Thoughts on acting and creating a new word

We did eight performances at the Clio Cast & Crew of A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum, a musical that in second reference we all like to refer to as The Forum. For two months we rehearsed, sang, practiced, studied lines, blocked, laughed, had costume fittings, chatted and did everything imaginable. It was a wondrous time for me as I got to meet new friends, such as Carmen, Juliet, Brenda and Ed and hang out at the theater. My sons also got a chance to see what their Dad likes to do as a hobby and what he plans to continue doing as a hobby.

In the play, I was Protean #2, which means that I and Carl and Seth were the 200 B.C. equivalent of the Three Stooges with the Keystone Kops thrown in for good measure. Our job was to entertain and pretend to be slaves, citizens, eunuchs, sailors, soldiers and do our best to ham things up when possible. For me, it was a very fun occasion, and having makeup on during the play wasn’t as horrible as I thought it would be. I explained to my sons that under the bright lights, when you don’t wear makeup, your face gets washed out. Interestingly, I learned that having a big nose meant not having to wear as much makeup.

Four things I learned as an actor: 1) Show up on time, 2) Know your lines, 3) Do what your director tells you and 4) No matter how good you become, don’t let success go to your head.

This play has also inspired me to create a seldom-used word: theaterography, which I’ve put as a page on my blog so folks can know what else I’ve done in theater.

Richard is a writer and, now, an actor. Someday he wants to get into dramatic roles, such as 12 Angry Men. Post comments here or e-mail them to richardzowie@gmail.com.

Advertisements

Auditioned for a Neil Simon play last night

Last night, before getting pictures for work, I headed to the Clio Cast and Crew to audition for a part in an upcoming Neil Simon play.

This was the first time in a long time I’d auditioned for something. Years ago when trying to get into radio I made a mock news recording on cassette tape. Then, in 2004 when screening calls at San Antonio’s News Talk 550 KTSA, the news director told me there was an opening in the weekend anchor position and asked me if I wanted to do a news recording so they could see how I’d sound on the air. Thankfully, I passed that with flying colors. (For some reason, reading live news has always been easier for me than having to record and edit. Maybe it’s because you force yourself to get it right the first time, realizing there is no Take Two). 

So, I auditioned and read for the part.

We had a few pages of dialogue, and as we did it, I found myself wishing I’d seen the movie first and had read the script in its entirety. But as I read, I got an idea of the voice inflections to use. Once or twice the script called for me to look at my watch, and I did that. And then a few times when the character makes a surprised proclamation, my eyes widened as if I were indeed incredulous.

When we finished, Jody (the lady I read with) told me my voice sounded good and loud. Friday I’ll find out if I got the part.

Yes, I would love to get this part as performing on stage is a secret passion of mine, but the main reason I auditioned was to get my feet wet in the acting process. If I don’t get the part, I’ll find out what else, as a theater member, I can do for the play.

It’s possible that if I get the part I may have to use a few words I normally do not use, but one thing I remind myself are two things actors have told me: Adam Vernier described acting as being a “faker”; you are playing a role, nothing else. Adam also told me once that if fame (or, for that matter, fortune) are your motiviations for getting into acting, don’t bother. You have to REALLY love doing it. The late David Hess once said acting is just that–acting. It’s not the real world.

Someday I’d also love to do voice-overs and perhaps even serve as a public address announcer. Back in 2004, I was one of several live auctioneers for Blazing Gavels, a fund-raising event for San Antonio’s PBS affiliate KLRN. I had the time of my life.

Richard Zowie is a Michigan-based writer. He envisions himself as someday having the lead role in a movie titled The Man Who Loved Ducks. Post comments here or e-mail them to richardzowie@gmail.com.

Done reading ‘Zen in the Art of Writing’ by Ray Bradbury

Well, except for the segment called …On Creativity. Perhaps I’ll read those poems someday when I purchase a copy of Zen in the Art of Writing. At this stage, the poems just didn’t work for me.

It’s only fitting that the last essay on writing in this book is called “Zen in the Art of Writing”. Mr. Bradbury says he chose the title for the shock value, as a way of getting more readers. Until recently (he wrote this essay in 1973), he didn’t know what zen meant. I imagine that in 1973 (the year of my birth), people were far less open to the idea of Zen Buddhism than what they are now in 2010.

I’m not a Buddhist, nor am I a follower of far eastern religions. While I hear the word “zen” frequently used I still had to look it up since I didn’t really know what it meant. From what I gather (and this is subject to change based on what a few friends who’ve studied Far East cultures might say), zen is the idea of enlightenment following a period of study or concentration. Hence, Zen in the Art of Writing is about studying writing and meditating on what you’ve gathered and coming to a period of enlightenment.

For many, Mr. Bradbury believes they have writing all wrong. Writing is not about writing solely to make money or to appease snooty critics (please, oh please do NOT get me started on how some filmmakers worry about whether or not they’ll get Roger Ebert’s coveted “Thumbs Up”). It is about learning the science of writing (grammar, spelling, punctuation, story structures) and then the art of writing (developing your own style).

In Bradbury’s experience, writing is a three-step process: Work. Relaxation. Don’t Think.

First, you work.

This, no doubt, is a major letdown for those excited by writing. I’ve been writing for most of my life, professionally for the past 10 years. Let’s face it: it takes work to write. Mr. Bradbury notes that surgeons practice on countless cadavers to prepare for an operation on a live person. An athlete will run miles and miles to prepare for a 100-meter race. A sculptor will practice chiseling countless rocks to prepare for that masterpiece on one slab of granite. Myself, I’ve written many short stories over the years (most of which are unpublishable) and am working on short stories and a novel in hopes of achieving a fiction writing career someday. For every column I write, there are the countless ones I’ve started and thrown away. There have even been those I wrote, completed and then didn’t publish.

We never quit learning to be writers (I imagine Mr. Bradbury would admit that at 88, he’s still learning how to write), but once you’ve put in enough countless hours of blood, sweat and tears and have worn down enough keyboards, pens, pencils and have cut down enough trees to produce paper and notepads, you finally reach the stage of relaxation. This is when writing evolves to where you can put it out without having to put in so much rudimentary work. Specifically, it feels natural and fluid, not so laborious.

Remember the first time you rode a bike? It felt awkward. But as you rode more it grew to where it was easier, and you could relax rather than worry about falling off all the time.

After work and relaxation, you reach the “Don’t Think” stage of writing. This is an advanced stage of Relaxation. At not thinking, it doesn’t mean you put things on autopilot and watch the words magically appear on your screen, out of your typewriter or on the piece of paper as your hand magically writes. Instead, it means you’ve written for so long that you can let the ideas flow and you can write using the basic principles and styles you’ve learned without having to think of them all the time.

Using the bicycle principle, how many of us really think of how we pedal and maintain balance? We’ve done it for so long that it’s almost automatic.

Mr. Bradbury recalls when he first began writing, he wrote for quantity. As he became a better writer and started to write publishable work, he evolved from producing quantity to quality. Experience yields good writing.

How do writers lose their way? Mr. Bradbury believes it’s from pursuing fame and fortune. The same rings true for other professions: one professional actor once told me that if a person’s motivation for becoming an actor is for fame and fortune, don’t bother.

A writer, Mr. B, should see themselves as a prism and should focus on beaming a new light into the world. Develop your own style that’s different from others.

This book, hence, is “zen” in that these essays are what Ray Bradbury has learned about writing. Someday, I hope to read it a few more times and add it to my library.

Next, I’ll be splitting my time between three books: short story collections by Isaac Asimov and Ben Bova and the book The Sacred Romance. I will probably blog about the latter on my Richard’s Two Shekels blog.

Richard Zowie is a writer, blogger and aspiring fiction writer. Post comments here or e-mail richardzowie@gmail.com.