What the day will bring

Success requires persistence: Persistence in the face of failure and in the boldface boringness of life. It’s the belief that hope still lives, from day to day, and that one glimmer, no matter how small or insignificant, can rotate quickly to something unexpected.

I received an email today. An acquaintance in the film industry recommended me to a casting director in a Hollywood movie. Yeah, it was a very unexpected email. My first response was: what? You want me to help you find actors? Well, no, they wanted me to send in a casting video of me reading the script. So I naturally thought, no, no, I’m the wrong person. I write. I direct. I teach theatre. I teach the art of acting to my students, but me act? No. Then I heard myself talking to my students: don’t be afraid to take risks. Don’t be afraid to try new things.

Okay, okay. So I did it. I made a little video of me saying some lines. The specifics are hidden behind a NDA, so I can’t get into them. But, the day was a pleasant reminder of a couple of things:

  1. You never know what the day will bring.
  2. If it brings something unexpected, don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone.

The first point is very encouraging to me as a writer. It’s easy to get discouraged trying to market one’s books or trying to have a theatre group produce one’s play. I’ve run countless promotions. I’ve sent out scripts to hundreds of places. There are always small successes along the way. The good review. The reader who tells their sphere about this new to them author. The festival that produces the play. And I celebrate each of those accomplishments. But you never know what the day will bring. What email will come from a certain fan. What opportunity will arise out of the blue. What producer might stumble upon your work and love it. What publisher might finally see the potential of a piece.

The point is to keep going. If you write, like I do. Keep writing. Keep marketing. Keep networking. Keep reaching out into your spheres. Keep doing the little things. Most importantly, keep writing (or whatever it is you do).

Today’s opportunity came from a person who saw a couple of my plays. I hadn’t seen this person in two years, but when a movie producer came along looking for a specific person, I happened to be unexpectedly in the crosshairs. It’s so weird how that works.

Whether anything comes from this is immaterial in my view. It’s a wonderful reminder to control the things you can, continue toward the goal you’ve set for yourself, and be ready to react when the timings right.

I’ll let you know if I get the part.

Now Available: Theatrical Monologues

I just published the fifth volume in the Short Play Collection: Theatrical Monologues for Audition, Classroom, or Stage.

It includes more than 50 original short monologues. Most of them were chosen from my myriad plays, but I did end up writing some special ones just specifically for this edition. They are divided by comedic and dramatic, and they can be used in a variety of settings. Great for both teens or adults!

And that’s my former student on the cover. Yeah, she’s awesome. Please pass along the link to those theatre enthusiasts among you. The other volumes in the collection include duets, Christmas, Christian-themed drama, and high school-themed drama.

A Sign of Growth & the Purpose of Drama

I suppose it’s a good problem to have – too many actors and not enough roles.

It wasn’t always like this.

This week, I had to brutally turn away 27 young actors who wanted to be in my new play. I accepted the required 13. There were 13 boys and 27 girls who auditioned. Even that ratio is much better than it used to be.

The first year I directed one of my plays was in 2008. We barely had enough actors. I had to use one girl as a boy (which she played it brilliantly) and I had to beg and plead for another guy to join the cast.

We’ve come a long way from, and that’s a very good sign! I love to see the growth of drama because it offers so many amazing opportunities for growth. It helps second language learners with diction and fluency. It gives students a creative outlet, and it helps them learn how to express themselves. It teaches them about teamwork, and about relationship building and the world and the … there’s so many things.

But most importantly, in my estimation, is the ability through drama to impact an audience. To say something fresh and meaningful, to give people something to think about, issues to wrestle with, and purposes to ponder.

For me, drama for youth is not about dressing up as the Lion King and jumping around stage, telling a story that everyone has already seen 10 tens. It’s being original. Creative. Passionate. Purposeful. Life-changing.

I think the kids I’ve worked with over the years understand that, and they want to have a lot of fun while doing something meaningful. To me, that’s what drama is all about.

In this regards, I wish all 40 could have been involved. Next time.

Audition Day

The day I hate to love. The day I love to hate.

Both of these are true.

I love audition day because it’s incredibly fun to see students come out and give you their best shot in attaining a role. But I hate that I love it because it’s a painful day. It’s painful because I have to choose one person over the other. Why can’t everyone join and we all get participation awards, patting ourselves on the back in celebration like a youth-league soccer team.

But no. Audition is competition. Fierce. Brutal. It leaves behind sadness and tears for those who don’t achieve their goals. But it also builds character and perseverance. I just hate being the bearer of bad news, but that’s what I’m meant to do.

So here goes.

Monday. 40 students have time slots for auditions. 13 guys, 27 girls.

Roles available?  13 total (6 guys, 7 girls)

So I will have to turn away 27 talented actors. Brutal!

But it also means that the cast of my new play, “The Secrets of the Magic Pool,” is going to be incredibly strong. And I’m very excited about that.

So who to choose when there are so many for that many roles?

First, it has to be based on the audition. That puts everyone on the same playing field because everyone has to do the same thing to impress the director.

But other factors certainly come into play. Some actors I have worked with before and that gives them an advantage (or not) because I knew their strengths and their level of commitment.

Commitment is also a big factor. If someone is too involved with other projects or events, I might shy away from them, thinking they won’t be able to give all their time to the show.

Passion is also important. If a person’s passion for theatre comes through, it’s definitely to their advantage, as is someone who has a learning and humble attitude.

In my school setting, I also weigh grade level. Seniors are in their last semester of eligibility, so if they have a stellar audition, they might get preferential treatment.

I also have a soft-spot for the underdog. The young student who may have never done it before but shows passion and raw ability. I love to see kids blossom on stage.

So, today’s the day. I will thrill some and disappoint others. But that’s part of the drama game.

And let the games begin!

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Auditions Day 1: Reflections

I started auditions today for our new play “Grandparents’ War” (more on the play later!) and I had 12 young actors, bright and spry, opening themselves up for critique. Talk about frightening. Is there anything more unsettling than drama auditions? Okay, well, perhaps there is. But actors have to really bare their soul in unique ways that other artists, perhaps, do not. (Feel free to argue!)

There is no blending in in acting such as one can blend in with a band ensemble or choir. Actors purposefully have to stand out, but they don’t just have to stand out and be themselves; they have to boldly portray someone else who may be completely different from their own personality. Actors have to reach deep down in themselves and discover uncomfortable places in order to proclaim the authentic experience of the one they are playing. Because of this great acting is so challenging, and that is why it is rather easy as a viewer to pick out the movies  or shows who have second-rate actors. The level of authenticity often isn’t there. The actors haven’t done the proper work to bring the role alive. That’s why I love watching someone like Anthony Hopkins who is an all-encompassing professional at his trade. He doesn’t act. He lives. He lives as the character.

I admire every single one of the brave individuals who did their monologues and read their lines today. I wish I could give everyone a role.

That is exactly why I hate casting.

Tomorrow – Day 2. More soul-baring to come.