Friday, December 12, 2008

Just Clowning Around...

Sarah asked for an update on the blog as to what we're feeling here at the end of the 13 wk intensive. Well, um, I would say: numb, drained, excited, afraid, Ack attacking, exhausted, full, and a wee bit crazy. Yeah, that sounds about right. I've had new demensions to my quesy fussy stomach develop during the last 3 months that I know are the result of boot camp. I also don't remember what sleep is because I haven't had any since school started. And my personal, yeah, what personal life?


I would not trade anything that happened in the last 13 wks for a million dollars or even a functional gut (which, for those of you who know me, realize that that's saying something!). I have learned to take a note and apply it the same day and watch my performance change as well as my partner's with just a simple change. I've gone back to basics with Shakespeare to have my landscape, then my mask to cover it. I've laughed until I was crying when people have done their clown skits.

I am blessed with an amazing ensemble to work with : caring, supportive, and just a little bit crazy ;D I've watched every single one of them grow and sharpen as actors; their choices are cleaner, objectives clearer, and comedic timing tightened. With our new skills we're better ready to face the up-coming season of plays.

See you in the stage lights,

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Crown Making 101

Welcome to my crown making workshop! Aka: my dining room table.
Tonight I put the final touches on the proto-crowns for tomorrow's rehearsal of "Richard III". Currently, they are all bound up with clips so I'm not sure of their actual weight. I think all the added baubles will help for holding them on actor's heads.

The Kings' crown is stainless steel. I will be making the final one in brass. I've glammed it up a couple of ways for our ensemble to consider. In this picture you can also see a couple of designs I am considering for adorning a simple band crown. However, I'm pretty sure it will look too much like a hippy head band. But I had fun making the little squares. The Queens' crown is all brass, with red glass beads and gold beads attached all the way around. I am concerned that the beads look too much like what they are - garden/vase glass blobs. On stage, however, they may look fine. I think I should make one that is simpler still - a plain band with little gold semi-spheres on it seems appealing. I'll work on that tomorrow. If the cast likes the crenalated ones, I think I'll affix the perpendicular bits on the inside of the crown. Wish I'd thought of it earlier, but that's why these are prototypes!

Stay tuned for the finished product!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Being an acting student has unexpected bonuses!

In the second year of the program, we are working on three scene studies. The first was American Classical works (ie: Tennessee Williams, Arthur Miller, etc.). The second was an English or Irish scene to be done with the appropriate accent. The third will be American Expressionism.

My scene partner Linda and I chose to work on an English piece because we had a pretty good grasp on the accent at the outset. We went to work scouring the libraries of two counties, and Powell's for just the right piece. It was incredibly difficult to find a) something in our age range b) something for women and c) something we actually liked.

We finally came across the works of Sarah Daniels, a very funny writer unafraid of powerful, somewhat taboo topics, whose work in the early 80's was pigeon-holed (I think wrongly) with a "Radical Lesbian Feminist" label. The scene we worked on was from "Masterpieces" about a woman beginning to understand the connection between violence against women and pornography, and finding comfort and support with the women in her life she hadn't realized was there all along.

The scouring began again for any information about Sarah Daniels. Unlike our other playwrights, the body of work around her was hardly biographical. All of it was either critical or academic, and very little touched on her as a person. What I grasped of her as an individual was that she was wicked smart, and very private.

I asked a friend of mine in the UK if he knew of any places online I could do research from here to find articles or interviews with her. He managed to find her agent and CV online and sent it my way. I emailed the agency asking for any articles about her and I heard nothing.

We gave up on getting more info than we'd found already and went forward with the scene study. I felt I had grasped my character, mostly. I found using an accent, playing a character learning about pornography (which was aimed primarily at men only at that time) in the early 80's in the UK was the most intense challenge I've had so far. Accents change everything - who you are, what you feel, your approach, tactics, obstacles - everything! Also, playing in a time during which I existed, but as a child, created unexpected obstacles in myself. I felt somewhat unworthy of depicting an adult from that time.

Not having a body of information on the playwright - in contrast to Tennessee Williams who wrote memoirs, and whose life was in many ways an open book - was both frustrating and freeing. The criticism - especially that written by men - around Sarah Daniels' work was vicious and personal. I think I would keep my memoirs to myself in that situation as well. Also, I realized that her play came in a very different time than Tennessee Williams'. It draws a different crowd, happens in a different culture. Some of the themes are extremely similar however - violence against women, women on their own, cruel and self-centered men.

Today, I came to my computer, checked mail as I always do, and there was an email from a Sarah that I could not place. I opened it and in a couple of short lines, I realized that THE Sarah Daniels had written me back!!! Not the assistant at her agency, not a bot, but THE Sarah Daniels!

I spat my PG Tips across the room, fell out of my chair, and sputtered something like "Crikey!"

She said she hates giving interviews, but she'd try to answer some questions. I spent the last hour writing a too long-email effusively thanking her, and trying to ask something worthy of her intelligence and sensitivity without being all Interviewy. Instead of "Where were you born?" type questions, I tried instead instigate a little discussion with her about the play.

I'm completely gobsmacked by this event. It feels like last week's Election Day, when suddenly everything seemed possible and like the world could be OK after all.

I told Ms. Daniels that I would not be publishing anything about what we discuss as it was purely for my edification in my scene study. I also let her know that she's under no obligation to reply as the work is essentially done.

I just had to share with you what a cool thing to be even in a little contact with a brilliant playwright one admires! I hadn't even dreamed of it, and here it is happening!

I've decided to keep dreaming!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Ramblings or Thoughts

I'm not always the most vocal one in the group. And those who don't speak--Blog. haha.
I don't think I ever truly said how pleased I am to have the people we have as part of our second year group. I remember closing in on auditions and thinking to myself "gosh....I want us ALL to make it damn it!"
I formed such great friendships in the first year. I don't talk a lot but I always feel welcomed and respected in this group of ours. And for that I thank you all.
I look forward to working with you all. I've been in a fair share of plays and one of the things I appreciated most was being part of a cast that got along and wasn't afraid to have a little fun. Sometimes that makes all the difference in the stress level of putting on a play. We have a group that can make that difference.
We all have so much going on. But we have this one thing in common a love for the art of acting. And through that we connected on a pretty deep level one of high trust and respect and I tell you what: THANK GOD! The worst kind of actor to work with is one who DOESN'T want to be there, but we so obviously want to be there; the sacrifices, adjustments we make, the time we dedicate, there is not a doubt in my mind that we will work well together. With each scene, each class each meeting I see us growing.
That Shakespeare/ensemble day was perfect example. Following the tension of the photo stuff the shakespeare rehearsal though on the somewhat unprofesional side of life was such an exhale of relief to go through and hit lines and get to laughing at the end.
One request I have is we not loose sight of why through all the stress we have in our lives we still MAKE the time to go to PAC. That we don't loose sight our personal reasons why we love acting sco much. That we don't loose sight of the knowledge and growth we have gained just in the past YEAR and the fun and experience we are going to gain in the future.
Maybe these are just ramblings but I just thought i'd share some positive thoughts and hopes.
I pat thee all upon the back. :)

Sunday, October 26, 2008

update/ datedate?

Us second years are almost halfway through our acting boot camp. One scene down, in the middle of the second and I think we all found our third scenes. Shakespeare is...Shakespeare; taking everyone a lot longer to memorize and really make our own. We are still chipping away at our clowns and remembering to breathe and live in our bodies. You know, the usual.

Emotionally, it's quite dynamic. So much going on with everyone, I feel like we are all changing colors much like the trees outside. Hopefully we're not losing our metaphorical leaves, though. I would like to think that I am an evergreen. We are definitely growing closer together as a group. That is wonderful. There are still times when I think of last year and I miss everyone we shared classes with. It was a wonderful time. I also miss the recent graduates. I didn't spend as much time with them as I wish I had, but I got to know them, and still keep in touch with some of them, trying to see all of the shows they are in around town. Very promising. I would also like to know the current trackies, make a connection with the first years as I did with "my" second years. So I guess the question is: Who's throwing the big mixer party?

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Be a Clown

Philip told us to journal about our costume and I, being at heart a slacker, haven't done it (mostly because I hate writing stuff out by hand and would rather type it). So, if he asks, I'll just cut and paste this blog and turn it in ;P (I wuv ewe Philip!)

My costume:

At first, I was like "I'm to busy to go out and spend hrs searching for a hat and coat!" so I went to Vinnie (who has pretty much any and all strange and depraved items you could ever want) and said, "Help me Obi-Wan KeVinnie, you're my only hope!" and he outfited me with a plastic viking hat (with horns I could turn in wierd directions) a boustiae (can't spell that), and garterbelt. I borrowed my room-mate's cloak and thought, "hey, I got it made now!" and trotted off to class.

Oh how wrong I was.

1st off, the hat wouldn't stay on, so I had to tie it there with the garter belt (no, I wasn't wearing the boustiae, never did in the end) which I'll be the first to admit was pretty funny, but wasn't quite right. And while I as a person and actor like to hide and the cloak made it easy as breathing, it just felt wrong.

For two weeks I tried it, and then Philip said, basically, if you didn't like what you had, chuck it. Find something that excites you. A few days later I was talking with Elizabeth (2008 grad of PAC) about how I was throwing it all out and starting over and she told me where and how she found her hat and costume and how, once she had the hat, the rest just came together and it was perfect. Also, she shared how whenever she was in her clown, she was just amazingly happy no matter what had happened during the day.

The very next day I was out shopping. My first stop was the store Elizabeth recommended (Hollywood Vintage on 28th and Hawthorne) to me. I wandered around the store for a while, choking on some of the prices, trying on various hats. I started to notice that the hats I was going for were all guy hats; I never picked up a lady's hat. A top hat. A beariea (can't spell). Cowboy. and finally a gray tweed flat cap.

I loved it. I looked at myself in the mirror, no makeup, purple rimmed glasses with paint chipped off, and saw myself but with a new layer I'd never found before. However, this newfound joy was not w/o its problems. See, the hat I was adoring was just a little too small and hurt my head as I wore it. And they didn't have any that were that color, in that style and one size up. Also, the one size up seemed a little big for my head and was always sliping around espeically with my pony tail. DISASTER!!!

I regretfully put the hat of my dreams back on the shelf and left. There were a few other vintage/thrift stores nearby and I decided to hit them up before giving up completly. I also called Phoebe to see if wool would stretch. We debated about it for awhile, and I revealed to her the epiphany I had had when I chose that hat (or it chose me, whichever): my inner clown (at least this time) is a boy. Honestly? I was a little mind-boggled by that realization. I did a clown workshop about 6 months ago and the clown I felt coming out that day was completly different (I think I was trying to recreate her with the viking hat, etc); she was bumblingly sexual and looked down her nose at all you silly little people. But a little boy? Where did that come from?

Anyway, I didn't find anything at the other stores and ended up going back to Vintage and just buying the medium brown flat cap even though it wasn't exactly what I wanted, it was still the style (6 pieces with a button on the top) and non-painful size. Next, I went BACK to the other thrift stores I had just been in and started hunting for the rest of my costume. In the equivialnt to a matchbox Salvation Army store (but some other religous donation run thrift store) I started looking around. I had a vague idea of the look I was going for now, but was trying not to limit myself to anything. I couldn't find anything that really caught my eye until I reached the slacks. There I found one of the ugliest pair of brown and tan tweed wool pants I think I have ever seen. I was immediatly in love. They were 3 sizes too big and they came half-way up my chest when I pulled them all the way up. I knew I had to have them (along w/ some suspenders, but they came later), and I got them.

I stopped at a few other places, but nothing really caught my eye, and I ended up at the gigantic Goodwill over near Belmont. I left the pants in the car, but decided to put my hat on just for the heck of it, to see what would happen and what my impulses were.

It was FACINATING! I put that cap on, stepped out of my car, and immediately felt my center sink down into my pelvis, I slouched, and my bottom lip snuck up part-way over my upper. I walked without hesitation past the ladies clothes section and into the guy's w/o pause. I meandered through the aisles and happened to glance at the sports jackets and saw this gawdawful blue, green, tan wool thread jacket. It is probably one of the most heinous things ever made.

Again, I was immediatly in love.

The shirt was a little more difficult, and I grabbed several that I thought would work. My favorite of them turned out to be my first reject as I tried them on over my clothes in the fitting room. Wearing the hat helped me know instantly if a shirt was right or not and it was on the third and last one, the least likely to me, that I knew. I had it on, and I went, "oh. OH!" and quickly put on the jacket to see it all together.

Remember I said how my friend put her clown costume on and she was happy no matter what? Well, I was exhausted, stressed out, and starting to get sick so I essientially felt like crap. But when I looked at myself in the mirror I started to giggle and dance around. It was amazing! I was truly sad when I had to take the shirt and jacket off so I could buy them because I wanted to stay in that happy place forever.

A few days later Mark offered some suspenders and I immediatly said yes please! and voila, a clown is born.

I found some shoes the same day I got my jacket and shirt, but they dont' seem to be workin' for me (they're probly gonna get tossed). This last week I rolled up my pant legs and danced bare-foot and ya know what? Even though Mark almost amputated one of my toes whilst dancing, I felt more me (me the clown) then I had with the shoes on. Also, I brought back my glasses because to me, for some reason, my clown i s incomplete w/o them.

The other portion of my "clown-ness" is the music I have found that suits him. It boggles my mind but when I listen to it, I feel that same little "yay!" I feel when I put on my hat and/or jacket.

Who knew there was so much joy to be had in playing the clown.

Gigglingly yours,

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

About time for an update

Us second year PACtors are in full swing, and by that I mean swinging off the walls trying to find the perfect scenes for our three scene study projects as well as discovering our inner (or not so inner) clowns and getting to "better know" William's Richard III. Phew.

For those not in the know, we are fully immersed up to our gills in Actor's Boot Camp. Yes...we've been forced to grow gills. Looks good under special skills. This is the time we are shaped from lowly acting meat props to full fledged Actors First Class and earn our stripes and spots on the wall.

This is a reminder to breathe, and an open invitation to share, to everyone who has gone before us, to those who have not yet been, and those who are still in the trenches. If you are one of the latter, just holler; we have plenty of ladders, it's kind of a thing.

Looking forward to sharing with whoever you are that is reading this right now.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Ensemble

Tonite we put our items in the ensemble box and will not touch them for the next year. It was a time of great emotion and tears. I cannot tell you what we put in the box; that is private for us. But as in Master class, it was a way to be open and come together as a group. The richness and incredibly personal aspect of each of the objects was amazing, and made me feel so very honored to be a member of this group. If even 1/10 of what I saw tonite makes it on stage then mark my words, the class of PAC 2009 is gonna kick some serious tail. Period.

Come watch us fly our dreams. I promise you won't be disappointed.


Friday, September 5, 2008

Summer on Stage Internship

Now that the frenetic work preparing for auditions is done and I've slept for a week, I can finally sit down and post about the Summer on Stage Internship.

I signed on for half of it, because I was out of town for the first half, and it's a good thing, too. It was a lot of work! From July 30th until August 15th, I was 9-5ing with the best of them, only admittedly having a lot more fun than I've had at any full time job I've ever held.

We had 17 kids in the class and worked on "Inside Out-Upside Down," a play of monologues written by young people about the wall that exists between "normal" people and people with disabilities and differences. There was faint grumbling from the students in the beginning. "It's not Shakespeare!" was a common disappointed statement. One student from England pointed out how impressive it was that kids here were complaining about not doing Shakespeare. That was impressive! The kids in the program were fantastic, hard working while still having fun, and of course, goofing off.

Originally, my job description was mostly about wrangling the kids and not letting too much goofing off happen. Also, I was there to assist the long time, respected teachers, Andrea White and Melissa Whitley. However, this session, Andrea had to be out of town for a week, and I was asked if I'd be up to helping teach.


I stepped up and somehow squeaked "Yes. I'll help teach."

Which quickly became also helping with directing.

The seat of my pants grew wings and I was flying by them. I can't say that this flight was an expedition of soaring to new heights. My rump bumped along the ground most of the time. And I hit a few posts.

But I did it! With the very generous help and endless, warm encouragement of Melissa and Andrea, as well as Beth, Philip, Georgia and Sarah, I did it! I taught my first classes and said my first directorial words!

I drew from an outline of what Andrea needed taught while she was gone, some of her class exercises, some of Melissa's exercises, and mostly from the training I'd gotten since January. There I was, trying to craft all that I'd learned into something cohesive that would serve these kids in putting on this particular play. It was like playing with a Rubik's Cube made of a thousand precious gems. When a pattern would click into place, a burst of light and flood of understanding about the craft of acting would whoosh in.

Over the seemingly endless and simultaneously split-second-ness of the camp, as an ensemble, we faced many difficult times, including a death in one of the families of our actor's. The kids and faculty were amazing. Hell, we were ALL amazing in the face of the pain, rallying and coming back to do the hard work, supporting each other, keeping it real and somehow finding ways to smile at times in the midst of real life tragedy. Some innocence was lost for all of us, but the show went on.

I had no idea what all this would mean to me personally. Throughout, I was madly trying to choose and memorize my monologues, make all my rehearsal appointments with Simona, and get my beat analysis done in the little cracks of time I had at breaks. I was at school 9am to 10pm each day and at times thinking "Why the hell did I agree to do this? That was so stupid!"

It wasn't stupid, though. Inundating myself with this practice was an incredible opportunity for learning and growth, both personally and professionally.

On the day of the performance, we were all anxiously waiting the audience's arrival. Nicole came to run the box office for us, so I got to run flowers to the actors in the dressing room and express the good wishes from their families. I wish I'd had flowers for every one of them. The expression on their faces when the deliveries came made my heart explode.

I saw one man walking up the road and thought "Oh, another one! Yay!" One step closer and I suddenly recognized him as my husband, Tyler! I couldn't believe he could get out of work to come to the show! I was a beagle puppy, and I couldn't settle down! I was so glad he would get to see what I'd worked so hard to help create.

During the introduction of the play, Andrea and Melissa had me up on stage with them, and gave me credit as a co-director. I just stood their and grinned like an idiot. I was too excited to do anything else. So I stood there like a total dork. I regret nothing. It was awesome.

The house lights went down and the show went up. We all watched the young actors with bated breath. All the kinks somehow disappeared, and all the enthusiasm we had fought together as a group to achieve magically arrived. I was on the edge of my seat!

I remembered seeing Connor during "The Secret Rapture" sitting in the audience soundlessly mouthing the entire play as the actors spoke their lines. I remembered Beth and the intensity of her gaze during "The Hiding Place" willing the actors to give all they had. I felt like I was privy to this sacred, special, hallowed experience: I could feel myself emanating the directorial beam of light and love, an invested guide willing every line to be delivered well, pulling with all my might for the good energy, the great performance, and rooting for those kids on that stage. It was incredible to want so much for so many at the same time. It's a selflessness that caught me off guard. And I high that I will seek again.

I felt like the Grinch. My heart actually swelled with pride - three sizes that day! In that moment I could not believe that it was me sitting there, and that I actually helped to create that living piece of art that was happening RIGHT NOW! Effecting people, touching the actors, the directors, the audience, and me. No matter how many times you hear the lines or see the play, it can move you again and again. Those actors have those feelings in them. They share them with you. It's intense, incredible work.

That night, I started the Master Class and cried in front of everybody all weekend long, both as a person and an actor. The timing couldn't have been more right for Jane and Sarah to sweep in and help me put all my pieces back together and repair my pant-wings for auditions. I was both exhausted and exhilarated.

There was a moment by myself that night in bed, staring wide eyed into the dark, when I privately sniffled with an overwhelming and happy gratitude for the opportunity that the Universe provided me to be a part of Summer on Stage at PAC, for the bravery of those kids, for the passion and belief that the SOS teachers and PAC faculty and staff have in their actors and their art, and the simple fact that I finally had the courage and strength to show up and take a place in the middle of it all for that amazingly short and endless period of time.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Forget Tolkien!

We're the fellowship of the Conservatory. Together we nine shall embark upon a quest such as we have never known. In this quest we go, not to destroy an object of beauty and evil, but to find our breath and active action. We will seek our objective with all our heart, overcoming whatever obstacles are in our way using tactics we have learned from our mentors. We will journey to strange lands and countries all whilst staying within the eager bounds of our little theatre.

Fair thee well wherever you fare. May our aeries receive us at our journey's end.

~Legolas aka Jack ;)

Sunday, August 17, 2008

6 days left...

And we're all feeling it. Eep! BUT! If I learned nothing in Master class this weekend, it is to breathe. Just bloody breathe.

Come on people, BREATHE!!!! Overload yourself with air, get high on O2 darn it all!

Whatever you do in the meantime to keep yourself calm is your own business, but before your monolouges/scenes (and don't forget during!) just freakin' breathe.



Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Audition Panic Mode

In 16 dys, I will be standing before the audition panel at Portland Actor's Conservatory. I have gone to auditions before (albeit not many), and I will go to many after this, but there's something different about this one.

As an actor I have so much to learn, and I am well aware of this. LOL, I wouldn't be here at PAC if I didn't know that (I'd be out there getting hired and working). I moved to Portland specifically to attend at PAC, so my hopes for myself are high in the upcoming weeks. As I said, I have a ton to learn and this is the place I want to learn it and-- whoops, nerves just hit, I need to go throw up, brb.


Ok. Now, what is the point of this pathetic little reveal you may ask? Here it is: Auditions are coming up and all of us track 1st years are in major panic mode (and ain't posting on the blog very much, sorry!). We have Acting 4 and Monolouge Development in which the thing hanging over our heads constantly is: AUDITIONS! This causes our stress levels to jump about 40 points, and in my case, worship at the porcalin altar.

So, if you happen to see a person with a nervous twitch and glazed eyes who wanders around talking to themself, you might just be looking at a PAC student.

Saint Genesius, pray for us.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Jacob's Apology

There are no words to describe how terrible i feel.
For those who don't know...last night, Saturday July 19th, the second year students of the track program at Portland Actors Conservatory were given a farewell party. For people like me in the first year of the program it is tradition to assist with the party. I was responsible for ten dollars and some pizza and just showing up at the party to give my best wishes and participate in a little presentation.
But alas...I did not make it.
We were given the date long ago to remember and we have been planning it for a long time...and then...I don't show up.
I let people down.
Indstead I was stuck doing a thirteen hour shift at my new job so i can still keep my car.
Blah blah blah excuses excuses, I know, you hate em.
I had NO clue that it was yesterday. When I got my voice mail from Jack saying she was at the party I had no idea what she was talking about. I thought maybe she meant we were having another meeting to plan the party or...just some other random party i didn't know about. But then it slowly sunk in...oh shit! THE party.
I got out of work at 10:15, the part started around 7 30. there was no way in hell i could make it. And if I did the party would long be over.
And then the self-hatred sinks in.
My god they're all gonna hate me.
My god they'll never forgive me.
My god Beth will be disappointed.
My god my future in the acting business is over!!
The last one a bit extreme but all the same i couldn't help but think it.
Being in PAC is more than just about YOUR pursuit to be a better actor. It's about being a part of the team.
I love all my fellow student at PAC and I am so glad to know them and have these classes with them. The entire Portland Actors Conservatory just feels so right to me, I feel safe, secure, comfortable and welcome. And then it appears like I took advantage of all of that.
Boy if I could go back in time.
How could I forget? What kind of an idiot who has been part of the planning process the whole time comes back with the excuse: I had no idea?
Well enough of my self-deprication. I thuroughly and whole-heartedy apologize to both the first years and the second years and beth and chris and everybody.
I wish nothing but the best for the graduatied second-years. I enjoyed watching them very VERY much and I have seen them grow as we first-years grow and I hope those who decide to continue the pursuit of acting all the best.
To Beth I want to say I'm sorry.
To Vinnie I will have your ten doallars...and interest.
Hopefully I will continue to be welcome at PAC.
I will see most of you on Monday. Sorry again.
And I do hope the party was enjoyable for everybody.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Showcase Madness

It has begun! OK, OK, it's about to begin. But rehearsals are done with, and I have received my last note ever from Beth Harper. For that matter, from any PAC teacher! How crazy an idea is that? Pretty f-ing crazy. Now it is time to get up there and try my best to do PAC proud.

I would like to publicly thank all the amazing teachers who have been an important part of my life for the last two years. There really is nothing I can say that would express what I feel for all of you, so I'm not going to try. I can only hope that you have some idea of what you mean to me and what you have done for me. This is the point at which I would start to cry if I were saying this out loud, so I think I'll just stop. I love you all.

- Tom

PS I should know by now that I get weird and sentimental in the small hours of the night and avoid embarrassing myself in this manner. Oh well.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Looking Back

I remember about a year ago, when Level III had just ended, one of the class of 2007 saying something like "you guys were so much better than we were last year," and thinking, "yeah, right, but thank you for the nice words." And yet here I am thinking the very same thing about this year's Level III classes. I like to think that I've come a long way since that day I faced an audience for the first time, but on Monday it seemed like those actors had already moved beyond where I am now. I am trying not to feel bitter about it. :)

Congratulations to the Level III classes! You made me laugh, you made me cry - well, not really, I am far too manly for that - you made me proud of all of you.

- Tom

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

A Moment of Clarity

Play! That's what it is. It was right there staring me in the face all along. It took me, how long? Since last August or something to run into this damn elephant. Hello Mr. Elephant, thank you for waiting patiently.

After spending so much time with everyone this last year, we have all created such a wonderful part of this living creature that is The Portland Actor's Conservatory. After watching everyone perform their scenes, it hit me hard...we've been up to something! I can say with all my heart that I am proud of every one of us. We have all found ourselves in some strange place, not at all unlike where we were whenever we began this quest of ours. Along the way, we have all made some very beautiful breakthroughs, thanks to much sweat, frustration and dancing.

During our final presentations for Acting 3, I realized what we have all been working towards and somehow found. That room was alive. We were alive. We found that magic thing that is called play. Thank you Beth, Phillip, Connor and everyone for your occasional gentle nudges, and more often not so gentle nudges. I got it. We are not here to "do it right" or to try. We are here to do. We are here to play. I look forward for much more sweat, frustration, dancing and especially playing in level 4, and beyond. Bring it on!

Monday, June 23, 2008

And then there were none

No more plays, anyway. It was with a feeling of great sadness that I left PAC on Sunday after our cleaning tasks were complete. We still have the graduation showcase, yes, but Sunday was the last time we would all be part of a play together. It is sad. The Hiding Place was a lot of fun. It was hard, yes, and I certainly struggled with aspects of it throughout, but by the end I felt good about what we had all done. Now it is finished, and in only a few weeks we'll be leaving PAC and going our separate ways. I'm trying hard to see this as the beginning of something new and exciting, but sometimes I can only see the end in things. What I can say is that as well as the training and experience, I will be taking with me all the great people I've met and the friendships I've made in the last 2 years or so. You all know who you are. I thank you from the deepest part of my thanking place.

- Tom

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Define Irony:

Irony: Girl practices limping for 3 weeks so that she will have the feel of it in her body then developes foot pain in the same foot she has been practicing on.


Monday, June 16, 2008

For Our Fearless Leader

Recently, on our trip to Canada, I saw this and thought of Beth's doggie. Hope you all get a laugh. (Nicole! Canada is whacked!)

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Dancing with the real stars

One of my favorite times in the Conservatory, hands down, are the warms-up in the Acting classes with Beth.
It’s dancing time. We make a circle and take turns dancing in the middle. We make eye contact with someone else and invite him to the center, create a dance moment and leave. While we are in the “outside” of the circle we let ourselves go and be influenced by the movements of the person who is in the middle.
I can’t say how liberating this exercise is. No words, just pure movement, energy and contact.
I grew up dancing: in the kitchen, in the living room, at school, parties. It was such an important part of our culture, as family, as individuals. Usually, if I remember a happy time, there was dancing involved.
And here, particularly, I feel very relaxed when I am dancing.
When I talk I often feel self-conscious. I am worried how my words are sounding or about my pronunciation. Lately I have felt better and better about my English, but still, nothing beats the dancing time.

Friday, May 30, 2008

A new beat

Beat analysis is one of the things I have struggled with since I started my classes. It seemed complicated and overwhelming to find all this verbs and objectives for each one of the actions.
To be honest; at first I didn’t see how the analysis was going to help me be a better actress. I was confused, I didn’t know the meaning of many of the verbs in the list (a list of verbs Connor and Beth gave us to help with our work). I had to ask a lot of questions and do some research to figure out words I wanted to use.
After different classes and much homework, I am in the process of understanding better and better about this analysis. When I do the analysis I feel much comfortable, secure and centered when I work on my scenes. I know where I’m going, and if I don’t know, I usually know why. I usually need to redefine my objective or refine it (look for one that it’s more specific).
During my Shakespeare class I did two beat analysis, one for each of my characters (Tamora and Olivia). I found myself changing the objectives many times. We had time to practice and we did exercises specifically aimed to find the verbs or to try different ones.
The exercises made me realized the importance of the beat analysis and the many choices we could play. It was fun and challenging. I also find it easier now that I have practiced.
Currently I am taking Acting III where I have two scenes. I am working on my beat analysis for both characters. It’s not easy but it’s easier than before. Each step is a new journey… a great one!!!

First blog ever!!

Due to popular request, I have decided to put up my first blog ever in my life! So be prepared to have a mind explosion! So, the "topic" of my blog today is to give a little glimpse into the life of a props master. Here we go!
I suck at props. Bam! There we are. Thank you and goodnight. Ok, that's not it. Here comes the serious part.
I have had an interesting time with props. There were some I thought I could never find. Thinking I would be searching from one end of the Earth to the other. But those were actually the easiest to find. The hardest ones were the ones that shouldn't be. Like my arch-nemesis... the tray! Dun Dun Dun!!! Just thinking about it makes my skin crawl! Oh, wait, that was a bug. Anyway, the thing is, I promised myself I wouldn't get stressed about props. Now, I didn't get crazy stressed, but it was still there. But when it was getting down to the wire, and I had very little time and money, that's when I found myself strangling babies. That's when I realized I just need to breathe and let it go and just ground myself. See, acting excercises aren't just for acting. After I pried my manly, manly hands from those babies and breathed, I turned into SuperProp Guy and was able to find, I hope, everything I needed. So, I guess, the moral of the story is to breathe and do not strangle babies.
How's that for a first blog! Anyone? Anyone?

Proud or panicked?

I have to admit, I'm a bit, I don't know, starstruck? Intimidated? Mr. Whitty, or Jeff, can I call you Jeff?  sharing with us some of how and why you wrote The Hiding Place is very kind. I don't know if it radically changes the way I think about it, or anything, but it provides us with another, very personal, way to approach it. It also means a lot to know that you don't disapprove of, and are even excited about, what we're doing here, but it also terrifies me to imagine you using your network of spies (which you naturally have) to see just exactly what we are doing with your baby. How much less worrying it is when the playwright is long dead or simply not concerned with a small school production. But it's also inspiring, and fills me with a sense of pride knowing that the man who created this piece of art knows and cares about what we do with it.

And what are we doing with it? Had a day off yesterday, which was nice. Tonight we have our cue-to-cue, which marks the beginning of our tech weekend. Tomorrow, tech 10am-10pm (and also out first dress rehearsal!), then the same on Sunday. Remember, folks, first preview on Wednesday! Time seems terribly short. I feel very strongly the fear of not being ready, not being good enough, simply not doing this play justice. And this time I can't tell myself my fear is unjustified. I think that there have been some good things happening, but it just seems like I can't quite get there, wherever there is. Gah, enough self-pitying crap. Time to be the Ayatollah of Rock-and-Roll-a. Sure.

- Tom

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Sending the Kids to College

Hello, Portland Actors Conservatory! It's your playwright Jeff Whitty, here. I'm deeply honored that you are staging the Northwest premiere of "The Hiding Place." It's without a doubt my most personal play -- there's a great deal in it that's based on actual events, though where I am in said events shall remain a mystery. Is that alluring enough? It's much more interesting than the facts of the matter, trust me.

And then, of course, there's lots of the play that I made up. Lots and lots and lots, though every character has a component of someone I know, and a component of me, too, I guess.

"The Hiding Place" was written in tandem with my musical "Avenue Q." Though I loved writing for the lively puppets of the musical, I found that I needed a release valve. I'd never say that the puppets have no subtext, but their subtext is necessarily fairly obvious to the audience. They are humanity simplified and then exploded. So I yearned to write a play where there could be something a bit deeper, a bit more sensitive and halting and unspoken.

So I started "The Hiding Place," and worked on it when I wasn't, say, finding the difficult entry to the "Q" song "Everyone's a Little Bit Racist." At the time, the projects seemed entirely different.

But looking back, I'm startled that the plays have so much in common: young people, moving to the city, filled with yearning, and dealing with the disappointments of life in the real world. And then finding resilience. Much as I was experiencing at the time, I might add, and in the years prior.

Both plays end on a note of ambivalence, of those dreams not necessarily coming true. You could plug the song "For Now" from "Avenue Q" into the end of "The Hiding Place," and while it might be jarring stylistically, it would be a perfect thematic fit.

(I wonder what Myra and Karl would think, on the beach, being descended on by a colorful lot of puppets? Hmm. Well, I approved the final galleys for the published script, so it's too late to explore, I suppose.)

I compare the life of a play to raising a child -- the first tentative readthrough, early in development, is like the baby steps. And then you keep raising the kid, revising, and at a certain point the child asserts itself, and your job is to get out of the way: removing obstacles, smoothing, developing trust that the kid has a life of its own. And then you're suddenly sending them to rehearsals, to college -- and then performance, a graduation of sorts. The kid isn't yours any more.

And with "The Hiding Place," that kid has graduated from college and is leaving to explore the world, without me to sit nervously in the back, taking notes, giving agita to the director. And it's a terrific feeling -- admittedly not without yearning, but hey. From all reports, "The Hiding Place" is in marvelous hands at Portland Actors Conservatory.

And what makes me happiest is this: this kid made it back to my home state of Oregon before "Avenue Q"! By a matter of days, as it turns out -- but hooray!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Randomness...Whitty, NYC, Why I Love the Internet

I lived in NYC from 1993 to 1996, so being in a play that begins during that time in that city has given me plenty of things to chew on as I've read, re-read and rehearsed this play. In some instances, I've relived bits and pieces of my time there.

One of the things I loved about living in New York (at 122nd and Amsterdam) was public access cable. I don't recall ever seeing Jeff Whitty's show, but I remember seeing a wide variety of other strange yet compelling things. One of my favorites was The Church of Shooting Yourself by Nik Little. Pieces of it can be found on YouTube, but the best parts of it are probably locked away in memories. Another favorite was a show where clubbers like the club kids (not necessarily THE Club Kids) would go...clubbing. Most of these shows were awful. They were just the kind of awful though that makes you want to keep watching. My girlfriend, later wife, always refused to come into the room if I was watching public access.

I worked at an internet startup that was housed at W19th and 6th Ave along with Apex Technical School where a large contingent of felons would learn how to rebuild engines. We choked on exhaust while we built websites that were worth millions on paper, but worth nothing when the tech bubble popped.

I just realized how daunting it could be to chronicle my short time in New York City. So for those folks that love's a list of some everyday things I always liked:

The Compleat Strategist
The Cloisters
Carmine's (on the upper west side...even though it could be touristy)
The idea of going to the Freedom Tunnel (but I was always too chicken to enter)
The north end of Riverside Park
Always walking by "that place" next door to my friend Dan's apartment.
The White Horse Tavern

Umm...that's list seems boring...but it's mine. Ellipses should be removed from my repertoire.

Anyway, I'm digging through lots of NYC memories (good and bad) as I move through this production.

As for The Hiding Place...I love it. I love it for alot of reasons. I'm glad Jeff Whitty wrote it. I'm glad PAC is doing it. I'm awesomely psyched to have a role in it.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Jeff Whitty-cisms

Boy oh boy do I wish I actually had something witty to say about our rehearsals. But no. I have learned, though, that "penis" is a funny word. You can almost guarantee a laugh just by saying it.

So let's see, where are we? On Wednesday we had our first run through the entire play. They call this first run a stumble-through, and boy howdy did I ever stumble. Know what I hate? Feeling like I've made a little progress, then feeling like I've taken a larger step backward. That's pretty much how I felt after the run, but remember, I said to myself, a stumble-through is almost meant to be bad. You can imagine this didn't make me feel much better.

Thursday marked the beginning of a stop/start moment-to-moment journey through the play. I gotta tell ya, I've been waiting for this. It might just be because my huge ego craves personal attention, but I really like working a scene and getting told to stop and go through pieces of it again and again. I often feel like I make real progress during those kinds of sessions, and Thursday was no exception. Not that I'm all the way there yet, or anything, but after feeling sort of... stagnant, I guess, it was a very welcome relief. The trick now is to keep all the energy/depth/understanding/whatever as we move forward. Not just keep it, in fact, but add to it, improve upon it, take it, dare I say, to the max. So I'm rambling, I know, but I'm not very good about talking about this process, and this is just how I have to do it.

To change subjects dramatically, I also had my first head-shot photo-shoot experience today. I have to say, it was a lot of fun. I spent about 3 hours with the photographer, who kept me entertained the whole time, and even burned me a CD of what he called the best Elvis album ever. We took around 800 pictures, and in a couple of days I'll begin narrowing them down to the best 10 or so. Honestly, that is a little daunting, but I will be forcing, I mean asking, people to help me decide. In some of them, I am wearing a cowboy hat!

Well, I need to get to THE GYM  now, so this marks the end of my rambling post. I hope it isn't too much of a Tortuous Conundrum.

- Tom

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Doesn't everyone love Shakespeare?

Seriously though, I know that isn't true and it's really sad. To me, Shakespeare is wonderful and beautiful and rich in ways that nothing else can compare to. I love to hear the lilting rhythm that comes when reciting verse so rich and vivid you are transported to another place and time even when the setting is as sparse as a desert. I have pages and pages of just quotes from Shakespeare, ones that catch my soul and make it fly or dance at a whim.

"By heaven methinks it were an easy leap to pluck bright honor from the pale-fac’d moon; Or dive into the bottom of the deep, where fathom-line could never touch the ground, and pluck up drowned honor by the locks; So he that doth redeem her thence might wear but out upon this half-fac’d fellowship!"
–Hotspur, from Henry 4th, part 1

"Sleep that knits up the ravell’d sleave of care."
–Macbeth, Act 2, Sc 2 37

In nature’s infinite book of secrecy
A little I can read.
–Antony and Cleopatra, Act 2, Sc 2, 9

Verily I swear ‘tis better to be lowly born and range with humble lives in content than to be perked up in a glist’ring grief and wear a golden sorrow.
–Anne Bullen, from The Life of King Henry the Eighth

"Give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak. Whispers the over fraught heart and bids it break."
–Malcolm, from Macbeth

The Prince of Darkness is a gentleman. –William Shakespeare

You may ask what all this is leading up to, and I'll tell you: I love Shakespeare!!! Yeah, that's all. Shakespeare class has been one of the most fun, challengeing, engaging, and delightful classes I've taken at PAC. Every week I come and spend 3 hrs working on stuff by "The Bard;" Is there anything better?

For class we had to memorize and will present two Shakespeare monolouges. I like my monolouge from "The Twelfth Night or What you Will" but I love the one from "Much Ado About Nothing." Beatrice is one of the best written (or at least, the most fun) female leading women Shakespeare wrote. However, in the scene I chose she is anything but her usual merry self. Here she is frustratated and longing to transform herself into a man so that she can gain revenge on Claudio who has dishonored her cousin and basically just been an all around jerk. Benedick, the man she has spent the previous half of the play despising now declares his love for her and they have a kodak moment. Awww. In the rush of new love he tells her to ask anything of him so that he can please her. She does: 'Kill Claudio,' who is his best friend. He refuses, and this is her response:

"You dare easier be friends with me than fight with mine enemy. Is Claudio not approved in the height a villain that hath slandered, scorned, dishonoured my kinswoman?-- O that I were a man! What! bear her in hand until they come to take hands, and then with public accusation, uncovered slander, unmitigated rancour, --O God, that I were a man! I would eat his heart in the market-place! Talk with a man out at a window! a proper saying! Sweet Hero!--she is wronged, she is slandered, she is undone. Princes and counties! Surely, a princely testimony, a goodly Count-comfect; a sweet gallant, surely! O that I were a man for his sake! or that I had any friend would be a man for my sake! But manhood is melted into courtesies, valour into compliment, and men are only turned into tongue, and trim ones too: he is now as valiant as Hercules that only tells a lie and swears it.--I cannot be a man with wishing, therefore I will die a woman with grieving. "

The temptation is to make this entire speech a rant, and quite frankly, its more fun for me as an actor to do it that way. Really, it is! Screaming, yelling, cursing people, is there anything more fun? ;) But that's a trap. If she's angry all the way through then how do you get to the last line? 'I cannot be a man w/ wishing, therefore I will die a woman with grieving.' If that whole monolouge is a screaming rant then why is she grieving? Yes, grief can breed anger but a temper tantrum is only interesting for about 5 seconds before the audience starts thinking, 'Ok, and *now* what?'

Next Tuesday we present our monolouges to the class. Time will tell whether I have found the beats correctly and employed the right tactics. It's hard, but oh OH! so much fun.

*sigh* I'm still a silly little hack, but I'm a silly little hack who loves Bill Shakespeare so back off! ;P And on that note, I'll leave with with one last quote from dear old Bill:

"Nothing is so common as the wish to be remarkable."


Wednesday, May 21, 2008

PAC seeks Volunteer Marketing Coordinator

Interested in theater and the arts?
Interested in giving back to our wonderful community and making all of our lives a little bit richer?
Interested in making a range of diverse and important contacts within greater Portland?
Do you have a sales/marketing background?
If you answered YES to all of the above questions, we want to talk to you.

The Portland Actors Conservatory, a 23 year old actors training program and theatre, the only one of its kind between Seattle and San Francisco. We have a rich history and have developed a solid reputation within the greater Portland arts community.

A professional with a strong background in sales/marketing, and ideally in the arts, to assist us in planning, implementing and managing an aggressive outreach effort on our behalf. The individual selected will hone this strategy into a specific plan, and then, with the help of many others, make it happen.

A very challenging and worthwhile project.
An opportunity to give back to our community, and expand the arts in greater Portland.
An opportunity to develop a wide range of diverse, interesting and important contacts within our community.
Most importantly, the opportunity to share in the excitement and pride in growing with us.

REPLY: Paul McMahon email: (phone)503.708.4336

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Have I got it yet??

I don't know why some of the smallest things can affect me so, but here it goes.
So last night I had acting Level 3. Lovin it. I have an awesome scene and a great partner. I'm really liking my character because I'm really feeling like i'm finding his personality and just in general feel like i have a connection, character was always one of my favorate things. So we're doing our scene from Biloxi Blues, it's a work-thru kind of thing where we get feedback and I'm all about that cause I really want to do a good job. I was feeling like I was really in touch with my internal landscape through the scene and when asked how i felt it went I said just that "I feel like i was really in touch with the inside and everything..." so then i'm asked "well what was your character feeling?" should be the easiest question to answer for someone who says he feels he's in touch with the interior landscape and...i can't answer it. It was so embarassing. I was so sure i was doing it right, I was so sure I had it...and then I find i didn't have a clue. I looked like an idiot. I'm trying so hard to impress and I just feel like I'm not doing the trick. Maybe that is why I fail. The main emotion this character needs to feel is fear for his life...i haven't been placed in that situation really so it has me worried maybe i won't get in touch with what that character needs to's like I really feel i might not be getting it when everybody else is totally getting it. Maybe I'm thinking too much into it. I need to try to let go and trust what i've got...hopefully i'll get it eventually.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Slack-Jawed at New Knowledge

I recently had a great discussion with my long time yoga teacher Baxter Bell, in Oakland, California, about how acting and yoga overlap in their requirements of clear bodily awareness. In acting, as in yoga, it's essential to find a neutral body and be as relaxed and open as possible. Both require this neutrality to begin to work one's bodily instrument into a character to share with an audience or a strong, balanced physical being. One must loosen all unnecessarily tight areas and properly align one's skeleton. Shoulders and hips, and neck are obvious places to start. These large areas get lots of attention in both yoga and theatre.

But one biggie that comes up a LOT for singers, speakers, and actors, that doesn't get much focus in yoga sometimes, is the jaw. I heard somewhere it's one of the strongest muscle sets in the body.

TMJ, a painful jaw condition (popping and pain often accompanied by teeth grinding in one's sleep, and clenching one's jaw constantly) is becoming a more and more prevalent condition, especially in women. I've experienced TMJ for a number of years. I started wondering: WHY?

My theater teachers have helped me more with my TMJ than the physical therapy, massage and acupuncture I was given as treatment. Through acting, I am starting to see how completely my jaw is linked to mind, speech and inner world. In order to act, it's important to understand what we hold back.

In observing the differences of verbal form in modern theatre vs. romantic and historic theatre (ie: Shakespeare), we've been learning that modern works spend a lot of time and energy on inner life being physically observable. Shakespeare, on the other hand, tells you every single thought. Connor Kerns, our Shakespeare teacher, has been teaching us the fascinating fact that in Elizabethan England, people were closer to everything in the natural world. Death, birth, poop, mud, weather, food, sex - were all much more in your face. The philosophical concept of the separation of heart and head had not been discussed yet. The body, mind, and the natural world were more ONE. Thoughts weren't so hidden, private, and introverted as now. Shakespeare's plays process out loud; the characters share thoughts and feelings with the audience in real time, their inner selves completely open through their words.

Connor also pointed out recently that some people don't know what they are thinking until they speak or write their thoughts. It was like a sun shined in my soul! (I had always thought that I was a bit on the slow side because I had to speak or write to know what was on my mind. Maybe I'm just less evolved, and therefore exotically Elizabethan!)

These insights relate closely to to work we are doing in Meisner with Barry Hunt. A big part of our work is to respond to and act on our own impulses. I'm finding this is incredibly challenging for me because I have learned over my 38 years to keep many of my verbal impulses under wraps.

You know the scene: You're standing around at a party and you say something that makes perfect sense to you, and it's even pretty funny. Just as you speak the there's a lull in the conversation in the room and the nice people you just met look at you with a distant horror in their eyes, as the entire party falls silent. The chirping of a single cricket, the skittering of a tumble weed and the mournful howl of a distant coyote are the only sounds to be heard.

The most unnerving bit of these personal discoveries is the understanding that I often have no idea what my impulses are because I don't speak, write or act on them. Is my internal world so terrifying? I'm not sure I want to know...

In normal day-to-day life I shut myself down and greatly censor my speech. This may be a good thing for the party goers, but I still have to question how it came about.

How best to censor one's self? Keep one's mouth shut! This seems related to that old adage "Children should be seen, not heard". I grew up with that standard somewhat, and I took it to heart.

I also learned that a woman must look her best at all times. So around the age of 13, I examined how I look best - mouth shut or open? Where did my jaw need to sit so that I looked "prettiest" ? - and then I set it there. The other day, I was thinking about the term "mouth breather" - a term I've heard used for so called "dumb" people. I was overcome with a desire to be so senseless of my jaw that it could hang there and I'd never even think about what people thought of how I looked or what my intelligence was. What a sweet release that would be - an entire life with a slack jaw! Heaven on earth, even if bugs flew in from time to time!

I'm going on 25 years of a jaw set by vanity, and 38 years of sequestered thoughts, here. Bare with me.

With all of this new awareness, I find myself feeling a bit more confident in my acting, and personally gaining better access to my internal voices and practicing saying what's on my mind. Certain levels of politeness and privacy are not as necessary as thought. Speaking out is a great gift and natural ability we have as human beings. Theatre is based on this very ability. On some very large level we may have learned to narrow that tendency toward verbal truth because of cultural mores. Theatre speaks for us.

Connor taught us something his mentor Cicely Barry (a voice coach for the Royal Shakespeare company) imparted to him. She has an idea that it is our need to survive that compels us to speak.

Acting school is helping me survive. Maybe THRIVE would be a better word.

I wont be there to partake of the classes Baxter will build around these ideas, but I know that he will craft a deep practice for the jaw that will benefit many. We're planning a phone date to discuss exercises. I'll bring what I can to class. I'll unhinge my jaw, and let the words pour out like water. At the very least, I'll feed a tree.


Congratulations to Mi'Lady Phoebe Southwood, recipiant of the Teri McConville Scholarship Fund!!! Woot woot girlie!!!

Oh yeah ladies and gents, that's MY girl: fine actress, exceptional beauty, razor sharp wit, and a brain that just won't quit. Excuse me whilst I go to the happy dance and celebrate for my lady--

An exceptionally happy,


Monday, May 12, 2008

Wait, where's my life?

Many conversations I've been having with fellow 1st year track students lately are centered around wondering where our lives have disappeared to, and how to balance the tremendous workload with the other important aspects of our lives.

This weekend, I had to take a day to finally clean my house - and not a good cleaning, more just to sort the piles of exploded debris that has accumulated here and there. The mail table had reached and unsettlingly steep angle of repose made up of political glossy ads, opened, disordered bills and unopened credit card offers. The dishes here and there throughout the house left me wondering "What was I eating in the laundry room?". There is a stack of packages to be mailed that is beginning to number in the double digits. We were entirely out of fresh food last week because I had to catch up on reading "The Tempest" - a feat that took me about 12 hours to complete.

The pièce de résistance happened today, when my husband called me and asked if I had class tonight. He told me he wanted to take me to The Farm, one of our favorite celebration restaurants. I think I snorted as I said "Why?" incredulously. He responded "Because it's our anniversary."

My heart sank, and soared at the same moment. I laughed and cried at the same time. My husband remembered our anniversary! In my primitive understanding of modern marriage, I had thought husbands don't remember that date. I felt like an ass for not remembering because my head has been buried in scripts.

We've been together for 14 years, and married for two. I don't usually forget dates like this. In fact, I've always been super into celebrating milestones. I am so dreadfully embarrassed that this one slipped my mind. Luckily, Tyler really wants me to be the best actor I can become, so I can get away with this one. But his birthday is coming up. I'm thinking of having the date tattooed to my wrist so I don't forget it.

I have to go practice my Shakespeare monologues with Nicole and Linda at 5pm, I need to get homework done for tonight by 6:30pm, and I need to find something cotton (the 2 year wedding gift category) for my husband by 10pm.

Any suggestions?

Thursday, May 8, 2008

a small role makes a humble being

So, this is my first time on the blog as me. not the administrator me...just me.
here goes it.

i have a small role in defunkt's current play, "the garden party". (defunkt only uses lower case letters and so i will compose the rest of the entry with that construct. hee.hee.). i remember when i saw the audition stated that the audition would entail cold readings. i hate cold reads and thought that it would be good practice. i was centimeters away from chickening out...i actually walked away from the theatre several times before entering the front door. eventually i found my way in. the audition WAS good practice and i was even offered a role. the smallest role, in fact. i was excited and relieved at first. the material was challenging and i found a strange comfort in the smallness of the role I was cast..... this comfort soon turned to anxiety.

i discovered quickly how difficult small roles specific you must be before you even step onto the stage. you are only given a few moments to push the play forward, to help move the other characters along their arc. you have to create your own momentum, your own journey. you must paint a landscape for yourself that the audience does not directly experience. you must. this has been an incredibly humbling experience for me. i have been shaken, slapped and uprooted. there is an ocean of insecurity within me that is being transformed into something powerful and i am so thankful for the opportunity. every night i sit backstage i am faced with this question: why am i doing this? why do i come to a dark theatre 4 nights a week and sit in the dressing room for 60 out of the 80 minutes that the play is running? why? well, i do it because i love this process. all of it. it is hard and it is beautiful and it has become my heartbeat.


My face in the mirror

Mirror, mirror…

As I was reading Jack’s thoughts about the mirror exercise I got inspire and decided to write about my experience.
This is the third time I do this exercise. I have done in other classes as well, and it’s always a different experience, more or less intense, but worth it.
I LOVE this type of exercises that allow connection. I feel that every time we do one I get to know better someone I will share a scene with. It makes things easier and lighter, like they flow.
Yesterday I got a wonderful partner for the “mirror”. I felt we both walk into the exercise with and open mind and heart to let anything happened.
Our story built step by step, we create something that had a very nurturing essence, like we were giving birth to something precious. It was really amazing.
Every time I do “the mirror” I feel something different, depending on the person I am working with (and the circumstances, music, etc...). Many factors play in.
The first time I was really fearful, I resisted the exercise a little bit. I think I had the fear of the unexpected. The second time I was more relaxed, and definitively, this third time I was loving and grateful for the experience.

Frohnmayer and Frohnmayer - A Musical Satire

A quick plug for my latest and proudest work. I am acting in my father's (John Frohnmayer) musical comedy 'SPIN' at OSU May 8,9,10 and 15,16,17. It stars David Ogden Stiers (Maj. Winchester in M*A*S*H) and is a commentary on the age-old conflict of Art and Politics. Tickets are a very reasonable $14. Come see it before it hits Broadway!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008


In Acting 3 Monday nite (5/5/08) Beth made us do the mirror exercise. I've done it before with varying degrees of success. One thing that influences it is just how seriously the participants are taking it; if one or both are being flippant, then it is just a piece of silliness you do in acting class to pass the time. However, if both take it seriously it can become something very interesting.

Mon nite was the first time I connected really deeply with my partner. I had connected before, but this time it was open and deep almost from the start and very intense. My partner, who shall remain nameless, is someone I'm very fond of but as an actor just haven't been feeling that connection with, ever. When we did the exercise though, I found myself looking at him thinking, "Oh, there *you* are, not the mask I usually see. It's so wonderful to finally meet you." It was amazing.

One tip for future reference is remember to BLINK during this exercise. My partner and I were staring at each other so hard I didn't and my eyes were on fire by the end. So BLINK people, BLINK!!! Blinking is important for your ocular health apparently (lol).

Now all I have to do is find my script (buried somewhere in the mess of my recently moved apt), memorize my lines by tomorrow afternoon, figure out how to walk with a bad leg (and how bad I'm going to make it) and finish up my (incredibly) over-due homework.

This won't be challenging at all. Right. Um. Sure. Definitely.



Fear to fly

Shakespeare is one class that I thought was going to be unappealing to me, maybe because we tend to create images in our mind before the experiences. I was so wrong.
In Shakespeare I have learned many things, I am appreciating language more than before and I have practiced exercises that are SO useful and really get to the emotions in a very “practical” way.
Yesterday, we did a very moving exercise, where we first had to define the primary emotion of our monologue (I am playing Tamora in Titus Andronicus).
For me the feeling was fear. Then we had to breathe and ask (repeat) for something that we needed to fulfill that emotion. For me it was: “I need help”. And I had to repeat it as many times as I need it to really reach into the urgency. I repeat it, and repeat it until I felt I was shaking and then I did my piece completely immerse in that wave of fear and desperation. I feel it really worked for my intention.
Later I shared with the class that the fear I felt during that exercise compares with my fear to fly. I hate to fly; an airplane it’s the place where I probably feel most insecure, vulnerable and desperate of all. I fly quite often so I remember this feeling very well.
I just wish that the next time I have to fly, I give myself permission to say: “I need help”.

Monday, May 5, 2008

A Venezuelan walking this path

Acting 3, second week… How come time went so fast!
Since I began my journey in PAC last summer I have learned so much about acting, but must of all about myself.
I was born in Texas but raised in Venezuela. My accent is something I love and fear at the same time. Sometimes it feels especial, unique and reminds me of my life and where I come from. In the other hand, I am working in the consciousness that awakes when I have to work in a scene that doesn’t necessarily “require” my accent.
It’s hard because I usually have to work extra in my pronunciation. My teachers had been very patient with me. Connor, who speaks a very good Spanish by the way, has shown me the correct pronunciation and definition of some very old words (Shakespeare class).
Some of the words I struggle the most are “yes” and “this”. I really have to highlight those words in the text so I become aware where they are. In acting I Beth really made emphasis in my “yes” pronunciation.
I really love when teachers take the time to work in details like that. It makes me feel appreciated and the education becomes very powerful and nourishing for the actor.
It’s amazing to be in this place and be walking this path with so many great people…

Where is my Hiding Place?

Certainly not in the rehearsal room with Beth Harper! We've finished our first full week of rehearsals, and things seem to be coming along nicely. It's taken me some time to mentally adjust to Beth's style of directing, which is different from Connor's or Philip's, but now I am able to appreciate the benefits of her approach, too. I've been finding it a challenge to find the kind of masculine confidence that Karl needs to possess, as my natural tendency when put in similar situations is quite the opposite. But I guess that's why it's called acting, right? Something good did happen at the end of last week, though. Beth gave me a Secondary Activity* to do, and wow, even I could feel the difference. It's amazing how sometimes just a little thing will let me get into the scene instead of watching it critically. I'll attempt to keep everyone updated as things progress.

- Tom

*Super secret technical theatre/acting term

Friday, May 2, 2008

So I'm a geek...

...and want to write down a my break-throughs. Actually, this is more like showing progress, which hey, who'd a thunk I'd ever have any lol.

So I went to a clown/physical comedy workshop the other day and the guy teaching it did a Commedia del'arte workshop for our theatre history class and it was one of the funnest things we did there. His name is Michael O'Neill and he studied at the Commadia del'arte school, Clown school, toured with both, etc. He's about 5'9-10 and probly 250 lbs w/ auburn super curly hair and beard. The dude is a tank. But a sweet and fun one.

There were only 4 of us there besides Michael: Phoebe, Shawnda (didn't know her), and Billy (Shawnda's 12 y/o son). Shawnda was funny, Billy was too but he was less into it (he's 12 for goodness sake and has a bad case of 'gotta be cool'). We did some movement stuff, some of which I know (Thank you Phillip). We did lead from your head, hips, belly, and heart. Now, lead from your heart is different from lead w/ your chest. When you "lead from your heart" it's kinda more of a mental thing; you're more open to the world and everyone around you. Your armor is off.

He had us do those on command, then let us pick one to do on our own for several minutes. I chose lead from the heart (for some unknown reason), and after we were done we circled up and this is what Michael said.

Micheal: OMG Jack, when you lead from your heart it was amazing! Your posture didn't change that much but you became so open and vulnerable I just wanted to pick you up and take you home. I thought, wow, if this girl can open up like that I wonder: Will you marry me? I mean, the first time I saw you you were so closed; you're not a person who opens up a lot do you? [I nod] and the difference is just amazing. I mean I just really wanted to put my arms around you and pick you up and carry away.

And he comes over and picks me up like he's gonna cart me off. Then he put me back down again and I went and hid behind Phoebe. Gah, don't use the m-word, even as a joke! Evillllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll!

Micheal: Hey, I embarressed her, I win the award!

It was funny. But the point of it is is that I have made progress. I know why, but if you want details you'll have to ask; that stuff ain't going on the public blog. Probably tomorrow I'll have my blocks back in place and I'm not there yet, not by any stretch of the imagination, but today I had a break-through. Yayness!


Wednesday, April 30, 2008

coming soon...

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

My grand debut...

...on the PAC blog is now here. How will it go? Will I make a fabulous splash or crash down into the abyss of hacky hams. My stomach clenchs as the mouse moves slyly towards the "Publish Post" button and I am only a click away from fame.

"If you’re in a play and you have the same jokes to deliver, eight times a week, it’s endlessly fascinating, just trying to hit it each time, and maybe a little bit quicker, a little big later, trying to feel the air in which you’re about to place it. To have 400 people laugh at the same times, you would go to your grave trying to get it right. And it’s also very glamorous when it’s on film, cause you’re not there. I love it when a producer phones up and says: ‘It played very well in France. They were laughing.’ In France."
–Bill Nighy

Gigglingly yours,
Congratulations to the cast of The Secret Rapture! It was wondeful watching you.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

The second week of Rapture

The second week of the Secret Rapture has been full of interesting events. I almost got to experience my own personal rapture after almost drowning on orange squash on Thursday's performance. My lovely group of colleagues came to see the show in what was I think the quietest most contemplative audience we've experienced thus far. There were make-up woes and line flubs, a fabulous talk back with very inquisitive people and a flattering review in the Oregonian. All in all: another week experiencing the living arts. I wonder what next week will hold.....


Monday, April 14, 2008

Moving Ever Onward

Yes, the opening weekend of The Secret Rapture is now in the past, and man are my arms tired. From all the bird imagery... get it? No? But seriously folks, now I face the next two weeks of performances. Will I resist reading reviews until the run is over? How many more people can I bully into coming to see us? Will some jerk ask me an impossible question during the talk-back, causing me to faint on stage? Oh, the dramatic tension is thick (note the lame attempt at witty word play there? Oh yeah). Find out these answers and more in the next two weeks. Be there!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Opening Weekend of The Secret Rapture

Opening weekend of The Secret Rapture was amazing! Thank you all who came out to support the school and the class of 2008!!!!

I can't wait to start week number 2 of the run.


Tuesday, April 8, 2008

A major breakthrough!

Sunday's second tech run of the show had some incredibly amazing breakthroughs! I am so excited about the show. It was exhilarating :)


Friday, April 4, 2008

We're knee deep in Tech week

After a long but productive Cue to Cue the show seems to be pulling together. Now it feels like it's crunch weekend. Can I make my costume change in time? What's going on with the lights? What's my cue? Can my hair and boobs possibly get any bigger??? All of these important questions will be answered in due time. What else is Tech Week for? Our health? PLEASE!!! I am super excited though to have all my co-workers coming to see the show. It's the first time they'll get to see what I do when I leave work everyday. Probably very different from anything they'd imagine! Who would guess they're being time warped back to 1988 England and trapped with family drama for over two hours. I don't know, but it sounds exciting!!!!


Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Portland Actors Conservatory


The Secret Rapture

Written by David Hare

Directed by Connor Kerns


1436 SW Montgomery Street

Portland, OR 97214


April 9 &10- Previews

April 11- Opening Night

The show runs for 3 weekends through March 2nd (Thursday-Sunday)

All performances start at 7:30pm except Sunday Matinees which start at 2:00pm


In The Secret Rapture, David Hare undertakes an exploration of the moment of rapture and pushes the boundary of spiritual inquiry, as a young woman grapples with issues surrounding death, family and values. The playwright says, "I've noticed that goodness tends to make people shifty, and makes those with bad consciences feel judged even when they are not being judged at all. It doesn't have to do anything to make itself hated. It just has to exist to cause chaos."


The Class of 2008-Maria Aparo, Elizabeth Calhoun, Robert Ciardi, Kaia Crowell, Maren McGuire and Tom Mounsey

Buy Tickets Here

Friday, February 8, 2008

Working Hard-Lookin' Pretty!

Inside the Rehearsal Room of "We Won't Pay! We Won't Pay!"

Robert Ciardi as Luigi

Scott Rogers, Elizabeth Calhoun & Jeffrey Gilpin

Is she pregnant???

Jeffrey Gilpin as The State Trooper

Maren McGuire & Robert Ciardi as Margherita & Luigi

Maren McGuire & Elizabeth Calhoun as Margherita & Antonia

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Stringing it all together....

Phew! It's been an exhausting ride but we are finally ready for tech weekend. The set is being painted AND the coffin, the wardrobe and the welding torch are recieving their final touches. The designers are even speaking in Italian dialects to one another! Curious are we? Well, there is only one remedy for must come and see the show.
Look at this face!....How could you say no?

For more information on purchasing tickets visit our website at
or call the Box Office at 503-274-1717

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

A very excited young man!

I must say, I am a very excited young man! Alright,maybe not so young anymore since my own heady days as a 2nd Year PAC student but still, I haven't been this excited since I drank that quadruple espresso on a dare!!

And there is a lot to be excited about! This season at PAC is starting off with a bang with the political satire 'We Won't Pay! We Won't Pay!' In a presidential election year, with the U.S. economy's future sketchy, and a congress that has voted not to extend economic benefits to those who need them most (again),one could not get more poignant than this satirical politically charged comedy!

Add to that an enthusiastic 2nd Year cast that is straining at the gates to start the season, Guest Artist; Jeffrey Gilpin whom I've had the extreme pleasure of both watching and working with (they don't make actors more fun to work with than Jeff), and Director and faculty member Philip Cuomo; who now that James Brown is gone, has my vote (along with Artistic Director Beth Harper) as the hardest working people in show business and you've got all the ingredients of a must see show!

And did I mention PAC is headed full throttle towards Accreditation? You might ask: "What's you said...mean?" I'll tell you what it means! It means government aid availability for students who want to study at PAC, it means more students from more places worldwide coming to PAC, but mostly it means national recognition for what we already know: That the Portland Actors Conservatory is THE BEST professional actors training school in the Northwest and that we produce some of the finest, most well-rounded, most well-prepared actors possible! Am I excited?! HOOAHH! You bet I am! In the immortal words of Beth Harper: "Here we go!"

-Jason Frohnmayer
Class 2003

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Crunch Time: "We Won't Pay! We Won't Pay!"

The temperture is rising within the walls of the Historic Firehouse Theatre (home to PAC) as the 2008 Season of Plays is only 2 weeks away! We are swirling and twirling (well, those of us who know how to twirl) and buzzing about like professional theatre folk do. Today is the final designer run thru of the play before the ever-so-pleasurable tech week begins.

Each class of the Conservatory ends their 2- year Actor Training with a season of plays and
"We Won't Pay! We Won't Pay!" is the Class of 2008's first. They have a long few weeks ahead of them and we wish them all the best of luck!

Let us all take a moment and BREATHE..........

Monday, January 28, 2008

Monday Morning Ice: No problem class goes on

Snow and ice hit us last night but teacher Barry Hunt arrived early at the Conservatory to prepare for his monday morning Meisner class. Some students were a little late but most were here and ready to work. A testament to the commitment of Conservatory students and faculty.

On the schedule today is the building of the We Won't Pay! set and an evening Level One Acting class.

Stay warm and drive safe.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Portland Actors Conservatory gives birth.... a new thing we like to call "The Blog"
 Allow me to introduce myself:  
My name is Sarah Farrell.
I am the Manager of all things Production at the Portland Actors Conservatory. 
Don't ask me what I do.
I can't articulate, I only execute. 
How did I come to find myself at the Portland Actors Conservatory?
Well (pause...sigh...yawn), that is a long story.
But, perhaps this page of blogs will help to tell, not only my story, but many.
So I invite you, who ever you are, to read... and to receive... and to possibly even...respond.
Stay tuned.
I know I will.