So over the last two weeks I had the wonderful opportunity to play Roberto Clemente in a developing musical called 21 by Alki Steriopolous. It was an absolute whirlwind of an experience that left me so exhausted when I was finally done, that I got home and could barely move, hahaha. It was only a reading of the musical which I’ll explain more about in a minute, but I really hope that I made a good enough impression to be considered again if the musical finds more monetary backing.
Alright, so this type of show is called a 29 hour reading. Basically, the actors are hired for 29 hours to completely learn the script and music of the show. The way our team had us broken up was in 3-4 hour rehearsals for 7 days, and then a presentation of the show on the 8th day. As the actor, you can choose to get some basic materials early (but with the understanding that the pre-work you put in is completely voluntary and on your own time) or you can choose to show up day 1 of rehearsal and everything be a complete surprise… Recognizing the challenge of having to play someone as iconic as Roberto Clemente, I chose the first option. Even when I was a lazy design student in college, I still took a lot of pride in the presentation of my materials, and with this role I knew I was going to have to be ahead of the curve going into rehearsal to even come close to seeming authentic on the presentation day. The director allowed me to view a super old rough draft script to get a feel for the writing and the music, which I am extremely thankful he did. Going in to the rehearsals it was nice to know how far the musical had come editing wise, because when we started rehearsal, the framework of the story had completely changed from the draft he gave me; and it had changed in a good way. I said to my girlfriend after I read the rough draft, that I hoped they would be really molding and re-working the story of the show in rehearsals, because the rough draft I received was definitely jumping focus on multiple semi-related story lines, as opposed to really honed in on the main theme – Roberto’s battle of how to react to the extremely prejudiced American landscape of the era. It made me feel in great creative hands when we started rehearsal and the script we were handed was just that. I knew my creative juices were going to mesh with the creative vision of the team. 🙂
One of the coolest things that happened in the process was a day when the writer of the musical asked, what I considered, a very interesting question to the girl who was playing my wife in the show. He asked her why it was that she wasn’t speaking her lines in a spanish accent during rehearsal. She’s cuban, and the woman she was playing in the show is Puerto Rican, yet throughout the rehearsal period she rarely spoke out of her normal (i guess for lack of a better term) “American” voice. Her answer was that she wanted to understand the human context of the scenes before she infused it with any kind of culturally specific language or movement. The reason I loved this so much is because it continues to re-affirm my understanding of this art form – that there is no right or wrong way to ACT; there is only the method that you connect with the most that makes you feel the most honest and real in your performance. It’s why there are ever-evolving and ever competing schools of thought, the Adlers, the Stanislavskis, etc… This is not an art form where finding the defined answer makes you better than your competition, au contraire, it’s whether you’re comfortable enough with yourself to be confident in knowing that you don’t have all the answers, and that you’re bold enough to make an honest choice between the thousands of creative possibilities…. I was preparing myself in the complete opposite way as her. She’s cuban, so speaking spanish and having a deep cultural grasp of Latin behavior is something she can just turn on and off at her convenience. I on the other hand, have three years of high school spanish classes that I BS-ed my way through and only remember how to ask for a book at the library, hahaha (which I technically only remember because of that movie Bedazzled where Brendan Frasier is a Columbian drug lord in one of the scenes). My preparation was that I found sound clips of Roberto Clemente online and listened to them over and over again. I listened and imitated his patterns of speech, and then like a crazy person would talk to myself as I walked around throughout the day in that voice. Then, I started to read through the script. Finding the words that would have distinctly different inflections and volumes. Once I was comfortable with those words, it made it easier for me to infuse the human context of the scene because I was no longer self-conscious about what I sounded like speaking the text… These are two completely different ways to prepare the script, given the different tools and skill sets between the two of us, and the only thing that makes either right or wrong is how dedicated and committed to our preparation we are. I read a quote the other day in the acting magazine, Backstage, that said that the audience will believe just about anything if they’re convinced that the actor actually believes it too. Given the extremely positive feedback we received from our presentation day audience, I think all of us did a pretty admirable job of believing in the script and the story.
Everything beyond this point is out of our hands. The creative team of the show invited some pretty influential people to see the presentation, and now it’s up to the financiers to decide the future life of the musical. I gave 100% of my energy and made some boooold decisions on the fly (insert my friend Perry from tour and girlfriend that I invited to see the show laughing at me as I walked backwards epicly and extremely seriously during the reading… i wasn’t told to do that, I just felt it as it was happening… I can only imagine how awkward it looked haha), so hopefully I made a big enough impression to be considered again for the next level of the creative process.
Next up – not a damn thing, lol… I technically got a job at this ice cream shop called Holey Cream, where they serve ice cream in the middle of a donut, instead of a cone… mmmmmmmmmmmmm, donuuuuuuut…. but the manager still hasn’t called me back to tell me what day I start. Need that paycheck though, rent money sure doesn’t grow on trees… but seriously, an All-Electric car just won Motor Trend’s car of the year honor, the first non-gasoline sucking combustion engine car to do so, and we still haven’t figured out how to make money grow on trees… how have stoners across the country been selling ridiculous amounts of weed to the state for medicinal marijuana shops and making BANK, and I still can’t grow a George Washington plant in my front yard… This is clearly Obama’s fault, hahahahaha
Love you guys,