Monday, September 29, 2008

Bailout or No? What do YOU think?

The DOW closed down 770 points today, 7 %. NASDAQ closed down almost 200 points, 9.1%

The Bush administration's $700B bailout plan failed to pass the House vote. 228 against. 205 for. Only 66 Republicans backed Bush's plan. 132 Republican House members voted against it.

What do YOU think? Should the government provide a bailout at all? Or can the the credit crisis and the market recover on its own?

Anyone wanna talk about it?

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Actor's Equity: Good or Bad?

There are those who would say it's union or die. And some who would pass on the opportunity to join. From the little I know, I'll try to explain the advantages and disadvantages of being an Equity member, and from there I think the advantages and disadvantages of being a non-Union actor will become clear.

An Equity member has the advantage, first and most obviously, of the support of a union: contracts termed by AEA that producers must negotiate with actors. They include a base salary, health care, worker's comp, and appropriate working condition. Thus, the actor is protected. It's not that every Non-Eq theater pays crap, overworks their actors, or wouldn't provide worker's comp, It's just that some do and wouldn't, and that's enough. In Kentucky, I worked for a non-Union theater that required their actors to rehearse 12 hour days for 42 days straight (no day off), with a show tagged on to the end of the day for more than half that time. While the producer of that theater is a good man, whom I like very much, an Equity theater would never allow such a schedule, and that's why you'll rarely (if ever?) find an Equity theater that produces three shows in rotating rep over the span of 2 and a half months.

Another advantage of being an Equity member is the manageable audition process. Right now, as a non-Union actor, I spend half, and sometimes all, of my day waiting to be seen, because Equity members receive priority. And rightly so. I wouldn't mind so much being able to have a day job, and sign up for an audition time. That sounds heavenly.

And third, for the most part, and I say this timidly and with hesitation, many Equity productions are better quality productions. Some will disagree with me, but in my experience, this is true. (Let me insert here that I know many non-Union theaters across the U.S. that put on outstanding productions, but as a whole, this is what I see.) It's mostly because there's more money in Equity productions, as well as a more experienced team: from producer, to director, to stage manager, design, crew, and cast. All Broadway shows are Equity shows. An actor cannot be on Broadway and be non-Union. Off-Broadway...maybe. Off-off-Broadway, sure.

Disadvantages to being Equity: Well, there's the dues. You gotta pay. There's an initial fee plus a yearly smaller fee, and then working dues, which are a small percentage of each paycheck. There's the fact that once you're Equity, you cannot, or at least shouldn't, perform in a non-Union house. Doing so puts you at risk of losing membership.

Truthfully, there are quite a few disgruntled Equity members in the city these days. They say that non-Union jobs are taking jobs away from them. One example is the touring circuit. Once a Broadway show has been up and running for a certain amount of time, it goes out on tour. Used to be that these tours would all be Equity tours. Now, many are being taken out on tour by non-Union touring companies. Not all, but many. Why? It costs less. And less rules, I'm sure, has something to do with it. But primarily, it costs less. So, consequently, jobs that were previously given to Union actors are given to non-Union actors. Some theaters are also doing an Equity/non-Equity thing, where they hire Equity principals and a non-Union chorus. In many cases, this is how non-Union members earn points toward Equity. And then, there are the infamous reality shows, who hire whoever they want, who cares, as long as it makes good T.V. And non-Union members somehow end up making better T.V.

There are also those who caution an actor of becoming Equity too soon in one's career. They say that once you become Equity you're in a league with the big boys. You're up against the big names, the celebrities, the favorites, the experienced and well-known. Whether that's a disadvantage or just a fact, I don't know. I'd say it depends on the actor and what their path holds. It's hard to say. Non-union actors have gotten big roles in the non-Union houses and are afraid of not working again for a long time if they unionize. And sometimes that happens. But it all depends on one's goals, and if the actor is OK with playing big roles in the non-Union houses, or if they live in a city that holds a lot of non-Union theaters, then by all means, save your money and don't pay the dues. But if you want to work in New York City, and if, dare we say, you want to work on Broadway, well, then, take the plunge. Dive in. It doesn't get any easier. Just go for it!

That's what I know in a nutshell. I don't know much. I'm still learning, and I'm sure there's much more to learn from a producer's side of things, but this is how it looks from where I sit. You can probably see my opinion on the whole thing. I'm all for being an Equity member. I'm ready. But one thing's for sure. I'll read a lot less as an Equity member. I've never had so much time to read in my entire life, and that's not such a bad thing. But reading books, unfortunately, doesn't pay bills. And bills must be paid. The goal is to get them paid by doing shows here in New York City. That's the goal.

Friday, September 26, 2008

What is Equity?

The Actor's Equity Association defines itself in this way:

Actors' Equity Association ("AEA" or "Equity"), founded in 1913, is the labor union that represents more than 45,000 Actors and Stage Managers in the United States. Equity seeks to advance, promote and foster the art of live theatre as an essential component of our society. Equity negotiates wages and working conditions and provides a wide range of benefits, including health and pension plans, for its members. Actors' Equity is a member of the AFL-CIO, and is affiliated with FIA, an international organization of performing arts unions.

Let me tell you what else Equity does and how it operates. If a theater is Equity, which many many here in NYC and around the US are, (and all are on Broadway), there are rules set up by the Union that it must follow. Such rules as...the amount of rehearsal hours it can require of its actors and crew, how many breaks the actor and crew receives in a given amount of hours, even small details such as what is required for the actor in the dressing room, and most importantly, wages. There are different levels of contracts that determine the pay scale for particular theaters. The differences in pay spread throughout a wide range, depending on things I don't much about. An Equity contract will sometimes pay more than a non-Equity contract, but in many cases, that doesn't hold true.

Another perk that Equity members receive is a more organized and managable audition process. When an Equity theater is casting for a show, there are two types of "open calls" they can hold, after they have held appointments for those actors with agents and whatnot. The first type is an EPA: Equity Principle Audition. This is a call that seeks principle performers, i.e. the leads, the supporting actors... At an EPA, the Equity member arrives early to form a line. At one hour before the call opens, the line of Equity members files through to the monitor to get an audition appointment. The actor picks which time they'd like to audition, and the monitor hands them a card with that time, then writes their name down in that time slot. The Equity actor then comes back at least ten minutes before their time to check in, is seen, and is done. The other time of call is the ECC: Equity Chorus Call. This call is for, you guessed it, the chorus. Singers, dancers, understudies, small cameo parts. But of course, the theater could cast principles or chorus from either call. There are two types of ECC's. 1) For singers. 2) For dancers. At an ECC, the Equity member signs up a week before the audition on a sign up sheet at the Equity building in Manhattan. They arrive 30 minutes before the call begins, and the monitor calls off the list in the order they are written. He gives the actors a card with a number on it 1 - however many there are. The actor waits for his number to be called to audition.

How does one become Equity if one so chooses, you might ask. What you canNOT do, is simply decide you want to become Equity, and therefore pay your dues to a man in an Equity coat (no, the coats don't really exist) and be a member. There are two ways of becoming an Equity member. One is a point system. A non-Eq member "crashes" an Equity audition, or the theater holds a separate call for non-Eq because that particular theater is allowed to offer non-Eq contracts. A non-Eq member works for an Equity theater and for every week worked, receives a point. 50 points equals an Equity card, at which time the actor can pay his dues and join the Union. The second way is for non-Equity members to "crash" an Equity audition and get cast even though they are non-Equity, and are therefore "given" their card no matter how many points they have, if any. The actor then has the opportunity to pay their dues and become an Equity member.

Any questions?

There are good things to being an Equity member, and then some not-so-good things. And there are good thing to being a non-Union actor, and then some not-so-good things.

I am currently a non-union actor.

And since I've bored some of you for entirely too long, and since I've got to work not too long from now, I'll explain the advantages and disadvantages to each in my next post. Till then...

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

It was a 6 AM day today. Right now it's 7:22 AM, and I'm almost out the door. I have to sign up for an audition downtown and then zip further downtown for a voice lesson at 9 AM, then back to the audition. Let's hope I get seen. Maybe if we all hope hard enough. I really want to sing this particular song today.

Who has a voice lesson at 9 AM?

Apparently I do, and I'm insane.

Have a great day, folks.


Update: 2:30 PM:

Well you all must've hoped real hard, cuz I got seen right around noon, and it went very well. Hooray for good auditions. Woo hoo!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Gettin' Myself Back in Shape

I should mean back in physical shape. Like...I should be doing lots of yoga...and running...and sit-ups and all that stuff...and dance class.

But I mean back in sleep shape.

It's all about baby steps, see.

My work out plan is simple yet oh so hard: Go to bed fifteen minutes earlier every night. Get up fifteen minutes earlier every morning. Get at least 7 hours of sleep. Until I hit the perfect bed time, which I'm not really sure what that is yet, but I'm thinking lights out, 1 AM is a realistic expectation. That's the goal.

This of course applies to the days I don't HAVE to get up at 6 AM for auditions. Because of course on audition days my eyelids are extra sore since I have no choice in when I get up, and there's no possible way I could go to bed at 11 PM. So on those days I'll just have to set a midnight goal and deal with the 6 hours. Or 5 hours if I can't do it.

See, right now it's 1:05 AM, and I'm already getting tired. This is a good sign, people. It means my hard work is paying off, and I can once again join the healthy happy Early Risers of America who enjoy the benefits of Vitamin D3 consumption. Just look at all the benefits of Vitamin D and the dangers in its deficiency.

I'm well on my way to a happy, healthier lifestyle.


(That was the glint from the sun's rays bouncing off my pearly whites in their morning glory)

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Quotes for the Bathroom Mirror

"Many of life's failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up."

--Thomas Edison

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Can't Sleep

Somebody remind me to never take a Mucinex ever again. I'm telling you, they kill me. 4 hours ago I was stoned, as Seth put it, and now I'm wide awake at 5 AM, and not a lick of sleep. My brain won't stop. My heart's pounding. I'm hungry. So, I'm assuming that would be the other half of that big honkin' pill I took. The white half, maybe. Not the expectorant half, the other half, the half that's a few chemicals shy of crack. I actually took two pills.

I've got a continual and conscious narration of my thoughts going on inside my head. It doesn't help that, with my new reading companion, Wuthering Heights, (which I read right before bed) I'm thinking with a British accent and inflection. Which is both interesting and amusing all in itself: One part of my consciousness listening to the other part speak in proper British form.

Anyway, I've got a dang cold.

Or shall I say...A temporary illness led on by winds of misfortune has befallen me, and I dare say I must take necessary precautions to beseech its retreat. Retreat, I say! Retreat, unwanted ghoul of nature. Ahhh, retreat unto the far reaches of origin that you might sink back into nonexistance and disturb one's slumber no more.

Yeah, so....can't sleep.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

I Hate Politics

I hate them. I hate how the media pushes their way into people's homes with their biased opinions and rude interviews. I hate that it's a big fat game. I hate that Americans don't really know the issues in their entirety. That we have to decipher what we think's going on in the White House from what we hear on T.V. or read in a newspaper or hear on talk radio. I hate that the media thinks we're too stupid to sift through their B.S. I hate that every American thinks they know how to run this country, when they have absolutely no access to intelligence or a cabinet or anything useful but a T.V. and w-w-w dot Yahoo dot com.

I'm not saying we shouldn't vote. Sure, we should vote. We know enough to vote. We know differences in parties and voting records and ethics and personalities. But don't vote on Sarah Palin's speech at the Republican National Pep Rally. Don't vote on Obama's promise to "change." Don't vote on words and ideals. Don't vote because you feel sorry that McCain can't raise his arms above his shoulders. Don't vote because Obama's black. Don't vote because Palin's a woman.

So I'm curious. What's the most important thing to you in choosing a president? What do you look at among the candidates to decide on your pick? Not necessarily, what you look for. I'm not so interested in if you look for pro-life, pro-choice, government regulation or tax cuts. I don't care if you're a Democrat or a Republican. More...if you think voting ethics is most important, or do you look at experience, record...foreign What seals the deal for you in your vote?

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Studying Voice

You told me not to think.
Just feel.
What did that feel like?

And I said I was sorry.
For what, you said.
And I said,

for thinking

And you said,

Very good lesson.
Good concentration.

And I thought, Well I guess I'm not sorry then.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

In Honor of Victims and Their Loved Ones

Conversation tonight with a 7-year old boy in New York City:

He turns 7 on Saturday, Sept 13.

The 7-year-old boy I babysit for had just been put to bed. I see his little frame in the doorway to the kitchen, holding his stuffed rabbit and rubbing his eyes. He hears something in his room, some kind of creaking, he says. We go listen. Nothing. I explain the nature of the walls in New York, how sometimes you can hear the plumbing from the person above... I tuck him back into bed. He says:

7 yr old: Today's a sad day.

Me: What?

7 yr old: Today's a sad day. I saw it on the T.V. in the taxi.

Me: .....You're right.... Today's a sad day.

7 yr old: What were those called?

Me: What were what called?

7 yr old: Those buildings. They were called....ummm.

Me: The twin towers?

7 yr old: No, what was the building called?

Me: The World Trade Center?

7 yr old: Yeah! The World Trade Center! It fell to the ground. What made it fall to the ground? Was it like an asteroid?!?!

Me: .....Well...kind of like that.

7 yr old: Maybe the sun! Maybe the sun CAME DOWN! And CRASHED into those buildings!

Me: ....You know what? This isn't a nice thing to think about right before bed. You need to think happy thoughts before bedtime.

7 yr old: Yeah... Cuz nothing like that would ever happen around here.

Me: Right... Nothing like that.

7 yr old: Was that like....a REALLY long time ago?

Me: That was seven years ago.

7 yr old: Is that a really long time ago?

Me: That was, like, right before you were born.

7 yr old: Oh man. I wouldn't have wanted to be born when that happened.

Me: Yeah.

7 yr old: But that wouldn't happen anywhere around here, right.

Me: Right.... But you shouldn't be thinking of sad things right before bed. Just happy things. Think about happy things.

7 yr old: Yeah. OK. Happy things... Love you. G'night.

Me: Love you, too. G'night buddy.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Quotes for the Bathroom Mirror

"I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work."

--Thomas Edison

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Let it Be Known....

that I woke up at 6 AM every day this week. That's right 6 AM!!! I got seen four times this week. Four times is good.

I forget how different these auditions are than anything else I've experienced in the music business. Not just because you sing for 1 minute and that's the end of it, but mostly because of the possibility of such negative energy in the room that could eradicate the smile off the face of Richard Simmons. It's always nice to get a cheery "Hi" when I walk into the room. A glance up from the papers on the table is good. A double-take, even better. The best is complete, unbroken attention from the man or woman behind the table. A smile goes a long way. Smiles are good. I like casting directors that smile. They're few and far between.

But that may not be so bad, really. If every casting director smiled at every auditionee that walked into the room, there'd be a whole lot of girls in stiletto heels and bouncy hair that get their feelings hurt when they don't get a phone call.

I find myself sitting AWAY from those girls in stiletto heels and bouncy hair. Not that there's anything wrong with stiletto heels. I like the heels. Just not the conversation. I really don't. I don't want to know the girl's resume and how she knows this director and thinks so and so on Broadway has the worst voice ever and if that girl can get on Broadway, surely she could. I don't want to talk about what song I'm singing or what song she's singing or how she heard the principals were already cast. How she thinks they're not really looking for anyone, they just have to hold the call. I don't want to waste my energy mustering up fake interest, raising my eyebrows, nodding my head, pretending like I care while she throws her weight around.

So now I just sit as far away as I can and read.

But today I didn't get up at 6 AM. Today I went to my friend's surprise 30th birthday party, after I watched Federer beat Djokovic, and Nadal and Murray's match get postponed because of the rain. It was weird that the rain postponing the match on T.V. was the same rain that made puddles on my deck. That was pretty cool.

Tomorrow I'm making my vision board.

This guy...

is a big fat baby....

if you ask me.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Back to Work

Well...I'm off to my first day back of auditions in the Big Apple. It's 7:14 AM as I type. I woke up at 6 AM. For all of you who know me, you know that's way too early. But I did it. And here I go.

I'm trying to look at this like I'm lucky for the opportunity to live in this wonderful city and audition for Broadway. That I would hate for one beautiful day to go by without me thankful for being in it.

That's how I'm trying to look at today.

The other side of me wants to crawl back in bed and refuse to once again be the little fish swimming in this great big ocean, and instead walk the park, eat ice cream, and watch tennis. need to DVR that today.

But I'm up, and it's a beautiful day.

Wish me luck, folks.

***Update: 3:01 PM

Didn't get seen at three different auditions today. Crazy Equity people decided to get out of bed, too. See, the way it works for us non-union folk, get up early, stand in line, and sign up on a piece of paper. That piece of paper is incredibly important, and the number you are on the list is incredibly important as well. Once all the Equity members have been seen at the audition, the monitor starts calling off the non-Eq list. If you're gone when you're name is called, you go to the end of the list. So best stay put and read a book or jibber jabber with a friend. Today there were tons of Equity people, and I signed up and waited, but didn't get an audition. It happens. And the sucky part is that when the auditions are at the Equity building, like they were today, you have to wait in the lobby outside the Equity lounge. They don't even let you go through to use the restroom. Only if you're name is called off the list can you enter the Equity chamber. And use the bathroom. Otherwise, it's the McDonald's on Broadway and 46th. Suckers.