Thursday 16 September 2010

The letter

As I was walking to the mailbox this morning, I knew that there would be a letter and I knew what it was going to say. Maybe it was the storm that is raging across New Zealand that was the omen I had waited for. Let me tell you, last nights weather was extremely foreboding.

So, you guessed it 'Unfortunately, on this occasion, your audition was not successfull.'

I don't really know how I feel about this. Except that I am feeling a little bit sick and there's a big lump in my throat. I guess, I am disappointed. I really would have loved to do the weekend workshop. All the things I could have learned! I guess, this annoys me more than anything else because as I have said before, under my current circumstances I would not be able to accept a place at the school next year anyway. The workshop would have been the only thing I could have done at Toi. Darn.

All of this doesn't mean that I can't be or that I am not an actress. I just have to work harder and find other ways to get the training that I want. These news actually make me want to work harder, not to prove them wrong but to prove to myself that I am worthy of what I am. I am an actress.

In the meantime, congratulations to all of you who got into the weekend workshop. Well done! I'm wishing you all white light, good luck and an amazing time!

Just breathe...

16.09.2010 in my inbox:

Thanks for attending the recent auditions around New Zealand  for the Bachelor of Performing Arts (Acting) programme  for 2011.

The panel completed their auditions at the end of last week and reviewed all applicants this week.

This email is to let you know that your letter has been sent in the mail  today to your address.

If you do not receive your letter by next week Monday afternoon, you are welcome to email me.
But otherwise please look out for the mail with information about the results of your audition.

Thanks so much.

Bette Cosgrove
Student Services Manager
Toi Whakaari: NZ Drama School

Thursday 9 September 2010


The audition circuit in Wellington is very slow at the moment. This doesn't exactly help if you want to put a reel together. So, I have enlisted the help of my friend Sarah and we've been preparing to shoot our own short scene.

It's a serio-comedic snippet from 'The Mamet Women' by Frederick Stroppel. It is a lot of fun to play! We've been walking around Miramar today, running lines and improving ourselves through the scene, soy mocha in hand, and enjoying the beautiful spring sun. It's going to be a two-women production without any fancy camera work, dependent on natural light and will be filmed in my kitchen. We did a quick test to see how to set up the shot and it's looking pretty good for two amateurs at work. We need to do a bit of tweaking and a bit of luck with the weather but we're set to give it a go on Sunday afternoon. Fun times ahead!

So, don't bemoan the lack of auditions you're getting but get together with a mate or two, borrow a camera from someone and get cracking acting! That is what you love to do, right? Even if you end up not using the material for anything, who cares?! You get some experience and get to play with your friends. What could be more fun?!

Here's some more inspiring stuff. Check out Jack Plotnick's fantastic e-book New Thoughts for Actors here. His techniques take the 'putting on an Act' out of acting and put the spontaneity and fun back in.

So, DIY and have fun playing everyone!

P.S.: Thank you so much Caitlin for putting me onto the New Thoughts here! Check out Caitlin's blog Caitlin Acts. She has just embarked on a new adventure, moving to LA and starting her professional acting career with an internship with great casting agent. Good luck Caitlin!

Monday 6 September 2010

Am I worth it?

I wrote a while ago about motivation and miracles and how without winning the lotto or some other serious miracle, there is no way that I could accept a place at drama school, Toi Whakaari or any other. Aside from working on winning the lotto, I have obviously been wracking my brain about other possibilities to earn enough money for at least the first year.

I know, I don't even have a call back (yet) to round two of the Toi audition process but I better start thinking about my options, or better keep thinking about them, now. I can't afford to run out of time. Ideas, anyone?! Anyone?!

My thoughts have included among others the following

Be a walking billboard for a year: This director who went to film school in New York City. To finance his ventures he sold ad space on a t-shirt which he the wore every day for a whole year. Brilliant I idea, I thought, I'm gonna steal it! But Wellington is not New York. Wellington has a population of just under 400,000. That's roughly eight million less than New York. Also, if you know the Wellington weather, you you know that running around in a t-shirt the whole year round is a pretty stupid idea, no matter how many layers you wear underneath. It's wet, very wet, and very windy. So, good idea, bad idea, worth the investment of time and money to get the ball rolling? I'm struggling to make up my mind.

Get paid for writing a daily blog about going to drama school: Ha!

A full scholarship: Yeah, I've been thinking about and researching this one quite a lot. I have searched the internet, I have asked around and this morning I finally went to the Library to check out the government's Breakout website. There are 2200 funding schemes on that site. I narrowed down the possibilities to 19 pages worth of general and fine arts scholarships, one page specifically for performing arts. On closer inspection, not a single one applied to me. None, nada, niente! The German government hardly awards scholarships either, and - as sure as hell doesn't exist - not for going to drama school. No ethnicity, women's, parent targeted or even general performing arts or general scholarship applies to me. So, I've been asking myself are actors not worth to even apply for funding to learn their craft? Am I not worth it? I am experiencing the exact same conundrum yet AGAIN that almost deterred me from being able to spent a school year in the US when I was 16. My mun and my grandma scrounged every last penny together to make it possible. It's the same conundrum that prevented me from doing my undergrad studies abroad and from studying many of the subjects that I secretly wanted to study. The same one that forced me to take up a giant student loan to go uni at all, let alone to grad school. Not getting a scholarship that one applied for - fair enough. But not even being given the chance to apply for one? Man, THAT just sucks as!

So, what am I left with? I could book that lead role (recurring of course) in a national or overseas commercial or series of commercials. I could book a lead in big budget film or a series reg on an awesome TV show? Right? I could?! However, I am not trained, I don't have a long CV, and all of the above are few and far between in New Zealand and I probably don't have to stress how incredibly competitive the market is, especially for female actors.

Does this stupid, stupid situation make me want to curl up in bed, hide under the blankets and just give up? Yeah, admittedly sometimes it does. This morning it certainly did. But I CAN'T! I can't just give up! I have finally started something that I am passionate about, that I really, really, REALLY want to do. I want to learn. I want to build a craft, MY craft and I want to go get out there and earn my place in the industry.

So, I am going to do a lot more thinking, and a lot more researching, and a lot more shouting out to the universe, 'Please let me get that audition for that big job and let me be fantastic and book it!' 'Let me find someone who believes that I am worth the investment, that I am going to make my mark in the creative community!' 'Let me find some other way to take that place at drama school if - when - I have earned it!'

Because miracles do happen. Because I am worth it.

Sunday 5 September 2010

The audition - Part 3

I have been avoiding to check my foot for bullet holes since the audition because I don't really want to find any there. But as I said yesterday I might just have pointed my gun at the wrong target.

Having studied Meisner, the way I know to prepare emotionally usually requires a bit of space and time for me before each scene. That's just where I'm at right now, and one of the many reasons I need and want to train if possible full time. So, before my second monologue I asked if it was okay for me to go outside for a minute to prepare because Ophelia was a bit harder to reach. 'Why do you think you need to do that?' I was asked. So, I explained but said I would try to prepare in the room if they wanted me to. Of course they did. So, I went to the back of the studio, turned my back and took a moment - seconds, literally. It was surprisingly easy. All those nerves that had built up but (thankfully) not showed at all until that moment started to surface and like magic I was able to transform them into just what I needed for Ophelia. It felt so great!

But as I was to find out after we had finished working on Ophelia, apparently I still took waaaay to long. Because 'Sweetheart, when you audition for a big musical theatre or Broadway production, they would ask you to leave the room.' Oh noooooo!!!!! Is what I thought but managed to say thank you and that, well, there was a reason for me to train at Toi.

Looking back on the audition now though what was probably worse than this was my first feedback for Ophelia. The panel stopped my about two thirds through the monologue and the head of acting (!!!) said to me, 'Now, I can see her emotions but at the moment you don't really make me care.' (Oh CRAP!!!!!!!!!) At the time I thankfully stayed calm and just thought 'Okay, lets work on this. I'll make you care!' So, Jonathon picked a small part in the monologue and asked me to let Ophelia discover new truths and possibilities about suicide, death and the afterlife (purgatory anyone!). After the second go he seemed to be satisfied, and I hope to the acting gods and goddesses happily, positively so, and I was done (for now) with those wonderful pieces that have filled my days and occupied my dreams for the past few months. Done. Just like that.

The audition wasn't over of course. There were still the majority of other hopefuls to go up. Frequently the panel or the person working would ask for volunteers to work with. So, I got to be Gertrude and Gary Harris of the New Zealand Royal Ballet Company (don't ask) and Caesar lying dead on is funeral day. It was awesome. All I had to do was stand still (or lie still) and really listen. I loved it and I hope the people I was going up on stage for got something great out of me being there for them.

The last part of the audition was the presentation of our songs. You don't have to be an amazing vocalist to earn a place at the school but you need to be able to tell a story truthfully when you sing. I sang a song in my first language, German, which I sing to my son before he goes to bed. It's about a magical night in which a colourless little fish bathes in the moonlight and finally gets his silver coloured frock. I put a lot of me in this song and it sounded like the panel really loved it. Oh yeah, I ended my audition on a high note!!!!!

One of the main things the panel had asked from us for the whole audition was to show them who we are. And they wanted us to be courageous. If I succeeded in doing these two things, and I think I did, I have done my job and done it well. Lets hope I have also done an outstanding job and that they love who I am.

After the audition I felt a great peace wash over me. I felt wonderful.  I have done it and I have made myself proud! Regardless of whether I have made it into the second round, I am happy with what I have achieved, what I have learned and how I handled myself. I have no regrets.

Now, let the waiting game begin.

P.S.: All this writing about the audition has left me completely befuddled now. Ahhhhhhh, I am so confused! Let me tell you, it is not easy letting this one go! My head is spinning with questions. Will I need a new foot? Did I make them care? I didn't get a comment about my accent. Is that a good sign? Did they love me? Am I going to get a shot at a place at Toi in round two? Am I ever going to audition on Broadway? Did I really do my best?

The audition - Part 2

So, yesterday's audition panel was made up by the head of acting at Toi and two acting graduates one of whom teaches at Toi, the other representing the industry. As was pointed out to us at the beginning of the audition drama school is not the real world, it's a stepping stone into the real world.

After a few rounds of freeze tag, head of acting, Jonathon Hendry, told us that was to expect from the monologues part of the audition. The process was going to be as in a workshop, so the panel might stop us at any given moment during the performance to work with us. Brilliant, bring it on, let me show you what I can do!
Being stopped during a performance is by no means bad thing. Most of the time you'll be stopped because the panel have already seen something that they want to work with and that can just as likely be a good thing. You've shown them something, now they want more and they are going to help you get there. Because they want you to succeed, they want you to be great! The whole performance process was thus very generous in spirit and at least for me thoroughly enjoyable.

As mention several times before on this blog we were asked to prepare one modern and one classic piece no longer than two minutes long. I might have been a little superstitious or something the like but I didn't want to talk about my choices until after the first audition. - Notice I say 'first audition'. I still want that recall workshop!

Anyway, my choices were the following;

The modern monologue: Rose, The Woolgatherer by William Mastrosimone

Rose is obsessed with her own demise and is waiting for her true love which at the same time she doesn't believe will ever come. She tells a story about her friend/alter ego Brenda. Brenda fell in love with a one night stand and when he wouldn't open his door to her the next day because he was with another girl, Brenda almost died after spending the night lying in the snow and ended up in hospital for two months. Rose says that 'When you love somebody... even when they cheat you make a fool of yourself even if you have to sit in the snow and die.' According to Rose that's true love. This one sounds a bit dramatic but is actually strangely funny. At times it has the pace and quality of a seven year old girl excitedly telling her parents that that happened, and then that happened, and then THAT happened!

The classic monologue: Ophelia, Ophelia thinks harder by Jean Betts and William Shakespear

Yup, that's right. This is the play that inspired the title of this very blog. Jean Betts did some amazing play pillaging and rewrote Hamlet from Ophelia's point of view, dealing with issues such as womanhood, the virginity cult, and misogyny. All the great lines of Shakespeare's Hamlet go to Ophelia. It's bloody brilliant! So, Ophelia, torn between being expected to become a woman, a wife, a lover, a mother, at the same time being expected to stay pure, a virgin, the perfect woman, wonders whether she can escape this ridicule, whether there is life before death and whether she shouldn't just end her life now. To be or not to be... I don't think I need to say more about THE Hamlet Ophelia soliloquy.

I started with Rose. My first instinct was to get the classic out of the way and end with something funny. But here's the thing, and thank you Barbara for pointing this out, everyone starts with their serious piece if they even have a more comedic one. Because everyone wants to be 'a serious' actor. It is soooo boring and if you'd look at 200+ auditionees wouldn't that just do your head in? So, I started with the serio-comedic Rose and hallelujah for that because I was the only one bar one other in my group of ten. Rose went well. I didn't see the panel's reactions to her because I used my fellow auditionees as my audience but I think they liked her and we went straight onto Ophelia.

I might have shot myself in the foot next though but I shall tell you about this in The audition - Part 3.

Saturday 4 September 2010

The audition - Part 1

Today was audition day, finally! At the same time I can't quite believe it's all over - for a while, in case I get to go back for the recall workshop. This whole preparation process had really taken over my life and my mind for the past few months and now all of a sudden the stress of it is falling away just like that. I can feel a migraine coming on - no kidding!

My lovely man is in Sydney working a gig this week, so my wonderful niece flew down from Auckland to be my nanny and give me the space that I needed to finish up my preparations and get into the flow of things. I even got chauffeured to Toi Whakaari this morning and we arrived so early that the niece, the boy wonder and I got to hang out for a little while.

Once the other auditionees in my group had arrived we did a group warm-up which was led by one of the current first year students. The audition process itself was run as a workshop rather than just calling us in one by one. I guess the panel wanted to us interact with others and also provide an audience for us for work with.

We started out by standing in a half circle before the panel stating our name, age and our reason for auditioning. I was by far the oldest auditionee but I can't really say that that bothered me. Before the audition I dreaded questions like 'Why are you auditioning today?' coming up. I still have trouble putting into words why I am doing what I'm doing. I just know it's right. Today, my answer was short but came surprisingly easy, I guess because it came from my heart. I explained that I had always wanted to be more creative, do something creative. When I finally admitted to myself that acting was what I wanted to do, I decided that I wanted to build my craft, to find my inner artist and to reconnect with my creativity. And hopefully I will be able to make a career out of it.

The second part of the audition was a freeze tag game. You know, two people improv a scene, a third person stops them, tags one of them out taking over their position and starts a completely different scene. My first scene felt more like contact improv since we ended up wrestling on the floor, the second one I spent reliving teenage gossip days, and my third one I spent straddling my 'boyfriend' trying to convince him that the world wasn't coming to an end. All in all a good bit of fun!

All right folks, this migraine is really kicking in now. Curse you lack of stress! The audition - Part 2 is coming up, so watch this space!

Friday 3 September 2010

CALL TO ACTION: The Actors Studio needs your help!

So, I know it is the afternoon of audition day and I am going to blog about everything but there is a bigger and more pressing topic that I would like to address first.

The Wellington Actors Studio needs your help!

Barbara has been teaching the Meisner technique in Wellington for over eight years and opened the Studio last October to take her small business to the next level.
She has never had trouble to fill her classes and weekend workshops, which is testament to the amazing work she is doing. She started offering classes and workshops in camera and audition techniques, and recently took on a young actress to teach an acting class for teens part-time. Barbara also offers networking opportunities and passes on audition opportunities she comes across, blogs about the ins and outs of acting as a business and her door is always open for actors who need a pep talk, good advice or one-on-one session to prepare for their next big audition. Barbara works tirelessly, six sometimes seven days a week, 13 to 14 hour days.

She is at the point where she just can't keep up with the growing potential of the Studio all by herself any more. Like any small business the Studio is at the point were it needs to take a big leap forwards, realising its full potential or wither and die. The class schedule needs to be expanded, new teachers needs to be trained and employed, the marketing needs to be taken to the next level, an NZQA approval would be stellar and a full time, rounded programme not unlike those offered by places like the Neighborhood Playhouse or the William Esper Studio would be an absolute dream.

Just imagine a place where new actors and professionals alike could go to train full time in one of most widely recognised acting techniques (particularly with a view to the international markets!) but also take all these other classes that are invaluable for a well-rounded actor - I am thinking voice, movement and dance, script work, mask, stage combat and the like. A place that is run by industry professionals and offering an alternative to those places New Zealand already has in Toi Whakaari, AUT, and NASDA, adding another strong voice to the New Zealand film and theatre industry.

I don't know if Barbara is daring to dream this big at this stage but I hope she does because I believe in the potential of the Studio, and I believe in her potential.

The problem is, as you will well have guessed by now, that taking a step forward with any business requires resources - money and people power. Unfortunately, neither tends to just grow on trees.

The situation is even more dire though. At this point there is no way Barbara can keep up working like labourers did during the industrial revolution without breaking her back. She needs help to keep going and make the necessary changes to grow her business, this wonderful refuge for actors and anyone who wants to get back in touch again with their creativity and inner artist.

Barbara has worked tirelessly for hundreds of students over the past eight years, helping us out wherever she could, creating opportunities for us, making us braver and better actors, and encouraged us to believe in our potential and to follow our dreams, and passions, and desires. It's time for us to step up to the plate and give back to her and the place that has nurtured and helped us grow.

What the studio really needs is an investor. So, if you are or know someone who believes in the creative community of New Zealand and its potential, the Wellington Actors Studio is THE place for you to invest in.

I am also calling on Barbara's students from both her classes and workshops to give a little, so all of us can keep gaining a lot!

At the moment the Studio has to raise $20,000 in either financial or 'in-kind' contributions until the end of the year. Barbara is doing everything she can to raise that money. She is applying for grants, has a potential sponsor who would contribute a significant amount to the fund, and has brought on board several expert volunteers to help her improve her business systems and alleviate much of the pressure on her.

My fellow classmate Abby has already sent out a call to action to everyone on the Studio's Facebook page. Here is what she had to say

There are 240 of us on this Facebook page. That means that 240 of us value The Studio whether it's for training, networking, audition notices, advice or blogs. Well, what if we all pledged Barbara $20 to save The Studio? That one time donation from each of us would create $4,800 on its own! And what if we all pledged just $20 once a month for the next 4 months... That's $19,200 already!!! Our support alone for just 4 months would be all it would take to raise most of the money to keep The Studio open!!!! ... I think it would be really great if we all rallied around both Barbara and The Studio, and showed her and the greater Wellington community that we value our Studio, and we are going to do our part to save it.

So, please do your part. Make a pledge to contribute to the Save the Studio fund, and if you would like to invest in the Studio on a greater scale, please have a chat to Barbara and listen to her amazing visions!

I love the Studio and I love Barbara. She has helped me become so much more than I thought I could be. I hope that she and the Studio will be around and flourishing for a long time to come, so she can work her magic on future generations of actors and other creative types, and help them discover their creative potential, the vastness of their courage and strength, so they have a shot at succeeding in living their creative dreams in the real world.