Typecasting Blues  

intierzha 43M
311 posts
8/17/2006 8:46 pm

Last Read:
12/4/2006 9:58 pm

Typecasting Blues


I haven't discussed my experience in Theater much, or at all I think, so, at some encouragement of interest, I've decided to dedicate a post to the several years in my life that was more or less consumed by acting, directing, producing and other jobs associated with the theater arts.

Like a lot of theater people, I started in some small productions at my small school, helping out whenever I could from about 8th -10th grade. My voice didn't help me much, as even then I had a rather flat, sometimes annoying accent (at least for Texas), and when I tried to sound southern, it didn't go well. Finally, in the 11th grade, I played the murderer in 'Rehearsal for Murder', a decent play, but rather predictable plot. Granted, I knew the ending well in advance, lol, but not the best murder mystery. Still, we gave it a decent go, and things turned out alright. That year, I took a high school drama class and learned a little more about acting, but mostly I went on what I already knew. My senior year, we did 'Our Town' and I landed the role of the 'Stage Manager' (not the actual stage manager , which was fairly difficult in that it required not only a lot of memorization, but in chunks, since more than half my lines were monologues. I also had to attempt a New England accent, that in retrospect, wasn't all that good, but passable I guess for high school theater. Plus, I had to pass for a 50 year old, when I was barely 18 and looked about 12, lol. According to everyone, I managed to pull it off. Also, I got my first chance at directing, doing most of the artistic direction during the show, which alas, was a blocking nightmare. Still, when I got to college and university level theater, I did not realize how much I had to learn.

My freshman year at UT-Arlington I auditioned for 'Cat on a Hot Tin Roof', and a majority of those already cast and most of those auditioning figured I had the role of the reverend (I don't remember the specific name of the character these days) nailed (So much so it got me some parts in a couple of one act plays later that semester). However, the director encouraged a fellow that looked the part to try out. His audition was ok, but most everyone in the department agreed he sounded pretty flat and without any emotion, yet he was cast in the part. That was my first experience with typecasting... and it would not be my last. Thanks to this brand of typecasting I experienced, it turned me off theater at UTA, at least the faculty productions, and a year later, my perceptions and opinions of the craft would change drastically during my first stay in Sydney.

Incidentally, during this time I would flirt with the idea of starting my own theater... an idea that still holds a little sway over me (Maybe when I'm rich enough to sponsor it and build it . Ideally, I think I would have three spaces and an amphitheater/or convertible amphitheater... near the sea someplace. Anyway, on to Australia.

One of the reasons for my stay in Sydney dealt with an internship at the Belvoir St. Theater near the Central Station in Sydney. A very neat place, with an excellent space and great staff. But to that in a moment, as I wound up in a university production first. I was cast as the 'Tutor' in 'Medea', which we did in the round. The cast was female-dominated, as one might expect, interesting since it was written in male-dominated ancient Greece. Still, a great tale of revenge, and my part was mostly unimportant, but it was to me since it was the first time I was able to use my accent to my advantage, lol. In Greek times, it was not uncommon to use foreign tutors for royalty and nobility. So, with my American accent in the middle of a bunch of Australians imitating Greeks, I was sort of the natural choice for the role (and it was also one of two roles left that hadn't been cast when I auditioned). Funny thing was, one of our musicians in the play was confronted by a friend of his and trying to sound important, mentioned to him that my accent sounded terribly fake. The musician simply laughed and mentioned how odd that was considering I was from Dallas. Needless to say, his friend didn't have much more to say after that.

About a week after this play ended, I was called to Belvoir St. to do my internship, one that would really alter my perception of theater. I got to see it from the professional, financial, technical and artistic sided, and it was eye-opening, even if at the time I didn't really appreciate it. I was 19, and well, when do teenagers ever appreciate such experiences? Anyway, the play was another from ancient Greece, this time Aristophanes' 'Frogs', though adapted through Australian eyes to utilize a bit more coarse language and subject matter. Still quite hilarious. But considering the director, I think they did pretty well... a nice fellow by the name of Geoffrey Rush, whom I knew nothing of at the time until he won the Academy Award for 'Shine', and I realized that it was the same fellow I worked with on 'Frogs'. Actually, the whole cast were great, and many of them were actually well-known in theater circles in Australia, and some would be well-known later, and I didn't realize how lucky I was to be around such talent. I only sat in on the early rehearsals and helped out the Stage Manager, then helped with some of the office work, learned a lot about lighting at the time (considering how much it has evolved now, what I learned is now outdated), and helped build a good chunk of the set. Almost lost a finger with a jigsaw, but lucked out on that one. In the end, everything turned out fine, except I had to come back home. Just as an aside from that era, when I came back to Australia 12 years later, I stopped by Belvoir to see how much things had changed. Not too much, and I saw the old program for 'Frogs' and got a smile out of that. It was, strangely, like coming home in a sense, even though I had only spent a couple of months there. I suppose on a deeper level it had affected me in ways I did not realize at the time and would in the end, help me in future theater, and life, experiences.

In the fall of 1993 I had been out of theater for a year, waiting tables as most out of work actors do, lol. I went back to a community college and enrolled in an acting class and auditioned for a couple of plays, including one musical. Oddly, I wound up with several parts in the musical, one called 'Little Me', an apparent favorite of Sid Caesar, who was famous for having multiple major roles in the play. My parts were not so major, but had a particular thread tying them in... I was the person with the accents, ranging from a German POW camp commander in WWI to East European, to a generic gangster (20's era), to British and Southern. Plus, I got to dance some, lol. Thankfully, I didn't have to sing much. It was a strange little musical, but a lot of fun. In the other play, 'A Shaina Maidel'(A Pretty Girl in Yiddish), I did not land a role, but wound up being the research director on the play, as it was about the Holocaust. I got to spend a great deal of time in the library at the Holocaust center in Dallas to give everyone a decent background on events during that time. We did the play scant months before 'Schindler's List' came out, and I think it went pretty well, even if the subject matter was tough. We presented the play at a regional theater festival but did not advance to a larger festival at the University of Arkansas. Some of my fellows in the cast did move on for their performances and got to do some scene work for the festival. I almost didn't go, but decided to anyways, and wound up placing in their dramatic critics competition, another sign I should stick to writing, lol. The next semester we did 'Romeo and Juliet', in which we did a lot of stage combat, but turned me off Shakespeare for awhile, 'Romeo and Juliet' not being his best written play. Give me 'Hamlet' any day.

I later did some one acts, producing, directing and acting in them, and actually had to be brought in to finish a production that had no director. Strange, because in theater, the director usually controls casting. I had to work with what I had. Still, I managed to get things done, even though we had to rehearse at 10pm every night, since it was the only time I could get the cast together (and it was a large cast for a one-act, 13 I think). Heck, thanks to prior commitments for the University, I had two cast members miss the Technical rehearsal... no fun, really. But the two nights it ran, we had no problems at all. And the play was pretty well received. That was the last specific theater production I have done, though I considered doing more, just never had the time, really. I later did a lot of Live Action Roleplaying, which is similar to improvisational theater with rules, but with a terrible, whiny cast, lol (geeks, while good with rules, most make terrible actors).

Now I do look back on my experiences with mostly fondness and the nostalgia of an older man looking back at youth, which is terribly typical. I think sometimes I would like to direct again, not so much acting anymore, and while I have written some one acts, haven't yet written a full play. I might like to attempt that sometime.

Thanks for bearing with me and this fairly long entry(for me anyway).

C.

BaronessK 52F

8/18/2006 6:00 am

Do not apologize or whatever...I was quite interested...why did you stop?


intierzha 43M

8/18/2006 1:11 pm

Well, I was running out of interesting things to say, lol. But as far as theater, I stopped mostly because of time and other commitments.

C.


akron42   
2375 posts
8/20/2006 11:53 am

I agree, why did you stop?! I think you would skyrocket in a director or producer career. Thanks to you, I have been reading alot lately on the "behind the scenes" roles in theater and even film. Either genre sounds like a challenge! I guess typecasting has its place in certain circumstances, but you never know how someone will take a role and make it their own. I would love to write a play, movie, even a novel, but don't think I have what it takes. I would tend to write for the end result, fame, money, etc., and I feel that when writing, you have to do it for the story, to get it out of your head and onto paper. Great post C, I'm really glad you did it. Hope to hear MORE!


intierzha 43M

8/20/2006 12:40 pm

A lot of people write for the end result, but to really write, in my oinion, it has to come from somewhere beyond that... well, when I open my own theater, then I'll direct and produce the plays I want Thanks for the comments.

C.


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