Monday, February 27, 2006

Get Out Of Here!

My favorite morning radio talk show, which I listen to religously while preparing for work each day, has a regular segment featuring lists of "Things That Must Go," in which they read submissions from listeners about things in life which bug or otherwise irritate them and which they believe should stop. These range from petty annoyances to major ideological clashes. Anyway, its great fun and, as I found, a good way to vent. I've come up with a couple that I may submit to the station. Here are a few of them that are certain not to offend anybody (which of course is my top priority):

1.People who say “I don't like to read,” as if they are daring rebels who are boldly setting a new trend. You don't like to read – fine, thats your loss, but don't pretend like you are a member of a persecuted minority!

2.The phrase, “I'm not racist, but....” which is inevitably followed by something racist. If you really must give vent to whatever ignorant and simplistic ideas about race you have, at least be open about the fact that you are a bigot.

3.American waiters at a Brazilian restaurant who insist in speaking in Portugese in order to give you the “cultural flavor.” Yes, we're impressed you learned a language on your mission, but we don't understand what you are saying! You make me feel like an idiot when you ask a question, and I don't know what to respond because you aren't speaking English! See if YOU get a tip, Mr. Bilingual.

4. Mormon catchphrases. Really, no matter how sincere you are, its now impossible not to sound trite while saying, "I'm so grateful for this opportunity," "nourish and strengthen our bodies," "thankful for the moisture we have received," "with every fiber of my being," "each and every one of us," "at-one-ment," "eternal perspective," etc. etc. The English language contains a rich multitude of words, and I bet that with a little effort we can come up with new and interesting ways of expressing these same ideas.

5. And by the way, just because a joke was funny in General Conference it doesn't mean you should use in your sacrament meeting talk. And amusing anecdotes about your reaction to being asked to talk in the first place are very much out of style.

6. Gossip must go. You really have nothing better to do than to chat about my life? I don't even know you, why do you care??

7. People who have found great happiness in their life (and we are all very glad) but who believe with all their heart that the only way that YOU will ever be happy is to do exactly what THEY have done. I'm happy that you are happy, but I think its wrong of you to assume that what has made you happy will do the same for me. It very possibly might, but then again it might not. I call this the "one-size-fits-all" approach to life. I pity the person who patterns their life completely after somebody else in hopes of attaining that person's level of happiness. You'll never be happy unless you find it for yourself.

Well thats that. It's great fun. You should try it! Feel free to leave me a taste of your own "Things That Must Go." I'm interested in what irritates you, even if its me. Heaven knows I must go sometime too...

Monday, February 13, 2006

Chicago Trip Update: The Auditions

OK, I know what you all want to hear about. I went to Chicago for a reason, after all. It was my intention to get into a grad school. It didn't quite go as I had thought it would.

I'm not sure exactly what I expected to happen, actually. Did I really think that I'd take the stage, perform my monologues with staggering talent, and every single university recruiter would stand up and beg me to come to their school? Well, that certainly didn't happen. In fact, the end result of my efforts there is only about a "so so" on the excellence scale.

I was told over and over again that the last thing the people organizing these things wanted was for me to be nervous. I believe that, but the format of the audition process does little to achieve that end. I know there's not really any other way to accomodate the hundreds and hundreds of head-in-the-clouds actors who desperately want to be "discovered" than putting them all in a big room and calling them in to see the auditors one by one. But something about that arrangement makes it impossible not to be nervous. I arrived at my auditions quite relaxed and confident, but after thirty minutes sitting silently in the tension, surrounded by hundreds of attractive young people (who may or may not act better than you, have more connections than you, be better looking than you, or simply be luckier or perform better under pressure than you) I was a mess. And each one of these people is in direct competition with you for the very very few spots available in these programs. It was obvious that everybody was nervous, but instead of making me feel better that only seemed to make the situation all the more daunting.

In the end, I didn't feel like I had presented my real best in my auditions. I know they weren't expecting to see some technically perfect or completely polished performance. They wanted to see me, wanted to see me connect to a character and exhibit honest, truthful acting. I don't feel I did very well at that. In my anxiety, I retreated into myself instead of fully immersing into the characters, like I had done in rehearsal. Plus, I had rehearsed one of the monologues in such a way that it was very "showy" with lots of movement and voice inflection but very little heart behind it. This was pointed out to me by one of the acting recruiters I talked with, and I knew it was true the minute he said it. Plus, I had fallen into one of my classic traps of performing something the exact same way every time at the loss of rediscovery and spontaneity. Thus, I felt like those making important decision about me and my future didn't get to see what I can really do.

And I also just have to admit that I'm not as good as I was hoping I am. There were a lot of people there, and many of them were just more trained and more talented than me, and I need to come to terms with that. Arrogant actors annoy me so much, and it disturbs me to think I have been one of them. I apologize to anybody who got that impression from me. You hear often how tough this business is, and I guess in Chicago I got a small taste of how true that really is. Why do I even bother? Indeed, a number of times the nervous actors in the waiting area looked at each other puzzedly, their innards a gelatanous mess of anxiety, as if to ask, "Why do we put ourselves through this?" Acting is a wild cycle of extreme self-confidence followed by intense periods of doubt and hesitation. I don't know why I do it. In any other thing with the odds as stacked against me as they were in Chicago I would say, "Why bother?" But in acting, you can't help but feeling that surely, surely you'll be one of the lucky few who "make it." Its an addictive fantasy.

Ok, I sound SO pessimistic. If things didn't go as well as I'd hoped, they certainly didn't go as badly as I feared. I made it past the screening auditions for URTAs, which isn't a small thing really. They eliminate two-thirds of the applicants right there. Two schools expressed direct interest in me, one of which is actually a decent program thats right up my alley. In fact, it sounds absolutely perfect besides the fact that its located in South Carolina, deep in the heart of the Old South, as red as a red state can get. Ah well, it's just for two years.

In addition, I had a good interview with my school of choice in San Diego where I feel I really got a chance to introduce myself to the people making the decision. I was able to get them to look past the fact that I'm from BYU. (Honestly, I think a large group of schools rule you out immediately when they see you're from BYU, so having that next my name didn't help things either.) The audition was only "so so" but I think they were impressed with my responses in the interview.

At this point, all thats left is to wait and see. Frankly, I'm not too hopeful about my chances. Which begs the question: What am I supposed to do now? Reconcile myself to a life of nine to five torture? You see, work is a waste of time, unless work is what you want to do with your time. If your work is an expression of you, is part of you, then its worth spending your life on. If your work is just something you do so you can have money to enjoy life when you are not working.... well life is too short for that. Thats my own personal opinion, but I recognize that I'm a liberal idealistic idiot.

If worse comes to worse, I can always dig ditches. Anybody need any ditches?

Friday, February 10, 2006

Chicago Trip Update: Prelude

Downtown Chicago, like most major cities, is populated by an intimidating forest of gigantic metal trees, each staring down imposingly upon the small, fleshy inhabitants who wend their way in between the massive trunks with their reddened faces set grimly into the biting wind.

Wind can be comforting - a mother's caress on smooth baby skin, a lover's hand run intimately through your hair – but in Chicago the wind is hostile and venomous. The long corridors of skyscrapers perfectly funnel the cold air from off Lake Michigan and throw it with expert precision, like a ninja chucking metal stars, right into your face. It's not fast; it doesn't want to knock you over in one sudden gust. It prefers instead to chill you slowly, grinding down your spirit until you lose the will to live. It's murderous, that wind; it wants to kill you. You can feel it.

The denizens of the windy city seem accustomed to this malevolent force in their midst, and, in defiance of its power, go about their way, adamantly continuing to exist – millions of them. Yet even they, upon ducking inside through a revolving door, seem to shudder with a relief that comes from knowing that you've escaped some inexplicable danger and lived to tell the tale.

If all this seems pessimistic and dismal, its because I'm tired. I've just returned from our third largest city, where I spent the last five days on what was called a “vacation” but wasn't really. I don't mean to imply that I didn't enjoy myself, or that I would have rather stayed here at work; quite the contrary, it was a refreshing change of pace from the day to day monotony of the nine to five trap. Chicago is a great city, filled with museums and theaters and delicious restaurants, but that wind! I was totally unprepared for it.

I arrived in Chicago Sunday afternoon full of hope and expectation and anxiety: energy! I had trouble sleeping, my mind was alert and calculating. Now I am empty, out of gas, ready to sleep for days. My mind is a muddled mass, a fat man wheezing at the top of the stairs. I had first attributed this change to the rather stressful process I put myself through this week, but now I'm not so sure. Perhaps I'm merely paranoid, or just extremely tired, but I could almost swear that it was the wind that wore me down, the sapped my vitality and youthfulness away. Maybe if I'd have stayed another week I would not have survived.

You have to be strong to stand in the face of the wind. I thought I was strong enough, once, but now I know better.