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Wednesday, 24 May
Stand In The Place Where You Are

After a long hiatus from acting, I have been lured back in to do another show. I started rehearsals on Tuesday, where we gathered for some basic blocking and initial scene work. And as I returned to the old routine, I remembered some of the reasons why I'd taken a break. It is because theater people are completely fucking ridiculous.

Now, don't get me wrong: I love the cast. I've worked with almost all of them before, and that happens to include my wife. They are fine folks, artistically committed to their crafts, and with talent to burn. They are also, however--just like me--mostly incomprehensible, opaque and risible. Why did I come back to work with such people--including my wife, whom I love dearly, but really, why? I don't know. It's too early to tell, really, and I frankly don't want to jinx the fact that so far I'm having a good time.

Despite the aforementioned ridiculousness et cetera--or, to use pithier term, horseshittedness--that pervades pretty much every aspect of acting and theater.

Actors maunder about over every possible nuance they can find. Last night, I wondered out loud, "Do you want two beats, then break, then another beat? And then go back in to her? Is it too much?" C., our director, managed somehow to take this absurd sentence completely seriously. "I think you can do three beats, then break." I fretted. "I don't know," I said. "Just hit all your moments," she replied. "I'll tell you if it's too much."

Go ahead and try and think about what the phrase "Just hit all your moments" could possibly mean. I'll wait. In fact, while I'm waiting, I'll go ahead and have a little think myself over the fact that at the time, it made perfect sense to me.

Minutes later, in the same discussion, we discussed a line, which referenced a waiter in that particular scene. The line indicated that the actor playing the waiter interrupted us: "He chirped and fluttered about them." The actor wondered: "So . . . how much flutter?" C. said, "You're interrupting them, but I don't want that much flutter." No word on whether or not she wanted some wow to go with that flutter. "And no chirping." We all nodded sagely. J., the actor, made a note in his script. I wondered if it was DON'T ACTUALLY CHIRP.

Later, C. told me during a break, "I know that none of the characters have a name in the show." (Without getting too much into it, the piece is a cabaret-ish sort of thing that is all derived from the writing of Dorothy Parker. So it's not your standard-issue dramatic thingama.) She continued, "But I think you should all have a name. I mean, that you know what your name is. Even if you don't tell me." I decided right away that this was one of those things that some actors spend a lot of time wrestling with, and also that I was none of those particular actors. "My name is Skot," I replied. "You name is Skot," she said. "So that's easy. Good!" Yes, well done, Skot! You know your name! Hopefully, I won't learn that my wife has decided that for the purposes of the show, she'd rather be thought of as "Skeeze Beasley." But she could if she wanted. That's the thing. Actors are really encouraged to be as ridiculous as possible.

(As are directors. Here's two of my favorite directorial hits from the past. Once, in an ensemble avant-garde piece in college, the director instructed us thusly: "All right. I want you all to enter . . . like mist." Got it. Enter like mist. None of us knew what the fuck he was talking about, but okay, we entered like mist. This evidently, to all of us, meant moving in a stealthy crouch while hissing. SSSS! We're mist! "STOP!" he cried after only a few seconds. We stopped, and he ran his hand through his liberal arts hair. "No, no." Pause. "More like blue mist."

Needless to say, we just crouched and hissed a little more, but bluely. Anyway, I always vacillate between that anecdote and this one for "favorite" status: he was also the guy who gave this stunningly evocative and stunningly unhelpful bit of impossible directorial criticism: "You're giving me October, and I'm looking for November." What can I say? I'm looking California and feeling Minnesota. I'll try and bring in a hint of picnic table and lose some of the calamine lotion. Purple monkey dishwasher! Pass it on.)

Later on in the rehearsal, C. instructed me, re: another scene, "Okay, here I want you to try touching her. Well, don't try. Touch her. But don't hold her! Maybe you could brush her hair out of her face." I deadpanned, "Oh, is she vomiting?" This is where even dumb humor fails theater people. C. said, with some concern, "Why do you think she's vomiting?" "I was kidding," I said. C. stared at me for a moment.

Probably for at least two beats. Maybe three. Tell me if that's too much.

Look, be honest. Am I giving you too much October?


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Comments

You are so totally giving me too much October, dude. I was thinking more periwinkle. Or chartreuse.

I got a minor in art history in college, so I was forced to be around the theatre geeks because we had classes in the same building. It was insane. Before class, I'd be sitting outside smoking and reading and they'd be standing in a cluster telling all these fantastical stories and thinking "tree, in a hurricane" with the way they threw their hands in the air like they just didn't care. And they didn't. They were the most overdramatic idiots I've ever seen. High-pitched voices. Dramatic retellings of the most innane stories. Body language out the wazoo. It was more than I could handle. Worse than a Mexican soap opera.

Comment number: 007503   Posted by: maarmie on May 25, 2006 05:26 AM from IP: 206.201.190.68

What you're giving me is a sideache - from laughing. I have no idea how you hold your tongue around people like C - I'd be way too much of a smartass to keep a job like that. I guess that's why I'm not an actor then huh?

Comment number: 007505   Posted by: Jeff on May 25, 2006 09:02 AM from IP: 209.32.109.28

Yay for Simpsons references! <3

Comment number: 007506   Posted by: laf on May 25, 2006 10:34 AM from IP: 68.191.79.243

That reminds me of when we did Angels in America. The new-age, spazzed-out f*ckwad of a set designer once told us to "float with determination" as directions for moving a set of sliding doors during one particular scene shift. Umm... okay!

Then, the bratty asshole director (who was also the artistic director of said theatre at the time) demanded that when the angel finally makes an appearance at the end of the play, that her entrance be "presidential." I don't know about you, but I've never seen the President descend from above center stage. He pitched a total hissy fit when we didn't fully meet his expectations, first time out of the box. What a jackass.

Welcome back to the Land of the Crazies! I'm sorry you ever left us!

Comment number: 007507   Posted by: S on May 25, 2006 11:04 AM from IP: 66.235.58.7

So, my 17 year old niece just moved to Seattle and wants to get into acting. I'm guessing I shouldn't send her over to talk to you, then, right?

Comment number: 007510   Posted by: spygeek on May 25, 2006 02:15 PM from IP: 192.28.2.52

Yeah, just imagine how batshit crazy you all seem to those of us non-native-theater folks who have found themselves thrust among you.

Really, it almost makes taking drugs gratuitious. Almost.

Comment number: 007511   Posted by: JJ on May 25, 2006 04:30 PM from IP: 67.168.63.153

Thank you, thank you, thank you for the laughs.

I have to say, it's a little strange to suddenly realize while reading this that, wow, I'm actually IN SEATTLE now. I've moved here. I could come see this odd play of yours. I could stalk you. mwahahaha...

Comment number: 007521   Posted by: Lythea on May 25, 2006 10:38 PM from IP: 24.18.224.189


Making a good start with the stalking there, Lythea.

Comment number: 007526   Posted by: Lung the Younger on May 26, 2006 12:54 AM from IP: 213.97.42.225

Lung, marry me? Pretty please?

Comment number: 007527   Posted by: Kate on May 26, 2006 06:41 AM from IP: 70.231.253.231

Stupid bloody commenting system. Argh.

Comment number: 007529   Posted by: Skot on May 26, 2006 07:51 AM from IP: 66.150.9.2

I'm still reveling in purple monkey dishwasher... I love that phrase. I must somehow incorporate it into directing actors in every show I ever direct from here on out.

Comment number: 007531   Posted by: S on May 26, 2006 01:07 PM from IP: 66.235.58.7

Wow - I haven't worked with organic directors in a loooooong time. I was usually the SM and had to interpret for those guys, which... well that doesn't really help either!

Comment number: 007532   Posted by: ombra on May 26, 2006 01:08 PM from IP: 68.35.236.133

Wow - I haven't worked with organic directors in a loooooong time. I was usually the SM and had to interpret for those guys, which... well that doesn't really help either!

Comment number: 007533   Posted by: ombra on May 26, 2006 01:09 PM from IP: 68.35.236.133

I always loved when one director would ask us to breathe in through our eyes and out through our fingertips.

But then, he had cast mostly white people in a production of "Once on This Island," so really we should have known something was up.

Comment number: 007561   Posted by: Brian on June 3, 2006 09:13 AM from IP: 70.191.114.90

Not too much October, no. But you could add a little bit of marbled granite for the texture.

Still, nothing wrong with the belly laughs.

Comment number: 007568   Posted by: Zeynep on June 6, 2006 10:25 AM from IP: 129.2.94.32

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