the damage inflicted on these poor innocent children due to our use of chemical weapons during the Vietnam War.

Other than the few times I’ve cast projects, this was the first time I was in the  choosing-who-gets-the-award business.  It really is an impossible task.  There were at least two contenders in each category, animation, documentary, narrative fiction, student, that were completely worthy of first prize. I saw once again the old apples vs oranges thing in play. Once again an illustration of the fact that when someone wins the prize, ( or the role, or the book deal, etc.) it doesn’t mean they were necessarily the “best,” or that the other contenders were second rate. Something I’ve always known in my head, but of course when I’m the one in competition, not so easy to remember.

Candy & Randy Clark and Jamie Rose Candy, her brother Randy, and me.

What having you been doing?

“So what have you been doing?”

I’m never sure what to reply to this question. It seems to require a concrete answer specific to who’s doing the asking.

If it’s someone I know from my writing community I feel I should answer, “Finished two essays and a chapter!”

If it’s a colleague from the entertainment industry, “Did an episode of ___(fill in the blank)!”

But what if I haven’t been “producing” lately?

Sometimes I’m doing what I call “gathering.” In addition to my duties teaching my weekly kids classes and coaching my private clients, I’m reading a lot, watching films, seeing plays, TV shows, observing people on the street, and spending time with my family.

I have a new step-granddaughter. I visit her weekly and watch her grow into her life. My dad has Alzheimer’s. I visit him weekly too, and I watch him grow out of his.

I’ve learned over the years that these times when I’m not “producing” in an outward material way are just as important as when I can point to a new story or guest spot. I’m gathering material. I’m growing into my next work.

What have I been doing?

Living my life.