02/06/2010 at 5:20 pm Leave a comment

It used to be, as an aspiring actor, I would pursue just about any role, and flaunt myself shamelessly at auditions for fried chicken commercials, or read ludicrous fifty word roles on soap operas with the merest smidgen of rehearsal. Because that’s what you do. You waste endless hours on student film sets while decisions that should have been made days ago about lighting states unfold on set. It’s a means to an end, or so you tend to believe. For the most part it’s true, I doubt there’s a working actor who hasn’t cut some of their teeth this way, or forged working relationships by volunteering on independent theatre productions. Many of us are in it for the passion, not the fame. It’s important to remember that a career is in the here and now, not just around the corner.

That’s why I tend to say yes to things, since focusing my energies on writing, it’s tricky to spend the time pursuing professional acting work, especially seeing as I have no interest in becoming a film or TV star. Been there, done that (well the film and tv part at least; being a star didn’t pan out exactly). I’m tired of being handed half-baked screenplays and lying through my teeth about it being interesting material in the faint hope that the director may get me in for a casting. I remember reading one years ago about a guy who worked in a video shop and his quest to get a girlfriend. For real; that was the plot. I forget the title, but it actually was in preproduction and casting at the time. The script was so transparent you could use it for packing lunches, and with some reservations I met the director for coffee. I didn’t tell him I thought he could use a couple of extra drafts, and maybe a central character who wasn’t complete tool who spoke in hackneyed cliches. I figured they would probably work through the flaws in the dialogue during rehearsal or something, so I kept it all pretty positive. Anyway, I didn’t get the role; but when the film came out almost word for word what I had read, I had to reassess my attitude toward my acting work.

Theatre is where it’s at, baby. It’s community, it’s passion, the scripts have more depth and there are eighty percent less wankers. There’s a tonne of interesting stuff to sink your teeth into, among the various short play festivals, spoken word & cabaret nights, workshops or straight up community theatre clubs. A place for everyone to be able to get up and strut their stuff. So much in the way of options in fact it can be hard to choose where to go! That probably sounds a little strange for actors who can’t seem to break the surface tension of the theatre bubble in Sydney. Allow me to elaborate: I don’t mean choosing the four or five recognised companies in the city; getting a chance to perform with them is appropriately competitive. But if you want a chance to work on theatre in Sydney there are dozens of places to start.

How do we choose which projects are the best for us? Whether it’s solo work you want to try out at a cabaret night, or a local production of Chekhov, or a group devised workshop – the options are plentiful for thespians. The rub of course, is the choices we make will change lives; and it’s a mildly terrifying thing to commit to a show with people you hardly know, to effectively hop into an intense emotional, psychic and collaborative bed with a pack of strangers. When it works, it’s exhilarating, but for one, when I make a promise about giving everything to a show, it’s something I intend to keep. And if others don’t, it can be a bitter illusion to break. As such it can be a tricky thing to sign up for shows with folks who aren’t familiar.

But perseverance is a worthy ally, so the ongoing ‘say yes’ policy seems to be creating a bit of karmic feedback. Just this week I have had four separate projects mentioned in conversation; with respect to my involvement. There’s also another show which I would very much like to audition for that’s come up. On top of this a couple of real chances to develop script work have also emerged; and it feels like an exciting time. It feels like I am exactly where I am meant to be. The problem is that all of these projects now seem to overlap in some way, and there’s no way I can do them all. Each has its own positives, and there are good reasons to prioritise each one over the other. But something’s got to give.

How do I choose which is the path for me? Perhaps I should consult some witches upon the heath…

Entry filed under: Sydney THEATRE.


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