Around 4:30pm this afternoon, I auditioned for a role in a series of six very funny little “webisode” ads. The tone is delightfully tongue in cheek, and it turns out the clever scripts were written by Dewey Moss, the Creative Director doing the casting for the Bernard Hodes Group. About a half an hour later, my agent’s office called to tell me I landed the gig! I wish all auditions could work like that. I don’t know if these clips will be publicly viewable or not, but I’ll post any updates and links here after they’re done. We’re shooting all six on Friday, May 7th–it should be a blast!
I’ve just been cast in my first major motion picture! It’s the Smurfs 3D movie, due out in August of 2011. I have one scene as a waiter in an upscale restaurant who has to cope with bad behavior from Hank Azaria and Sofia Vergara. I have no lines, just silent reactions to their villainous antics. My one day of shooting will be this June, and I can’t wait! Many thanks to Casting Director Richard Hicks, who was both gracious and fun at the audition, and also to my agent Renée and her team for landing me the audition.
I’ve been enthalled by the work of Stephen Sondheim since my freshman year at Harvard, when a college friend played the LP of A Little Night Music for me in his dorm room many years ago. I had never heard anything like it, and I fell in love. I decided right there that I had to write theatre lyrics–which I still do.
The latest tribute to Sondheim’s genius is the lovely, intimate revue Sondheim on Sondheim, which is notable not only for the wonderful songs and wonderful cast (eight superb performers, including Barbara Cook, Vanessa Williams, and Tom Wopat), but also for the film clips of Sondheim himself explaining how he does what he does, with tongue firmly in cheek. It’s a don’t-miss evening for any fan of his work.
Seeing Mr. Sondheim talking humorously at length in his own home also brought up wonderful memories of the one time I met him. It was 1982, I was 22, and had just moved to NYC to start my career as a lyricist and performer. I had been told that Mr. Sondheim was very supportive of young writers, and had lots of advice. I mustered up the nerve to write to him to ask for his guidance, and displayed even more nerve by telling him that while I loved his songs in Merrily We Roll Along, I didn’t like the book! Ah, youth. I received a courteous but firm hand-typed note on small stationery, saying politely that he liked the book just fine, thank you, but that if I wanted to stop by some afternoon, he’d be glad to speak with me.
I couldn’t believe what I was reading! But I called his assistant and set up a time to visit him at his home. I arrived wearing a summer-weight seersucker 2-piece suit, bowtie, and my best lace-up shoes. He opened the door and looked at me, probably wondering to himself from what planet I had just arrived! He invited me in, and excused himself for a moment to stir some soup he was making. I looked around, still in shock. It was a beautiful room. He came back in, invited me to sit, and started firing career questions at me. I don’t even remember what they were. I just remember that every word out of his mouth was so articulate, so pointed, so penetrating, that it took my breath away. And he was just chatting. My answers must have been halting, because he looked at me for a moment, the seersucker deer in headlights, and said: “Would you like a drink?” I answered yes immediately, and sure enough, while I have never been much of a drinker, I started to calm down and breathe after a couple of sips. We had a fantastic conversation, and he recommended both the BMI and ASCAP musical theatre workshops (I went on to attend both). We talked a bit about the project my composer friend of the time and I had been working on (a musical based on The Seagull), and I told him there were so many other ideas out there that I’d encountered that I wasn’t sure where to start. I asked him if he’d ever seen a film called Passione D’Amore by Italian director Ettore Scola. He said he wasn’t familiar with it. I told him my childhood best friend and I had been mesmerized by it recently, and that it seemed perfectly operatic in scale. I had loved the fact that when the repellent heroine finally made love to the hero, she remained ugly. I remember telling him it seemed more suited to opera than musical because of the grand passion, but that it definitely felt like it needed to sing. I suspect the idea was filed away in that brilliant mind of his and forgotten until sometime later when perhaps someone else mentioned the film, or he came across it on his own later, or perhaps he was already working on his musical Passion and didn’t want to burst my bubble. But it’s nice to believe that in exchange for all the advice and encouragement he gave me, maybe I unwittingly gave him something useful, too.
When we were wrapping up, I remember telling him I was feeling a bit overwhelmed by New York City and the challenges that lay ahead. I told him I had always thought I was fearless, but now that I was really in the city on my own, I wasn’t so sure anymore. He looked at me and said: “How old are you?” I told him, 22. He said “And you moved from Boston to NYC alone to be in the theatre without knowing a soul here?” I nodded. He looked me in the eyes, smiled, and said “That sounds pretty brave to me.” I have never forgotten those words, and I will never forget his kindness. See his new show. You won’t be disappointed.
I love John Lithgow. I’d love him even if I hadn’t worked with him on that fun video for New York Public Library. I also love Jennifer Ehle, and sure hope to work with her someday. I also love Douglas Carter Beane’s plays. So I had to see Mr. and Mrs. Fitch. I found myself struck by some sympathies between the play and another play I saw Off-Off Broadway a few months ago, Inventing Avi, by Robert Cary and Benjamin Feldman, starring our dear friend Alix Korey (who was brilliant as a wigged-out producer). In both cases, the main characters found fame by inventing a make-believe personality–only to have it take life and take over to disastrous effect. All three playwrights clearly had a lot of fun exploring this clever idea. Mr. Lithgow and Ms. Ehle were wonderful, of course, playing in a kind of contemporary Noel Coward vein. It seems they can both truly play anything, and I can’t wait to see what they do next.
Being a former resident of Brooklyn’s Park Slope added a special zest of enjoyment when my partner and I went to see God of Carnage with its third cast. We enjoyed the performances greatly, and recognized the characters as people we could have seen on the Slope’s 7th Avenue any day. It was especially fun seeing Janet McTeer sink her teeth into a viciously comic role, having loved her performances in A Doll’s House and Mary Stuart previously. It was a fun evening of theatrical bloodletting and the audience loved both Yazmina Reza’s witty barbs and the four strong actors’ energetic deliveries. An amusing and also thematically sobering play.
I was delighted to be invited as the keynote speaker for St. Peter’s College’s recent Lewis Carroll Symposium. English Club President Jonathan Brantley (wearing the stylish brown hare ears in the photo) and his fellow club members put together a great afternoon of events. As requested, I gave an informal talk about how I “fell down the rabbit hole” and became a Lewis Carroll fan for life, ending up as President of the Lewis Carroll Society of North America. Jonathan presented a very good paper giving attendees an overview of the creation of the two “Alice” books, and their continuing impact on our culture. There was also a frabjous and bountiful buffet of Carrollian treats, including some elegant cupcakes bearing Cheshire Cat smiles, or quotes like “Eat Me” and “Drink Me”. I was very impressed with all the organization that went into the afternoon, and had a great time talking with both students and faculty. A brillig event!
I had a great time presenting my seminar about proper use of voiceovers in eLearning at the eLearning Guild’s Learning Solutions Conference in Orlando, Florida. My audience was attentive and appreciative, and we had a great discussion. Word of mouth and written feedback afterward was terrific–great to know my talk “hit the spot” with attendees! My thanks to all who attended and participated. I look forward to presenting my talk again at other venues.
I’m delighted that I’ve been selected to give a seminar about voiceovers at the upcoming eLearning Guild Learning Solutions conference at the Disney Hilton in Orland, FL, 3/24-26. My session, Giving Voice to Your eLearning is 10:45am on Thursday, 3/25. It should be a lot of fun!
I had a number of good auditions this month, and a number of callbacks from those. No bookings, but great feedback, and so I press on! I also did more Lewis Carroll-related interviews in anticipation of the March release of the Tim Burton “Alice” film sequel. Interviews included a recorded interview for NPR, and a phone interview Charlene Gianetti for her excellent site, womanaroundtown.com. You can read the resulting article, in which I’m heavily quoted, here. I also did an interview for a Polish publication that I was assured was a cross between Time and New Yorker magazine. I’ll look forward to reading a translation of that article.
I’m Giving A Voiceover Seminar in Orlando!
Some great news: I’ve been selected to offer a seminar on adding voiceovers to eLearning projects at the eLearning Guild’s Learning Solutions conference in March 2010. When I’m not acting, I’m consulting on the creation of eLearning and providing voiceovers for online courses. This seemed like a topic companies would really appreciate, and I’m delighted the eLearning Guild agrees! The conference will be at the Disney Hilton from 3/24-26, 2010, in Orlando, Florida. I’ll be there under my consulting identity: Sellon Solutions LLC.