Friday, March 18, 2005

March 18 Part II


On a working front, I got some errands done and got some writing done on Charlotte. My editor gave me the list of issues she needs for next week (instead of prepping them a month in advance, because of her server problems, we’re going week to week again). So I resent what she needs for next week. The only one that’s a pain to resend is Widow’s Chamber, because I don’t write it in the serial format. I write it in regular manuscript format.

I caught up on a lot of filing – now if I only had someplace to put all these lovely folders.

I read an interview with an actor I’ve admired for a long time and noticed what a chameleon he can be. He’s usually quite well-spoken, great sense of humour, opinionated (I don’t always agree with him, but I like the way he presents his point of view). However, this interview was quite different. It was oblivious that the so-called journalist considered himself a Hip Young Writer for this publication that caters to a primarily upscale male audience. Well, the so-called journalist didn’t sound hip at all – merely like an ass. Unfortunately, the actor mirrored him in the responses. It wasn’t hip, it wasn’t amusing, it wasn’t ironic – it sounded like a couple of boisterous jerk offs making size comparisons.

Now, there are several possibilities here: 1) That the actor knew the interviewer was an inept jerk and was satirizing what was going on by mimicking his tone; 2) that the interviewer twisted the interview to sound like that because he thought it would be cool; 3) that the actor simply wanted to “fit in” with the publication and shifted his persona accordingly.

I hope it’s #1. If it’s #3, I lose most of my respect for him. I know, from personal experience that interviews are part of the work and you do put on a persona for them, even if that persona is close to your own. But this was just crossing the line, as far as I was concerned.

It also gives me something interesting to use in one of the pieces I have in process – that chameleon-like shift that can cause one character to betray another.

So, while the person interviewed may be falling lower on my personal Performer Totem, it gave me something good I can use in my work.

Many people might think, “Well, why does it matter?”

As someone who works with actors, it matters to me. If I’m dressing a performer, I don’t particularly have to like the person, as long as we can set some ground rules for mutual consideration and respect. Let’s face it – the relationship between an actor and a dresser can’t help but have a level of emotional intensity and intimacy, because you’re dealing with the performer changing clothes. You’re handling them – literally – when they are half-dressed or undressed. There’s the professionalism of handling the person gently, firmly, in a way that does not make the performer feel uncomfortable, and a high level of discretion involved. There’s also the emotional aspect – the dresser is in the closest contact with the performer. The dresser is the one who takes the emotional temperature in the room every night or in the wings during cues and adjusts so that the performer feels comforted and supported. If something goes wrong on stage or off stage, if the performer feels insecure or attacked that night, the dresser has to provide the equilibrium and pull the performer through the show. It requires as much skill in psychology as in sewing.

One of the reasons I keep getting hired and am in some actors’ contracts before they even agree to do a show is because I’m very good at both the physical and emotional aspects of the job. I also don’t gossip – any backstage anecdotes I share here, especially if I name a name, has been discussed with the person in question before I post. I protect my performer from intrusions at times when the performer needs to concentrate – yeah, you want the person when you shouldn’t be back there, you’re going to have to go through ME and let me tell you, one of us is going down and it WILL be you. And I’m also very straight forward with the performer. Ask me a question, I’ll tell you what I really think. I don’t ass kiss. I don’t get hired by actors who need ass kissers in the dressing room. I get hired to work with actors who want someone to keep them grounded in reality so they can fly when they hit the stage.

And if I can’t respect an actor, I can’t work with that person. I have a very short list of performers with whom I would not work again, no matter how much money I was offered. Because it simply isn’t worth it.

As a writer, I tend to work on small, independent projects. Whenever possible, my contract includes casting approval – unless I trust the producer and/or director so much I let it fly, or unless I’m simply brought in as a for-hire. I tend to be quite involved in the rehearsal process, which I love, and again, there’s a level of intimacy achieved with the actors. In the best of all possible worlds, the director is not threatened by it, and the work can go to new heights. You’re dealing with each other’s psyches as much as the psyches of the characters on the page. There has to be an enormous level of trust in order for it to work.

When you’re finished with a production, hopefully everyone involved is changed for the better, because you’ve shared parts of yourself with your fellow creative people (and that includes the crew) and no one else on this planet has had the same experience as this particular group of people.

Every project changes the participants.

Every actor goes in to every first rehearsal hoping that this experience will be something like Lord of the Rings was to its cast or Lost is to its cast or Rent is to its cast. You want it all to mesh so that you are all the best you can be and create, together, something bigger than all of you, that is a gift to the audience that makes them see, feel, and experience the world differently.

That’s why we do this.

And that’s why I pay close attention to performers not only in performances, but in interview situations. I have the list in my head of actors I’ve worked with and would love to work with again; of actors with whom I haven’t worked, but am interested in working; and actors that I’d prefer stay over there and I’ll just go about my creative life over here, thank you very much.

There are many, many creative people out there, and we’re all looking for our perfect matches. With film, you find the right match and it’s saved forever. With theatre, it changes every night, and once the show is closed, it’s gone forever. But the connection, even if you never see or work with the people again, is always there. There is a type of love and affection that develops between a creative group working together that can’t ever be mimicked. It’s new and fresh and exciting every time.

It’s the exhilaration of the creative process.

D.

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