5.29.2008

An easy delivery

Several weeks ago I recorded some radio spots for Blue Cross Blue Shield. Just a few days ago, a good friend of mine called me because he'd heard someone like me on the radio in a spot for Blue Cross Blue Shield. I explained that it was probably me. He'd either heard one of two spots:

"Concealer"



or

"Pedicure"




These are "naked" spots--no background audio or sound effects of any kind. Just voice. They're probably the most simple of spots, with their roots in mid-20th century radio endorsements, when the news or commercial announcer would take a moment to "pay the bills" by reading ad text for products like Borax or Clorox or Jell-O. (Yes, yes. Sometimes there was a jingle.) Famed radio talent Paul Harvey still retains this methodology in his daily News and Comment.

I'd say I've yet to hear me, but I've already got the tracks. (Plus, I don't really listen to commercial radio, which might put a damper on my chances on actually hearing it "live".)

5.26.2008

Music to the rescue

Sometimes the best thing to do when auditions aren't the reigning force and gigs aren't working out is to return to practicing music full-force.

As you've read, no doubt, I've had a string of commercial auditions that really haven't materialized into anything, lately. During these past few days, I was asked to work two shoe shows, received an invitation to audition for a major audiobook company, and was invited to sing as part of as summer concert series. Fabulous! Due to previously existing conflicts, though, I had to turn down the shoe gigs. Grrr. The audiobook company wants me to audition for narration, which I really enjoy. However, due to contractual conflicts, I think it may not work out. (I'm keeping my fingers crossed, though, as it's not a done deal.) And as for the summer concert series, I'm currently selecting some material; we'll see how things evolve.

In addition to these items, I've been working to get back to my 14-16 hours of music practice a week. I've been kind of lax, lately, as auditions, meetings and other things have kind of eaten into my practice time. So, I've brought out some old selections to refresh them : the role of Ophélie from Ambroise Thomas' Hamlet; the role of Marie in Donizetti's La fille du régiment; some technical exercises. I also met up recently with a friend of mine who is a composer and asked him to write some new pieces to premiere later this year. It's this last bit I'm actually quite excited about. I selected some John Donne texts I really enjoy and provided them to him in the hope that he'll elect to set them for me. (Toes crossed!)

5.22.2008

Who I am

Perhaps it's time for a little reminder to all those casting directors out there who read my blog so voraciously.

Ahem.

Who is Alecia? Alecia is:

Texan
a classically-trained soprano
a studied actress
multi-lingual
petite
often mistaken for an undergraduate student
redheaded (not hot-headed)
responsible
on-time
friendly
fun
polite
driven
intelligent
well-read
curious
creative
auto-didactic
self-motivated
suitable to a variety of genres
attentive to detail
appreciative of all art forms
a reader of Shakespeare, Donne and Doyle
an aficionado of excellent Mexican food

5.21.2008

To the victor goes the swag

I want to thank everyone who participated in yesterday's swag bag give-away. The decision-making process was tough one given the brilliance of the entries.

Kudos to Andy, who produced a missive for a caption, writing:

"Well, I've arrived," thought Miss Amelia O'Reilly, straight from the potato fields of Ireland circa 1850. "Today's the first day of the rest of my life, which will include (but not be limited to) the construction of the first library in the small Scottish town of McHaggis, where I will serve as the first librarian this town has ever seen. This will serve to enlighten the local populace, who will be resentful of me at first but will ultimately be wooed by my ingenuity and spunk. This will lead to a village dance, where I will meet and fall in love with William Wallace (no relation), who won't notice me at first, thanks to the cleavage revealing attire of lusty barmaid Deirdre MacSwain. But William ultimately chooses me over Deidre thanks to my afforemetioned ingenuity and spunk, as well as a "Sandy" from "Grease" style makeover, where I prove that leather is not only used for making shoes or saddles. Now, where did I put my luggage...?"

Mels suggested (after joking that I'd "already gotten started on [my] work for PBS") Confessions of a Pioneer Woman, the Movie as the title, noting, "This would be the part AFTER she married Marlboro Man." Is P.W. aware that her story has become a screenplay...?

Mark proposed I teach Riverdancing for Beginners, while Michael wrote those longing words I've been secretly storing in my heart of hearts, "Tartan's manly, yes, but I like it too." And I do.

The nitty-gritty decision came down to those two submissions that make me laugh every time I read them. They are (in no particular order):
  • These Sturdy Black Brogues are Made for Walking: The Nancy Sinatra story, as retold by the Amish, by Emily Paramore
and
  • School Marm II: Revenge of the Ruler, by Diana.

After much wringing of hands and wailing (or, perhaps not), and a coin toss (well, maybe) the winner is...

These Sturdy Black Brogues are Made for Walking:
The Nancy Sinatra story, as retold by the Amish

Congratulations Emily Paramore! You're the winner of a fabulous swag bag.

5.20.2008

Swag is Fab

Since it seems to be a trend to give things away every now and again via one's blog, I figured I may as well succumb to the mania. Today's post is my 100th post! Hooray me! In honor of this post, I'll be giving away a fabulous swag bag assembled by moi.

Here's the bag:


Don't worry. It's not one of those high-end swag bags like those dispensed at the Golden Globes, the Oscars and the Tonys, containing round-trip airfare for two to Sydney, or a four-day weekend stay at a vineyard spa in Napa Valley. This is a low-end swag bag so you won't have to pay taxes on it.

Some of its fantastic contents include:

  • movie posters
  • some samples of high-quality, cool stuff
  • a signed photo
  • a complimentary one-week pass to Equinox Fitness
  • other goodies

What must I do to possibly win such a fabulous prize, you ask? Well, simply come up with a title and/or caption for the following photo, taken on the set of a film that will be released later this year. (What's the name of the film?, I hear you say. Nope. I'm not budging. The trailer's not even out yet, people.) Enter your submission in the Comments section of this blog post. I'll pick my favorite title and/or caption and the associated entrant will be the winner. Be brilliant! Be witty! Be fun! Tell your friends! Feel free to enter more than once (no later than 6:00 AM EDT on Wednesday, 21 May 2008) and you might be the recipient of a swag bag of your very own!

5.18.2008

New leaves

It's Sunday, it's sunny (currently, but rain forecast for later) and spring has clearly arrived. It's time for me to remain despondent no more. I've donned my positive outlook hat and I'm ready to resume practicing, singing, rehearsing, reading and auditioning.

My new goal: become more enterprising. It has been suggested that I find some cute boy somewhere and make a provocative tape. Sorry, SteveR. That's a no-go, I think. While it was a great turn for Pam and Tommy, and Paris and what's-his-name, I don't really think that's the best vehicle for me. During the past several months, it has been suggested more than once by friends, colleagues and coaches that I "do" Masterpiece Theatre. Frankly, I'd love to. People seem to think I have a good look, useful skills and a natural delivery that would cater to a Masterpiece or Mystery! teleplay, and I happen to agree with them. I've already taken steps to contact WGBH. But I'm also open to other suggestions and avenues; does anyone have any contacts at PBS? The BBC? Canal+ or BBC Four?

I also have a meeting set up with a good friend of mine who is a composer of operas and art songs. I'm thinking of asking him to write some new pieces to be premiered in recital in the autumn. Keeping new music at the forefront is a good means of preserving a career for singers. Several months ago I presented the Boston and New England premieres of The Poetry of Donald Rumsfeld as set by composer Bryant Kong. There is really no reason why I cannot do more. Does anyone have any compositions they'd like for me to consider?

A second goal: smile more. I think people assume I'm an unhappy person because I'm not a smiley person. In fact, I am content with my life, but I am also focused and driven, and I think these aspects of my serious nature employ themselves in a non-smiling facade.

Certainly, there will be doldrums upon the vast ocean that is the entertainment industry. I must remind myself that sometime, somewhere, the "Alecia niche" will make itself known and I will be able to augment my professional auditionee status. At least now I can say I will be more well-prepared for the next lull.

5.13.2008

Despondent Days

Somedays I wonder why I'm even doing this at all. Audition after audition after audition and nothing to show for it. I used to count the number of auditions relative to the number of jobs I got as a result of them in order to determine my effectiveness. Then, I would evaluate my processes in order to define other ways in which I could try to improve my skills, set myself apart, become more unique, in a sense, and potentially acquire more work. I don't do that anymore. It sounds good and useful, but why bother? It only seems like they care about what one looks like. One needn't have any talent to speak of, but so long as the person looks like what the CD/director/ad agency/producer has in mind, that's all that matters. I mean, any issue with the actual acting or singing can be solved in post-production, right? Why should I continue to study acting? Or practice singing? Or rehearse?

It's hard to continuously be deluded and hopeful, believing that somewhere, somehow everything will work out as it should. Believing that there will be one step made one day that will help to alter the course of everything that has happened heretofore.

I'm becoming much more cynical and jaded, I think. I used to believe maintaining a positive outlook would help me get ahead in this crazy industry called entertainment. That being kind, professional, on-time, off-book and generous would garner me work. I'm not so sure of that anymore. Or of anything, really. Somedays I think, This is such crap. Crap, I tell you! Crap. There is no logic to the way in which anything happens and I do tire of being too pretty, too plain, too young-looking, too old-looking, too short or too red-headed for other people's visions. I really don't find any of those suitable excuses for why I haven't been hired.

I realize that this period is, as in all things, part of a greater cycle, and that I should remember these moments for times when I may need to call upon them again. I cannot deny that it's challenging, though.

A Dream Deferred
by Langston Hughes

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore--
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over--
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?


5.11.2008

Interview/Audition

This afternoon, I had an "interview". At least it was sold to me as an interview. It turned out to be an audition with the same group who produced the Novell commercials I did at the end of 2006. However, walking into an audition with the mental prep of an "interview" is somewhat discombobulating.

I arrived about 15 minutes early to the "interview" location to find six other people already there, seated around a table and reading some paperwork. I also learned the session was running late even though the schedule said it wasn't to begin for another 15 minutes. Strange! Furthermore, I was told I, too, would receive "paperwork". The "paperwork" turned out to be three pages of directions for a game that the hired talent would "sell" to architects attending a conference. The game and associated competition would serve as a conduit for marketing a construction material.

It worked out well to arrive "late". The first three people to arrive were ushered into the not-quite-soundproof "interview" room first, so I had a chance to listen in on how things were being managed and realize that it was, in actuality, an audition. Once in the room, we took turns role-playing architect and "host" for the camera, the "host" explaining the rules of the game to the "architects".

All-in-all, yet another weird audition. Apparently, the talent selected will be cast from the tape, despite the fact the client was in the room, with photos of us from a picture-pull. (I can only assume a picture-pull was the method used to select the "interviewees".) Admittedly, I am indifferent about this gig. While I realize that many actors and singers really cannot afford to be choosers. if I am selected, great! I'll plan to enjoy myself. However, if I am not selected, I'm okay with that, too.

***UPDATE*** In an unusual turn of events, I actually received a call this evening telling me I was not hired for this job. Something's better than nothing, I guess.

5.09.2008

Screamin' from the rooftop

Today's commercial audition was another one of those unusual auditions. Coincidentally (or perhaps not), it was for the same "very well-known formerly-all-breakfast food-chain that seems to be branching out into other meals" group I'd auditioned for before. I was told yesterday that I was to be a "casual, suburban mom" and that there were no lines to review. Furthermore, this was an audition for a demo--not an actual commercial. In this case, the ad agency wants to prepare an animatic for the client to illustrate what the potential commercial could look like. So, I prepared my "casual mom" outfit and a headshot/resume. I arrived, greeted a few of the other "moms" in the waiting area I know, filled out all necessary forms and reviewed the storyboards, which were firmly applied to the wall: one featured just the "mom" and the other featured a heterosexual couple. Today's product? A coffee item.

The CD came out and briefly explained for everyone in the waiting area what to expect in the room and what to do. Because I'd made great time, I had a few extra moments to review my own mental list of things to remember in auditions like these. I'm realizing more and more that I need to review this list each time I have an audition if only to keep me focused in the audition room.

When my turn rolled around, I was called in with the lone male actor who'd only recently arrived, leading me to believe I'd most likely be acting out the heterosexual storyboard. Poor guy. I had read all the paperwork at the sign-in table, and had seen the direction to "TAKE A CUP", many of which were on the table. However he had not. This is what ensued in the audition room:

"So, slate your names first and then you can begin. Oh, do you have a cup?" The guy glanced over at me with my cup in hand and that look of realization sprung to his face.

"Oh, yeah. Hang on." And he left the room briefly, returning with his personal coffee cup. He resumed his place and looked over at me saying, "I hope you don't mind that there's real coffee in it."

"Not if you don't mind losing part of it," I retorted. The CD quickly inserted, "Go out and get a cup."

"Oh, are there cups out there?" He went back out. It was hard for me not to laugh each time he left the room. On a good note, though, it did give me more time with the CD and the quiet client at the table. The CD asked what I'd been up to lately. I summed up my recent accomplishments.

The actor and I did our bit for the camera once he'd returned. Strangely, we slated again at the end of our scene and then he left. I would also be performing the "mom" scene, it turned out. I asked a couple of questions before my scene to make sure I had the gist. The client took a moment to explain the interplay of the coffee product, likening the effect of the product to that of angeldust or heroin. Seriously. No joke. I couldn't tell if he was serious, or if he had a really, really dry sense of humor, or if he just wanted to test the talents' nerves. Nevertheless, I smiled warmly and said, "I think I know what you mean."

The scene called for me to enjoy the product and then yell from atop my imaginary roof to my imaginary neighborhood, "People of Cherry Tree Lane! This is the most fabulously wonderful coffee I've ever had!" (That's actually a paraphrase of the text provided, but that's what I did for the most part. And I smiled a lot.) I slated a fourth time and then that was that.

As a friend of mine had observed after her audition, "I left there thinking, I don't think I did very well, and I don't know if I care. " What to do if I actually get the demo? I don't drink coffee. At all. I guess that's why they call it acting, right?

5.07.2008

FYI

Yesterday, when I took the call for today's audition, I was told to dress casually and that there were no lines--only "facial expressions". Hmm. Facial expressions? Like mime, perhaps? I wasn't sure what to make of this, but I did go home and practice various actions and their associated expressions in the bathroom mirror. You know, like: happy; pained; shocked; sly; good surprise.

When I arrived at the CD's office today, there were already several folks in the waiting area. Some of them were friends of mine, some of them were new to me. After signing in and completing my obligatory size card, I took a seat. (No headshot and no resume today.) The brand-new assistant took my photo with a fifteen-flash camera--they do that every time to everyone. In my momentary blindness, I overheard one of the girls say to her friend that they were only asking questions "like, what kind of music and stuff you like." Ah. Personal likes. Okay. Since I knew this spot would be for an entertainment media company, I quickly browsed through my iPod to review my musical preferences, not that I could commit all 700+ artists to memory in five minutes, but I could try. It's always good to bone up on yourself before a "personal likes" audition. Sometimes, your brain can leave you senseless at the most inopportune moments. I saw this happen ALL THE TIME while working at Walt Disney World. (But that's a story for another post.)

I was called into the audition room, which I know very well by now. I was panned by the camera (not panned by a critic) and asked my name. Then, "Where are you from?". I explained that I'm from Texas originally, but that I now spend much of my time in Boston. Then, "What's your favorite music?" I didn't spring straight to genres, which might have been wiser: opera, oratorio, art song, alternative, pop, jazz. Instead, I started listing groups and bands: Muse; The Killers; Vega4; Voxtrot. Then I wised up, realizing that those are all in one genre and I couldn't afford to be viewed as a one-genre girl. So, I branched out to bluegrass and Americana: Nickel Creek ("which is no longer a group," I noted); The Punch Brothers ("which was formed by Chris Thile," I noted); Crooked Still (friends of mine). At that point, I was cut off.

"Okay, thanks! That's all we need."

"Really?" I queried.

"Yep! I love my job today!"

And I left the room. Oh, and I received several compliments on my pants. Perhaps I'll get a callback just for my pants. Who knows?

5.06.2008

Amalgam

Sunday morning was not a showcase of my best singing. I was phlegmy. I was worried about sounding flat. (Later, I was assured I wasn't.) I just felt "off". And, while I realize we all have those days, it doesn't mean I like them. Nonetheless, I received kind compliments from various individuals regarding my performance, and the Israeli Consul General didn't seem to be any the wiser about my perceptively subpar performance.

Then, yesterday evening, I helped to facilitate an all-actor meeting. Actorly meetings are interesting experiences. There is always a large amount of passion infused with a goodly dose of outspokenness dispensed liberally amongst a wide range of individuals, which typically results in a rather longer-than-planned event. I was serving as intermediary between attendees and the meeting organizers, collecting questions from the audience in anticipation of the evening's Q&A session. Exciting! (Umm, no. However, I was referred to as the "Vanna White" of the evening on more than one occasion! Perhaps it's my great smile.) What's really cool, though: I got to meet one of my blog readers there! That always puts a smile on my face.

Oh. Remember that credit card commercial? The one I auditioned for? I also learned they brought in a blonde actress from New York to play the role for which I was called back. Ugh. When will these Hollywood-ized teams hire people from the local area? We're just as good, often just as experienced and--many times--more professional. Oh, well. I'm crossing my fingers about that fast food spot. I'd make a cute waitress, I think.

5.02.2008

Flat is faulty

Last night in rehearsal I was flat. I knew it. One of my closest friends knew it. I think anyone who had any sense of tonality could tell, really. It got better when we changed spaces. But, for whatever reason, in private rehearsal, my pitch is sound. (No pun, really.) It's good. It's solid. But, in ensemble rehearsal, I hear the piece differently, and I seem to be compensating by singing underpitch. Ick!

Knowing so is important, but I have only today and tomorrow to solve this matter and, while I know how to do it, I'm not sure I have all the time I'd like to practice. Furthermore, the Israeli Consul General will be in attendance and I'd rather not screw this up. Thankfully, my friend Carrie corrected some of my pronunciation so I won't look like an idiot or unwittingly insult the CG. That would suck. Perhaps a prayer to the music gods is in order.

5.01.2008

A fun labor

Happy May Day!

Earlier this week I was booked--sans audition--for a Blue Cross Blue Shield voice over gig. Nice! I stopped by Soundtrack Studios Boston this morning to record. When the copy was sent to me yesterday afternoon, I was surprised to discover it was the same copy I had read in some demos for the client about eight months ago! Having read the demos (and having felt quite confident in my read), I was kind of disappointed to not hear from them. After a couple months I figured, Oh well. They didn't like my read. That's that. It was a nice compliment to know they hadn't forgotten about me and that the campaign had just been on hold for a little while!

I read two 15 second radio spots today, targeting 18-24 year-olds. One was called "Concealer" and the other, "Pedicure". Both addressed the need for health insurance using a comedic tact. Voice over can be kind of an impersonal business and can really illustrate how time is money. The talent walks into the studio. Sometimes the client greets you, sometimes not. Immediately, the talent steps into the booth and dons the headphones while the engineer gets the mic and the levels set. And then it's down to business. When it says "Radio :15" at the top of the copy, they really mean, Read the spot in 15 seconds--no more, no fewer. My first few reads were 60-80 seconds fast, so I slowed down. It's hard to sound and act like a 19-year-old and talk slowly at the same time! One would think that time could be adjusted in post-production. But remember: they're already paying $185 an hour for studio time. An additional engineer to edit could cost that much or more. Plus, they're paying the talent. So, in essence, it is the talent's job to not only deliver the copy well and read in character, but also do it for the precise duration required. Furthermore, it's surreal to be encased in a soundproof booth, watching people's lips move and heads nod yes or no while discussing your work, but hearing nothing. It's like being an unintentional voyeur while trapped in a cage.

Pleasantly, today's gig went well. The client was friendly and the read was efficient--less than half an hour! Plus, I think the client got precisely the read they wanted.