Arts Education

“I’m not an actor, but okay, I’ll do it.”

This about sums up the attitude of the amazing teens I have been helping in the Film Institute program at CPBN. I am working with a teacher who is focusing on the overall organization, structure, and technical aspects of the class, while I am teaching specifically film acting.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from a group of teens at various levels of experience and interest in film production. I will say, I was pleasantly surprised by what they had to offer.

When I arrived at my first class to teach, I was understandably (I think anyway) nervous. I have worked with teens dozens of times, but they can be a  tough crowd. They aren’t quite adults yet, but most of the sunshiny everything is awesome attitude of children is starting to fade fast. They see through BS, but they are still optimistic. They WANT to see the best in themselves and others. I think it’s an honor to work with them.

Anyway, I show up and I figure, the best way to show you’re serious is to dive right in.  The first scene we had to film was a kidnapping scene, shot in noir style. So I had them “Run for their lives” with me around the entire floor of the building (yes, we did get yelled at, but I took the blame as such the responsible adult that I am..cough..) and do a bunch of exercises (I was actually out of breath before them) to get them INTO their bodies. Actors know what I mean by this, but if you don’t..there is a myth with people that acting is just in your face and how you say something. I wanted to shake this idea out of the kids as soon as possible. And just by doing something to get their minds off the actual scene, this was accomplished.

I was very impressed by how quickly they took notes and adjusted them into a scene.  This keeps happening! Every time we shoot something new, they jump right in. They are goofy, sure, and they talk in between scenes, but when we are rolling, EVERYONE is serious. If someone messes up, they don’t make fun of them. They encourage each other and each of them truly want to produce the best work they possibly can. And they LISTEN. Think about the last time an ADULT actually LISTENED to you.

When we aren’t filming, I have had the interesting opportunity to hear them discuss films with their  teacher, with complex ideas and terms that most adults don’t even understand.

I have spoken one on one with some of the students who have a passion for filmmaking and acting running through them. It’s strong and they want guidance and I hope to help them out the best way I can. It is too easy for parents, teachers, and authority figures to say “Be realistic! You can’t make money doing that! You can’t major in artistic pursuits! You need to have a better plan!” To that I say SCREW. THAT. These kids are still malleable and I hope that if anything, I can be cheering on the sidelines, encouraging them to keep the dream alive. The status quo is not a way to measure success.

This has been a really big wake up call. Many schools in the country are getting their funding cut from their schools. I attended a salon in Hartford a couple of years ago and was told that there were NO arts, music, or after school programs in Hartford Public Schools. Disgusting. I cannot BELIEVE this is reality. I was so lucky to be exposed to nearly every single after school activity and cultivate my creativity in a supportive environment.

I would just like to put it out there that if you have any power in any way to support high schools with arts programs, whether it’s music, drama, yearbook, WHATEVER! PLEASE remember…some of these kids don’t have any other way to express themselves. Some of them don’t even believe they can get into college. They need this, it is vital. Life is not just about math and science. It is about creativity and we can’t evolve as a society without it.

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“Autumn…the y…

“Autumn…the year’s last, loveliest smile.” – William Cullen Bryant

This quote is how I feel these days, especially with wrapping up and beginning new projects that are slated to be presented within the next month.  I am busy with class, editing, rehearsals, applying for an important internship for next year, working on getting “Holding” out to all of you, writing, and I just feel so grateful to have this beautiful season in which to complete it all.

CPTV vs. Auditioning

So this week I thought I’d tackle two very different parts of my life.

Working at CPTV vs. Auditioning

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not trying to find some deep, hidden truth in two completely different areas of my life.  I am just amused at how very different they are.  In fact, I’m not sure I can find any similarities at all.

*Insert time lapse here.  Like 20 mins*

First, let us look at a few contrasting elements.  One area symbolizes job security, while the other embodies securing a job.  Of course, there will be some differences inherent from the get-go.

CPTV

1. I answer phones

1a. I get yelled at sometimes by people who don’t know me.  See previous blog entry.

2.  I snack all day long.

3.  I dress business casual (I usually interpret this as jeans and converse.  On Friday, my friend Alissa noticed I wore heels and was very proud of me.  That should give you an idea about how serious I am about wearing jeans and converse to work).

AUDITIONING

1.  I don’t answer phones. In fact, my phone is on silent or off.  But I do experience something called “hurry up and wait.”  Symptoms include: rushrushrushing to audition, and waitingwaiting…waiting to get inside the room and perform.

1a. I don’t get yelled at, but if I’m doing a monologue where I yell, I suppose I’m kind of yelling at the casting director, right?

2. I cannot. eat. before an audition.   My body rejects all nutrition until after I am done performing.  The only substance it will accept in advance are liquids in the form of coffee, espresso, or water.  This is probably why I always have to pee really bad when I’m done auditioning.  It also explains why I’m ravenous afterwards.

4.  I dress up nicely for auditions. (People who know me ((for instance, my sister)) roll their eyes at me on my “days off” where I do nothing but wash my hair, let it air dry, wear no makeup, and walk around with my glasses squinting at daylight, dressed in what someone would only describe as something between what a 5 year old child and an emo hipster on the lower east side would wear).  I clearly take my appearance seriously.  Ahem.

4a. There IS no “4a” for CPTV, but I should mention that I’ve had to dress up very specifically ie “White Trash” or “Sexy French Girl” for certain casting calls, which is a whole another experience in  and of itself.  Here, the “dress nicely” rule doesn’t actually apply in those cases.  I should save this for a completely different entry.

List of similarities that is much longer than I thought it would be:

OK so I have found three items that these two different areas of my life have in common.

1. ACTING (DUH, CASEY. DUH).

I don’t think I need to explain acting when it comes to auditioning, but when it comes to CPTV, I have to speak to people on the phone, and email people online as though I have some idea of what I’m talking about, I must “find the love” in the phone call (the reason for me to not hang up even when people are very rude. In acting school it was called, “find the love in the scene” which to me is the same thing), I must be jovial and sweet even when I’m not feeling it “in the moment,” and sometimes, in very severe cases, I must “act” as though I am the Director of Create TV.  I will only further clarify if people ask:

www.createtv.com

2.  I have to talk to people I don’t really know.  At CPTV this is a daily occurrence happening anywhere from a dozen to a gross times a day. (Can I say “gross” times a day? Yep,just did).  At auditions, I talk to actors I don’t know, which seems perfectly fine, since well…psh, we’re actors, we must have SOMETHING in common.  Most of the time, this is the case.  Sometimes it is not and you have stage 5 clingers.*

*I once had someone follow me from (undisclosed location) all the way to (another far away undisclosed location) in a large city once we had wrapped on set because said person had “nothing better to do.”  I hadn’t learned the fine art of dodging uncomfortable situations like a ninja yet.

Anyway, most of the time talking to people I don’t know is a very enjoyable experience. I can talk weather, sports, or make self-deprecating remarks if necessary.

3.  TMI.

Sigh.  We’ve all been there.  For some reason, people on the phone feel that it is necessary to impart to you any of the following:

-family geneology, how old they were when they went on their first date, what they ate for breakfast, how much they have a crush on someone 50 years younger, their favorite animal, how they think your name should only be for boys, how many awards they won when they were younger, conspiracy theories, their favorite pasttimes, etc.  Too much information usually makes me laugh hard.  (Or silently laugh and slam my hand or head against the desk). Sometimes it makes me squeamish.  But it’s bearable.

TMI in auditioning is a little different. I often feel as though I am giving TMI about myself.  Stats.  You don’t give stats at the grocery store, the bank, at your job.  But every time I’m “securing a new job” it’s height, weight, clothing size, eye color, hair color, food allergies.  This doesn’t bother me, you understand.  I’d rather give TMI about myself than hear it.  Maybe it’s just because I’ve been an actor for so long.

I don’t know what I’ve learned, dear blog readers, except that being an actor comes in really handy with other work and life situations.

Perhaps to mix things up a bit, I’ll hold auditions in the POD at CPTV next week.  Watch out, Jennifer and Jerry.  I’m looking at you. *evil actory cackle*

A highlight reel, if you will. I’m an actor, so that’s a pun.

I couldn’t decide what I wanted to write about this afternoon.

So this is going to be more of a HIGHLIGHT REEL of the past week…things that really “stuck out” for me.

  • People at CPTV trust me enough to let me train someone new.  Great new temp, really funny, a musician, wears bright orange on the same days as me: WIN.  Me having him log into the database all by himself and apparently breaking some sort of security rule: FAIL.
  • Pick up rehearsals are hilarious when actors don’t show up…I’m acting to an inanimate ghost-like space! I’m acting… acting like a MIME would if she could talk!
  • Not having a performance this past Friday night made me feel like I was getting away with something…like snagging a chocolate chip cookie from the cooling rack. (You know, at home. I don’t go around stealing cookies at local bakeries).
  • Saturday night I had to pretend to hug an actress onstage extra hard so I could reach around her back under her shirt and switch on her mike. Nobody noticed: WIN!
  • This last show, closing on a matinee, sort of made me hate matinees less. SORT of. By some kind of fluke, there was lots of energy and a great, attentive audience.  Don’t get any crazy ideas, future matinees in life.  I’m watching you.
  • I answered a phone call yesterday re: a WNPR broadcast that clearly upset a woman.  She LITERALLY SAID, “Let me tell YOU what I WISH UPON ALL OF YOU THERE, young lady. (intake of deep breath) I hope you all get sick when you’re old and no one is around to take care of you.”
  • During our second talk-back for Deana’s Educational Theatre today, fellow actor Tim Hoover asked the audience of second graders, “What was the character afraid to be called at school?”  The correct answer would be “Tattle Tale,” but one little girl answered with, “Easter Bunny.”

I am delirious on very little sleep, but I made sure to take a huge swig of Starbucks House Blend, so we’ll see how this works out.

P.S.  I love the Berkshires!  I miss my Berkshire Theatre Festival crew. 🙂

Below is a random photo from the CPTV vault.

Allegra Itsoga, myself, and Jennifer Pratt, getting our zen / swordage on at CPTV.

Be well, friends.  Have a highlight-filled week.

The story of Kiki, Michael Bolton, and my converse.

I currently temp at Connecticut Public Broadcasting.  This is the parent company of CPTV and WNPR.  So it’s PBS television station and an NPR affiliate station.

I work in Member Services.  Most of my job entails me answering the phones.  Here’s what I say:

“Connecticut Public Broadcasting.  This is Casey speaking. How may I help you?”

Pretty basic, am I right?

I would also like to point out that I am a professional actor. I was classically trained to act and well…to SPEAK properly.  You know, enunciate words with finesse. That kind of thing. 

For some reason, though,  this is the response I get, on average 5-8 times a week.

“Stacey?”

“Oh well hello Tracey”

“Good morning, Kiki,I really need your help.”

“All right, Kelly. Thanks for your help.”

“Katie, this is Mr. So and So and I’m angry about such and such.”

I mean it’s actually gotten to the point where I turned to my friend Jennifer and said, “I’m sorry…but do I not pronounce ‘Casey’ correctly?” And she assured me that no, I say my name just fine.  Phew!  I have been saying my name correctly all these years.

I used to correct people, but then it became a battle of “Casey.” “Tracey?” “Casey.” “Stacey?” sigh.

Now I just let people think whatever they want.  Or, I should say, HEAR whatever they want.

Then it all came full circle for me when I realized that people don’t like the name “casey” for a woman.  It sounds funny!

Two days ago on the phone, this older woman said, “Casey?  In my youth, Casey was only a boy’s name. How peculiar.”  And I explained how well gee, my mom must have been so progressive.

That just happens often enough, that I felt the need to share.

I also feel the need to share that random people are usually in the studio or in the building. I mean, obviously.  It’s a radio and television station.  But on Wednesday someone said, “Oh, Michael Bolton is in the other room.” And that’s when it struck me how random the days can turn out to be at CPTV.

myself, Michael Bolton, and Allegra Itsoga after Mr. Bolton's concert. Hey, it was our job to go.

My friend, Allegra and I, had to work one of his concerts last year for CPTV.  We didn’t say much, but he was very friendly.  Fun fact:  Michael Bolton and I were both wearing converse. 

And that reminds me…Actor’s Green Room was holding a contest for most creative Valentine’s Day poem, and I was one of the winners!  Because um yeah, I rhymed about my converse.

There you have it.  Bet you didn’t think I could tie all three of those subjects together, but I did.

Happy Friday, kids.

Let us begin.

“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” Oh, Semisonic.  How profound of you.
 
Can you believe that lyric was printed as an inspirational quote from my tear-off calendar at work?  The tear-off calendar was a gift.  Well…it was given to me by a coworker at Connecticut Public Broadcasting who said, “Here, have this. I got it in the mail.  Or throw it out, I don’t care.”  So naturally I placed it on my desk cause..YEAH! Woot!  Daily inspiration! Why not?!
 
So 2011 is here.  And yes, I have new calendars. Several, actually.  There’s something about opening up that wall calendar to the first month, tacking it up on your wall…or cubicle..or..tackboard above your desk? and marvelling at all of the days ahead of you. New possibility.  New Beginnings.

I’m not talking about just calendars to hang on the wall either. I’m talking about personal planners. No, no. Not palm pilots, ipads, iphones, blackberries, or computers. You know, personal planners. The kind that you open up (with your hands, not with an application) and inside, you write. 
 
This is my personal planner:
 
 
It’s almost like a book.  It’s bound, it’s blue, it has GREEN LETTERING. Neon green, even.  It’s canvas.  What a good vegan. No leather-bound planners for me!  Ew. I already got it dirty, though.

  • Here’s what I have penciled (I still use pencils. Not because I’m being whimsical or ironic or something, but because my plans constantly change.  If you are my friend you know this and secretly kinda hate me for this) in for 2011 thus far:
     
    Ahem:
     
     
  • auditions (New York, Boston, Providence)
  • FILMING! YAY!
  • rehearsals for the show I’m co-directing!
  • shows for said show.
  • movie nights*
  • birthdays
  • rehearsals for another show, “Crimes of the Heart.” I’m playing Babe. So excited.
  • shows for Crimes of the Heart.
  • yoga classes
  • shows for Deana’s Educational Theatre.
  • SAG meetings.
  • bills. bah.
  • program development meetings for Deana’s Educational Theatre
  • salons (harriet beecher stowe house, book discussions, etc).
  • *SAG Awards

I also write little smileys and stars and hearts and doodles on certain days to remind myself to DO something great or BE optimistic or have fun, really.
 
So, along with new calendars and a new year, there usually come NYR’s. NEW. YEAR. RESOLUTIONS.  Over the years I’ve come up with the same old boring resolutions, (last year, one of them was to drink more water on a daily basis) and usually I’m great at them…because I’m an overachiever and I need to prove that to myself for some sick reason.  But eventually it becomes too stressful and I convince myself that the new part of the year is over, and my resolution has expired.
 
THIS year, though, is quite different. I’m resolute to basically be more awesome.  Like blogging, for instance.  Instead of boring, wimpy, “updates” on my website page, I’m actually going to write. 
 
I’m also going to accomplish goal of being more awesome in other ways:  directing with mad skills, trying new things, perfecting my French on a daily basis, reading every book I am interested in this year,writing more in general, and acting so hard / fantastic that I momentarily knock time into a slow-motion warp in the audition room, leaving producers and casting directors in shock for 2-3 minutes (the standard time for a brief, contemporary monologue).
   Sigh.  It’s a good year. ALREADY.  
  
P.S. I saw “The Town” last.  Ben Affleck can act, so THERE harterz!  Mad props to those friends who made it in the credits, too!  Great work 🙂