Although I’m supposed to rehearse from 10am – 6pm, that’s not written in stone at all. When I come in depends on what they decide to work on first. There have been some days when I’ve been able to have my entire mornings all to myself. The cast is small, everyone is friendly and works hard, the town and its surroundings are kitsch enough to keep me interested and I get to live alone, which is turning into more of a luxury than I can handle. A lot of the cast members live in the same housing situation – six of them in one unit, I was told – so there’s a lot of bonding that’s going on that I’m not a part of, which is kind of a relief. I’m basically a shy person and aside from the everyday niceties of hello and goodbye, I’m happy to run back to my place and do my finger excercises. I didn’t come here to make friends, although it would be a beautiful thing if that happened. I’m treating this like a fat farm. I came here to get out of the city and get my body back. My friend says I’m losing weight. So far, so good.
The interesting thing about rehearsals is that it’s a very basic rock and roll set up onstage – and that never happens in musical theater. The last half of the second act actually recreates Buddy Holly’s last show in Clear Lake, Iowa. The music is usually in a pit between the audience and the actors. So there are musicians onstage with the actors and some of them are actors and some of them are musicians with one line here and there and some of them are just musicians who are just reading their way through it. Most of the songs are three and four chord ditties, like Oh Boy. And yeah, I’m learning how to play them on guitar, just for fun. I actually brought my guitar in so I could tune it and the MD let me use his tuner (I’m going to get one just like it – you clip it to the headstock and it tunes by vibration) and let me have as many picks as I wanted.
One thing, though. Recently at the impromptu dinner party right before I skipped town with kimson and gabe and my friend at a. bistro, kimson asked me what I did all day, because I don’t have a day job. He wasn’t being snide, either. He genuinely wanted to know. In retrospect, I don’t know if I answered him very well. Now I’m wishing I had. It would explain a part of what I’m going through right now.
Much of my life as an actor is all about maintainance and upkeep. The growth is constant. And it’s a full-time job. I’m always working towards some minor improvement that leads to conquering a major thing. I know some singers who are proud of the fact that they’ve never had a voice lesson or don’t know how to play and instrument or can’t read music (One friend used to point at lead sheets and say, “That may as well be Chinese.”) But it was Betty Carter who said that every vocalist should know their way around a keyboard. The payoff for me is when I get a gig like this and I’m given a stack of sheet music – and I understand it. But I wouldn’t have that understanding if I hadn’t sat down and plunked away at my piano every other day for the past 6 months or so. And I have to admit -- learning how to play the guitar is changing my life. By being leaner and stronger physically means that I’ll photograph differently and that’ll make me more viable for film and tv work. So I work out every day to get there and to maintain it once I have it. And then there’s auditioning. Anyone that’s unemployed treats getting a job like a full time job until they get one. Smart actors are no exception. You hone your job skills by taking class, learning monologues, building your repertoire vocally until you have a book that’s filled with songs from every genre. Learning to sing if you don’t know how, because knowing how to do more than one thing well means you’re more likely to work. These things are hard to quantify to someone that’s used to punching a clock to make a living.
I think doing this show would be a really difficult moment for me to get through if I hadn’t done the day-to-day work that most straight (working joe) people don’t’ understand when I tell them that I don’t have a job. I never know how much I’ve progressed until I’m put in a situation where I have to deliver. And wow. I’ve grown a lot. I need to give myself some credit. I need to work harder.
I need to learn how to drive.