Monday, November 29, 2010

#281: Hurts So Good

Have you ever exercised your legs so hard that it made your butt hurt? The cheeks, I mean. I love that feeling. It starts deep down in your hamstrings and runs right up into the small of your back. Nothing can make me feel that burn like squats. Yesterday was the first time I got up the nerve to work my legs hard. Well, not hard exactly. I did two sets of ten squats, dead lifts, and lunges in the living room during the Steelers game yesterday. I only lifted my own body weight. My balance is still a little iffy for dumbbells. When i had finished, I was left rubber legged and wooly headed, but today I feel super. There's just that slight feeling of tightness in my glutes. I'm not used to having kind thoughts about my fanny, but today it feels just as hard as a rock. At least from the inside it feels that way. I look forward to reality catching up with that sensation.

After I finished my workout, and the Steelers did their best to give me a stroke, I went to rehearsal. We are finally putting the show on its feet. What I mean is that we're finally getting away from the reading table and the rehearsal piano and moving around the hall a little bit. This is always such a liberating time for the company. The actors finally find out just how detailed a director is going to be, how much "tolerance" there is going to be for us to find our own way own way. Good directors know how to find a balance between letting the cast flounder aimlessly, and giving so many instructions that the players have no room to play. My favorite directors are the ones who can give you an idea of where the play is moving, then trust you as an actor to find the best way to get there. Thats just my preference. Some directors can't stand it, and it terrifies many actors not to have each move carefully planned and choreographed. Those artists generally hate working with me. My work is very disciplined, but it isn't the same approach they are used to. That's cool. We're better off apart.

Our director "J" is a good one, I think. I've always used this image for the relationship between actor and director: Actors are slalom skiers, and the director helps them to find all the flags on the hill. Together, the playwright, the designers, the actors, the crew, and the director work together to shape the course the production will follow. It's an extremely gratifying process, one that prepares performers and stagehands for the equally gratifying process of playing for an audience. At least that's how I see it. Some people hate performing, but love rehearsal. These people become directors. Others love performing, but hate rehearsal. They become waiters.

So, after a rehearsal during which my pleasantly sore legs and behind trembled like water balloons, I jumped in the car and drove downtown to an audition. Fortunately they were running late, so I had a chance to be seen. It was my first audition in a long time, and it was good to open up my old toolbox. Everything felt so familiar. The script in my hand. The other actors pacing, preparing to show their stuff. The little rush you get when the door opens and your name is called. And finally, there is the audition itself. The stage manager introduces you to the director and anyone else who might be sitting at the table. You smile, maybe shake hands. They might give you some instructions. And you're off. 

You're looking at a script for the first time, maybe reading for this director for the first time, and all you can do is tell the truth. Nothing else matters. You make snap decisions about who the character is, what they want, and how they're trying to get it, and then somebody says "go" and you play. You want the job and you want them to love you and the only way to make it happen is to put all that aside and play the role.

Auditions are my least favorite part of an actor's life. I think that's true for a lot of us. But this one felt like coming home. Its nice when someone just calls and offers you a part without having to audition, and it's flattering. But there's something I love about having to earn the part in an audition. It just feels more respectful somehow. I'm not sure I can really explain it. Maybe I just like competing because it feels so good to win...

The gym was brutal today. Not much of a surprise after yesterday's adventures. But I did take a lot of time off of my mile walk. I added some reps to my lat pull downs, but then I was pretty fried. I completed three sets of very light overhead presses, then after a handful of woodchoppers I was ready to call it a day. The right shoulder is the one where they removed muscles and nerves from my neck and it's going to take while to build up the strength around the hole. 

Nice to be making progress on so many fronts, though.


  1. Hey there Bob! Interesting to read your thoughts about auditioning....I haven't been to one in ages either, and I do know what you mean about having to "earn" a part. It's a good feeling. It has been years since I took a rejection personally, I have to admit. I wonder about that sometimes -- does that mean I have lost the passion for it, or does it mean I finally have developed a thick skin? Hmm....and it's weird about the "loving rehearsal more than performing" piece - for years I have said that I love the process more than performing, but I always figured it was because I have such devastating stage fright. Maybe I have been a director all this time! LOL.

    It is so great to hear you sounding so fit and well and back in your element again! Looking forward to hearing more about the show, and your continued good health efforts, ElizaBeth

  2. I've always thought waiters were born and not made. Thanks for the crystal clarity of your description. You are one funny guy. Here's to finding all the poles on the slalom course!


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