Frank the Bastard or Being Ready to Act When You Most (or least) Expect It

from "Frank the Bastard"
me as Mrs. Gast with hubby Mr. Eddie Gast

So on a balmy August day in 2011, I woke up at 7am, my eyes burning and my vision blurred. I had just slept for exactly one hour and I felt like a melting mass of protesting muscle.

You see, I had just been on set for over twelve hours the previous night, working on a film called “Frank the Bastard.” It was fun. It was creepy. I was working in scenes with talented actors like Lance Greene, Rachel Miner, William Sadler, Jennifer Engle, Chris Sarandon, etc. When I was wrapped at 4:20am, I didn’t even have the ability to fully let it sink in that I would need to be on set at 10am on the CT shoreline for my OWN project.

Fast forward to now and “Holding” is completely wrapped, has been in festivals, and just this past weekend, “Frank the Bastard” opened in select theaters and on itunes, which basically means, everywhere. This film was especially important for me because it made me realize a couple of things.

1) You just never know what can happen and

2) You just never know what can happen.

A scene with Lance Greene.
Me in scene with actor Lance Greene.

When we filmed this, I was not expecting to have multiple scenes, or close ups, or multiple days on set. I really thought I was just going to be on set for a day as basically background. Which leads me to my first point: You just never know. I was on set for multiple days, in scenes with actors like Ellen Albertini Dow, who asked if she could “act with me.” I was told there would be a close up of me witnessing the unraveling of my husband, Eddie Gast. And the shots, literally, just kept coming! The director, Brad Coley, pulled me aside afterwards and thanked me and said I was a “true actor.” It was the best feeling in the world and nothing I would have been prepared for if I hadn’t kept the open mind that just because I assumed my part was one way, didn’t mean that it wouldn’t be used for the overall story in another way.

After we wrapped on this film, I was so excited. But then, nothing happened. I didn’t hear about the film until there were rumors of it on the film festival circuit…

That is, until last week. I heard it would be released in theaters and luckily on itunes! Would my close up make the final cut?

IMG_1988

Ulitmately, the majority of my scenes were cut. And they weren’t MY scenes anyway. The parts that were there to serve the story were kept, and that’s all that matters anyway.

which leads me to my next point: You just never know!

So, what was my takeaway from this experience?

I love working in film. it is the best job in the world. Watching yourself in a film is only an inkling of the true joy spent on set for hours with extremely talented people, and finding the magic at 1am for a last minute closeup and rehearsing with the other principals with a kind and focused director who creates a perfect environment for an ensemble of characters. Nothing beats that feeling for me, and honestly, that is what it’s all about.

So, if you are an actor, and the next time you’re on set, keep an open mind. Whether you are the lead, a background actor, a stand in…be prepared, keep your ears open, and remember to play. Because you just never know what part you could play next.

Inspiration

Sometimes it’s just a thought, a word, a small…action.  Sometimes you have a stray thought in the back of your mind, and a friend or a family member, seemingly out of thin air, picks it out and lays it on the table.

Folks, I’m telling you, I had one of these experiences recently.

See, it normally takes me a long time to make an important decision.  I weigh all of my facts, pros, cons, circumstances, usually until I want to cry from mental exhaustion.  I envy the people who go through life on impulsive decisions.  Sure, they’re bound to smack their head into a couple of brick walls, but at least they JUST DO IT.

Don’t get me wrong…once I make a decision, it’s full throttle, 100% I’m completely in.  But until then…

Okay, okay.  SO…a few days after Christmas, Dillon and I got together with some two of my college friends.  We spent some quality time with their new baby.  (She loved my obnoxious shirt and sparkly dangly earrings!)  It was lovely, needless to say.  We ate Thai food, we chatted about life, acting, what’s up next for us…you know, the basic catching up with friends-type-thing.

Later on, I was talking alone with my friend Ali.  She said something that was so utterly perfectly what I needed to hear, that I nearly combusted into flames of joy.

Okay so I have probably intrigued you a bit and you want to know the specifics.  For now, that is not of importance.  However, what is important is that the very thought that had been slushing around in my brain for a long time was picked up by a good friend who somehow said what I needed to hear.

After that day I couldn’t help but notice that my thoughts were building and coagulating around this one trigger, so to speak.  One thing lead to another and I was on the brink of making a decision…

It wasn’t until New Year’s Day when Dillon, his brother, Jacob, and my two friends from New Hampshire were sitting down with us at a diner having breakfast.  I don’t think they said anything in particular, but as I looked across at my friends, took in my surroundings and shoved a hot forkful of homefries in my mouth, that I realized…wow…Timing + friends + love = inspiration.

It’s times like these when I realize again (and..again!) that these things do not happen by accident…they happen for a reason!  I think one of the reasons we are here is to be inspired to be our best selves.  People say “happiness” is the reason and I say YES exactly!  For me, when I finally make a decision about myself, my life, who I want to be, who I want IN my life…I am so incredibly happy.

So just a thought for you all.  This year, really LISTEN to the people around you.  Not the haters or negative bags of bloat.  But when someone you love or trust says something from the heart…listen.  Because you never know.  It may be just the thing you needed to hear.

Trusting yourself to say YES.

HELLO neglected blog-readers!

I’m back to report from the wild world of actor-land, where I have had a few unique auditions in the past couple of weeks.  Now I’m not making excuses here, but May has been a HELLA-busy month between doing shows and filming and volunteering for theatre and gala events…I think I am just now catching my breath enough to write. 

Now…I would like to touch on a very specific nuance in the audition process. 

A typical film or tv audition goes something like this.

1. Actor reads / performs material assigned to them.

2. Casting Director may or may not give feedback.

3. Actor adjusts accordingly. Or doesn’t.  Or freaks out.

Now there’s a mini-step in between 2 and 3 that for the sake of clarity I will thus label as 2a. there’s a little step where you need to say “I understand what this person wants. I am going to apply it to my performance. I trust myself enough to say YES, I can take a breath and take my time to be brilliant.”

Well, dear friends, I had an audition in New York in which step 1 and 2 went by as easy as a summer breeze in LA (but not June. It’s smoggy in June). Then evil-actor’s-nightmare-voice creeped in and whispered “YOU DON’T REALLY have all six pages of this script memorized you will NEVER be able to adjust your performance to fit the note you were given.”  I took a breath, changed my game and then suddenly got to the bottom of the page and remembered that I didn’t know what I was doing because well DUH the evil voice told me I don’t!

Afterwards, I was told, “You are a very good cold reader, aren’t you?” to which I responded “Yes.”  “You didn’t trust yourself right there, though, you looked at the script more than you did last time.  You already knew the lines.”  GAASP!  WHAT!? I am ALWAYS telling newbie actors to keep their eyes and faces up out of the page and to take their time.  I knew it couldn’t really be that!

I have a photographic memory.  I know the basics.  I can take notes.  All it took was a small moment of self-doubt to pretty much make it look like I didn’t know what I was doing.

So I say to you TRUST YOURSELF TO SAY YES.  I sound like a self-help book or something, but I cannot emphasize this enough.  I haven’t had an audition like this probably since college.  I realize we all slip up and I’m glad I did because it reminded me of THIS:

USELESS CRAP YOU DON’T NEED AS AN ACTOR (or as a person really)

  1. self deprecation
  2. worrying if you “got the part”
  3. comparing yourself to others
  4. thinking too much
  5. self doubt

Negativity really is the enemy.  Good actors get in the way of themSELVES too often.  If you look at the list above, it really demonstrates that we are in control of how we handle situations.  We may not be able to control the outcome, but we can certainly be good to ourselves so that every possible performance is a good one.

By contrast, I had two very solid auditons.

At another audition in New York City, I read for a casting director, received a note, altered my performance and she said I “nailed it.”  I took the time to listen to what she wanted, said “YES I have this, I know what I’m doing, I trust myself” and gave an adjusted performance.  THEN!  Someone didn’t show up to read, so they asked me to read again and I did, and she said that again, I had done very well and thanked me for reading again! PHEW.  Now that’s what I’m talking about.

And my last audition for an equity production in Rhode Island also went swimmingly.  It also proved something that my very first acting mentor ever taught me which was to “be prepared with as much material as you can.” AKA know your monologues, know them well, because you NEVER know…

In this case the audition started off very friendly, in which the director asked me about being vegan and cooking vegan cupcakes, as well as working at Connecticut Repertory Theatre.  Then, I performed my first Shakespearean monologue which he described as very nice, and said, “Do you have anything else?” I said “Sure!” and he said, “No, I am not putting you on the spot, but if you have something else I’d like to see it.” BAM I pulled out another Shakespearean monologue I had performed many times and that was it!  My audition was complete and I left all smiles.

me on set "Last Day in Paradise" as my character Aimee, getting all sorts of zenned out.

In the last two cases, I was prepared when an opportunity arose.  I also like to call this being lucky.  In the first example, I had convinced myself that I was NOT prepared and psyched myself out of what have could have been a really great audition.

So anytime you actors out there are on your journey to the next big audition, remember that you already have all the success and skill inside of you.  You just need to trust yourself to let it out and let it show. Say YES to yourself and ignore the negativity. 

See ya later!  And remember..be good to yourself.

How I got my “HELL YEAH” back.

So I have a renewed sense of HELL YEAH!

It’s come to me in a few different forms since last I blogged.  Let me break it down.

-Deana’s Educational Theatre. OK so I have always been grateful to be a part of this since I was hired into the company in 2008.  But 2011 in particular has been really important to me.  I have done many “Yellow Dress” shows, as many other actors in the company have as well, and I am amazed at the courage and strength of so many women I have met throughout New England this year.  They share their stories with me and others they trust to seek help, to feel better, etc.  To me, that is  the most joyful part of working for DET.  We help people to sift through their fears and stories to become stronger people, and to me, that is one of the best things you can do in life. SO HELL YEAH I love that job!  And HELL YEAH I am making a difference!

-DANCING.  Okay.  So  I haven’t had any formal training in about 5 years.  So when my boyfriend started suggested things we should try together, I was a little surprised when he suggested dancing. (Note: He’s in the army.  I KNOW he’s amazing, right?)  Looking back, I loved dancing in college.  We usually had three classes a week from 2 hours anywhere to 4 hours a day. It helped me relieve stress, feel confident, and of course, stay in shape!

To be honest, I wasn’t good at dancing at first.  I would see all the steps and freak out and try to count and my brain would fry and I would fall over my feet.  It literally got to the point where Christine, our dance instructor pulled me aside and said “CASEY. STOP thinking. Stop.  Just feel it.”  That was at the end of the year.  So when I came back Senior Year, I remembered her words, and I guess she was right. Muscle memory kicked in and finally I could dance without thinking.

Anyway, back to the present.  My old fears started kicking in.  But I couldn’t say no.  So I said, “PSH, sure boyfriend, let’s take lessons.”  Panic started simmering below the surface, but I held it at bay.  After the advice of another dance instructor, Miss Jean, I decided to do what she said…”Let Go, have fun and let loose, you’ll be fine!”

Well. We went to our first dance lesson with KATYA and oh my goodness whaddya know I knew what to do without really thinking about it.  She showed us the moves, and we were able to do them.

SO HELL YEAH I DO REMEMBER HOW TO DO…STUFF!…LIKE DANCE!  SO THERE…ME!

Back on set.  Not that I haven’t been on set. I just haven’t done background  in some crazy amount of months.  So when I saw all of my old friends (and new friends!) on set of “Here Comes the Boom,” I was so happy!  I love hearing about what everyone else is up to in life.

But on set this past week, I had some interesting moments of clarity and well..what I like to call “HELL YEAH” moments.  Here is a sampling:

One person said to me, “Casey.  Keep doing movies. Okay?” as we were walking outside after wrapping.  I fumbled with my glasses, shoved them on my face whilst walking to the shuttle and said, “Yeah, okay!”  And he said, “Just keep doing it. You’re gonna make it.”

Me, with a smug "Hell yeah" type face.

Totally out of the blue and it was just the gas I needed to feel even more empowered and ready to kick ass.

Another friend of mine was talking to me about auditions and the biz, etc.  And he said, “It doesn’t matter.  It never matters.  Everything you need to succeed is in you.  Don’t label yourself.” It was the strangest moment because I realized that even though I consider myself levelheaded and able to handle auditioning, I have still been in the mode lately of judging / grading myself with auditions.  NOT ANYMORE!  Another crystal clear moment for me.  He also said, “Remember, we’re all the same.  No one is better than you, we’re all equals.  You can do anything you want.”

Now these particular quotes may seem like the typical “Go get ’em, sista!” type quotes, but to me they meant a lot.  I really believe that I needed to hear these encouraging words this week.  Just what I need to keep pushing on.

In regards to my yellow jacket and purple sunglasses, my friend Jim Powers said to me, “Casey, you dress like a star.”

To that I say

HELLLLLLL YEAH!

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.

Ides of March + Irish luck FTW

Actors need to keep themselves healthy.

When I was in school, I always thought it was a little weird and pretentious that we were taught to refer to our bodies as our “instruments.”

At least, I felt that way until I got hit by a Dodge 4×4 truck after a tech rehearsal one night.

I was walking across the street from the drama building, over to where my car was parked across the street, and literally, my last thought was, “I can’t wait to have some Rocky Road ice cream when I get home.” and suddenly I look to my right at the last second and ka-POW!

I think I blacked out for a second, because the next thing I know, I’m on the ground and I’m not wearing any shoes.  Luckily, two of my friends, Glen Nicholes, and Jimmy Gallo, were across the street and ran over t0 help me and call 911, etc.

To fast forward, I didn’t break any bones, but I did mess up my back a little bit (hardcore physical therapy took care of that).  But my body was hurting so badly and I was in such pain for so long, that it made a lot of my classes really difficult (dance class, suzuki training, etc).  I tried to play it cool, but it really sucked.  I mean, I got hit ONE WEEK before a premiere of a show I was in.  I couldn’t even wear the full period costume due to the bandages I had to wear from where I got a nasty road burn.

Anyway, my point is, that is the moment when I realized for the FIRST TIME IN MY LIFE that I was not invincible.  I guess sometimes it takes until your early 20s to realize that you are not immortal.  Or maybe that was just me, but it made me realize that I actually had to take care of myself, my “instrument,” because it’s the only I one I have in this lifetime!

This does bring me back to my original point, believe it or not.  My original point is that actors NEED to keep themselves healthy.  This includes:

-keeping in shape (not just for vanity reasons, but also to keep up endurance for long days on set, long days in the theatre, etc)

-not getting hit by cars and trucks.  or at least, avoiding that as much as possible (I should probably follow this rule…better).

-MAKING SURE EVERY FILM YOU ARE ON HAS INSURANCE (something I learned the HARD way in 2009. I was on a friend’s film set. There was no SAG insurance.  SAG insurance is inexpensive, by the way.  Let’s put it this way. I broke my foot so badly I needed surgery. oops)

Here I am, within the hour of getting my foot AND ankle crunched in several different ways. Don't try this at home.

-eating healthy, drinking lots of water, taking vitamins!  Because you don’t want to be sick.  Especially not right before your show is about to open.

This leads me to my latest foray of needing-to-take-care-of-myself.  I’m sick.  But I am getting better!

It hit me like a Dodge 4×4 in the middle of rehearsal on Sunday. Okay..maybe not THAT hard, but suddenly I was freezing, achy, and unable to stop coughing.  And ya know how hard it is anyway to act and be awesome and be great onstage?  Well, being sick made me remember how much harder it is to do all that and..well…be sick at the same time.

So I went to work on Monday and by the end of the day I was wearing my down jacket and double fisting a tea from Starbucks and theraflu thanks to Allegra. Phew.

Yesterday, I was the best actor EVER.  At least in regards to being “good” aka “healthy” aka “SMART and not stubborn.”

I slept in LATE. Well, 9am.  I ate breakfast.  I watched “The Sweetest Thing.” Don’t judge me, it was on HBO and it hurt to reach for the remote.  I then promptly fell asleep for an hour.  I MADE MYSELF NOT DO ANYTHING.  Then I recall maybe doing something else, but then I fell asleep for another three hours, got up, and went to rehearsal. BOOYA!

Today, I feel awesome.  Well, besides the fact that I have a heinous cough.  But I don’t feel like death every two seconds.  This goes back to my first blog post o’ the year: “This year I will be more awesome.” I shouldn’t quote myself like that because I’m not sure if that’s what I actually said.  And I must be more awesome by taking care of myself and MY INSTRUMENT!!! (Yell this in a old man british accent and you’ll know what I mean)

Also, 6 years ago TONIGHT was when I got hit by the truck.  Cheers!

Now go be healthy, you actors AND non-actors, you!