A month ago today I started working as a dishwasher, and to officiate my position we were robbed on Sunday. They were extremely brazen robbers: I was in the kitchen when I heard someone outside our back door. I walked over and saw someone sitting in what looked like a get away car, not nearly as cool as Ryan Gosling in Drive but the effect was there. I was suspicious, and the staff had told me about things being stolen before, so I closed and locked the door. I went back to work and thought about checking the basement to see if someone had in fact snuck in, but by the time I worked up the courage to go check I heard footsteps running up the stairs. I got to the door and saw one dude with what looked like a big case of beer running and jumping into the car.
I told my fellow employee and she bolted out the door (thinking they had her purse) and sprinted down the road after them. She returned out of breath and with the license plate number. We proceeded to inform the staff and the cops were called. They came down to the restaurant, stated they had caught the car and wanted as much information about what happened only moments before. I proceeded to act everything out (as I do) and one of the senior staff members went with the cops to identify the goods that were taken.
As we got ready to leave for the night my fellow employee said that I had passed my restaurant initiation.
Before this incident, my week started off with an audition for a principle character in a feature that my good friend had been cast as the lead in. He had pushed for me to see the director and my agent managed to get me in the room, which was awesome. The days leading up to the audition I thought about nailing the part, but didn't actually hunker down and solidify my choices until the day of. I had a friend of mine help me prep before and when I finally got in the room I froze up and tried to play what my pre determined judgment of the character was, or rather what I thought they wanted to see.
Needless to say I tanked it, and left rather disappointed in myself, not only for knowing that I wasn't as prepared as I could have been, but also because I felt like I was letting people down. It was then that this Matt Damon quote popped into my head, "It’s just better to be yourself than to try to be some version of what you think the other person wants." It dawned on me that I needed to stop doing just that, and actually be true to myself, I needed to actually live what I have been preaching: Ideally, these people are looking for truth. The most I can offer them is myself, which happens to be a lot. I'm sure they go through hundreds of people trying to BE the character and I don't wanna be just another one of those. I want to be real and make them stop and watch.
I made a pact to myself that from now on I would give myself to each audition 150%, as Cory Monteith told me to, and walk in confident and prepared. No more of these sloppy, half there attempts. I'm kind of shocked in myself that I actually had to make this pact, but me walking into that room and being surprised by how cold things were made me realize all I had to make myself comfortable, was myself. No one was going to hold my hand and ease me into the work that needed to be done. I need to be able to work comfortably under pressure and the only way I can do that is by being prepared.
Later in the week I had my first singing lesson in years with Susan Cuthbert, who is awesome. She was also Christine in the original Canadian cast of Phantom of the Opera, which made my knees buckle when she told me. Well, to be honest she told me indirectly. I was signing some of the Music of the Night and when I got to the final note, she replied, "That's how Colm would do it every night, while he held me in his arms..."
I died a slow nostalgic death. For those of you who don't know: My mom and I love Phantom and I grew up listening to the Toronto cast recording. Susan throwing this little tidbit out about her and Colm Wilkinson threw me for a complete loop. I realized who I was in the room with and became a tad star struck. Luckily this was closer to then end of the lesson.
Before this moment happened, Susan and I talked a lot about performance and how even to this day she still gets nervous and is critical of herself in rehearsal; something that, as you know, I completely identify with. We also talked about how I felt isolated not being able to sight sing or play any instruments, that the way I learn how to sing a song is by listening to it repetitively so that it becomes ingrained in me.
She said that she uses the same method.
To find someone, who continues to have a career in musical theatre and shares the same method of learning music as me was deeply encouraging. She told me that I may not be as musically gifted as those that are able to sight read like kings, or play piano but I am still able to sing well, follow melodies and rhythm and ultimately perform what is asked of me. Who cares how I get there. It left me feeling so full and made me realize how much more achievable a musical theatre career could be.
I left my lesson feeling so positive and excited for my next one.
Last night I audited a class at Armstrong Acting Studio, specifically Salvatore Antonio's level 4 class. It reminded me of the scene studies we would do at NTS, the biggest difference being that there is a camera involved. I took a lot of notes, as Salvatore was full of golden advice nuggets, not only about scene work but about the industry. Looking back over my journal, as I rode the streetcar back to my apartment, there were some things that resonated with me. Especially where I am still in this state of not knowing.
Salvatore spoke about how actors tend to talk profusely about their issues with a scene rather than simply doing it. As an actor, I have found myself being intimidated by what was being ask of me in a scene or complaining that it was "too hard" or "what do they expect me to do with all this stage direction?" and all kinds of personal issues. He talked about how there is always going to be a way out, something to complain about, but the people who succeed are the ones who can move past that attitude and give everything to the request at hand. Which is, for 1-8 minutes (for film) of ones life and commit to what is written on the page. It's that simple.
He said this great thing, "if we are thrown off by everything that is fake (meaning what the given circumstances of the scene are) then we are in the wrong profession." If as an actor I am going to waste my time focusing on the things that are hard or uncomfortable, rather then stepping up to the plate and knocking it out of the park, then I have to question what I'm doing with my life. Dread and complaints have no place in my work. This is not to say that they don't exist, they do. But as Salvatore suggested, write down a list of the things ones hates about the scene; look at them, acknowledge them, and get back to work. Or a phrase that I am stealing from him, "Journal that shit out!"
People don't wanna hear about someone’s issues, ain't nobody got time for that, they want to see the person who can do the job. And I need to be that person, or at best give my attempt at being that person, which leads me to something else Salvatore spoke about: Start viewing auditions as simply attempts. Stop being so precious about the work, dive into it and have fun. Even the best actors have to sit in that waiting room for their opportunity to give an attempt at a role. Everyone gets the same sides at the same time, has to sit in the same room and do the same lines as everybody else, so the only things I have control over is how my time is used before the audition, and focusing on how to do the best version of me in the audition. If after I have done that and they still don't like me, well then that's their issue not mine. At the end of the day, if I was truthful to myself, did the prep work and was confident in what I was offering that’s all I have control over, especially in film.
It's funny how much control I want, but actually have to let go of to be successful in this industry. So many things are out my control and I simply need to do what I can and leave the best impression possible.
Salvatore spoke about an 'American Bravado' and I thought this encapsulated exactly what I have been looking for. This translated to me as a pride and ownership over my work, a claiming of territory, and the competitive and patriotic nature of Americans. I know that I have these qualities inside of me (I am half American) and I really need to let them thrive. I need to stop excusing myself or making up reasons why I couldn't give the time to something I claim to care so much about. I don't take no for an answer in my personal life, why should my artistic life be any different?
Thinking about this reminded me of what Colm Feore said to us (NTS) when he won the 2014 Gascon Thomas Award, "If you want to be where I am, prove it." I think this is one of the biggest hurdles I am facing, simply proving to myself that this dream is a reality. It is so easy to fall into doubt and negative feelings. I just have to go for it, as simple and cliché as that may sound, it's the only thing that is stopping me from rising to the top. Also preparation. I have coasted through a lot of projects because of my talent and that can't really help me anymore. This is the big league; I am not in the safe environment of school where teachers are focused on my needs. I have chosen to enter this storm of an industry and if I don't fight hard I will be ejected to the outskirts. I want, more than anything, to be in the eye of it.
I have been buying books instead of food, and yet somehow I still feel full.
I got sunburnt today because I was at the beach for most of the afternoon.
It was glorious.