Monday, July 28, 2008

The Final Curtain

A great big thanks goes out to all the people who came to see No Niggers, No Jews, No Dogs. I really appreciate the support. It's the fuel that keeps my fire burning.

Last night was my last performance for the off-off-Broadway production of No Niggers, No Jews, No Dogs. I took my final bow and yes I made it through the hectic and challenging 15-show run. Despite the stress from rushing from my job to the city, the road rage, tickets, towing and last week's accident, I can still say with all my heart that this was an enriching experience. Performing in front of an audience five nights a week brought out a different energy in me. It felt great to be back on stage. The support and the feedback I received from friends and family was also really positive, which caught me off-guard.

Before I began this endeavor I had moments when I doubted myself or felt like I was getting in over my head, but now I
can look back and see that when I really want something all I need to do is trust in myself and rely on the support of my inner circle.

Last week, I went online and Googled the play. I came across a couple of reviews. The first I read was from Backstage (a publication for actors in NYC and LA), which wasn't a spectacular review for the show. However, Irene Backalenick, the reviewer, did give credit to the strong performances.

"With a small makeshift stage and uneven casting, the show falters. Yet, the black family is so faithfully portrayed that one becomes deeply involved in their fates. Fine performances are offered not only by Mitchell but also by Patrick Mitchell as her husband and Aaliyah Miller and Skai Konya as their daughters."

I wasn't expecting that accolade but it felt good to receive the acknowledgment. It made me smile from the inside out, so much in fact that I had to send it to all my family, friends, co-workers, and anyone else on my email list. Positive recognition is a great reinforcement when an actor can get it, especially when you don't anticipate it.

I know some of my close friends and family thought I was crazy for commuting back and forth from Connecticut to New York City to do this play. They might have been right, but I felt this was an opportunity that I couldn't and shouldn't pass up. For me, it was worth it. I feel like I got back three-fold from the experience. Not only did I get to perform, but I got to know a great group of talented people that I will be able to network with in the future.
Now that the play is done, I have to move forward. I feel bitter-sweet about the whole thing.

Since beginning this play, another thing that has been reinforced to me is that I must continue to keep a few projects in motion and maintain my focus for the bigger picture. While things have taken off on an acting front, I feel a bit disappointed on the writing front. I received a couple of rejection emails last week from script competitions I entered. Although I have moments of self-doubt, I remind myself that it isn't always a matter of being talented (which I still question if I am). Sometimes I just think I'm a hard worker who refuses to give in. I believe I will figure it out the more I continue to write and act.

Whether I'm writing or acting, the reality is I will get a hell of lot more rejections than yeses. I read somewhere where it's like a thousand nos before than one life changing yes. Damn, I guess it's good that I have more time to focus on my next set of goals. It is time to exercise my writing muscle again. I have a couple of stories in my head that I need to get onto paper. While I wait for more rejection letters I need to keep busy, that way I don't think about the rejections.

On a positive note, I'm please to report that I'll be in another play, Anton in Show Business. It's a comedy and I'll be working with a new group of actors.
I'm looking forward to the project. This play will be a lot easier on my schedule, since rehearsals and performances will be in New Haven, CT. Performances are scheduled for three weekends in October.

In the meantime I must keep telling myself that success is possible. Dream big and start small.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Second Week Done with One More To Go

How time flies. The second week run of the No Niggers, No Jews, No Dogs is done. It's still hard to believe that I'm heading into the final week of performances. The cast and crew had another great run. There was one back stage mishap, but like professionals we pulled it off, because as they say, "The show must go on, " and as a cast we made sure it did. My highlight last week had to be the Saturday night performance, although I also must say that Sunday's audience really embraced the show. Don't think I'm speaking bad about other audiences who have come to see the play- I'm not. I'm greatful for every person who attends, it's just that some audiences feel the performances more than others.

I had a lot of people come out to see the play on Saturday, and that made me nervous, more nervous than I usually get. For the most part I just focus on what I need to do as my character, run my lines, and wait for Julia, the stage manager to say, "Places." However, this past Saturday night, I couldn't help but wonder if my friends would like the play, get the message, and think I can act. I find that family and friends can be one's toughest critics, which is why I try to be low-key when I'm acting in something or writing a script. The fear of reaction is real for me, while I know it can't stop my ambitions, it can sometimes be a stumbling block, if I let it.

I couldn't wait to take a bow Saturday night. It's the best moment, because that is when my work is officialy recognized. After the performance, I made sure to thank Karim, his friends, and last but not least, my girlfriends for their attendance. Everyone congratulated me and told me how much they enjoyed the play. That was nice to hear.

This blog wouldn't be complete if I failed to mention on Friday evening and hour before the show I got hit by a New York City yellow cab. The cab driver was in a lane to go straight. I was in a turning lane. Of course without any signal he decides to turn right with me and pins me into the curb. Police officers where quick to the scene since they were giving parking tickets right on 38th Street, which is the reason I moved my car (I was already parked). I planned to circle the block until 7 PM when I could officially park. Oh well, now I have to deal with the insurance company and pray that it doesn't go on my record. I also need to call to get a copy of the police report. Isn't life grand? LOL.

Luckily, I have today and tomorrow off. If I didn't have a nine to five job to go to, a short article on film screenings in the NYC area to write, or the fact that I have to start thinking about pre-production of, After the Headlines, a short film I wrote, and will produce and direct this fall, I actually might be able to feel relaxed and catch up. No rest for the weary - something I will be saying to myself for a while. Rather than think about all the things I need to get done, I'll just focus on the things I can do - one at a time of course.

One more week to go. It's going to be bitter sweet.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Opening Week Done

Hello all,

I'm proud to say I made it through opening week. I just kept counting down to Friday, because I knew I had the day off and would be able to sleep in late. It made a difference, but I'm still tired and probably will be until the end of the show. I will take the next two days to try and recover before it starts all over again.
It didn't hit me until right before I went on that "Oh my God, this is for real. I'm in a play." I tried not to think about it most of the week and even when I was driving to the city for rehearsals, it still didn't seem like a big deal. That feeling changed when I stepped on stage. Theater is a big deal and the ability to hold an audience's attention and tell a story is exhilarating. I was nervous and kept going over my lines off stage, but once I stepped onto the stage I was Joyce Cheeks, in Halifax, North Carolina.
The cast has come together nicely and I am proud of all of us. Truth be told we still miss a line here and there, or a cue, but wereally pick up for one another when it counts. I look forward to the next two weeks of performances, because I believe we will get stronger with each show. Each time I perform I feel something different and I react different which helps keep the character fresh for me and hopefully the audience.
This has been a wonderful experience and I am so glad to have this opportunity. It's going to stay with me for a long time and I believe it will help me in my writing and hopefully maybe lead to other opportunities on the stage. As good as I feel today, I do have to report a few drawbacks of my experience (they have nothing to do with the great cast and crew).
On Saturday, after I left the theatre I went to my car and found it not there. It was towed. I couldn't believe it. Thank goodness for my girlfriend Catherine, who has agreed to let me stay with her during rehearsals and some nights during the run of the show. She picked me up at 96th Street and Broadway. The next day I had to pay a whopping $185 to get my car out of the impound, plus I have an additional $110 ticket for a parking violation. I'm so mad at myself because I always park on 38th, but this time I decided to park on 39th (just so I would be in the direction I wanted to head to the car wash on the West Side), thinking it had the same parking rules as 38th Street. Boy, was I wrong and it's going to cost me. I thought about protesting the ticket, but it's not worth my time or the gas going to traffic court in Brooklyn, NYC. I will chalk it up as a lesson learned and try not to think about the fact that my towing fees and fines could have been a mini-vacation somewhere or been spent in a more useful way for me.
With all that said, I still look forward to this week's run. I have some friends coming to support which makes me feel really good yet nervous. Friends can sometimes be the toughest critics. Oh well, I'll just focus on hitting my lines and doing the best job I can. Everything that went wrong for me this weekend is in the past. I just need those checks to clear so I can forget my parking problems ever happened.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Two Days and Counting

I know it's been a while since my last blog. Forgive me, I've been preoccupied. Someone famous (who I can't remember) once said, "There are no good excuses," and normally I would agree with that, but this time I actually think I have one, at least in this case.

Rather then comment on news or my random thoughts on life, I've been busting my buns to memorize my lines for the upcoming production of No Niggers, No Jews, No Dogs (opens July 9, 2008, 8 p.m. at Nicu Spoon's Theatre located on 38 W 38th Street between 5th and 6th). For the actors reading this, we all know the real work can't begin until you get your lines down. I've been drudging along in the process for the last two weeks. While I have my lines memorized, there are moments when I just blank on a line or miss a cue. I'm still trying to get past those mishaps with two days to the show opening.

I'm not nervous as of yet. I sure my nervous energy will hit me right before the curtain call, but as soon as things go in motion I usually settle and focus at the task at hand which will be making it through the scene, one scene at a time. I'm really excited about this performance. It's been almost four years since I last stepped foot on a stage. When I took my full-time job at Casey it was one of my creative endeavors that I put on the back burner. I made the decision to get a steady check and some benefits rather then live as a starving artist. Being a starving artist may be chic in your early twenties, but at 25 plus it is a dangerous proposition, especially with the state of the U.S economy. It was a hard to choice to make, but I'm glad I did it.

Yeah it's taken me four years to get back to a passion I've never truly let go of, but there is also something to be said for being able to pay my bills on time, treat myself to a vacation, and know I have money put away for retirement. I don't think I ever really gave it up on my creative interests, I just changed how I approached getting back to them. Deciding to do this play hasn't been easy, it's a sacrifice on my time, loved ones in my life, and financially (driving back and forth and parking in NYC is enough to make me gag) and say "Why am I doing this?" But here's my answer, "When I'm lucky enough to go see a play, I always think to myself, remember when you were last on stage. Yeah it was stressful but the thrill made it all worth it. Going to see plays reminds me of that thrill I'm missing. I envy the actors on stage. Do I want to be spending $$$ to fill up my tank or put wear and tear on my car (thank God I have a Honda Civic), of course not, but there is something about the thrill of being on stage that makes it all worth it. It's a beautiful thing to take someones words, bring them to life in a theatre and hopefully captivate an audience. It's magical and I love knowing that I'm a part of the magic.

In life we need to pay the bills, however we should also try to do what we love. True success comes from doing the things we love to do. I hope to professionally make a living as a screenwriter and performer, but in the meantime I'll continue to write as well as relish my participation in No Niggers, No Jews, No Dogs, and other future creative opportunities that come my way.