25 May, 2010

I loved someone from Klamath Falls: A List

Beverly Hills, California
Birmingham/ Bloomfield Hills, Michigan
Klamath Falls, Oregon
Chicago, Illinois
Ingramport, Nova Scotia
Bellport, Long Island, New York
Innisfail, Queensland, Australia

Sydney via Hong Kong via Singapore via London

Highland Park, Michigan / Los Angeles, California
Oxford, England
Buffalo, New York
Middleburg, Virginia

Okemos, Michigan
Glasgow, Scotland
Washington, DC
Winston-Salem, North Carolina

21 May, 2010

Men of Parts

There was a period of time in 2010 when I lived with Tyne Daly.
I know.
I know what that sentence sounds like and—just to anticipate all of your questions—yes, it was everything you thought and imagined and hoped it would be. There were late night musings, strong drinks, records of Olivier's Hamlet, trips down memory lane, chandeliers given by June Horvath, hours and hours (and hours) of shared poetry, and crucially: hot pink bed-sheets; all in an apartment that once belonged to Lotte Lenya. She’s both a classy broad and a true lady, an old soul who can play like a child with a sharp-as-cheddar mind and the sexiest legs I’ve ever seen.
I love her.
We’re family.
I’d give her a kidney.

Tyne does not have a television set, but someone, (I am thinking either the Emmy Voting committee or her television-loving friend Rosie O'Donnell?) bought her a small screen DVD-only player. I am not going to lie here, I really love television. In fact, I'm pretty passionate about it. I am not someone who casually watches or just has it on all the time, no. Televisual consumption is an active thing, I sit down with a box set and dive. in.

Having never had Sky Plus or Tivo, I have never been able to record TV, so I have been perhaaaaaps known to schedule stuff around programming. (Tuesday nights in Glasgow when I was in college and should have been partying or studying or doing something suitably youthful? I said this sentence more than once, "Tuesday? Ooo I can't I have plans so sorry." Which roughly translates to: "Sorry dude, back-to-back CSI is on. I have crime to fight.") So living in a flat/apartment without one was... a true test. So thank goodness for Emmy voting season and Tyne's ‘For Your Consideration’ box sets and my still-clinging on Region 1 DVD collection.

Tonight? I watched Shakespeare in Love.

And I have to say, I do not feel that I have ever truly watched this film. When it came out in 1998, I was 15-- already a great lover of the theatre, but unfamiliar with so many of the British actors who grace the screen (and many who would become my friends and colleagues), with so much of the factual nods, the inside jokes, the delightful word-play that peppers the incredible screenplay, nor was I as appreciative about the natures of both creativity and love itself as I would eventually grow to become. I was still a teenager. I enjoyed the film, it was about everything I enjoyed but I did not 'get' it.

I did not get it until tonight.

My Dad really loved this film, he watched it over and over again, sometimes all by himself. Dad was a certified genius and it took a lot to get him to focus on television for an extended period without his mind wandering to the thousands of calculations and ideas that constantly flooded his brilliant mind. But this film? He adored. And tonight I profoundly understood why. I don't want to go into the why too much, but I will say that it had a great deal to do with this quote:

"The Master of the Revels despises us all for vagrants and peddlers of bombast. But my father, James Burbage, had the first license to make a company of players from Her Majesty, and he drew from poets the literature of the age. We must show them that we are men of parts. Will Shakespeare has a play. I have a theatre. The Curtain is yours."

I think we all experience moments such as these, but how curious: adult Al profoundly connecting with adult Dad. And so absolute was the understanding, so acute was this moment of connection, I actually picked up the phone to call him and share...

... I know what you are thinking. But you know what? It wasn't sad. Rather, it felt that for a brief moment he was still here. In fact, this experience is proof that in so many ways, he still is. Alone in a beautiful apartment on the island of Manhattan I looked briefly out at the sky and put my phone down. I smiled.

Love keeps going.

Al & Dad - 1998

17 May, 2010

Ask Al: Agents, Part 1 - The Basics

Dear Al,

I was wondering if you could shed light on the world of Agents? What is an agent and what do they do? How do they function in an actor’s career? How does one go about finding and ‘getting’ an agent? And what are some helpful suggestions in regards to having a good working relationship with your agent?



* * *

Dear M,

Great questions. And big ones. I’ve divided this answer into three sections:
1. The Basics,
2. Getting and Agent and
3. Working With an Agent
       —because they are all very intricate and different things.

Getting an agent is probably the single most important thing a professional actor can do for his/her career. Although you can book and negotiate professional jobs yourself (I have a few friends who got into commercials, Fringe plays and even West End shows without an agent, it is without a doubt the exception to the rule).

* * *

Some people do survive quite well without an agent - especially in those specialist areas like Theatre-In-Education where jobs are regularly advertised and employers are happy to regularly deal directly with the actors-- but getting work in theatre is hard, and extremely difficult in the film, television and voice over/radio without one.

Actors without agents sadly appear to lack credibility in the eyes of potential employers. It's not fair, but it's a fact. However hard you work at getting to know potential employers, most agents have their fingers closer to the pulse, know what's coming up, and simply have far more contacts than you can ever have. That's their job. Directors and casting directors rely on agents they trust to help in the filtering process of whom to interview. (And remember, these professionals have form long relationships with one another and come to trust each others’ judgment. In the same way that you would trust the friend of a good friend to sublet your apartment, or to do good contract work for your house, you trust the judgment of an agent who has consistently sent good, dependable clients your way).

A good agent also understands legal contracts, knows the 'going rates' and has more clout to get money that's owing.

Being an agent is, most of the time, as disheartening and unglamorous as being an actor - and it's hard work, easily running into 70 hours a week. Agents putting clients up for things are putting themselves on the line. All directors and casting directors have blacklists of agents whose clients have been consistently late, ill-prepared, undependable in any way, so good agents are very careful about how they select those they are going to represent. They have to feel that they can work with you at selling you effectively, just as directors have to feel that they can work with, and benefit from, you in a company.

* * *

Let’s start with the basics:

What IS an agent? And what do they do?

An agent is an actor's representative. Once an agent represents you, you are his or her "client." They will submit you for roles and try to get you seen by casting directors. They will take 10% of your gross pay once you book a job. They will negotiate your fees and your contracts, and are your greatest professional advocate.

Agents represent lots and lots of wonderful actors. They're busy, and they may not even be looking for new clients. Getting any agent is hard enough, so how do you go about getting a great one?

How does one “get” an agent?

There are three basic ways an actor gets an agent. They are:
     1.  The agent sees your work (live, film, YouTube, radio) and calls you in for an interview.
     2.  You are recommended to the agent by a casting director, manager, director, producer or fellow actor who is a client of that agent.
     3.  The agent calls you in for an interview because of your photo and resume, which he or she received in the mail or electronically.

It is important to do your homework here-- comb online for agency websites, ask friends about their experiences with certain agencies, read publications such as Backstage, Playbill, Contacts, and Spotlight. See who the agency represent, what their clients are doing. This will all create a composite image of each agency, and help you narrow your search. Remember: ultimately, the agent works for you, and you need to make certain you are happy to be with this particular agent, not just anyone. (I often equate agent searches to dating searches--some people are content to just be with someone even if the match is wrong simply because they don't want to be alone, while others would rather be on their own than with the wrong match. It is personal and up to you! Regardless, some form of search is necessary to find this match, whatever the nature of it may be.)

Having an agent see your work is the best way to get representation, because they really need to get to know your work before they can represent you to the best of their ability. Even if you get an agent interested via another route, they'll probably want to see you in something before they'll represent you.

After that, an interview or two are necessary for the agent to understand your personality, your goals, your "vibe" so they can help you not only get work, but also help to build your career and speak to casting people accurately and enthusiastically on your behalf. That being said, it is importnat to have a good relationship with your agent, to feel that they understand you as a person, your career goals, your ambitions, as well as feel able to talk openly with them in general. The better you communticate with everyone in the office (assistants, finance, and interns are all included in this), the better the working relationship with be overall.

* * *

Now let's hear from an agent in the actual industry: Kevin Brady of London-based agency Amanda Howard Associates. AHA represent actors, writers, designers, directors and many other creatives.

The wonderful/magical world of agents eh?
What is an agent and what do they do?

In it's simplest explanation I would say an agent is someone who finds jobs/opportunities for the actors they represent.

How do they function in an actor’s career?

An agent has access to breakdown services, casting directors and producers/directors which they use to learn about up and coming projects and suggest their appropriate clients. If a casting director wishes to see an actor for a role then the agent will arrange the meeting/audition.

When an actor gets a job the agent will also negotiate the contract on their actors behalf to get the best possible rate they can. In return for this the agent will take commission (typically 10-15%) on the actors fee.

Generally an actor and their agent develop a strong working relationship with the aim of furthering the actors career as best they can. 

How does one go about finding and ‘getting’ an agent?

Most reputable agents will wish to see an actors work before offering representation. Established actors may well have a show-reel of previous tv/film work which can be viewed or may have been in productions the agent has seen.

Agents will also often go and see drama school showcases and productions in order to find actors about to start their careers.

The best way to try and get an agent is either to go to a decent drama school with a good track record of student success (i.e. where it's likely agents will see your work and graduating showcase, or try and get into a production and invite agents along to watch).

An agents primary responsibility is always to their current clients though and they tend to be very busy, this can often make it a frustrating process getting them along to see your work.

What are some helpful suggestions in regards to having a good working relationship with your agent?
It's hard to say exactly what makes it work but I guess in my opinion an actors relationship with their agent should be a partnership. Both parties should be pro-active and they both need to trust each other. Like any good relationship communication is the key and both the agent and actor should share common goals for taking the actors career forward.

* * *

End of Part One. 
Part Two shall include my "tier" system of agent classification, contacting agents, and the "courting" process. Stay tuned.

12 May, 2010

I've Been...


Couch-hopping like a pro

Enjoying a few hearty platonic sleepovers with incredible musician and friend Gabriel Kahane

Dreaming of Russia...

Singing with Ted and Chris and Santino and Victoria

Putting it all in a box. Literally.

Living in Tyne Daly's apartment. Fine.

…That was once the home of Lotte Lenya, Noel Coward and Hermione Gingold. Also fine.

Meeting with Sony

Reunitiung on Cinco de Mayo with the Interlochen Sextet

Sorting out Santino’s wardrobe once again (particularly proud am I of the S.O.S t-shirt worn on the Drama Desk Nominee gathering)

Ruling, I mean really truly, ruling, the skee ball machine at Coney Island

Pool sharking

Treated by a doctor whose every look and manner bespeaks Keanu Reeves…

Apartment hunting

Present in a room with so many celebrities it felt downright inappropriate

Running in to Chelsea Clinton’s broken leg. Oops.

Finding honesty, openness, warmth, generosity, connection and a true new friend in the beautiful Jill Paice— (to whom I owe much more than I could ever articulate here, but luckily managed the courage to express to her recently over cappuccino. Which was, incidentally, delicious...)

Staying up until 5:30 am laughing, crying and catching up with Ruthiewithaheart in our greatest ever slumber party

Stealing Dan Ackroyd’s internet. (You can thank him for this very blog publication)

In a single week, the recipient of many an ancient affectionate confession…

Obessesed with Tyne’s HBO “For Your Emmy Consideration” box set— has anyone seen all of these incredible shows? Bored to Death, Hung, Big Love, Curb Your Enthusiasm? A.ma.zing.

Planning a cabaret debut. (More to come!)

Exploring New York City.

Putting down some permanent roots. 

A Pilates PRO.

Serenaded by Mandy Patinkin. (Daaaamn….)

06 May, 2010

Small Pleasures: A List, Part 1

1.    Colo(u)ring (ohhhh yes, grown-ups can do it, too)
2.    White, super fluffy towels
3.    Soft skin
4.    Great stories
5.    Sleeping in, then staying in your pajamas all. day.
6.    An exercise endorphin high
7.    Window boxes (preferably filled with colorful blooms and/or delicious smelling herbs)
8.    The perfect cup of coffee (often with a nice bit of foam atop it with a lovingly sprinkled cocoa design)
9.    Waking up truly rested.
10.    Singing in the shower without catching yourself out for feeling stupid (you wouldn't believe how hard it is for me to sing around the house, or in the shower, or for pleasure, simply because it is my job. It used to bring me such joy...[shocked face] Oof...that should get explored...)
11.    Finding a forgotten money in your pocket! Especially when it has been laundered and is extra crispy
12.    The sound of ferocious, pelting rain— especially against windows… especially in the morning…
13.    Your softest, most beloved, most delicious t-shirt

14.    Holding hands. A friend of mine just last week told me I was a “hand holding whore”— I informed him I never accepted payment for hand holding. I am not fickle! I simply loved to hold hands with anyone who would allow me the pleasure. I have one friend with whom my hand holding has been exceptionally satisfying. David Fetzer (of Salt Lake City) and I discovered that our hands were particularly suited to one another’s in Directing class at Interlochen in 1999. When we held hands the fit was so tremendous it was as if you could hear the hermetical seal occur! The noise of suction! The satisfaction of what truly was a perfect fit!  I believe I even made a mold of my hand for his senior gift so he could always have it. (The creepiness of that just occurred to me but at the time it was sort of sweet I suppose.) He recently surprised me at the stage door of Carousel and before we even exchanged words we held up our hands, intertwined the fingers, made the suction noise and held hands for a moment… it was utterly amazing. So. Hold hands. It’s the best.
15.    A genuine compliment (giving or receiving)
16.    Slow dancing
17.    A handwritten letter.
18.    Genuinely laughing… Hard.
19.    The movie theater rituals (including film selection, cinema popcorn, seat selection, ice lollies, and pick-n-mix not to be eaten until after the previews...)
20.    Playing hookey!
21.    A great bath
22.    Swimming for pleasure (which for me involves a great deal of face-down floating)
23.   Cheesy, uplifting films
24.  Fountain soda. I mean, a fizzy beverage is just the most refreshing and delicious thing in all the world. With heaps of ice and a colorful straw. I mean oh my word can you imagine anything else closer to beverage perfection?
25.    THAT favorite song


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