Wednesday, July 30, 2008


SlamBoston was last week, and I haven't written about it for two reasons. I've been so busy with The Boys of Winter (my God, that's alotta lines!) and I really have a problem with a lot of the actor types who go around going, me, me, me....

But it's worth talking about, I think, from an artistic standpoint, especially when you consider that one of the plays I was in, Robosaurus, won the Slam. And since I'm posting on Blogspot, I've got the backing of Google behind me. Anything I blogged about will come up pretty high on Google's search results. So, you might as well learn about all this from the horse's mouth, or at least one of the horses.

Let's get everyone up to speed. SlamBoston is a night of theater put on jointly by Another Country Productions and Company One in Boston. It's produced like a poetry slam, only with short plays instead of poems, with judges who score the plays like Olympic divers--9.8, 9.7, and the Russian judge gives a 5.3. The plays are all original, and are pretty much chosen based on their themes on diversity.

Let's get in the way-back machine. The Slam's auditions were the day before the StageSource auditions, so as much as anything I used the Slam auditions as a warmup for the next day. I knew the directors were going to be looking at me for Robosaurus because I had worked on that piece in Lyralen Kaye's Meisner class. Lyralen is creative director of Another Country. Robosaurus is about two straight guys who consider being gay so they can hang out together all the time and just do guy things. It is raucous and a bit profane and I thought it was funny as hell from the get-go.

I got cast in Robosaurus by Steve Kleinedler and IDWYT by Nora Long.

Jared Goldberg played Justin in Robo, and Christopher Lyons played the waiter in both plays. Juan Carlos Pinedo played Dale in IDWYT.

The names are important because everyone got along so well, especially the cast and director of IDWYT. We just clicked from the start. Christopher is just a fun, open kind of person, and Juan Carlos is a very fun, but serious person, exactly the kind of person for Bob, the character I played. Nora, in the funny, sort of coy way she has of being, suggested that the two were kind of like Bert and Ernie. None of us were afraid to do anything the other wanted to try, and that's so important in a cast. Acting is simply living realistically under imaginary circumstances, and even the best of actors have a hard time using that force we call an imagination.

IDWYT is maybe eight minutes long, but we did more table work for those eight minutes than I've done with some full-length plays. Table work is just that: Sitting around the table discussing the play, what it means, the characters, the imaginary world. And that's what I loved about both casts: Everyone was on the same page when it came to the process. And they all brought an incredible amount of talent to the process. And I think it showed in the end result with both plays.

Rehearsals for both plays were pretty loose. Steve didn't rehearse us very long for Robo. He said that Jared and I nailed the line of the play and the humor from the first read-through (well, I did get this one note about being too serious; it is a comedy, you know) and so we just took it from there, taking it further and further along. He was more worried about over-rehearsing us. There is this point that you can go past where everything just gets stale, and Steve was very aware of that point. He'd push us right before that, always leaving us with a bit more to chew on.

Rehearsals for IDWYT were longer, but that also had to do with conflicting schedules between Juan Carlos and me. But when we rehearsed, we took the whole time. I know for me it was because I loved the part, loved working with Juan Carlos and Christopher and Nora, and I swear, every time we did the play, including the night of the the Slam, we did it differently every time. That's a big reason I act: That feeling of being in the moment. That this is fresh, and also that it will never happen again. I love that temporal quality of the theater.

So...Tuesday, July 22. The Plaza Theatre at the Boston Center for the Arts in the South End. A sold-out audience that's always loud and raucous. What's really to say. I guess I could go into detail, but...

I had a six o'clock call. Got to the theater, iPod still plugged into my ears, and headed straight back to the dressing room, nodding to the crew as I came in. I changed into costume and went out to get the feel of the space. When you do the Slam, you see the space for the first time the night before at tech, so I like to hardwire the physicality of the space in as much as possible. People not in the theater think...well, I'm not sure what they think, but for the Slam and the people in it, it's all pretty much matter of fact. Everyone prepares differently, and you just come in and do the job you're supposed to do.

Lyralen does have a group meeting, then a group warmup. The warmups are great. Lyralen's a pro who approaches the theater in a way that's constructive and prepares the actor.  I'm not into circles, which some groups, mainly community theaters, are big on. You stand in a circle and get all touchy feeley. I don't do touch, and I don't do feel. I don't need some emotional rot to get into character, and I really prefer if someone doesn't go emo on me.

IDWYT was the first show up. It was called the sacrificial lamb because it's not included in the voting, and is meant to warm up the audience and the judges. I had so much fun playing Bob. For such a small play, the character has a lot of latitude for the actor to play in, but again, it had a lot to do with all the incredible amount of table work we did and Nora's direction that let us I stood backstage behind Juan Carlos with a few butterflies in my stomach, but they went right away when the lights went down and I patted Juan Carlos on the shoulder. Dale was Bob's rock, and Juan Carlos was mine at that moment. That's just the way it works.

Then Robosaurus. We were about fourth up. I had already been on stage, so I was just itching to get out there. I knew the only way to perform that play was go balls to the wall. When you got lines like, "I've got a thick meaty ass and a big old floppy cock," you can't hold back. It's just hit the lines as hard as you can.

We rocked. We knew we were rocking. We grabbed the audience and didn't let go. I did things onstage with the character I hadn't done yet, didn't even know I was going to do them until they were happening. We listened to the scoring backstage, but truth be told I didn't care too much about winning. I honestly believe if you believe the good reviews, then you have to believe the bad ones, too. I figured that out a long time ago, so I set my standards and keep to them. It helps to keep you centered in something that can really be emotionally hard to take sometimes.

I changed out of my costume and into my street clothes and sat most of the time backstage talking to Juan Carlos and listening to my iPod. Then the curtain call, and the MC announced that we had won. Someone handed me an envelope, and that really was about it. I stayed a bit afterward to talk to some people. Sue was there, and another friend; that's all who came that night to see me. I typically don't announce when I'm performing with "Unabashed Self Promotion" emails. If you know me, you'll know what I'm doing. I also talked briefly to Larry Stark, who writes the TheaterMirror website, and Lyralen, and George Smart, who wrote IDWYT. And that's pretty much it.

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