Sunday, March 02, 2008


Got sick this week, but managed to strategically place it so it didn't affect my ability to earn an income. Okay, that's not true; I was just lucky.

Did my first on-camera commercial audition in a long while and felt good about it, which was like the scent of a former lover.

I recorded a radio spot for a dot-com. No idea what the usage will be.

I've basically washed my hands of union politics over the past two years for my own mental health; but I noticed with some smug satisfaction that, after succeeding in basically killing the Phase I agreement with AFTRA (after years of hard campaigning by that crabby segment of the membership whom I tactfully call The Stupid Idiots), SAG suddenly reversed itself by an 86%-13% vote. Welcome to pragmatism, my friends.

I saw on the news that Hillary Clinton ran a spot that some thought was reminiscent of Johnson's "Daisies" spot of long ago. I don't know if I'd go that far; I was more interested that, when they ran the spot during a news story, I recognized the voiceover as an old friend of mine. For those who wonder if actors used in political spots simply whore their talents out to whoever will pay scale, that certainly may be true in some cases, but in this particular instance I know that the guy has been a Clinton supporter (and maximum campaign contributor) for many years. I gotta love the consistency...

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Next stop... basket weaving

Cherokee thinks I'm wrestling with clinical depression. She has wrestled with it herself for over a decade, so I guess she should know, up to a point. She lives with me, hears my confidences and confessions and knows me better than anyone else I suppose.

That said, I don't think she's right.

What I am — what I have been for the past two years — is stressed out of my freakin' skull. I haven't fully figured out the degree to which any given factor(s) might be considered "the cause", and I know I have yet to spill my guts here about everything that's been happening to me over the past two years, but the fact is I feel... well... "raw", in a word. (This is a word Cherokee used during the depths of her depression to describe herself, so it's no doubt one reason she thinks I should have a similar diagnosis.)

To put it bluntly, I can't stand to have virtually any new input or stimulation in my life, unless I recognize it immediately as something that is beneficial to me — and by "beneficial" I mean almost all upside and no downside (demands on my time and energy being a major downside). Winning the lottery? Beneficial. Having a simple conversation with a friend? Not beneficial (unless they're informing me I won the lottery.) I literally have so much that occupies my thoughts during the day, that anything new is simply a detrimental distraction. Perhaps I will later look back and recognize this as a particular delusion that went with the condition I had/have, but my belief is it's imperative for me to keep everything that does currently occupy my thoughts close to the front of my brain, and if I don't, really bad things will happen.

Again, without going into full details, I think I have some basis for feeling this way, because I have NOT minded all my various Ps and Qs during the past couple of years, and bad things HAVE happened. Imagine you see some hair gathered over your shower drain, but because you're running late you leave it there and tell yourself you'll clean it out when you get back. When you get back, though, you find that the cat somehow managed to turn on the faucet in the tub, the drain clogged, the tub overflowed, half your pets are dead, all your wiring has shorted out, and the flood in the basement ruined the furnace. Now, instead of a clogged drain, you've got animals to bury, water to pump out, an entire house that needs rewired, and — above all that — there's no heat in your house and it's the dead of winter.

Then the next morning, after shivering through a freezing night with only a propane heater in your bedroom, your mother-in-law shows up from out of state for a surprise visit..

Maybe it's not the absolute best analogy, but for all intents and purposes, yeah — my last two years have been like that. After feeling bad about taking people's heads off a few times, simply not showing up for scheduled appointments and generally letting people down, I finally decided to be honest with myself and admit that I was in some sort of Crisis Mode. Consequently, I disconnected our doorbell, stopped answering our phone, and jiggered both my email and my cell phone so that only those types of stimulus I thought I could handle would get through. I have lived like this for 4-5 months now. I have snail mail from family members I have yet to open. I hope no one's died.

Are things better? In a way, yes. I no longer have the sensation that every time I open the door I'll get my face slapped. I also feel like my brain power is just large enough to encompass what does land immediately in front of me demanding my attention and, for the most part, I am able to deal with those things effectively. I do feel like I'm walking a fine line, though. Two Fridays ago, I was given a last-minute audition for an upcoming feature film starring Johnny Depp. Not a large role, but one that was unlikely to end up on the cutting room floor, and one that would have had me working directly with Mr. Depp for all my scenes. I shoe-horned the audition into my day. I prepared as best I could. There wasn't enough time to dress as well for the character as I would've liked, but I had a fairly pleasing (to myself) backup on hand. I had no cash in my pocket (literally, none) so i went to an ATM and was charged $3 to take out the maximum I could ($20). It cost me $10 cab fare to get to the production office. I signed in. Then, before I was even able to take off my coat... assistant came out to say they were cancelling the remaining auditions for the day; the director had to take a conference call with the producer.

So I then I spent another $10 for the return cab trip, during which I thought endlessly about the fact that I had made an exception, I had opened up a hole in my wall... and I had done it for a casting director who hasn't cast me in anything since I started pursuing this kind of work in 1995. (I've railed about them before — they're the ones who, I swear, seem to go out of their way to make auditions an unpleasant or difficult experience. I'd think it was just the "whine of sour grapes" from the unemployable if it weren't for my SAG pension informing me otherwise.) All things considered, I would have rather had my $23 back, plus the wasted hour. I felt no thrill from being "in the game". I wasn't able to simply shrug.

All of which tells me, again, that I've got to change my situation as soon as possible, and I'm right to be concentrating solely on that task to the exclusion of all else. Otherwise, I'll just be one of those actors I hate — the waste of space who doesn't value the opportunities that do come his/her way, and who make it harder for all other actors by being part of the background noise they have to cut through in order to get recognized.

Sunday, January 13, 2008


I'm back — kind of.

In looking back over my previous ramblings, I'm struck by a number of recurring themes. One of them was attrition. I suspect it was largely my own fear of becoming "just another casualty" that probably had me ruminating on it time and again. And now I find myself standing at the precipice.

I can't say that I've lost my love of acting. Far from it. I've just had a certain amount of Life (and/or the pain that comes with it) during the past couple of years that has me thinking — perhaps for the first time ever — that I want some things more than an acting career.

What's really peculiar is that the "career" I had at the time I left off with my last blog entry hasn't diminished substantially in the intervening time. Check that: actually it has diminished substantially — everyone's has (the market in Chicago sucks right now). But I can't say it's diminished any more than it would have had the events of the last couple of years not happened. I'm still exclusively represented by the same agents, I still land as many union jobs per year as I guess most of my peers do, I finally qualified for a pension from the Screen Actors Guild when I retire, and I'm not on bad terms with any of my old friends and acquaintances. So it's not like it's a matter of not being able to "cut it". Strangely, my thoughts have very little to do with disappointment or anger or whatever over my level of accomplishment.

But I'm literally overwhelmed at the moment with describing what it's been like to have moved, during the past two years, so far afield from the focus my life used to have.

I know already this is going to be the suckiest blog entry I've ever made, but hey, it beats silence (if ever so slightly).

I forget at the moment whether I've mentioned this before, but I remember my first fairly long theatre contract following graduate school. It was a repertory situation, and each show ran for 6-7 weeks. I remember thinking during graduate school that I couldn't conceive why people asked any of our "visiting artists" — Broadway actors, the Royal Shakespeare Company, the Mabou Mines, etc. — the recurring question "How do you keep a show fresh when you've been doing it for months/years/as long as you have?" (I mean, it's the most exciting, rewarding thing in the world to do with your time, right? So why waste time asking questions about keeping it fresh?) Well, after doing rep for a year, I began to understand.

I'd never before experienced weariness at the end of a run. I'd never before experienced a show growing stale, or doing a role by rote. I hadn't ever experienced a lot of things I discovered that year. And it just royally pissed me off to discover I wasn't so exceptional that I wasn't prone to the same dynamics as everyone else. Not only that, so full of impatient hubris was I back at the Conservatory that I hadn't been listening to our many visiting professionals, so I actually found myself wondering at times how I was ever going to keep this show I was in fresh.

So now I find myself dealing with a dynamic I've never experienced before, and I guess I am, once again, just royally pissed. I never thought this would happen to me. Ever.

More later.