Sunday, November 11, 2012

Food for thought...

As acting students, we are often told that our lives will influence and teach us so much about our art. But I've found the opposite to be true as well. Acting has taught me a lot about living.

I've been in a weird place lately. So much of my life is just how I want it to be. My family is going through major changes. But the changes are great and exciting. My friends are incredible. They love me and I love them. But there are some things that just aren't going the way I want them to. And I've been fighting tooth and nail to get them to work, and it just isn't happening.

My life completely changed as an actor when I made a breakthrough about auditions. I one day realized just how silly auditioning was. There is so much about the casting process that you have zero control over! Whether or not you are a hard worker and whether or not you are talented are only two of the HUNDREDS of things that go into casting. As an actor, you have absolutely no control over whether or not you are what the casting director is looking for. You can only be you. And if that isn't what they want, that's that. When this finally dawned on me, my audition process completely changed. I suddenly realized that because auditioning was so unfair and out of my control, I needed to have control over the few things I could (being prepared, etc). But more importantly, I had to let go of the rest. Because if I'm stressing over the things I can't control, I'm doing the directors job, not my own. And being an actor is hard enough without having to be a director as well.

What I'm realizing lately is that this has a direct correlation to real life. I'm unhappy with many things that are beyond my control. Why can't things just fall into place for me like they seem to be doing for others? And then it dawned on me. If I'm stressing over things I can't change, I'm doing someone else's job. If I can't get a handle on the things in my life I can control, why would I even want control over the rest?


Monday, October 1, 2012

On Acting and Its (welcome) Challenges.

(It's been a while. Sorry I'm not sorry.)

I never want acting to be easy. How boring would it be to spend your life doing something that was never a challenge to you? Thankfully, it isn't. Acting is, like, hard. Like, really really hard. At least for me. There are people who can walk on stage and be brilliant without the slightest effort (at least, that's how it seems to me). In High School and the first few years of college, I longed to be the person that could breathe on stage and blow the audience away. But with every closing night I'm more and more grateful that acting is a (gigantic) challenge.

There are times when I'm cast in a role and immediately know that it's going to be a challenge. When I was cast as Bill Sykes in Oliver! I instantly thought "I am so wrong for this role." My instincts about it being a challenge were right. Bill was definitely a struggle to find. But so rewarding because of that.

And then of course there are the times when my instincts are way off. I expect a role to be painless, and it ends up being quite the opposite. So it is with Geography Club. You'd think it would be a cinch. I'm playing a gay high school student in a conservative community. How difficult could that be? I've lived it for crying out loud! But playing Kevin has been a struggle on many levels. (For one thing he's a charming, confident, athletic guy. The exact opposite of what I was in high school.) I immediately felt lost and insecure in the role. I watched as my cast mates started making discoveries and producing great work, while I brought nothing to the table. I found myself acting so hard instead of living. I was missing something. But I couldn't put my finger on what it was.

It turns out that what I'd forgotten was something simple and basic. Something that you learn in a high school drama class. But it was something that I passed over in my preparation for the role because I thought I didn't need it. I thought the piece was so straight forward that I wouldn't need to try to make it happen.

I guess I just tend to underestimate things. In Oliver! I underestimated myself and my abilities. I thought I'd never be able to pull off playing someone like Bill Sykes. With Geography Club I underestimated the role. Because the play seemed so simple and light, I didn't think I needed to take the time to build a foundation for my character to stand on. I thought my experience in the subject matter would be enough. Boy was I mistaken.

As frustrating as this rehearsal process has been, I'm grateful for it. It's been humbling and eye opening. I've always believed (I think I've said this before in another blog) that you get out of a job what you put into it. If I didn't have to work hard to be an actor, I know it wouldn't be as fulfilling for me or for the audience. And let's face it, if you aren't going to learn and grow, then why do it in the first place?


Thursday, May 17, 2012

Musical Theatre Blog Challenge

Okay, so Scotty is doing this Blog Challenge that I'm in love with. So I'm hopping on the band wagon. But because I don't want to spend 30 days on it, I'm just going to my favorite ones all at once. It's my blog. I'll do what I want, k?

*If you only read one of these, let it me be this one.*
Sung by the character in a musical you can most relate to.
This song is by far my favorite song in the show and possibly my favorite musical theatre song ever. It just hits really close to home for me. I don't necessarily relate to Natalie a lot. But in this song she sings exactly what I've felt for years: "Am I crazy? I might end up crazy." Handling your own demons is one thing. But the fear of forcing the people you love to handle them with you is crippling.

Song from the first musical you ever saw/heard.
Peter Pan was the first musical I ever saw. Life changing. I'll never forget sitting in the audience as a small child and watching the giant windows open slowly and Peter Pan flying through them. I remember I had the flu but I refused to go home at intermission because I had to finish the play!

Song demonstrating how underrated a musical is
This musical did not last as long or get as much attention as it deserved. Sherie Rene Scott is an incredible performer with a fantastic sense of humor. This semi-autobiographical musical so hilarious, touching and great to jam to.

From a Musical that Disappointed You
Biggest let down of my life. Enough said.

Song from a musical that makes you happy.
This musical will always bring a smile to my face. Being a part of this show was life changing in every way possible. Pure freedom.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The end.

After rereading my New Years 2011 blog (which you can do my clicking here) I cannot help but smile at the realization that good always seems to outshine the bad in my life. I had completely forgotten about what a terrible year 2010 was for me because 2011 has been so incredible. Over the last 12 months I have been blessed countless times with opportunities and people that have altered my life for the better.

Of course it hasn't all been rainbows and sunshine. I've had my hard moments too. But again, when stood next to the awesome joy I've felt, they just don't seem so bad. The year started off a bit rough. The "bummers" I experienced left me annoyed and bitter, but also opened my eyes to what was holding me back. They were the final push that helped me break free from an inhibiting environment that I helped to create.

I can only hope that the joy and excitement I felt in 201l will be of comfort and strength to me when I am faced with the "bummers" I am sure to come up against in 2012.

So, in the spirit of reflection, here are a few Highlights and Lowlights as well as my favorite blog post of 2011. Enjoy! :)

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving 2011

I wasn't too good this year about posting something every day that I'm thankful for. Mostly because my life the last few weeks has been insanely busy. But through the stressful and emotional moments of the last month or so, I just kept telling myself "you just have to make it to Thanksgiving. If you can make it to Thanksgiving you'll be golden." Well, boys and girls, I made it. And I'm golden.

Because life has been so crazy, I haven't really been thinking much about Thanksgiving itself. And now it's here. Laying in bed this morning it took me only about three and a half seconds to decide what I'm thankful for.

In all my life I have never felt so at home and so welcomed in a group of people as I do in the theatre department at the University of Utah. The awkward transition period was virtually nonexistent. I went, rather quickly, from knowing absolutely no one to having friends in every corner of PAB. I can't walk down the hall of the Performing Arts Building without being mauled down with hugs. It's a great feeling to be accepted and I hope it never goes away.

A huge part of this is thanks to my involvement in Hair. Had I not done Hair I would have only really known the people in my class and not the upperclassmen. The Tribe made my transition to University seamless. I found love in that group of strangers so easily it was astounding. I've never been so sad for a show to close. If I didn't have classes to go to and papers to write all the time, I would definitely be able to perform that show long term. But though the show has closed and we've been forced to move on to other things, the tribe still exists. And I will always be grateful to them.

And because I'm close to those in the tribe, I've become close to other upperclassmen who were not involved in Hair. I've honestly met some of my soul mates in that building and I'm so excited for the next few years with them.

I'm also incredibly grateful for my class. The ATP class of 2015 (that sounds so far away!) is a great group of kids (and a few really old kids). We've gotten really close lately and I'm so excited about our future together. I can't wait to grow, learn and create with these people.

My life isn't perfect. It never is. But when life gets especially imperfect,  it's nice to know that I have a place to call home and a people to call a family.

Life is good.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

"True People"

Auditions came and went. Rehearsals came and went. Opening night came and went. And now it is day two in our eleven show run (plus two previews) and there is a part of me that still can’t believe that Hair is happening to me. One of the most astonishing things to me is that I was this close to not auditioning. I honestly didn’t know whether or not I was going to until the moment I stepped through the door. Auditioning for this show was by far one of the best decisions I have ever made.  
I’ve always heard that being in a production of Hair is life changing. I never was sure why exactly (in fact I’m still not positive why). But it’s truth. The piece isn't perfect. Our production certainly isn't either. It isn’t as polished or as clean as it could be. It’s imperfect. But it’s beautiful in its imperfection. It has definitely been life changing for me.
So what makes Hair so different? The piece itself is unusual. When it opened in 1968 it was ground breaking to the American Theatre world. It completely changed the way people saw and made theatre. The piece leaves room for its creators to improvise and play. To discover. This means that no to productions of Hair have been or will ever be the same. No two “tribes” (for in Hair we are a TRIBE not a cast, another notable difference) ever says the same thing. No two tribes want the same thing. And no two tribes ask the same thing.
Our production in particular been different as well; from the way it was auditioned, to the way it was rehearsed and now to the way it is being performed (you’ll have to come to find out exactly how). We found and created the piece completely organically. Never did the director say “I think this scene should go like this” or “I think by saying this line you mean this.” Everything the audience sees on stage is completely organic and fresh. The love that the audience feels coming from the tribe is not synthetic. It is pure and real.
Truth is something we have striven for from the beginning. Our goal has been to never “show” the audience anything. We do not preach, or teach. We share. We invite each audience into our “home” and live with them for two hours, taking them on a journey with us. Broadway diva Patti LuPone said that “If I [as an actress] am taken to a place honestly the audience is going to receive that, and it will happen to them.”  Though the piece is disconnected, nonsensical and confusing, the audience simply has to feel what we are feeling to understand the message of our piece. We haven’t always hit our target. Finding the truth in the show has been a struggle. But I think we’ve found it. It is tradition for each tribe to choose a name for themselves. Because we have fought so hard to find truth, we chose the name Hach Winik. It means true people.
This has been a growing and learning experience for me both as an actor and as a person. And I think all good theatre does that. As my good friend and fellow tribe member Tia Galanis said, “It was always in the stars.” This tribe has become my family. Three months ago I knew not a single one of them, and now I feel that they have a piece of me that I could never give to anyone else. We became a tribe through a mutual goal of finding something special. And in the end we found was each other.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

...and counting

22 years ago today, mini Michael was brought into the world screaming and crying and covered in gross. 


Now, 22 years later, the adult (ha) version of that screaming new born is going through a similar, although less traumatic (and less messy), experience. A new chapter in my life has just begun. And I can't help but think about everything that has led me here. 

Lately, I've been focusing a lot on regrets. A lot of my attention has been put on my weaknesses and how I could have worked harder in my past to overcome them. I've become slightly obsessed with fantasies about what life could be like right now if only I had put a little bit more time and energy into myself in high school and the years following graduation. 

Luckily, I'm still young and have a lot of time to grow and learn. Right?

Simply put, the clock is ticking. I don't want to wake up in another 22 years and realize that all my dreams and ambitions passed me by.

I need goals. Fortunately I'm really really good at making goals.

Unfortunately, I'm a failure when it comes to reaching them.

Please bless that the next 22 years are more productive than the first 22 have been.