Cowan Palace: Yeah, What DO You Say To An Actor Who Just Bombed On Stage?

This week Ashley interviews herself.

Earlier this week, the Chicago Tribune ran an article titled, What do you say to an actor who just bombed on stage?

Oh, juicy topic, right?! What DO you say?! The piece explored the thoughts of a few local artists and while San Francisco may be miles away from Chicago’s scene, many of the opinions of those interviewed are universal and quite relatable. Whether you’re the actor in a show that may be more “bomb” than “da bomb” or whether you’re sitting in the audience as a friend watching an explosion, talking about the experience afterward can be awkward, uncomfortable, and unpleasant.

What are the expectations of those in your creative circle? Are you on the side of, “if you don’t have anything nice, don’t say anything at all”? or are you “Team Nice Guy Even If I Gotta Lie”?

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I decided I’d answer some of the questions in the Chicago Tribune article because I’m sure they would love that. Here are my thoughts:

What’s going through your head when you’re watching a terrible show?

Sometimes I’m thinking, “Yikes. I’m glad I didn’t get cast in this.” or to be even less humble about it, I’m thinking, “Huh. Would I have been this bad?” But most of the time I’m hopeful until the very end. I’m one of those people who can not turn off a bad TV movie until the very last second. Even if I HATE it. And I’ve never left a play until curtain call either because I honestly have hope until it’s really over that there’s still time for it to magically come together. Even though it almost never does.

While I’m a terrible liar, I’m also a known “nice girl” but it’s not usually that hard for me to find something that I enjoyed from a performance. Usually, after I show, I’ll say something like, “wow that was something! I don’t know if it’s the script for me but I liked _______” and then fill in the blank. If I’m there supporting my actor friend, I’ll find a moment of their performance that I liked and focus on that. So if I’m in the middle of a terrible show, I purposely try to seek out those moments of good so that I can use them as discussion points later.

When you’re the one performing in a show.

Yeah, been there, done that, will inevitably do it again. As much as I’d like to have tougher skin, I’m still sensitive and super vulnerable after any performance. And when I know I have friends in the audience, I’m even more aware of it. It does break my heart when I know I have a pal attending the show and then that person conveniently disappears immediately after curtain call and I don’t hear from them. That cold silence sometimes feels quite cruel. While I don’t want to make them uncomfortable or force them to say harsher words for the sake of being honest, sometimes you just want your friends to quietly hug you and simply appreciate your attempt, your work; regardless of how they felt about the show.

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Ever skipped the hellos?

I’m sure I have! Sometimes I have to catch a bus! But if I do leave, I try to reach out to my friend in the show and leave them with some kind thought. This year though, I challenged myself to stay around after a show to say those kind thoughts in person. Considering I don’t get a ton of social nights out anymore, I also relish these hellos because often it’s a chance to talk to a friend I haven’t seen for awhile.

As an actor, I have stayed in the dressing long a little too long after a show because I’ve been scared of facing certain audience members, assuming they hated it and not feeling brave enough to meet their eyes. I’d like to keep working on that.

Do you have a go-to line that you rely on?

I don’t. And I kind of encourage you not to because each performance is a different, unique thing. My advice is this, if you’re in the audience, allow yourself to have an honest opinion but give the show a chance. Try, try, try, to find something good. Even if it’s teeny tiny. I get it, sometimes shows are trash! But as a member of a small creative community, it’s a nice thing to try.

What do you guys think? How do you handle “terrible” shows? Do you think San Francisco fosters a different post-show environment than Chicago? As always, we’d love to hear your thoughts!

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Cowan Palace: Everywhere You Look And Why I Can’t Watch Fuller House

Shoo-bit-a-ba-ba-bow, Ashley’s pretty sure the Full House theme song was written just for her.

It’s no secret I’m a Full House fan.

I mean, one of my Cowan Palace blogs used Full House catchphrases to talk about Theatre Bay Area reference the Tanner family constantly, and my husband and fellow blogger, Will Leschber, and I even themed our pregnancy announcement around the show.

Do I think it’s the best show in the history of television? No, of course not. It’s cheesier than the pizza of Kevin McCallister’s dreams. The canned laugher, the studio applause, the less than desirable acting choices, the questionable writing, the production quality? Yeah, yeah, I know all about it, have mercy. I still love Full House.

For me, it’s not about the crappy stuff mentioned above. As crazy as it sounds, this silly sitcom somehow managed to turn itself into a guidepost for me and a soundtrack to my dreams of being an actor.

When Full House started, I watched every episode longing to be on the show. As an actor. I would copy the reactions the characters would display, I would try to make myself cry during all the sappy scenes with sad music, and I would practice whatever I saw in an attempt to prove that I was just as good as those Tanner gals! By the time the show went into syndication, I had acted my way through the series.

After I studied theatre in college, I moved to Brooklyn with three of my closest friends from our program. Because with four years of dominating our small black box stage in Rhode Island we were clearly ready for Broadway! While we grew hungry beginning our new roles as starving artists, we each took side jobs with random hours. As fate would have it, for about a year, we often worked in the afternoons and evenings leaving us with this sweet time spot to devote to Full House reruns. The show would play for an hour at noon every day and in between trying to memorize lines to audition sides or stapling my headshot and resume to send out to another place I’d never hear back from, the Tanner family’s lives would neatly unfold for us in a beautiful, comforting loop. It was always there in the background as we chased our theatrical dreams.

The dream and its pursuit eventually sent me to California. And behold, the chance to actually live in THE San Francisco seemed perfect. Though I had never been to the city, I had probably seen each episode of Full House like 5-10 times by that point so what else was there to know? When Comet goes missing, you check Fisherman’s Wharf. When Uncle Jesse’s graduating high school, take the underground transportation system.

Also, I’d be lying if I said my inner child wasn’t completely ecstatic to live in this place I had only seen through TV.

And so San Francisco became my home. It’s been my place or residence for over eight years now. I’ve seen it change as I changed, sometimes molding into each other, sometimes moving away from each other. I continued watching old reruns of Full House as a comfort blanket during cold, foggy times and I kept hold of the dream that had brought me here in the first place.

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When Fuller House came out, everyone knew I’d be all over it. Especially considering, this time, I live in the same city as the Tanners! We’re neighbors! I got texts from friends asking me what kind of themed snack I planned to have ready when it finally premiered. But when it launched, I found myself unable to watch it.

I know the reviews are scathing. I know it can’t possibly hold up all the expectations fans have for it. I know it’s going to be even cheesier than before and now that we’re older that cheese will probably feel stale and moldy and unappetizing.

And I hear the theme song playing over in my brain, “What ever happened to predictability? The milk man, the paper boy, the evening TV? How did I get delivered here? Somebody tell me please. This old world’s confusing me.” It makes me nostalgic and emotional! I let the pre-chorus continue, “Clouds as mean as you’ve ever seen, ain’t a bird who knows your tune, then a little voice inside you whispers, “Kid, don’t sell your dreams so soon!””

I think about my dreams. The ones since childhood and the ones that continue to mature and develop. I think about how I got here and why I love San Francisco but how lately what was once unwavering commitment to stay here and live out my dream has started to waver. I think about how many feelings I have and get overwhelmed.

Thinking about Full House and Fuller House suddenly brings out all these questions and emotions in me during a time in my life when I’m already feeling questionable and emotional. I’m not sure I’m ready to see how the Tanner gals grew up and what happened to their dreams because I’m having a hard time processing that I’m grown up now too. For me, watching DJ get through first kisses has a different weight now than watching her manage the difficulties of raising kids in the city. I’m still trying to navigate my own dreams.

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Obviously, I’m gonna watch it. If I could, I’d watch it with my family back in our Connecticut living room, in my 70’s wallpapered Brooklyn apartment with my college friends and my headshots all over the floor, and here in San Francisco with Will and my daughter, Scarlett all at once.

But I still need a little more time to work my way up to it. Which is so ridiculous, I know.

Until then, I let the theme song finish playing in my mind, “Everywhere you look, everywhere you go, there’s a heart (there’s a heart), a hand to hold onto, Everywhere you look, everywhere you go, there’s a face of somebody who needs you, everywhere you look. When you’re lost out there and you’re all alone, a light is waiting to carry you home. Everywhere you look, Everywhere you look. Shoo-bit-a-ba-ba-bow”.

And just like that, I’m comforted again.

Cowan Palace: Embracing The Mirror, Part One: Ashley, Plain and Tall

In part one of this two-part blog (featuring Marissa and Ashley’s tall tales) Ashley considers the height hype.

“You’re like that book. Sarah, Plain and Tall? But, like, it’s you. Ashley, Plain and Tall!”

I let his words linger in the air like they were bubbles about to pop. I forced the look on my face to go from “shocked and hurt” to “playfully shocked and hurt.” This was not exactly the sentiment I was looking for from the guy I kind of had a crush on after a performance.

I had just finished playing my first “romantic lead.” Sure. It was a ten minute play directed by my classmates for a student run production. But it was the first time I got to do a stage kiss! And wear something that didn’t resemble a bag! Plus, I didn’t have to cover my face in old age makeup (fun fact: old age makeup is still pretty much the only makeup style I feel like I can “do” well) or cover my hair with baby powder and gray hairspray. Ah, college. The actor I was paired with was slightly shorter than I was so I had been costumed in a modest heel but since I barely noticed, I didn’t think anyone in the audience would care.

And, duh, I knew I was tall. By that point (at age 18), I had already been told that I couldn’t convincingly play a high school student and that I was really more of a Nurse and/or Mrs. Capulet than a Juliet. At 5’9’’ I also knew I was ineligible to ever become a Disney princess (as they do not allow their ladies to be over 5’8’’) so my dreams of playing Belle fell short (ohhh, punny, huh?).

But let’s get back to my crush! Why was “tall” now synonymous with “plain”?! That hardly seemed fair. I went home and listened to a Coldplay mix CD trying to make sense of it all.

I continued college scoring great roles meant for older actresses and when I graduated, I moved to New York and began auditioning. I’ll never forget getting a callback for a role in a short play and being the tallest person in the room. The scene I was reading for was for the role of “daughter” and the actors playing my mother, father, and brother were all several inches smaller than I was. I was the only actor that managed to get a laugh out of the audition panel but sadly, I never heard from them again.

After that, I packed flats to every audition. And tried to practice hairstyles that could maybe make me appear a little shorter (yuck, I hate admitting that). When I reached out to my tall theatre friends, I loved hearing the stories they encountered in their theatrical pursuits because it meant I was not alone. Colleen Egan told me, “I had to wear flats once while my male counterpart was put in lifts because the director was so distracted by our height difference.” Which I find so fascinating! Why are we so uncomfortable with a woman being taller than the guy she’s with?

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Luckily for me, when I found myself in San Francisco with a role in “Tony ‘n Tina’s Wedding”, my perception of height and my relation to it completely changed. Suddenly, I was in a show surrounded by beautiful Amazons. I was no longer the tallest one in the play! Yes, for the most part, our male counterparts were shorter. Sometimes, much shorter. But we learned to embrace it and play it up. We wore ridiculously tall high heels and made our hair as big as possible. When we had to kiss our fictional boyfriends, we thought it was hilarious and usually, the audience did, too.

I reached out to some of my past castmates in TNT regarding being tall in the theatre and they had these gems to share:

Mariah Castle (who was our original Tina) said, “I do remember being worried that audiences wouldn’t believe the casting when I was paired with a Tony who was significantly shorter than me. But it always seemed to turn out fine. I actually loved being paired with one short Tony in particular because he was such a strong performer. He owned his role and the room, so I felt proud to perform opposite him and pretend to be his “wife” for a night.”

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Sarah Rose Kistner added, “There were also some pretty ridiculous pairings (in terms of height) in TNT that I definitely worried about looking legit. I would have to tell myself little stories like “Okay, maybe Dom is just seriously into tall chicks!” or “Maybe Dom is just seriously into chicks… any chicks.” In the end, I don’t know if any of those relationships appeared authentic, but they at least appeared funny. I will say that my height probably helped me get cast as Amazon Hippolyta in Impact’s 80’s version of Midsummer Night’s Dream, where I was paired with a tragically, tiny Theseus. I think the dramatic height difference added a certain amount of inherent physical comedy. I did always have a sense that, if I were to continue with my acting career, I’d probably have an easier time being tall on film than on stage.”

Lastly, the lovely Stephanie Renee Wozniak left us with this wonderful wisdom:

“Okay, Tall Girl Theatre problems:

1. ALWAYS being in the back row in musical theatre productions. No matter how well you know the steps, you’re gonna have to be in the back because you’re a giant. And forget about partner dancing! If it’s a show where there’s a bunch of partner work, well, then congratulations! You’ll be playing a dude!
2. Playing dudes! I’ve literally played more male roles than female roles. Which it totally cool because some of the best roles out there are for men. I mean I got to play Hamlet so what am I complaining about?
3. NEVER playing the ingenue because the leading men are too short. Which is okay because the sassy best friend has all the best lines anyway.
4. Playing ALL of the adult roles from the time you’re 12. I played M’Lynne in Steel Mags when I was 23. My roommate was Shelby. And we rocked it.

Yes, there are challenges with being an Amazon actress, but on the other had, these long legs have been solely responsible for getting me cast in several productions. Incidentally, come see me in Sweet Charity this Spring at Hillbarn!”

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Obviously, I’m quite proud to have shared a stage with those women. Being around other tall actresses and performing the show for years made my height feel “normal”, sometimes humorous, and something I should absolutely stop apologizing for.

Now when I get to an audition, I still pack flats if I’m wearing heels and I still consider my hair (I have no problem cutting bangs into my look hours before if I think it’ll help get a part) but I’ve stopped thinking so much about being taller than many of the actors around me – I’ve convinced myself that I just have more height to store talent.

Things never went anywhere with that college crush. But I did get cast in a romantic lead with my now husband who is also taller than me! So things worked out okay there! No Coldplay mixes were needed. And lastly, “tall” is not synonymous with “plain” so I’d greatly appreciate it if you could all call me, “Ashley, Tall and Excited By Froyo” from here on out. Until tomorrow, my friends! I look forward to continuing this discussion with Marissa!

Working Title: The Ruhl’s of Kissing

This week Will Leschber closes his eyes and gets ready for a Stage Kiss!

My first stage kiss was with Jessica Middleton. Do you remember yours? Ah yes… First semester of college was starting off with a bang! My guess is that I got the part in that readers’ theater original play of Mother Jones because I was good at making bashful googley eyes at attractive actresses and know how to positively lose all brain function when making said googley eyes. Ask my wife, she knows!

But back to the story… so the audition called for an actor and an actress to sit, hold hands, look into each others eyes and have a conversation using only the letters of the alphabet, the ABC’s. I say A?. She says B. I say C! And so on. So I get to around P and…damn…her eyes…they are such a radiant deep shade of cedar brown…it’s like a circular forest folding in on itself and then peering into me…and oh shit…what letter is next…oh my god…did I forget the next letter in the alphabet! Why did I skip kindergarten?!

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I look over at the director…no help. I look back at the Jessica just to check how much I’m ruining her audition,,, and she kindly smiles and says, “Q?”. Man, did I look like an idiot! But, apparently, I looked like an idiot who liked a girl enough to forget the alphabet when looking into her eyes. And wouldn’t you know it, we both got cast. Hooray for being young and dumb, huh!

A first kiss, a first stage kiss, they are hard to forget. We forge them into our stories and use them as touchstones pointing toward who we are and who we were. What do you remember about your first kiss? Was it gentle and sweet? Did you clunk teeth? Was it somehow not a total disaster?! Was it the best ever?

I had the pleasure of speaking to Millie DeBenedet about some of her own Stage Kiss…ing. Millie is a Bay Area actress/director/cocker-spaniel enthusiast and currently plays Laurie/Millicent in Stage Kiss, at SF Playhouse, this holiday season. And of course, while asking after perfect stage kisses, I had to ask for her thoughts on an equally romantic cinematic kiss that would couple well in that vein. She had this to say…

She (Carrie Paff*) and Millicent (Millie DeBenedet) rehearse a scene from ‘The Last Kiss’.

She (Carrie Paff*) and Millicent (Millie DeBenedet) rehearse a scene from ‘The Last Kiss’.

Stage Kiss is Sarah Ruhl’s love poem to actors. The play is utterly romantic. It reveals the twisted dynamics actors find themselves in when they wind up in a showmance. I think it’s easy for actors to confuse lust vs. love. The work of Theatre (like the game of love) requires so much risk-taking. Having a crush on one of your coworkers is inevitable. How you deal with those feelings, well…

She (Carrie Paff*) kisses understudy Kevin (Allen Darby) as Director (Mark Anderson Phillips*) looks on during auditions.

She (Carrie Paff*) kisses understudy Kevin (Allen Darby) as Director (Mark Anderson Phillips*) looks on during auditions.

DeBenedet continues…

To accompany your taste buds the following films are great pairings for Stage Kiss:

1. The Lady Eve (1941) – Because it embodies the dicey and passionate relationship between He & She. However, He is more like Barbara Stanwyck’s character and She is more like Henry Fonda.

2. Let’s Make Love (1960) – The tone is similar to Stage Kiss. However, I think Carrie Paff is a much stronger female lead than Marilyn Monroe. Another similarity is you understand the play-within-a-play idea.

3. Love, Actually (2003) – This is my unsophisticated answer. At one point in Stage Kiss, there are a couple of different love stories you could follow, similarly to Love Actually. Also because it’s a funny holiday rom-com.

Love doesn’t have to be sophisticated. It just has to make you, well… feeling something! These are all excellent choices, but my, my, if I go one holiday season without watching the glory that is Love, Actually, my heart withers a little. Good choice, I say! Now, my first stage kiss my have not lead anywhere besides a decent role my first semester at university, however, my last stage kiss was shared with my wife…so don’t shut down those showmance feelings too early. You never know where a showmance can sweep you off to. As Millie said, how you deal with those feelings, well…well that is a key part in how you continually mold who you are, and where your emotional future may go. It’s a gift.

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Stage Kiss runs at the SF Playhouse until January 9. Tuesday – Thursday at 7pm, Friday at 8pm, Saturday at 3pm & 8pm, Select Sundays at 2pm

If you are searching for classic fare, The Lady Eve can be found for rent on Amazon, iTunes, Vudu and other e-rental depots; Let’s Make Love may be a little harder to find, but I trust your savvy searching ways. And way too many copies of Love, Actually can be found in my DVD cabinet (what’s a DVD cabinet, you say?) or Netflix.

Sources:

Palopoli, Jessica. “She (Carrie Paff*) kisses understudy Kevin (Allen Darby) as Director (Mark Anderson Phillips*) looks on during auditions.” 2016. Photograph. http://sfplayhouse.org/

Palopoli, Jessica. “She (Carrie Paff*) and Millicent (Millie DeBenedet) rehearse a scene from ‘The Last Kiss.’” 2016. Photograph. http://sfplayhouse.org/

Theater Around The Bay: The Audition and Casting Process (Emilio Rodriguez, Janet Bentley)

Part Two of Peter Hsieh’s interview with some of his favorite directors.

Last Time I interviewed Lana Russell and Stuart Bousel about the casting and audition process in regards to new works; here is part two with Emilio Rodriguez and Janet Bentley. I met Emilio while we were at the University of California, Irvine and the pleasure of working with him a year ago when he directed my play Interstate at the Detroit Fringe Festival. I met Janet when she directed the New York premiere of Interstate at T. Schreiber Studio theater. I had a great time working with both these theatre makers and they continue to be at the helm of new works in their respective art communities.

My play Interstate as directed by Janet Bentley.

My play Interstate as directed by Janet Bentley.

Tell us about your experience with new works. What do you enjoy about them? Why is it important to support that avenue of theatre?

Rodriguez: My love of new works didn’t really happen until I started writing. This is why I agree with Paula Vogel, that we need to encourage more people to write; because it changes the way one goes to the theatre and their investment in it.
Now, I not only write and direct new plays but I also curate several new play festivals. I am always excited when I open a new script. There is a spectrum of reactions I can have based on the writing. My favorite is finding something that makes me feel like the wind got knocked out of me. That moment where time stops for a second as you absorb the ending line or stage direction. The beauty of reading new works is that I do not have a cap on how many times I’ll feel that in my lifetime because there will always be more plays to read.

To me, new plays are just as exciting as new music. It’s counterintuitive to me that people will break the internet to buy Beyonce’s newest CD and stand outside in the pouring rain to wait for Best Buy to release Taylor Swift’s newest CD, but when a new play is produced, there is this skepticism; it’s as if everyone is waiting for the new work to have approval of the Pulitzer or a Tony. We need new work. We need new voices. Society is constantly evolving, so our stories need to change with us, just as our music does.

Emilio Rodriguez. Doesn’t want to hear Viola’s Ring monologue anymore.

Emilio Rodriguez. Doesn’t want to hear Viola’s Ring monologue anymore.

Bentley: I started my work in theatre, like most people, in acting. I was raised by an acting teacher who taught me everything I needed to know about The Method and I remember desperately loving text analysis for the actor when I was in my undergrad. Writing character biographies felt like a collaboration with my deepest self and the playwright and that always excited me. When I was accepted into the Iowa Playwright’s Workshop, I was introduced to the exciting process of working alongside living writers of various backgrounds and I was even more charged by the process because I could work together with these writers using active empathy in action – a most satisfying step beyond the silent investigation of works codified by a published final draft and/or the long since deceased and absent writer whose voice had been interpreted many times.

While many theatres often select the “tried and true” classic and/or contemporary well-known play or musical because they are financially looking for a “safe bet”, I am dedicated to the pursuit of new voices, new stories, and new perspectives to support and fulfill into new works because I feel that this is the only way to progress as a species.

What are some of the challenges of casting new works, especially for a festival or evening of multiple plays?

Bentley: Since festivals of new works are often bravely put up by organizations that may or may not have funding to pay the actors, the first challenge is to casting good actors willing to work for free/practically nothing. Of course, I have been working on building a network of smart, collaborative actors who are willing to donate their time to the promotion of new work. I often look for new play development-specific entries on actors’ resumes when casting because this does help me with my decisions. (On that note, I always advocate for some kind of stipend for actors whenever possible because everyone’s work should receive some kind of gesture of thanks).

Janet Bentley. Don’t ‘Sharon Stone’ her at auditions.

Janet Bentley. Don’t ‘Sharon Stone’ her at auditions.

Rodriguez: I try to do auditions for most of the festivals I manage, but this inevitably leads to a few stand out actors who all of the directors want to cast. Because of time constraints, our actors can only commit to so many shows which means that directors often have to compromise on casting. This changes the chemistry between the actors and sometimes the ideal actor that a director fought for doesn’t give the same performance when cast opposite another actor. This is why I sometimes think it’s better to not do auditions for festivals. If all of the directors are comfortable casting on their own, as was the case with the Detroit Fringe festival this year, then I skip the audition process.

There are a lot of people for and against pre-casting. There are a lot of practical reasons it is done (i.e. Writer/ Director had a specific actor in mind), but a lot of people bring up the arguments against it as well. What are your thoughts on pre-casting, and as producer/directors what would you say to Directors and actors in regards to this?

Rodriguez: When I was primarily an actor, I was adamantly against pre-casting. I felt it was unfair to never be given a shot. I just wanted to be seen and have an unbiased opportunity to share my craft. Now that I work more as a playwright and director, I have changed my mind. To me the most important thing is that the best person is cast, whether I find them or they find me. I think it is important that people have the chance to be seen, but also, in order to best honor the playwright, I believe that seeking out talent in advance is sometimes necessary. I try not to precast but I do need to make sure I can cast properly. I usually hold an audition, but I also ask actors who I’m strongly considering for the parts to audition so that I have options if I don’t find the appropriate new talent at the audition. I hope that’s a fair compromise because I do see the validity in both sides of the argument.

Bentley: I think that having people in mind is a natural, inevitable part of the process, but officially pre-casting is a “safe-guard” that can seriously stifle my favorite part of directing: being surprised and inspired by actors. There have been two instances when pre-casting proved to be unwise: once I had someone in mind for the role of Baal, I precast him, and then he moved to Chicago before the show so I held auditions. I saw an actor that I never thought would work and he surprised me – the role brought something out of him that was dying to get out and I was relieved that the other actor had actually left town. The other time, an actress was precast in a short play by the artistic director and though she delivered a decent performance in the end, I was haunted by the audition of another actress who just nailed it. (Yes, they actually made me hold auditions for the role in order to “keep up appearances” – something I would implore other artistic directors never to enforce on their directors).

On the flip side of this: when playwrights write something for a specific actor, this is a different sort of animal. I have a number of actors whose unique qualities are so inspiring that I am entertaining a couple of playwrights with the idea of writing something for these actors (also, I sympathize greatly with the predicament of some actors who are often passed over because they are so unique and specific a type that there are either no roles for them or no directors creative enough to embrace an unconventional interpretation of the production).

Pre-casting. This is the girl.

Pre-casting. This is the girl.

What are some things actors do that make you want to cast them, conversely what are some of the things they do that make you not want to cast them?

Rodriguez: I love working with actors who will try anything and make it work. The skeptical actors, the ones who say “I feel like my character wouldn’t do that” are the ones I tend not to work with again. That’s actually my least favorite phrase and usually a red flag for me in the rehearsal process. I think it’s great that they have a sense of their character, but when they negate choices too early it makes their characters one dimensional. In my opinion, whether it’s a new work or a published script, every character needs to do something unexpected or “out of character” at least once in the play. If an actor truly feels like my direction or my dialogue is detrimental to the performance, we can settle that after they give me a good, fully-committed stab at it.

Bentley: Things that get you cast: being prepared, making choices, being in the moment, punctuality, flexibility, helpfulness, openness, hunger for the process, and courtesy. Conversely, if the actor hasn’t worked on the material and at least googled for definitions and pronunciations, if s/he doesn’t take an adjustment, if s/he is late, or if any of these examples of disregard for the process, I am not interested in casting such an actor.

The minute you walk into the building, you’re “onstage”. If you come to a studio and there is a production SM/audition monitor receiving you and handing you paperwork, which is the beginning of your audition. If you are rude to her/him, the casting directors, etc, will know about it. If you are courteous, organized, and awesome, we will know. If you are to audition with a reader and the scene calls for touching, don’t just touch the reader. Smile, introduce yourself, and politely ask if it is okay to touch their hand or shoulder and accept their answer.

If you are performing a monologue, most audition books warn against using the casting directors and say to find an eye-line above their heads. However, if the text suggests a direct address to the audience, ask the casting directors what their preference is.
What you wear: Example: if you are auditioning for Doubt, don’t buy a nun or priest’s costume and wear it to the audition. Wear something that suggests the tone of the characters like black and white. If you do feel compelled to put on a veil, check what kind of nun you’re going out for before depicting the wrong order (Sisters of Charity wore bonnets and a certain kind of dress similar to their founder in the 19th century so do the research before making the assumption that Sister Aloysis looks like she’s about to sing “Climb Every Mountain”). If you’re going out for the perfect housewife, don’t dress like a 1970s punk. If you’re going out for a slick lawyer, don’t dress like a plumber. Why am I saying this? These things have happened! Neutral and professional is best: darker colors on the feet and pants or skirt / lighter on top. You don’t want the casting directors staring at your feet.

Oh and please do not Sharon Stone the readers and casting directors. Remember Basic Instinct? Don’t do it.

Head Shot: if you don’t look like your head shot, get new ones.
Resume: Please keep it on one page and make sure it is formatted in a professional way (Google templates for entertainment/actor resumes).

Remember Basic Instinct? Newman does.

Remember Basic Instinct? Newman does.

Monologue you’d be okay never hearing again.

Bentley: Bridal Registry from A…My Name Is Alice, The Tuna monologue from Laughing Wild, Anything from Steel Magnolias, Crimes of the Heart, and Star-Spangled Girl.

Rodriguez: Viola’s ring monologue. I hear it every time I direct a Shakespeare show. For contemporary monologues, there is one about a woman eating her ex-husband’s divorce papers and dipping them in Ketchup. It’s a great monologue, but I’ve heard it done by a phenomenal actress so now every time other people do it, I automatically remember how great the first actress was and I tune out as I reminisce.

Some higher power has made you Supreme Overlord of Theatre. Cast your favorite play with any cast you want.

Rodriguez: This is such a fun question! I really want to direct a new play called The Living Life of the Daughter Mira by Matthew Paul Olmos. My dream cast would be Tony Revolori as Lazaro, Aimee Carrero as Luna/Mira, Gina Rodriguez as Maya, Rosie Perez as Lupe, and Raul Esparza as Efren.

Bentley: A Delicate Balance by Edward Albee with John Noble (Fringe TV Show) as Tobias, Helen Mirren as Agnes, Kristine Sutherland as Edna, Anthony Stewart Head as Harry, and Parker Posey as Julia.

Kristine Sutherland and Anthony Stewart Head. Probably familiar if you watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Kristine Sutherland and Anthony Stewart Head. Probably familiar if you watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Emilio Rodriguez is a theatre artist nomad currently residing in Detroit. His most recent play “Swimming While Drowning” was part of the Activate Midwest Festival and the Latino Theatre Commons Carnaval of New Work. It also earned him a residency with UMS, Djerassi, and the Mitten Lab. As a producer, he has worked on the Detroit Fringe Festival, The Michigan Playwrights Festival at Theatre Nova and The Women’s Play Fest at Two Muses Theatre. Women’s Play Fest at Two Muses; Detroit Free Press on Detroit Fringe.

Janet Bentley is a freelance theatre director, actor, writer, dramaturg, literary manager, composer, sound designer, singer, amateur photographer, and company member for the New York-based Nylon Fusion Theatre Company. Janet holds an MFA in dramaturgy from the University of Iowa and a BA in theatre from the University of South Florida (Tampa). She currently lives in New York, NY. Now Playing: http://www.nylonfusion.org/#!comes-a-faery/c1q11 (Sound and original music)
Updates: https://janeturgy.wordpress.com/theatre/.

Peter Hsieh is a playwright from San Jose, California. Recent credits include his play Interstate at the Detroit Fringe Festival and T. Schreiber Studio, Argus at the San Francisco Olympians Festival, and Maybe at Brooklyn College as part of GI60 2015. Additionally, his works have been produced and developed by Hollywood Fringe Festival, Piney Fork Press, Douglas Morrisson Theatre, NYU Performing Arts Club, Nylon Fusion Collective, Actor’s Company, Brooklyn College, North Park Playwright’s Festival, Viaduct Theatre, SPROUT, San Francisco Theatre Pub, World Premiere Weekend, City Light’s Theater Company, GI60, San Jose Rep’s Emerging Artist Lab, West Valley College, and Fringe of Marin. Peter is a graduate from the University of California, Irvine.

Cowan Palace: Colleen, Eden, And Jessica Walk Into A Bar…

… and delight Theater Pub’s Pint-Sized Play Festival’s audiences!

Well, Pint-Sized plays have officially returned to San Francisco! And after two performances earlier this week with packed houses, the festival is very much alive and thriving. Completing this creative team of superheroes are three actors who kindly offered me some of their time to chat about their experiences performing in this year’s show. The lovely and talented, Colleen Egan, Eden Neuendorf, and Jessica Rudholm!

Tell us a little more about the character(s) you’ll be playing.

Colleen Egan: I will be playing two very different women who are being cheated on by their male significant others. They go about dealing with their anguish in different ways. One woman decides to plot a sweet 1940’s noir-style revenge and the other shotguns a beer to drown her sorrows. I feel like my response to that type of betrayal (as Colleen) would fall somewhere in between.

Eden Neuendorf: I play 3 different characters throughout the evening. Each is a different aspect of my own personality and all three are in very different states of mind. Amy is having some problems in her personal life and is seeking the help from her BFF who is too busy playing Candy Crush to pay attention.

Grace is probably my biggest challenge in the festival because she is a science nerd. (Just typing science made my eyes gloss over.) So I needed to teach myself what I’m actually saying so I can explain it in truth. Even though this one was the biggest challenge for me, I think Grace is closest to me as a real life person. Adam and Grace have a very complicated relationship and we get to see them interact in their adorable, nerdy awkwardness.

Finally, Sage is the character who is so open and just having a great time in the bar. This is by far the easiest one for me to play. I mean, I’ve already been having a good time in a bar leading up to it. Last night some of the patrons at the bar sang along to the song with me. That was the best!

Jessica Rudholm: I play two characters: 1) Alice – a woman looking for love in all the wrong places, and 2) Stella Artois – a woman who just wants to be left alone with her Heineken Lite.

Jessica, enjoying a moment alone in a very crowded bar.

Jessica, enjoying a moment alone in a very crowded bar.

If your character was a pint of something to drink, what would they be?

Colleen Egan: Alicia (from People Having Important Conversations While On Their Phones, Part 4) would have anything alcoholic. Amelia (from Magic Trick) would have a martini, but just one, she needs to keep her scheming wits about her.

Eden Neuendorf: Amy is totally a stiff martini. Grace is an IPA girl all the way. Sage is any kind of beer the bar has available to her. She’s not picky, she’s just down for a good time.

Jessica Rudholm: STELLA!!!!! I’m not sure about Alice – is there an awkward beer?

What’s the best part of performing in a bar?

Colleen Egan: I like that anything can happen. I know that sounds pretty cliche, but you need to stay on your toes because you cannot expect things to go according to plan, which is great practice for an actor, or really just for any human. I am also particularly stoked to be performing in *this* bar because my parents used to go on dates to Original Joe’s before they got married and they’ll be going on a date to see Pint-Sized. So you know, things come full circle or something.

Eden Neuendorf: The best part is that it’s always different. You are always fighting to keep the attention on your scene in the bar. I love that challenge. I love that things will always be different.

Jessica Rudholm: The spontaneity that comes with live theatre is even more tangible because you are melding it with a working bar. Anything could happen. I love that.

What’s been the biggest surprise (and/or challenge) in being involved in this year’s production?

Colleen Egan: It has been a whirlwind! Marissa cast me on Tuesday and I’m in a show in less than a week! It’s a bit of a challenge but more than anything it’s exhilarating!

Eden Neuendorf: I knew that it was going to be fun to perform in Pint-Sized, but I had no idea it would be THIS MUCH FUN! Drinking beers while acting is a tough job, but someone has to do it!

Jessica Rudholm: The size of the audience has been amazing! It’s been standing room only for both nights so far which means the actors need to be flexible with the blocking, and loud – so much ambient noise!

Colleen as a pint! As imagined by Ashley’s photo app.

Colleen as a pint! As imagined by Ashley’s photo app.

What do you think would happen if we sent The Llama (played by Rob Ready) and The Bear (played by Allison Page) to Vegas together with five hundred bucks?

Colleen Egan: I mean, I hope they would get married by Elvis. But I’m a hopeless romantic. Realistically they would end up in jail.

Eden Neuendorf: So much beautiful love and partying would happen. The money would be gone right away, but there would be a wedding…and then an “oh shit” moment. I’d really like to see them on stage after that trip.

Jessica Rudholm: I think they would blow it on the slot machines in 20 minutes. Or maybe have a romantic evening eating all the meatballs at a buffet and following it up with front row tickets to Celine Dion’s concert.

What drink can your fans buy you after the show? Feel free to request snacks!

Colleen Egan: I love pretzels but please no one buy me anything. Just hug me. I’ll be full of nerves!

Eden Neuendorf: Fans can buy me another 805 Blonde. Or an IPA. Or any kind of beer. All of the beers.

Jessica Rudholm: Kombucha. I love Kombucha. Unfortunately it’s not sold at PianoFight.

You heard the woman, give her all the beers! (Photo by: Ignacio Zulueta)

You heard the woman, give her all the beers! (Photo by: Ignacio Zulueta)

Other than your fantastic performances, what’s your favorite part in the evening to watch?

Colleen Egan: I LOVE the play set in the Mos Eisley Cantina! I think it will be hilarious for everyone, but if you’re a Star Wars geek you’ll really embarrass yourself laughing.

Eden Neuendorf: The Bear starts the evening off right. I love hearing her roar into the room. It gets the party started for sure! I love the short vignettes of people having important conversations while on their phones. The dialogue is so pointed and all of the actors are nailing it! The scenes seem extreme, but I think everyone of us can relate. Also, The Llama. That Llama gets me every time.

Jessica Rudholm: Star Wars! And of course Beer Bear and Llama!

Where can we see you performing next?

Colleen Egan: I’ll be playing a witch in Bell, Book and Candle with Piedmont Repertory Theatre in Oakland this Halloween season.

Eden Neuendorf: I perform in Shotz the second Wednesday of every month at PianoFight. Everyone should come check out Shotz, especially if you enjoy Pint-Sized.

Jessica Rudholm: I will be in Theatre Pub’s October production of Richard III as Queen Margaret and the Duchess, and then next year I will be in Custom Made’s production of Middletown as Tour Guide/Attendant.

In twenty words or less, why should we come see this year’s festival?

Colleen Egan: I think this type of engaging, immersive theater is fun and good for the mind and just plain fun.

Eden Neuendorf: Delicious beer, fun people, solid truthful moments, tons of laughter.

Jessica Rudholm: It’s great fun!

So fans, you only have two more chances to see these three talented performers alongside the rest of the fantastic group responsible for 2015’s Pint-Sized plays. Get yourself to PianoFight next Monday and Tuesday to be a part of the beer enhanced magic!

Cowan Palace: My Return to Theatre Bay Area and Other Full House Catch Phrases

Ashley reactivates her Theatre Bay Area account and shares her experience the only way she knows how: through the brilliance of Full House.

Growing up I knew three things: 1.) I wanted to be an actor. 2.) I wanted to live in California because that’s where the cast of Full House lived. 3.) I had a pretty scary dessert obsession, especially those of the chocolate variety.

As an adult, I’ve managed to stay pretty true to those guiding forces. I mean, here I am, living in the Tanner’s backyard trying to balance my love of acting and all things sweet. Though, it’s not exactly like I had pictured and my adventures don’t always fit neatly into 22 minute episodes appropriate for families of all ages. But, again, here I am!

When I first moved here in my early twenties, looking to break into the theater scene, I immediately joined Theatre Bay Area. I combed the gigs section of Craigslist looking for auditions. And honestly, it was great. Within one day of living in San Francisco, I managed to book an audition and get the part. Which resulted in A LOT of solo bedroom performances of “I Think I’m Going to Like It Here” from Annie. I knew it was only a matter of time before I’d find myself auditioning for the San Francisco revival of Rent starring Taye Diggs.

But then I got a little lazy. I stopped actively looking for new opportunities and chose to do whatever projects my friends (or friends of my friends) offered me. Which, honestly, was also great. I’m not always the best auditioner anyway and I got to perform a lot of fun roles thanks to being seen in earlier fun roles. And so my one woman Annie tribute band continued!

Eventually, I let my TBA membership lapse. Which, after a little while, caused the inner child in me to point out, “how are you going to be a real actor if you’re not even trying? The Tanners would be so disappointed in you.” Ouch, inner child, OUCH. But that little creep was right. So a few days ago (and after reading Claire’s article) I resigned up for Theatre Bay Area. And to chronicle my experience back, I thought I’d use the help of some of the token Full House catch phrases. Because, well, duh.

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“You got it, dude!”

Yes, Michelle and/or Mary-Kate and Ashley, I do got it. I signed back up for TBA! And I got a personalized welcome response from James Nelson, which made my day. This is what I love about being an actor in San Francisco. The sense of community that I couldn’t find while living in New York. I felt optimistic that perhaps my reentry into the theater scene would be as well received.

“Oh, Mylanta!”

Interesting exclamation, DJ, eldest and perhaps wisest Tanner sister. But similar sentiment (I mean, I think? I’m not even totally sure why this one became a catchphrase). When I logged on with eager eyes to view the myriad of auditions I assumed I was missing out on, I instead saw a rather short list. Maybe it’s the time of year? Did I just miss the audition season? Or is there just less theater being done than when I joined the site years ago?

“Cut it out!”

Good point, Joey. No need to immediately panic and assume my acting days are numbered so I might as well drive your car into the kitchen! Why not read through these listings first! So I opted to do a search for ANYTHING and EVERYTHING.

“Have mercy!”

Tell me about it, Jesse. And I don’t even have your hair to help my cause. Okay, the first audition on the list is for Shotgun Players. Awesome! I’ve heard great things about working with them. Now, looking through their post I read, “Prep 2 contrasting pieces (musical/movement abilities may be incorporated)”. Yikes bikes. Well, I have been taking a YMCA Zumba class where I always seem to stand next to someone who smells like sweat mixed with orange juice. Should I attempt some Zumba moves with my dramatic Shakespearean monologue?

“How rude!”

No! Stephanie, I wasn’t trying to be rude. I was seriously asking. I could use some assistance getting back into the audition routine… Next, I come across Grey Gardens at Custom Made Theatre. I know before I open it that my current age isn’t really ideal for this one. Which sucks because that show is going to be something special.(Side note: amusingly enough, the last time I auditioned for one of Stuart’s shows, I had my sister cut me some bangs so that I could look younger and more like child Ashley. It shockingly did not work.)

Child Ashley is judging you… are you making the Tanner family proud?

Child Ashley is judging you… are you making the Tanner family proud?

This has been a harder reality to face these days. I’ve seemed to age out of the roles I moved here for, ones for young gals in their early twenties and yet I’m not quite ready for some of those juicy roles meant for women in their forties and fifties. Or, as I like to call that age range, the parts I played in high school and college because I was taller than everyone else.

As I continue perusing through the listings, I notice a few more musicals and many shows that are happening outside of San Francisco. Unfortunately, for the car- less /Treasure Island dwelling wonder that is me, commuting to these stages isn’t the easiest quest. I also couldn’t help but notice that if you’re a fella willing to travel and/or sing, you could probably do quite well for yourself in the Bay Area! Ah, now I am sounding rude. Sorry. I don’t mean it. I selfishly hoped that my enthusiasm to return to the theater world would be matched with abounding opportunity to bring it to life.

And I’m left with the same questions I had before. Where did the auditions go? I hear about friends going to them; are these theater companies just not posting on Theatre Bay Area? Because that feels like a shame! A missed opportunity to be a part of a proud, established community. And where are they posting instead? What will I tell Kim Kardashian and Lindsay Lohan when they seek my career counsel for breaking into the SF biz? Help!

I’ll await your feedback! And in the meantime, I’ll keep one eye on these audition listings, one on a Full House rerun, and my mouth will undoubtedly be full of chocolate.