So things have been hectic around here with various deadlines for things looming and every time I think I'm gonna get to the blog something else happens. I'm trying folks, really, I am. I have a ton of work to do before my flight tomorrow back to NY so i"ll be brief :)So New York was really nice. It was hard being back... Particularly since I was staying with Winston in the building right next door to our old apartment - so it really upped the sentimentality factor. It wasn't like I was just in the city - I was back in the city in OUR neighbourhood on OUR street. It was a trip of very mixed emotions - because it's such a wonderful place to live - and everything we do here in Huntington is so outside of my comfort zone. And, frankly, this place is a whole lot colder. Although, luckily, it was very snowy. And there is NOTHING I hate more than New York in the snow (because it's a city of pedestrians) - and fighting through the snow banks and brown mush along the sidewalks is my least favorite thing about the big apple. So - luckily - it wasn't all rose-colored wonder. But - it was very pretty outside Winston's window.
Honestly I was pretty darn busy the whole time - to the point where other than Winston and Dan I didn't really get to see anyone. But it was so great to be hanging out with our best friends at the same old spots.
The reading was a lot of work in a very compressed time. And, on day one, a little nerve wracking. When you only have 10 hours with a group of people to accomplish a product, it isn't easy. And it's not only an audition for the play - in a way it's an audition for you as well. Directing a reading is an exercise in NOT directing, very often. The challenge if you've been working on the script for months, in discussion with it, and have an idea of what you think it should be - but you have to remember that the actors have only had it for a day or two (when they were sent the offer), and you only have ten hours to work with them. And there is only so much a person, no matter how talented, can be expected to process in 10 hours WHILE they are trying to READ the material out loud. There isn't time to shape nuance - so it's more important to work in bolder strokes. As much as I hate doing that. But these guys were really pretty amazing.
We didn't have Molly Ringwald on the first day. Which might have been a blessing because it was one less person to have the jitters about. They were all incredibly pleasant, worked really hard, and gave a fantastic representation of what the material could be when fully realized. The person who TOTALLY blew me away was Anna Chlusmky - the little girl from My Girl and My Girl 2. First of all she's practically grown up into a supermodel - she is breathtaking. B) She's brilliant. Like stupidly talented - funny and smart and believable. She really was amazing.
When we first arrived on day one, Doris Belack (who Winston and Dan later reminded me had repeatedly played Dorothy's sister on the Golden Girls) told me that she wouldn't be able to read the script unless we could get more light into the room. I mean, she's a MATURE lady, and the rehearsal room only had fairly dim ambient lighting. Rehearsal studios are not known for their emergency stock of standing lamps - so I was a little concerned... but in two minutes flat the guys downstairs found me a photographers scoop light with one of those big light bounce umbrellas. Hysterical. I set it up right behind Doris and she was happy as a clam. When we took this picture she hugged me - I was pretty psyched I earned a hug.
So we worked our way through the material for four hours (it was a short first day because on Sunday actors have matinees and you can't start a rehearsal until 6:00) and then Ben (the writer), Aaron (the producer) and I began our marathon script meeting to try and address the stuff that needed to be dealt with before tomorrow. And, it had to be accomplished before a certain point in the morning because the final script draft had to be printed, collated and distributed at 10am. And we had to cut twenty minutes out of the show because it was going to run well over two hours - death for a comedy. Yes, it's a reading - and developmental - and people know that usually stuff needs to be be but - but this was just too long and people were going to have a hard time holding their attention to REALIZE that the material has a lot of potential. So we had to find a place to meet - and we hadn't eaten since like noon and it was now 10pm. This would not be a challenge in NY... unless you are with two orthodox Jews. So we had to find a KOSHER late night restaurant where we could sit for several hours and hash through the script. Eventually we found a kosher french cuisine restaurant (????) - seriously - and ended up there. I ended up ordering a very overpriced half chicken and mash potatoes. Which only annoyed me because I didn't want to be spending the money I was actually earning on food. Especially a not-too-tasty kosher chicken. But - what'ya gonna do? The poor writer had travelled to NY earlier in the day on the red-eye from NY - and by this point he was pretty cross eyed...but the producer and I kept pushing him because we had, after all, been saying that he needed to cut about forty pages out of the script for the past six months. But - as often happens - it wasn't until he heard some of his baby read out loud that he realized we were right. The thing about a comedy is - it only gets BETTER the more you cut...because you end up concentrating the jokes and the plot. So there ends up being less space between what is funny. So we did our best. We worked through until the restaurant kicked us out, then headed back to the producers office. At around 1:00am (earlier than i anticipated being done) we realized that the only person at this point who could actually get anything done was the writer... and we couldn't help him any more. He just had to sit with it and cut and cut. I had taken a draft of the script with lots of cut suggestions that he hadn't had a chance to look at - so we left that with him and hoped he'd be ok.
The next day was really actually very nice. The four hours the day before with the cast had allowed a certain degree of time-flexibility. There wasn't the panic to just GET THROUGH the material that there is with other readings. (You'd be amazed how often I've worked for directors and by the time the audience was arriving we hadn't gotten through the last half of act two). We were a little nervous to start because Molly was like fifteen minutes late - and we couldn't reach her - and we were not-a-little concerned that she had pulled out at the last minute. But it turned out that she had been suffering through an iphone disaster (she thought she lost it) and therefore couldn't call us to tell us what was going on. I was pretty nervous about dealing with Molly - because with a star you never quite now what kind of attitude you're going to get. Sometimes they are just insanely adorable and other times they really have an attitude and act like they are doing you a big favor by showing up. I was also a little jittery because this thing is a comedy and Molly has been directed over and over again by John Hughes the guy responsible for like every big comedy of the 80's. So I didn't really want to act like an idiot. It's also really hard because actors, in order to feel safe and protected and willing to make brave choices (which this piece kind of requires) need to trust the person who is guiding them. But how can you really establish trust with someone in the process of six hours. So it's a tricky thing to pull off - particularly if you need someone to work outside of their comfort zone.
But - she was very nice. Very quiet, but friendly. A little reserved - but extremely professional and we had a good time. I wasn't going to bug her with the life story of The Huntington, but during a break she overheard one of the other actors asking me about it, and later on she asked me what it was all about. She thought it was pretty neat and I told her that one day we were hoping to try and lure her there to do "Wonderful Town" (which she'd be great in). She said it was a part she'd love to do...so someday maybe it'll happen.
Readings can be very stressful for the production team - there's a lot at stake (you're performing it with very little rehearsal in front of major investors who you want to give you money to produce the show) - and lots of changes have to happen very quickly. But I think we did pretty darn well. The cast (with one exception - who luckily was in a minor role and was some sort of bizarre miscalculation on the part of the casting director) was really spectacular. Doris, who on day one, we had been concerned wasn't really fiery enough, took notes like a dream and really knocked it out of the park. They were all awesome and showed the material off - at it's current stage - as well as anyone could hope. So - the producer got some interest out of it and we'll see.
He'd like to do a full week workshop of the thing with Molly and Alan and Anna - which would be a lot of fun. And it will give me a chance to convince Molly that she's always wanted to try a pork tenderloin. I don't think the producer and the writer will go for that particular offer, however.
I was pretty darn exhausted on the trip back...so for a minute when I was at La Guardia I thought I was seeing a mirage. While sitting at our very crowded gate waiting for my first flight to Atlanta (I know, I know... NY/Atlanta/Indianapolis makes no sense but it was cheaper) one of my favorite people appears looking down at me. Jake Speck, a fabulous, wonderful, sweet and super-talented actor that I've actually worked with on more shows than anyone else in my career, happened to be at the gate right opposite. Which was REALLY weird - because normally running into an actor in a NY airport wouldn't be THAT bizarre. But Jake is in Jersey Boys right now in Chicago (which we are all really proud of him for getting). But he was back in NY for the weekend to visit his girlfriend and zooming back Tuesday morning to be back in Chicago in time for his 7:30 call time. I hadn't seen him in six months and it was soooo weird. Particularly since he was playing one of the four leads that weekend (he's an understudy for three of the four seasons) and Rich and I were considering driving to Chicago to see him before I got the job in NY. So weird wacky. It was a really nice happy accident. And hopefully he'll get a chance to come visit us one weekend.
So the day I got back I got an email from Sweetwater Sound asking me to do a commercial for them. I was sooooo excited. Even though the voice over business here doesn't pay nearly as much as in NY - my hope was that if they liked me, they'd use me a lot. And, as a big fish in a little pond I might make some decent dry-wall money out of it. Anyway - I was really happy because not only was this production company calling me to do an ad... it was an ad FOR Sweetwater - so it was a nice compliment that they thought I could do it. They sent me the copy which had me nervous because one of the two characters I had to do was called ANNOUNCER - and I really DON'T think of myself as having an Announcer voice...(like the movie trailer guy "in a world..." or that kind of thing). My voice doesn't really do what they call 'voice of god'. More 'voice of gay'. So - I wasn't sure if I'd get there and they'd think they made a big mistake. And I also worked on it a little to see if I could come up with a way of putting my own twist on it. So Rich dropped me off and headed off to Menards to keep himself occupied (we had no idea how long I'd be... they said they wanted to give me a tour of their new facilities they were moving too in a few weeks if I had time). Well we had the ad done in like ten minutes. I was very, very excited to be able to make them happy that quick. The guy who wrote the ad was there and he said they wanted a kind of 'young hip radio rock announcer' - so I figured I could do a relatively incompetent impression of my friend Holter who is the voice of HBO and fake it. But before I tried that I asked them if they might like (since it was an ad for a competition to discover a hot new band) some sort of cheezy British kind of Simon Cowell thing. So I tried it. And they loved it. Amen - cuz I'm a WHOLE lot better at doing that than a Voice of God. So we did it and it took like ten minutes and it was awesome. So it starts airing next week on Fort Wayne radio stations - it's called the Sweetwater Battle of the Bands. So - Huntington peeps - if you happen to hear it - that's moi. They were so excited about the way it came out - which was really flattering. And then they took me on an hour tour of the new facilities... and bought me lunch. It was like I was being courted - sooo nice. I think the deal is (and they pretty much said this) that they don't have any voice actors in the area who do the kind of dialects I do - OR who can sound like a teenager. So i fill this void for them. And, I think, since they know that the NY rate that I quoted them originally is far, far, far more than they can pay - they were being super nice to me. Which was sooo cool. Because I just love doing it - and hope they call me in a lot. Which they said they would. They also looked at my website and want to hire me to do some of the album covers for local projects they get hired to do...which would also be some additional money doing something I actually don't really suck at. yay.
But - anyway - this new facility at Sweetwater. Ok, kids - if you ever get a chance to see this place - you have to. It's INSANE. Apparently they handle 4% of the worlds electronic/recording/music business. It's like a 300 million dollar operation. And this new facility is INSANE. It's like disneyland. First it's entirely green. Everything in it is recycled and environmentally friendly - but it's GORGEOUS. The stone and slate and bamboo wood and tile and everything... amazing. The owner hired some four star chef away from this fancy private club in Fort Wayne to head their cafeteria - and the food is health conscious and was so yummy. The food is all subsidized so it's really cheap, and the employees pay for everything on an honor system. When they finish getting their meal they go to a touch screen with pictures of all the items and they punch in what they are getting and then it automatically comes off of their paycheck.
They also have this big virtual sports thing for gold/football/baseball and soccer. It's like a ten foot movie screen that you throw the ball against and sensors figure it out and the ball continues through the screen in an animated form. It's insane. There are two putting greens. An arcade. A gym with full-time personal trainer. 250 seat theatre linked up to a ballroom with video feed (cuz all the employees can't fit in the theatre for meetings). A raquet ball court. A ping pong table, foozball, pool table... it went on and on. The urinals are some sort of space age environmental things to don't use WATER. Anyway - it's an amazing place. And they say there going to use me a lot - so it'll be fun go to there every so often and play ms. pac man.
I had my first working day in the Shit Box yesterday. We've demolished the kitchen, pulled down a bunch of nasty obsolete conduit and I've started whacking lots of holes along the walls. Fun fun fun. While at Menards Rich found kitchen cabinets at a really good price that were on sale (they are going to stop stocking them in the store and special order them - so they are clearing out the inventory) so that was awesome. Considering that we had to pick up some additional tools and supplies for the Byron st. house, even with the cheap cabinets it ended up being one of our more expensive shopping days in quite a while. Plus we had to get a new Little Green Machine because ours for some reason died (normally it's a GREAT product) and if it's one things weiner dogs DON'T like it's going out in the snow to pee. So accidents happen. See they are low to the ground and their tummies get frost bite :).
We couldn't reuse the same cabinets upstairs because a number of them were damaged and had cracked doors and stuff - but we need far fewer cabinets in the lower apartment - so they will work great down there. While loading the cabinets into the truck I realized for the first time that when snow falls it actually snows IN your truck. I never imagined shoveling your car before. Who knew. The Shit Box has working heat - so it's actually quite pleasant working there. We bashed and whacked until about nine and then called it a day and Rich is over there right now getting it further along the road to readiness for the arrival of Team Najuch.
Team Najuch this time (arriving this evening) is actually multiplying. Rich's brother Robbie is visiting Ohio and he's never seen the theatre. So he's coming along too. So the sleeping arrangements are going to end up pretty whacky I imagine by the end of the evening. Luckily for them I take off tomorrow to go back to NY to do this insane voice over job (which really DOES require me to be Hungarian, Hawaiian, Bolivian, from Chile, Jamaican and New Zealand) in the morning so there will be a little more space for folks. I'm excited about the trip because an actor that I've worked with several times - and a adorable guy - Eddie Korbich is in Little Mermaid, and even though tickets are really hard to come by, he got me House Seats. (House Seats are the seats usually in the center eighth row of the theatre that are never sold because they are held for the needs of the cast and producers - they aren't free - but they are AWESOME seats). And I realllllly wanted to see Little Mermaid - and him in it. He's the Seagull. So that is going to be a huge treat.
Anyway - I've also managed to get the pack leader's Christmas present dealt with. That - for once - I actually believe he hasn't guessed yet. So - hopefully I can make it through another couple weeks without letting the cat out of the bag - cuz normally I get too excited and tell him. We really aren't doing Christmas for each other this year - but this is a very practical pressie - so I'm saying it doesn't count. :) And the Queen of Pork approves too.
Ok - I have a bunch of crap to do, including learning to sound like I'm a black Jamaican. So I gotta go.
PS we ran into Claudette in Nick's this morning. She tried to get us to be elves again. Tragically - we'll be in Bermuda. Where I guess elves wear Bermuda Shorts.