Posts Tagged ‘Theatre’

Urban Legend: Sasquatch 

Concept & Story by Joshua Malone

(The read of the treatment is best enjoyed if read along while listening to these two videos simultaneously)  

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H9F0Y5G1nTM

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wxu_WxO3suI&t=4543s

 

STORY:

About an hour drive outside of Spokane, Washington there is an idyllic lodge located at the base of Laemmle Mountain. The lodge, known as Grand Cedar Lodge, sits next to a picturesque lake, and has acres of space where people flock to camp to “get away from it all.” Behind it sits the majestic Laemmle Mountain where there are miles of hiking trails (both clearly marked and some that wander a bit off the beaten path,) and incredible game that bring in hunters from all across the world. With its seasonal snow-capped peak, lush dense forests, and prized fish and game it’s easy to see why so many people have made this the number one destination for a retreat since it’s opening in 1955.

 

But for the last few years attendance to the lodge has been declining. In previous interviews the owners of the lodge, Samuel and Martha Buckner, have just chalked it up to “Well, that’s just the world we live in now. Nobody wants to go camping anymore. Nobody wants to “get away from it all.” They want to stay connected with their gadgets and technology.”

But the surrounding townsfolk know better. In the last three years over thirty people have gone missing, and last year all but put the proverbial nail in the coffin for the great lodge when five young college co-eds were found horribly mangled deep within the forest. A sixth member of the group had gone missing, and after a week of searching she eventually turned up.

Bethany Francis was found in a cave in the forest ten miles from the lodge. She was dehydrated, and had several server lacerations and broken bones she had managed to mend crudely which kept her alive just long enough for help to arrive. She was quickly medevac’d to the nearest hospital. The medical team reported that in the chopper she kept muttering a single word in her sleep: Sasquatch.

 

Since the first disappearance rumors had been circling about a large monster in the woods, but nothing had ever been confirmed. Nobody had ever seen anything. All there were to go off of was ancient Native American legend and the fact that late at night campers would report hearing something making horrific bellows deep within the forest. But after the latest incident there is no hiding it. Some kind of creature really was living in Laemmle Mountain and it was killing anybody who dared to venture there.

 

The Buckners weren’t entirely sure what this creature was but it needed to be taken care of. They honestly didn’t think it was really a “Big Foot” monster, but it was something. They could even hear the creature’s roars at night, and since there haven’t been guests in months it seems like whatever it was… it was getting more brazen and coming closer and closer to the lodge and not just hiding out in the forest.

After their last talk Washington Fish and Game, where they refused to help locate this creature, Martha Buckner had an idea- a reward for any hunter who was willing to track down this creature, whatever it was, and kill it. Not only would the hunter be able to get the prestige and the trophy of a lifetime, but the Buckner’s would offer a $50,000 reward upon its death.

 

Word of this spread like wildfire, and soon the lodge was packed with the most visitors it had had since this all began. Hunters from all over the world had come to locate, trap, and kill this blood thirsty creature. Some wanted the reward. Others just simply wanted their favorite get away resort back. There were even a good number of people who even made the trip just to watch, like this was some kind of “end all” sporting event. Little did they know… that’s exactly what this would be.

The first bloodcurdling screams of hunters came during the sunset on the first night of the “Laemmle Monster Hunt.” A group of hunters hadn’t even gone a mile in to the forest, and they were never seen again. All that was found was blood soaked trees and a camping site that looked like a pack of bears had torn through it. But everybody knew this wasn’t bears after they found a single footprint in the mud. A large footprint that looked like it had been left by something half man and half beast.

This monsters territory had indeed grown because of the lack of visitors, and it was not about to retreat back in to hiding now. Especially not when there was so much east prey around…

 

GUEST STORY:

You and your friends have traveled to Laemmle Mountain to spectate this great hunt! You’ve packed your camping gear, your drinks, and are ready enjoy the scenery and be on the front end of what will surely be one of the greatest hunts in American history.

Your group ran a little behind schedule in leaving, and you’re already a day behind when you finally arrive and the sun has set and night is quickly invading. But as you come over the hill and see the lodge nestled between the lake and the forest with the great mysterious mountain looming behind it you can’t help but be in awe at the beauty. This will surely be a trip to remember. And you’ve never believed there was a monster anyway. In all likelihood it’s probably a bear, or maybe a family of bears just trying to live their life in the mountainside forest and dumb tourists have always managed to invade their space by wandering too close. You and your friends don’t plan on getting that close to the action, and even so you’ve all prepared. You’ve made your plans, and have proper safety gear. You’re smarter than those people who have gone missing. There’s no such thing as “Big Foot” and this is just going to be an entertaining weekend.

As soon as you drive up to the lodge though, you know something is wrong. You can’t see anybody, and it’s unnervingly quiet except for the sound of the water of the lake, the trees creaking.

As you walk towards the lodge more and more warning alarms start going off in your head. A truck’s windshield has been smashed in. A small tree has seemingly been snapped in half recently.

Suddenly from deep within the woods you hear somebody scream followed by a rifle shot. Then something lets out an unholy roar. THAT… was no bear. You and your friends race towards the lodge for cover, realizing this was not going to be the amazing camping trip you had imagined after all.

 

ROUGH HOUSE LAYOUT:

1.)    FAÇADE – EXT. EXT. GRAND CEDAR LODGE –DUSK/NIGHT

You  see the rustic beautiful structure of the lodge with a darkened forest behind it and the great silhouette of Laemmle Mountain just beyond the trees.  A truck has run into a tree and a hunter is screaming for help. Gunshots are heard in the distance as a creature roars. Just outside the entrance of the building there is a GIANT footprint.

 

2.)    INT. GRAND CEDAR LODGE

A roaring fire provides false warmth an comfort before MARTHA BUCKNER reaches in through a busted window, all bloodied and screaming for help. Through the shades of another window on another wall you see a large figure, stalking

 

3.)    EXT. GRAND CEDAR LODGE (BACK) – NIGHT

A random CAMPER lies mangled on a tree stump, and SAM BUCKNER comes running out with an AX screaming to “get out of here. It’s HIS land now!” A defining roar sounds close by and you see a large shadow just beyond the trees.

 

4.)    EXT. WOODS

You follow a path leading into the woods. You hear the echos of hunters whispering cautioned words to each other, and twigs snapping. A hunter comes out suddenly and warns that “It’s COMING” just before, on the opposite side, a large SASQUATCH creature reaches out from between the trees with one of it’s large clawed arms and roars at you.

 

5.)    EXT. CREEK

You come across a creek bed with a small bridge that goes over it. A camper lays sprawled out, face down. Half their body in the water half on the bank. Their guts have been torn from their body. What sounds like heavy footsteps and a tree crashing comes from behind you as you make your way over the bridge, only to be met with another camper who’s face has been half slashed off/eaten.

 

6.)    EXT. CAMP SITE

There is a small fire and a mangled tent.  We see a couple of giant footprints. A bloodied camper crawls out and dies by the fireside choking on their blood. From the opposite side the great SASQUATCH lunges from the forest again after you, giving a deafening roar with saliva slapping your face.

 

7.)    EXT. HUNTER CAMP

You round a corner in the forest to be met with a blaring horn of an RV. A hunter comes out of the RV screaming “THERE IT IS!” and fires their gun into the forest. You see the silhouette of *a creature* in the forest. Just before you get out of the camp a giant BEAR stalks forward and slashes at you.

 

8.)    EXT. WOODS

You’re lost in a dense misty forest with screaming, gunshots and roars all around you. A bloodied hunter reaches out from between the trees begging for help, before something violently jerks them backward into the darkness of the forest. A SASQUATCH head snaps at you through the trees on the opposite side

 

9.)    EXT. SASQUATCH LAIR

You’ve found the lair of the beast but and see the glowing eyes of the creature inside just moments before it charges at you in full glory, roaring and reaching out it’s terrifying claws, just before a lone hunter starts firing his weapon at the beast as you quickly make your way towards the end.

 

10.)  EXT. WOODS/EXIT

You quickly make your way towards freedom, thinking you can hear the pained dying cries of the beast behind you. That is until you hear a second sound coming from up ahead, just before a SECOND SASQUATCH lunges out trying to rip you to shreds before you can escape.

 

SCENTS USED:

Wood/Cedar (throughout)

Pine (throughout)

Burned wood/fire (campsites, Lodge)

Monkey fur and/or Wet Dog (Sasquatch encounters)

Gunpowder (Hunter Camp)

Rotting meat (Lair)

 

REFERENCE IMAGES:

 

 

rough sketch

Sasquatch rough concept sketch by Joshua Malone

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hey everyone! Sorry for the major lag in posts. Life has been hella crazy the past few months since Dracula (the latest production I was in) has ended. But I wanted to take a moment and just kind of reflect on this past year as a whole.
It’s really cliche to look back on the previous year and say something akin to “man, it’s been a rollercoaster!” It’s also never been a very appropriate analogy in my eyes either. Rollercoasters are fun. This past year was more like standing in line for said rollercoaster.
You see the rollercoaster, and you get really excited and run towards it only to see there is a really long line. So you get in the line and begin your wait. And you wait… and wait. Then you hear the person in front of you start to talk about the last episode of your favorite TV show and you nervously pipe in and then get a genuinely good conversation started and you’re happy. But then the conversation peeters off and you’re left standing there feeling a tad awkward and go back to just waiting in line. Then a voice comes over an intercom saying that there is a delay of some kind and the wait is even longer. You have the option of getting out of line and going to that “other” coaster, which is probably almost as fun but you REALLY want to ride THIS coaster. So you wait, and wait, and wait some more. And it starts getting hot, and a couple behind you is starting to make out and you’re just standing there rubbing your head because you’re starting to get hungry also because you missed breakfast before you came to the theme park and just b-lined it to this ride because you wanted to ride it so badly! Sigh. But then… after such a long wait… it moves. The line moves, and you look around unsure if you’re dreaming or if it’s for real. You step forward, scared that you’ll be reprimanded somehow by seizing this opportunity of advancing yourself. Nothing happens though and you take a few more steps forward until you’ve caught up to the line again. Your heart is beating fast because you are close to the stairs that lead up to the loading platform of the coaster! You’re almost there; the wait is almost over and you’ll be latched in and on your way to 60 seconds of 50mph bliss! But now that couple behind you has caught up again and are up to their old smooch-anigans again and you’re standing near the garbage can. You feel that angst building up again inside but soon enough the line moves again and you can take your first step up that flight of stairs towards the platform! DEAR GOD, it’s (almost) so close! You can even hear the operator now saying “all clear” before the ride takes off. You can’t shake the grin on your face even though you know that it’s still a ways away before you’re seated AND you still have choices to make ahead- like will you go for the front row, and wait a little longer or risk getting a back seat ride? You don’t know, and you don’t care because you’re just that much closer and you want to be on this ride!
So, yeah. That’s how I feel. This year has had a lot of truly amazing moments and experiences but also a lot of… stagnant moments as well, for lack of better word at the moment. I know, I know- that’s life. I get it, that’s the way it’s always been. But my point isn’t to complain and whine but to be thankful for the adventure 2015 has been. I have met and made some amazing new friends this year and have also had an opportunity to strengthen relationships with people. I’ve worked on some incredible projects and productions, and know that it’s only the start. There has also been turmoil, heartbreak, and low points. But, as I’ve stated before, that’s going to happen. I’ve been able to get through it though, with the help of my family and friends (both new and old.)
As I look forward to 2016 I’m sure there are a lot more obstacles to overcome for everyone. I’m trying not to stress it though. I’m moving to the city and starting a whole new chapter in my life and stepping one step closer to that platform. I thank all of my friends and family for their love and support this past year.

The haunt season is upon us faster than a drunk jock in a horror film. With many haunted houses opening their doors next week I’ve been trying to prepare myself (as well as my wallet,) planning which haunts I will for sure be wanting to attend this year. I live in the greater Chicago area so there are plenty to choose from!  I’ve managed to narrow down my five top choices which is what I’ll be sharing with you all. So without further adieu, let’s get started…

4.) 13th Floor Chicago

1940 George St., Melrose Park, Illinois 60160

I unfortunately missed his house last year, their first year in the area. While I heard a lot of mixed reviews as far as the scares go there was nothing overly negative, like some other first time haunts in the area. The sets and makeup are said to be spectacular, and with several other locations across the U.S they have to be doing something right!

They have two different houses  this year. One of them, Feral Moon, probably excites me the most! It sound very classic and deals with werewolves. This excites me as The Wolfman is one of my favorite classic monsters.  Dead End District: Wrong Turn seems like a pseudo Evil Dead/28 Days Later mashup of some kind in plot- which will be interesting. I’m not sure based on the description if these things are evil or if they are more zombie like. Either way, bring it on!

3.) Evil Intentions

900 Grace Street Elgin, IL 60120

Their story this year, The Awakening, sounds intriguing- basically centering around the idea that some ghost hunters have awakened a great evil in a local mortuary. I love houses with a story , so that just makes it all the better.  And this house just looks intense, and intense is what I like. Really expecting some great acting, on top of the stellar looking makeup and location they have going on.

2.) Basement of the Dead

42 West New York Street, Aurora, IL

This house launched itself into one of my top top five scariest haunt experiences ever last year. This house is utterly fantastic with some spot on acting and energy from beginning to end in the house, great twists and turns, great line entertainment. The website is advertising itself as bigger better and scarier this year and that the audience will ‘not recognize it from last year’ which really has me pumped. I am anxiously awaiting it again this year in all of it’s gory.

1.) Project Chaos

Right next to Evil Intentions

The latest from Fables Studios, advertising itself as a interactive haunted house- which just makes my life. Anybody who knows me know how much I love experiences like this. To actually be a part of the story make it all the more horrifying. They have a really planned out story for this year, and a great vision driving the haunt forward this year. I’m expecting an experience unlike anything else in the area with this haunt. Plus the fact that it’s right next door to Evil Intentions (in fact they have a partnership deal going on for tickets to both for just $40) is just an added bonus.

While these are just my top four, there are plenty others that I am looking forward too as well in the area. That’s the great thing about living near a populated area- never running short of haunts. Like last year, you can expect some reviews of haunts I’ll be visiting to pop up.

If you have any haunts in the greater Chicago-land area that you think are worth checking out, let me know in the comments!

10

I have been a scareactor for many different haunted houses over the past ten years.  It’s a form of acting that I find a great amount of joy in, and I also take a lot of pride in. That’s why when I’m told by people that it’s not “real acting” I get really defensive.

Often times the directors, actors, etc. who says things like that typically dislike haunts/horror or have never been on the production side of these types of shows. Look, I get it. I understand how someone can go into a haunt and think that the actors doing the scaring are just fooling around or how it doesn’t take any skill to pop out and say “boo.” I get that thought process because the rub is it doesn’t take a lot skill to just say boo; to just be able to do the minimal in a haunt. The skill comes from the planning, the prep, the ability to read the audience, and the overall craft that goes in to real scaring. It’s the same amount of prep I’d put in to any performance on screen or on stage, and it pisses me off when people just discount the work that I and so many other talented people put in.

I believe this is a sort of paradox that any off stage live theatre performer deals with. You’re told that there is no real place for performances like this to be on your resume, and that it doesn’t take any real talent. That’s such bull to me. You can tell a good scareactor from a bad one in an instant. The good ones put in the time and devotion to the characters that we create, and that effort shows. I also go to plenty of haunt events and the ones that scare me or entertain me the most are always the ones where you can tell that the actors believe in their characters and put in the time and passion to flesh them out in their own heads. One of the first things you lean in theatre is if you as an actor believe in the action taking place, it’s that much easier for the audience to believe it. That is true on stage/film, but it’s even more true I believe in more visceral performances like haunted houses, or these interactive experiences like ALONE, Delusion, or Fables.2

Along with the process of creating these characters from the ground up, the ability to hone in and read the audience is so important to performances in haunts. It’s something that you have to continually work on, and perfect and is unlike anything you’d ever experience in stage theatre and especially film. With stage theatre, yes, you need to be able to read your audience- sure. But that is nothing compared to the way you need to read your audience in a haunt environment. First and foremost there is safety. You need to protect yourself as well as make sure the audience is never in any real danger. People have different reactions to being scared. I’ve been punched, slapped, kicked, scratched. elbowed, and have also had to deal with people crawling away into a corner, running backwards, and crapping themselves. There are so many different ways people deal with fear, and you have to be able to read that and be able to react to that so that you can still give a performance while making sure your safe, not holding the line up, or making the guests destroy the set or themselves.

You also have to be able to read what scares your audience. Not everyone scares the same way or is afraid of the same thing. So you may get one person who is petrified after you burst through a doorway screaming, but the next person may think that it’s scarier to see you crawling on all fours towards them. You need to have your character and the given circumstances in your mind, but you also have to allow yourself to be malleable to what the audience wants to experience. Really- if you ever want a great improv experience, try working a haunted house for a season.

While there are plenty of scareactors who are ostracized in theatre, the same happens in film. An example is the actors who have played Michael Myers. There have been many different actors to don the mask, and it sounds like a really basic and simple role. But to me it’s much more. Those actors have to not only portray him physically but all they have to act with is tiny gestures and their eyes- that’s it. That, to me, takes a lot of skill but I know a lot of people who don’t think that it takes talent.

1There needs to be more acceptance for scareactors in the world of theatre as well as film.  I do understand that just because a person is able to create a character and scare others it doesn’t mean that they can memorize lines or do other basic things and interactions with others on stage, but it’s all still importance and working haunted houses teaches actors a lot about improv, staying in character through distractions, reading the audience, and so much more. It actually pains me that after the hours, and years of devotion to this art I’m actually told that I should add this work to my acting resume; that I’m told that essentially all the work I’ve put in doesn’t count. It does count, and it matters. Acting is about creating an experience for the audience, and you can ask any number of the thousands of “victims” I’ve had over the past ten years and they’d tell you that I along with my fellow cast member did indeed create an experience for them.

When I started this blog I intended on it being nothing more than a place where I can review and discuss films, plays, and books- mainly those of a horror persuasion. Obviously it has evolved in to a little more than that, but still it has been built on that basic cornerstone.

As I was going through some of my past posts though I couldn’t help but notice… there is only one [horror] book review, for Let’s Go Play at the Adams’. And the review, if you notice, isn’t super positive. Now Let’s Go Play was a book that was not just recommended to me by several acquaintances but was on pretty much every “must read” list for those wanting a terrifying story. Yet when I read it… at no point was I terrified. I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately on top of the fact that I haven’t written any other horror book reviews. It isn’t for lack of reading any. I’ve read Chuck Palahniuk’s Haunted, Ray Bradbury’s  Something Wicked This Way Comes and several others and it’s not that I didn’t enjoy any of these books (on the contrary many of them are very well written and gripping in their own right) it’s just that they aren’t scary and I want to write reviews about books that really put me on edge- books I’d gladly recommend to others who are constantly on a search for stories that chill you to the bone. I have spent hours on the internet looking up horror novel/story recommendations and reviews in search for those tales that keep me up late at night, both because they have me in their clutches and because I’m afraid to turn out the lights. But for some reason… it’s really hard to find such books.

Now before any of you go and crucify me I understand that good horror is actually not that hard to find. All you really have to do is go to the library isle that is marked F – Kin, and walk only a few feet in. At the same time though horror really is difficult to accomplish through literature, I feel and I think that boils down to two main reasons: 1.) it’s hard to sustain suspenseful/terrifying tension in literature and 2.) horror is subjective.

For reason #1 – Some of the best horror I have ever read are short[er] stories. The Hellbound HeartPsycho, any of Poe’s work, most Lovecraft, tons of works put in to anthologies of horror, and (not even joking on this) Goosebumps and Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. There is obviously plenty of good longer horror stories, once again- look back to the master, King. But even some of his best work is short stories/novellas.

The kind of strain and tension created by horror is hard enough to sustain with visual images (be it film, or theater), but I think it’s even harder to an extent with literature/words. Yes, the imagination is sometimes worse than reality or pictures but to initially be able to tap in to the imagination of your audience in the first place I think is a struggle. Then to hold their attention is a whole other issue. That was one of my biggest complaints with Haunted. Palahniuk wrote an amazing first chapter (Guts) which, while not scary, really had me reeling because of how I was able to picture it in my mind. But after that chapter the book just became a bore because he never was able to match the magic he worked in that initial chapter. And you are a straight up liar if you think classics like Dracula don’t have the same problem. They’re classics, and yes- Dracula does have some scary moment, but it is a bear to get through. Same with Frankenstein, which is actually one of my top five books.

If you can hook your audience and keep them on the line for an entire novel… that’s a feat. That’s why I think shorter works work better sometimes with horror. You hook your audience, and then proverbially release them soon after (although, the best stories never truly “leave” us do they?)

Now, for reason #2- Horror is subjective. What scares you may not be the same thing that scares me. Let’s Go Play is a prime example. Rape, to me, is not scary. It is a horrific act that is evil, but it’s not scary. I believe that it is a super cheap way to get under the audience’s skin. But plenty of people have read this book and love it and said that it really messed with them and was one of the scariest books they ever read.

Another issue is that the way you picture something the author is describing may not be the same way I picture something. With film, theater, or even comic books/graphic novels- it’s all laid out. You see the image they want you to see, and it’s in the open.  But in a book the author has to paint that picture for the audience and sometimes it’s very specific (ala King,) sometimes it’s left more to the imagination, and other times it sits right in the middle.  Horror is a mixture of describing the scene/atmosphere, the emotions, and the ultimate horror the characters are facing. That’s a lot of factors the author has to mesh together. And with horror being such an unstable craft it’s hard to get all those factors right. Now I’m not saying that ALL of them need to be spot on, but that general mixture needs to be at least somewhat solid for the terror to resonate with your audience. A lot of times, in longer texts, authors start off really well or eventually get to a nice spot where all the factors come together… but at some point it just kind of fizzles and the author tends to pull focus on only one of the elements, and forgets to give the others some attention. House, by Frank Peretti and Ted Dekker is actually a book I think combines all of these elements well. Say what you want about Christian horror but this book, I think, combines a great atmosphere, with some great horror moments, and some real emotions. This formula is also why I think Pet Semetery is one of Stephen King’s greatest works. He crafted an absolutely heart wrenching story about a family losing their child, and then built out the atmosphere and some of the most horrific moments I have ever read. Some of the latter parts of that book still stain my mind with imagery that makes me shutter. I read that book about three years ago, and it was the last book I’ve read that really ever scared me to the point that I had to stop reading it for a length of time.

While there is plenty of good horror in the world of literature, both short and long, I believe that it’s a hard craft to crack. Also, ultimately you have to be the own judge of what scares you. I’ve read many a recommended stories that people have claimed to be “real shockers” only to read them and have my psyche unscathed by the encounter. Obviously I won’t stop taking recommendations, and if any of you readers have some out there (that I haven’t ready (which there is plenty I haven’t listed)) go ahead and post them and I’ll give them a read!

I really would like to start doing more horror lit reviews, which maybe I’ll just have to start doing reviews on short stories and from time to time do some novels- should I find one I think is scary enough. But until then I’ll remain on the lookout, for that elusive book that I hope will be so scary… that I have to force myself to finish it. That’s the kind of horror novel I want.

“That scene actually works not because of me but in spite of me. And that really is the marker and definition of working with a truly good director.”

-Troy Baker on the opening scene from The Last of Us. 

1

There is something truly great about working with a director who understands and appreciates the craft of acting. Now, really, every director should have some knowledge and respect for acting otherwise… what’s the point? Why are you wanting to direct a show or film? You’re using actors (albeit most of the time, not always) to tell your story.  You’re using actors to convey emotions and connect with the audience, you should care about how they are doing that. I’m not saying this because actors are the end all to the entertainment industry, God no. There are so many different parts in TV, film, theatre, radio, etc. that are just as important. Acting is only one part of those machines. But the director/actor relationship is, in my opinion, of the most key parts of  performance of any medium.

I’m currently working on the production side of a film and this past week I’ve had the chance to watch our director, Estlin Fiegley, work with his actors on set. Every time I see him working with his actors it brings a smile to my face and gives me goosebumps. He walks through the scenes with the actors and legitimately cares about their motivation and relationships. Countless times he’s talked about how the only thing he really cares about is getting the performance he wants on screen. And to see him working with his actors, several of them quite young, to get the performances he wants is inspiring.

I’ve been blessed in the fact that many of the directors I’ve worked with really know how to work with actors. They have worked with me, pushed me, and tested my abilities . Not every actor is that fortunate. These kinds of directors are invaluable to actors, because they’re going to be the directors that help you grow as an artist. They’re going to be the ones that, when you do something right, you’ll take that with you for all time, and when you do something wrong… well, you’ll remember that too. Not that there can’t be discovery with other types of directors as well, but the good directors will be the ones that teach you things and give you experiences that will stick with you forever.

As an actor, it’s important that from every experience, no matter if it’s good or bad, you make the most of it, You have a job to do and an obligation to the production. The phrase “make lemon aid out of lemons”  is something I’m sure many of us hear on a weekly basis (… or is that just me?) For all the wonderful director’s I’ve had I have also worked with several who seem to want nothing to do with actors, or avoid me like the plague. Even if you have a director that isn’t that great at working with actors know that it is still a learning experience for you. That is a chance for you to step up to the plate and really take charge of your performance and the role. Not that you can’t do that anyway with a facilitating director, but it is more of a challenge when you strictly have to rely on yourself. Also realize that your fellow cast members probably feel the same way you do. Work with them- you cast is your biggest asset as a performer next to your director.

Working with directors who genuinely care about what they are capturing on stage/film/etc. is a feeling that is indescribable. You know that you’re a part of something that means something to them, and that they are putting everything they have in to that project and in to you as well. You feel empowered and supported. It really is a unique type of collaboration through dialogue that can make for some of the most memorable and powerful moments ever captured or created.

Taken from A Green River, preformed at KCACTF Region 3 at the Pabst Theatre, in WI. Photo by Cam Best

Thomas Alan Taylor and Joshua Malone from A Green River, preformed in the Pabst Theatre at the KCACTF Region 3 festival . Photo by Cam Best

As a preface to this post, I’ll admit that I still don’t know a lot about the professional theatre and film world; I’m still very much learning. Also, it should be noted that I am currently Chicago based.

I graduated a little less than a year ago from Augustana College with a BA in Theatre Arts, and have since had to basically feel my way along. While college trained me on how to prepare a monologue, memorize, create characters, and ultimately put on a show, there are many things that I had to research, and essentially teach myself. Now a lot of things are kind of given. You need a head shot. You need a proper resume. You need to keep up to date with trends in the theatre/film/entertainment world, etc. All of these are kind of no brainers, and all of which you can find tips and resources for on the internet. What I’m hoping to offer is a few key tips that I’ve learned in my first year, post college, as a person with a BA in Theatre who aspires to act. Many people will not have the same experiences I have had, and that’s fine. Part of being a good actor is being able to think on your feet and adapt to situations, which you will very much have to do.  I hope that these tips will be able to guide you into a good jump start for your endeavors. Many of these tips may be redundant or “cliche,” but you know what? They actually are important.

1.)  Be able to accept rejection.

 This is probably something that you have either already heard, or assumed.  While this tip seems like a no brainier, it’s probably one of the most valuable that I can give you. It’s going to be something you’ll come in contact with, a lot.  I have been casted in every show I’ve auditioned for since I was eight years old…until I graduated college and started auditioning professionally.

It’s not always that the CD/Directors/Producer didn’t like your audition; a lot of the times you just aren’t exactly what they are looking for. Your “look” or your “style” isn’t what they want. It doesn’t mean that you need to change something about yourself to land the next job.  It just means that for that particular production you are not a fit. And then sometimes you’ll just have a bad audition. I have gone to auditions as prepared as I possibly could be, feeling good about myself and confident yet have left the casting room feeling beaten–like I had screwed everything up. It will happen. The important thing is to move past it, and do better next time.

Going along with rejection, more often than not, expect to not hear back. Like, ever. Even if they say they will in a few days. Even if you end up sending a follow up email/letter. Out of the auditions I’ve had since graduating only a few have ever contacted me to say that I’ve landed the role, or that I have not. A lot of times they just don’t contact you. You go in, you audition, and that’s it. That’s not to say you shouldn’t send thank you messages to them. The CD’s took the time to see you, and you should always thank them for the opportunity. You never know when you’re going to see them, or audition for them again.

2.) Having an agent isn’t everything.

Having an agent would be nice, don’t get me wrong. I’d love one. Yes, they’ll take a cut of your earnings when you land a gig, but you know that going in. Agents help you get those jobs in the first place.  Without an agent, booking a job can be a bit of a challenge. It’s not impossible though. In fact, far from it. There are numerous sites on the internet where you can look for open casting calls.  Yes, some of them like Backstage and IMDBPro will cost you, but there are also many sites that don’t. I’m currently Chicago based, so I constantly look at sites like League of Chicago Theatres, and Theatre in Chicago. But there just as many, if not even more, for New York, LA, Boston, etc. And if there is ever a specific theater company that you are wanting to audition for, visit their website. A lot of times theatre companies will have postings about upcoming auditions on their site, and how to go about submitting your headshot and resume.

I feel that film is in the same boat as theatre, except that it’s harder to find legitimate casting call sites that don’t charge. There are a lot of postings out there that are either really sketchy, or give you wrong information. And, lets face it, after spending the time and money to get your headshot and resume printed off and looking all nice, you want to make sure that it ends up in the hands of a CD. Mandy.com is essentially the Monster or Indeed of the film world (even though they do have some theatre on there as well.) It’s a great resource for actors-without-agents wanting to score some auditions. Also, look around Facebook for groups that list castings in your area. In Chicago, many of the local shows (like Chicago Fire, Chicago PD, Sirens) have pages where they post open casting calls for extras and sometimes featured roles.

3.) You’re going to have to spend some money… that you may never get back. 

Remember that rejection thing I mentioned earlier? How most of the time that’s exactly what will happen? Well unfortunately, along with that (before you ever get to said audition,) you will need to print off a full color photo headshot  and resume, drive to said audition, and often (if it’s a city) pay for parking. Now that may not seem like a lot, but after about five auditions in which you don’t land a role… it adds up.  On the other hand, roles in student films are amazing ways to build up your reel and resume, but the flip side is that many of them don’t pay (you get paid in experience, not in money!)

Coming out of college I know the farthest thought from your mind is spending more money. But you can’t focus on that. If you’re in this, in acting, for the money… you’re missing a major part of it. I act because I need to. It’s a passion and it’s what drives me, what drives my life. Money is nice, and necessary, yes, but it is never a factor when I question whether or not I should drive thirty plus miles to audition for a role I may not get. If there is even a wink of a chance at obtaining that role, I’m there.

That’s also why, when I can, I work. At the end of 2014, I had three part-time jobs. While have a job does affect when you can audition, it doesn’t make it impossible. Once you land that role, then you can figure out how to work around your job. And if it can’t then you’ll need to decide what is more important to you, the job or the role. Now when I say things like money shouldn’t be a factor I’m NOT saying to leave your job for a one day shoot somewhere as an extra. Hell, I wouldn’t do that. But there may be times where you have to decide between your job and a role. I had three jobs, but dropped everything to reprise a role I did last year in the play A Green River, because the play got accepted to KCACTF Region 3. And I don’t regret it at all. I spent a month diving back into the show, which was a month without any kind of income.  While I’m dealing with some monetary consequences of that choice now, I have no regrets. It was an AMAZING experience that I wouldn’t give up for anything.

If you can’t afford to take time off from work for a role, that’s one thing. Everyone’s situation is different, and maybe it’s just not a possibility. But you should never look for auditions, especially not really early in your career, hoping to earn the big bucks. Not only is that probably not going to happen, you’re losing site of what acting really means to you.

4.) School isn’t over

So you’ve graduated or will graduate soon! Done with school! Eh, well… kind of. The world of theatre and film is changing constantly. Which means you need to keep up with it, constantly. You wouldn’t go to a doctor today who still uses medical practices from the 1920’s would you? So why shouldn’t actors keep everything up to date too? Keeping up to date with classes, and books, as well as shows can help you out in the long run.

Taking classes is probably one of the best things you can do. I say this as if I’ve had a lot of experience when really I’ve had very little. Outside of a local improv class and a few sessions at festivals like KCACTF my experience with acting classes has been minimal.  However, the ones that I have attended have been insanely helpful and fun. And, improv classes and experience looks really good on an  resume. Big name theatres and companies like Second City have tons of classes you can take. Some of them can get pricey though.  If your budget can handle it, definitely look into local community theatres, colleges, and improv clubs. Many of these have classes at various times during the year that can be just as beneficial while remaining in a reasonable price, or sometimes even free!

There are also tons of books out there on acting. Read up. Pick them up from your library, or visit a Barns and Noble or Half Price Books. And obviously you need to be reading plays and watching TV shows and films. This seems obvious but you should always know what the trends are as well as know what you’re auditioning for. The more knowledgeable you are the better.

5.) Stay positive.

This may seem redundant, but it’s more than just keeping your head up after not booking a role. You need to stay positive before your audition, you need to stay positive when your auditioning, and you should stay positive after.

In a lecture at a breakout session at KCACTF,  Alexis Links (a CD in Chicago) told everyone in the room that if you’ve booked the audition,” you’ve won.” The CD wants to see you, that’s why they booked you. The battle is essentially won. They think you have what it takes for the role, now all that’s left is for you to prove them right. Feel good about that! I feel like that is something that can be applied to any kind of interview/audition you’ll ever have in life.

Once you’re in that casting room, remain positive. Even if you just messed up your monologue. You need to stay positive. Never say sorry. That’s a rule you’ll find all over casting tip articles. If you mess up or forget something polity ask if you can start again. And if they ask you to redo/do something just do it. Don’t make it awkward by stating you’re sorry over and over again. It’s not the end of the world. Your name isn’t going down in a little black book of death just because you messed up, or because you wore the wrong shirt, or forgot something. On the opposite end don’t act overly cocky. You need to be confident when you enter the casting room but you also need to find that humble place within yourself. Be someone you’d want to work with on stage/screen, because I assure you that’s the same kind of person that the CD/director is going to want to work with.

And afterwards, stay positive. If you messed up, oh well. Make some mental notes about what to do better next time. But the people you’re auditioning for can notice how you enter, act in, and leave a room. All that can say a lot about you. Stay vigilant, and keep your head up the entire time.

I sincerely hope that these tips can benefit someone out there. Trust me, there is a LOT more to learn, but fortunately, the resources available to new actors are abundant. Google articles and tips from CD’s and others in the industry to learn more. Ask your professors, because chances are (while the material may not be covered in class) they can help out and provide more information. Converse with other actors, although not necessarily before an audition. Reach out, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. And lastly, lean on the contacts that you do make. Stay in touch with them, and ask them for tips. Many of the contacts I’ve gained are people I’ve met  by networking through people I already know. In a seemingly cut-throat profession,people can be your friends as well as true assets–never lose sight of that.

7

In less than five years the musical BatBoy has been produced twice in the Quad Cities. The first time was in 2012 by Augustana College’s Theatre Department, a production that I was actually a part of. The current production is being presented to the public by the QC Theatre Workshop in Davenport, IA. If you were worried about the same show being produced too soon in the same area, and actually involving several of Augustana’s original cast… don’t. Drop that thought into the trash, and burn it. Because the QC Workshop’s production is a completely different beast and, while using the same story, is so different than Augustana’s production that you’ll think you’re watching the show for the first time. And if you have never seen this “cult” play, do your self a favor- go out and see QC Workshop’s production this weekend. There will probably be no better way to spend Halloween weekend than by seeing this show (along with seeing ETU’s first performance this year at Augustana, of course!)

The play is inspired by the Weekly World News’ (a national enquirer magazine that was… I guess “popular” in the 90’s. I can still remember seeing it each week at the grocery store) story of a half human, half bat hybrid. When the “Bat Boy” (Calvin Vo) is found in the caves near Hope Falls, West Virginia, he is brought to the Parker’s house. Dr. Parker (Mike Shultz) is the local vet and the sheriff is sure he’ll know what to do with the creature. The town is in quite a panic since it appears that all of the local livestock is dying off, and they are ready to blame anyone… or anything! But Shelley (the Parker’s daughter, played by Becca Meumann Johnson) and Mrs. Meredith Parker (Jenny Winn) take a liking to the Bat Boy, whom Meredith names Edgar. The family keep the boy, and begin to teach him how to be civilized, though it seems like Meredith and Dr. Parker seem to know something that we don’t. But when the town finds out they don’t approve and insist that Edgar remain locked up, especially during the towns revival coming up. The good doctor gives his “word of honor” that Edgar will not attend but that doesn’t sit well with Meredith, Shelley, or Edgar for that matter. He wants to go badly. The three of them side against the doctor, causing something within the man to snap. He plans his revenge against Bat Boy as he begins to frame Edgar for murder and the killing of the local cattle! For the rest of the show we see Bat Boy being chased around by crazed towns people, while experiencing true love for the first time… (I’m really trying not to laugh while thinking about that.) It all leads to an big shock reveal about who Edgar really is and an operatic finale for the ages!

This play… is absolute lunacy. Just total, and utter hogwash. But that is what makes it so enjoyable. It’s the best of what makes dark comedy so great. It’s crazy, random, and out there while still keeping the tone dark and disturbing. This production really seemed to hone in on the ridiculousness of the concept and played it up to the utmost. At the same time, the QC Workshop is held in a really intimate black box like space- so while being over the top they knew how to handle levels during the show and really let those softer moments pop and reel you in.  It seemed like they had a really tight vision with this production, and it worked.

The choice of double casting worked in the absurdity’s favor, much like most of the shows decisions. There were only a few moments in the show that I felt like it was “too much” and it kind of took me out of the action taking place on stage, and that was usually when a quick change couldn’t be pulled off fast enough and the actors had to change on stage. But for the most part it was awesome, and the actors had some mad skills changing their persona’s for each character making each one unique in their own way.

This is actor Calvin Vo’s second outing at BatBoy, having portrayed the character before in Augustana’s production. I must say that acting opposite Calvin during the production is something I remember quite fondly. He’s a great actor with amazing skills, and watching him in this show strengthen’s that belief. He was able to take a character that he has portrayed before and make him entirely different. There is much more of a classic “Frankenstein monster” evolution with this Bat Boy I feel. The people view him as a monster no matter what he does, even when he is doing nothing. A prime example is a scene where Bat Boy is in a cage and the arrogant teen Rick (played by Aaron Lord) inspects him. Bat Boy only leans in slowly for a sniff and Rick freaks out. In Augustana’s version he was a lot more of a brutal, feral animal as Bat Boy from the get go. He lashed out at people every chance he got, and you really felt like that was who Bat Boy was deep down. In this production there is overwhelming humanity in the performance and Calvin plays him more like an injured dog, only lashing out when he feels threatened or protective. He’s less of a monster, and it’s really sad that he feels by the end that he needs to become a monster.

Mike Shultz’s performance as Dr. Parker is genuinely chilling and evil. A man driven by lust, love, and loss you do sympathize with the man on some level but… damn, what a creep. And Shultz plays it with such a Lector-esque relish that you can’t look away and your full attention is on the man almost every second he is on stage. Shultz is in it every step of the way, and his gradual decent into madness throughout the show is quite entertaining to watch.

Jenny Winn also gets a shout out as Meredith. Her passion for her family is genuinely felt through her portrayal of the character.  I feel like this character would walk through hell and back for her family, and do anything it takes to make them happy or to protect them. But then when all hell breaks loose she just has that slight touch of madness in her as well (you know, come to think of it… madness must just be a Parker family trait.)

Becca Maumann Johnson plays Shelly Parker with a sincere innocence that was enduring. She created a lovable character that really grew from being another towns person who hated Edgar to, really, the only person who loved him in the end. Aaron Lord did a great job as the “tough guy” Rick but I feel like he really shinned as Lorraine, one of the towns women who tends to like to gossip. Keenen Wilson was a joy every second of stage time no matter the character, but especially his super interactive and vibrant portrayal of  Rev. Hightower. Dat voice. Brant Peitersen really played a sheriff torn apart by his own morals and the towns people. Macy Hernandez and Ty Lane offered some very solid variety of characters ranging from Hernandez’s seemingly collected yet overly worried town mayor and Lane’s hickish rancher Bud. And then there is Kailey Ackermann and her exuberant and vivacious god of nature, Pan.

While we are on the subject of Pan, I do want to give kind of a fair warning that there are elements of this show that make it more of a “PG-13 nature.” It’s mostly due to the “Children, Children”/Pan scene in the second act of the show. But it also deals with (even though they are portrayed absurdly) very violent and adult elements, especially when dealing with Bat Boy’s origins.

The stage design was simplistic, yet really effective. Parts of the stage opened up and parts came out to form different set pieces utilized in various locations for different proposes. Also the use of the screen in the center of the stage was very effective especially during the flashback scenes at the end of the play. The way they were staged was fantastically hilarious.

While some of the cast defiantly were not always on pitch with the songs, they defiantly gave it their all and frankly I think it added to the hilarity of the overall show. This show isn’t your a-typical musical, and there fore I don’t think it should be held to the typical standards. I’m sure there are people who disagree but I think if the singing had been perfect it would have been kind of distracting to be. The rest of the show is supposed to be absurd so why shouldn’t the singing?

The musical accompaniment was awesome through and through though. I especially loved the use of guitar as the more sinister parts of the play. It was really belted and dark, and really added that layer of menace to the score.

All in all it was a fantastic show. Truth be told I feel like you really have to appreciate this type of dark comedy and absurdity to like the show, especially this production of it. It’s defiantly not for those who are looking for a “cultured” theatrical experience. It’s raunchy, dark, and gruesome. But I greatly encourage anybody even remotely interested to check it out. It’s such a blast to watch, especially with a good audience. QC Workshop has a great track record with it’s shows, and Bat Boy:The Musical continues that path, even though it’s wrong…. so wrong!

Show Dates and Times:

Friday, October 31: 7:30pm
Saturday, November 1: 7:30pm
Sunday, November 2: 3:00pm

Friday, November 7: 7:30pm
Saturday, November 8: 7:30pm
Sunday, November 9: 3:00pm

Run time: Two hours fifteen minutes, including intermission.

Price:

Pay What It’s Worth“. Patrons see the show first, then pay afterward based on what they feel the experience was worth and their own ability to pay.

Seats do sell out but you can make reservations by emailing

info@QCTheatreWorkshop.org and include the following information:

  • Your name
  • The date of the performance you would like to attend
  • Number of seats to be reserved
  • Your phone number

http://www.qctheatreworkshop.org/index.html

As a side note, before I go on, I want to say sorry for slacking on the Throwback Terror reviews. The last few weeks have been pretty crazy for me. I’m hoping to have a few for you next week.

But anyway…

MY DAY HAS BEEN MADE, and it’s only 11:19 AM. What can make me feel this way? The fact that Stage Fright’s soundtrack has officially been released! Now, apparently it was released the 23rd if September (man that would have made for an awesome b-day gift) but I’m just finding out about it today. Words cannot express how excited I am about this.

Stage Fright is film released earlier this year that just absolutely blew my socks off. But it wasn’t scary. No. It was funny. It was seriously the funniest film I had seen in a long time. The first time I watched it I was in tears I was laughing so much. This is a film made by theatre people FOR theatre people. Now… if you aren’t a theatre person, you probably wont enjoy the film that much, since almost all of the jokes are “inside” jokes that really only people who know theatre will understand. Not that there isn’t pleanty of other humor, but the real gags and one liners go out to us “theatre geeks.”
You can also tell that the creators have a real passion for horror. Now, as I said, the film isn’t particularly scary- but that doesn’t mean that the love isn’t there. You can tell that the creators really understand where the genre has been and how it’s evolved. It is a huge throwback to those 70’s-80’s cash in b-rated horror films. I mean, just look at this poster-

It’s gory (like, SUPER gory,) it’s crude, it’s funny, and just some overall fun. Once I had seen the film I wanted my hands on the soundtrack ASAP (it’s a musical, by the way.) But I had watched it mid-summer, and at that time the creators weren’t even sure it was going to get a soundtrack release since it was such a low budget production. But everything in me held on and hoped that this would turn into a Repo: The Genetic Opera scenario, and the soundtrack would eventually be released after the film was officially released and gained it’s following. And low and behold it has. I can sleep easy tonight listening to the sweet melody of “Enter Metal Killer.”

If you have not treated yourself to Stage Fright yet, please do so. ASAP. Rent it, or buy it. Do whatever. You will not be disappointed, especially if you are a theatre person.

Then after you see it, buy the soundtrack and relive the magic because… well, you know that you’ll want to.