Monthly Archives: May 2011

Acting is Weird

So, since it’s been over 5 years since I’ve last performed, (and my first full production as an actor for Forum), I thought I’d write a bit about the experience. I’m currently rehearsing for bobrauschenbergamerica and playing the role of Wilson, the hapless, confused, romantic who pines for Susan and a greater understanding of love. It’s a super fun role and has me really excited about being onstage again.

That said:

Acting is weird.

And kinda hard.

Has it only been 5 years? It feels like 25. We had our initial “on feet” rehearsal a few days ago and it was not disimilar to using my legs for the first time. I felt like my lower body was attempting to speaking Chinese and my upper body was in a straightjacket.

Now, as a director, I can rock out some table work. I can intellectualize the hell out a script—it’s my way in. So, for those rehearsals, I felt great. In fact, I really enjoyed the process of delving into a single character and doing all the work I wish I could as a director.

Working out the through line for my character (Wilson) in such a non-linear play is teaching me a great deal about how to work with an actor in such a process when I direct, next. Derek Goldman is hands-on, thoughtful, and questioning in all the ways you’d ask for in a process like this. I’m sure his background in devising and writing plays a factor in this and it’s been a great learning experience, already.

But then came time to get “up on feet.” Full-time actors: you truly have a great gift and amount of skill. I have always respected the ability of my fellow collaborators, but having been out of the game of acting for so long, I’m in awe of the level of focus you bring to a show.

Trust me–these early parts of the rehearsal process are delicate, frustrating, self-conscious, and confusing. It’s a lesson in patience and awkwardness and failure. I can hear my own director voice reminding me to “make big choices! Throw any idea onto the wall!” and my new actor voice responding with various versions of “I FEEL LIKE AN IDIOT MOVING THIS WAY AND SAYING THAT LIKE THIS!”

Add to this the fact that bob contains a great deal of dancing. Now, old friends of mine will remember that I did show choir in high school. These same acquaintances will also be aware of how unsuccessful my efforts at graceful movement were. Kelly Mayfield, our amazing choreographer (who somehow has more energy than any of us, despite being mere weeks away from giving birth) has encouraged us to find how we move naturally and embrace our mistakes. Let’s just say dance step failure has become a “character quirk” for me.

We still have a few weeks to sculpt and play. Tonight is the dreaded “off-book” night….another big event in my other-side-of-the-room adventure. Hopefully, I’ll put up another post closer to opening. Make sure you get your tickets—there are some amazing folks involved with this project and a really fun script that I think you will all enjoy.

….and if that’s not enough, there’s the curiosity factor of seeing me onstage. Probability level of me tripping and falling during a dance number is very high 🙂

–Michael

Life As Art: Annie Houston

As we jump into rehearsals for BOBRAUSCHENBERGAMERICA, we’ve asked the members of the cast and creative team to tell us a bit about themselves! The play centers around a backyard cook-out setting and we’ve been talking a lot about what it is to be an American, what is the American experience, and looking at how we live our lives as an artistic process.

Our first Life As Art profile is on the extraordinary Annie Houston!

(note: the “Art and Life” title is inspired by the great Robert Rauschenberg book, “Rauschenberg: Art and Life” by Mary Lynn Kotz. Check it out!)

 

Name: Annie Houston

Hometown:  Mandeville, Jamaica

Current town:  Washington, DC

Character: BOB’S MOM

What has been your “Quintessential American Experience”?  Seeing the Statue of Liberty at age 12 arriving on a boat from England

What has surprised you during the rehearsal process for BOB?  The stories of each member of the cast; the dancing numbers

INSPIRATION  Who inspires you?  Ellen Barkin, Helen Mirren, Yo Yo Ma, the beauty of Jamaica and Big Sur

Inspires your Character?  Dora Matson Rauschenberg, Ann Richards, Nell Bell

FAVORITES  Favorite Chicken Joke?  Chicken soup is good for you.  Unless you’re a chicken!

Favorite Childhood Memory?  Taking walks with my family over land that looked 7 miles down to the Caribbean

Favorite American Artist/Writer/Singer?  Georgia O’Keefe, Tennessee Williams, Nina Simone

5 Favorite States?  California, New Mexico, Colorado, Montana, Maine

5 Favorite BBQ Foods?  Roasted Corn, Mixed Grilled Veggies, Grilled Wild Salmon, Grilled Organic Chicken,  Potato Salad

Why do you think people should come see BOBRAUSCHENBERGAMERICA?  The play is a mirror into ourselves as a culture and we always need to look into the mirror; the play will turn people onto or deepen their understanding of Bob Rauschenberg, an amazing artist.