A Midsummer’s Night Dream – Embracing the uncomfortable and the Godfather of Theatre, Shakespeare

“Life … is a tale Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing.

William Shakespeare

SHAKESPEARE is one of those icons that everyone has heard of but never really learned much about. There is a reason why he is so renowned.

  • He was a poetic genius.
  • He understood human nature and what made us interesting
  • He made it a point to be a rebel and

As one of the first Shakespeare plays I was fortunate enough to partake in, I felt very unprepared for the play itself.

A Midsummer’s Night Dream

https://www.playshakespeare.com/midsummer-nights-dream/synopsis

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REALITY  CHECK:
I learned very quickly that you will not always get the part you want.

I originally wanted to be the comedic relief of the show but I ended up instead being cast as the two kings throughout the whole play.

My initial reaction was very selfish and egotistical. I thought the person cast for the role I wanted didn’t fit the part and would ruin the show. THANKFULLY, I eventually decided to take on these parts and actually stretched my acting in a way that the other role definitely wouldn’t have.

Shakespeare has a way of bringing the flaws out of you. I took away all kinds of lessons from the beginning to the end:

1. Make the best of what the world gives you. I didn’t get what I wanted, but I honestly felt like the role I played was the one that I needed.
2. Find an alternative to tricky costume designs. In this show, I was a fairy king for one role and they decided to draw vines and leaves on my arms and legs with permanent marker… you can imagine the altercations of that. I should have found a better way to pull off the look they were wanting without going to that extreme.
3. Shakespeare monologues are a nightmare to learn but increase your capabilities with memorization. I learned about 8 multiple page monologues. By the end of the show, I could pick up any monologue or side and learn it in a matter of minutes. It was quite astonishing to say the least.
4. There is always a level of WEIGHT you have to carry as a lead in a show. Knowing your role and how to play it effectively can astronomically affect the overall quality of a production.
5. I danced around barefoot for most of the show with a mask on. Humility was gained. I learned to trust my space and blocking in low light and that masks suck when you are performing because you can’t see your feet.

In this strange world of creativity, Shakespeare found his own humility through his work and embraced all the flaws of life.

As an artist, you have to reach a point where there is no more humility, or self pity, or embarrassment, or shame.     THERE IS ONLY YOUR OPENNESS AND CONFIDENCE.

Don’t be afraid of it, embrace it.

Until Next Time,

Jesse.

 

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Dearly Beloved – Surround Yourself with Success

1233294_10151872649832866_977767091_o“Acting is a question of absorbing other people’s personalities and adding some of your own experience.” – Paul Newman

Success is such a underestimated word.

It could mean getting that job you wanting for years.

Or finally asking out the girl of your dreams.

It could even mean making it through a tough day with your head held high. Whatever your successes are, live in those moments and know that each one of those wins is one step closer to happiness and a well lived life.

In theater, I find my success in watching and absorbing talent from my fellow actors. Mindfulness of who you work with and the ability to actively listen to other performers can make all the difference in how you grow as an artist. The most talented people in the world started off just like you. They made their mark by surrounding themselves with talented artists and crafted their own form from listening and applying.

Dearly Beloved is a southern comedy about a redneck wedding gone wrong. The play itself was a ton of fun to just read, but what made it amazing was the talented group of actors that embodied these ridiculous characters and made it a spectacle to enjoy.

http://dramatists.com/cgi-bin/db/single.asp?key=3707

I played Justin Waverly, a nervous southern UPS guy who had to replace the original preacher in the wedding because he was intoxicated the night before. This comedy shed some light on all kinds of takeaways:

  • Breaking character became a challenge for everyone while on stage. We would even be watching the show from off stage to see if the other actors broke. We were able to push each other to the extreme and enjoy doing it. It made us want to improve and come up with new ideas to add to the ridiculousness.
  • My southern accent sounds like Forrest Gump… But it made my character more likeable in the end.
  • Our cast was amazing. I saw myself becoming a better performing, from interacting with them to sharing thoughts and ideas that eventually pushed us through the entire show with so much energy and life.
  • There is a life to a show. It relies on the actors to build the world and the audience to respond with emotion and imagination.
  • I know I have said this before but COMEDIC TIMING, yes it exists and it will always be a part of live comedy. The more experience you have with it the better you will get. In rehearsals, we had people come see the show so we could practice a little with laughter before the opening week. That was extremely helpful.
  • How you enter a scene can make all the difference. There was one part in particular that I had to enter with a bloody nose because I was so nervous. Every night I would try to change up my entrance with some different kind of scenario and the crowd responded accordingly.
  • Shows with real food are the BEST.

In a world of thousands of shows being performed years round, talented actors are easy to find. I would recommend that you be mindful of the gigs you audition for. Don’t let booking a role be the only reason you act. Know what you want to do, the people you want to be around, and the experiences you want to make.

I base my acting choices on a few questions:

  1. Is the role right for me or is the role going to be a great challenge and help me grow?
  2. Is the script worth it? Does it tell a story I want to be part of?
  3. Will the other creative people involved push me to be better?

Don’t forget to love what you do and do what you love. Surround yourself with amazing people and add your own personality to that. Always strive for to be better.

Until Next Time,

Jesse

 

My Imaginary Pirate – Stage Combat, Young Audiences, and Real Magic

” I love acting. It is so much more real than life.” – Oscar Wilde

The wonderful stage holds precious moments and memories for me. One such occasion was being a part of a children’s pirate musical. Over one summer a few good friends of mine decided to put on a children’s play.

This type of show was the ultimate kid attraction: Sword Fighting, Music, and Pirates. (or at least I liked all those things when I was younger)

Who doesn’t like action, singing, and pirates?

To start, Stage combat is the fundamental fighting that eventually adapted into the action movies you see nowadays. The challenging, and more rewarding, part about stage combat is the live performance. Messing up a line on stage is one thing, but messing up a choreography can put the show and the actors in danger.

The end performance is definitely worth the risk. If you have never seen a show with combat I recommend watching this video (about 1:30 in), then finding a local play.

 

This show demanded a lot of my time and commitment. I had to learn a believable pirate accent, choreograph all the fight scenes, help build some of the set, and learn my lines (that one was a given). Needless to say I walked away with multiple nuggets of wisdom.

  • A pirate accent is just a Irish accent but a little more rugged. That might be common sense but someone out there is putting two pieces of a puzzle together right now.
  • The biggest challenge is accents is consistency. Always making sure you are hitting every inflection and sound correctly, effortlessly.
  • Kid actors require patience, just like your own kids or siblings. Repetition and constant reminders to focus.
  • Change is okay. Sometimes it is better than what you original intended.
  • Wearing an eyepatch for a whole show = Makes everything 5x more difficult
  • If your are dressed like a Pirate, kids will think you are a pirate… And they will want to play with your sword.
  • Do NOT let your acting get ahead of your safety. Be aware of your partner and yourself when doing any kind of physical activity on stage.
  • Fog makes everything more dramatic.
  • Funny moments for adults are not funny moments for kids all the time. Age changes the perception of comedy.

One of the most beautiful things I realized when doing this show is the sheer fascination and wonder children really have. That magic in their eyes.

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That is REAL. (I’m sure most people have seen kids be amazed, at new places or things,  but when they amazed by a performance it is different) We created Magic, quite literally.

Wonderment is such a unique and interesting human quality. It is a level of joy far beyond the reality of life. It’s what movies do as well. Escaping  the depressing nature of the world. Challenging us to strive towards inspiration and something more. That is why acting is so much more than real life.

Until Next Time,

JCG

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Oklahoma – Hugh Jackman, Accents, and Comedy

“Comedy is acting out Optimism” – Robin Williams

Another musical. I know, I know. It’s theatre. I swear it’s like 80% musicals.

This show is about country people in…. Oklahoma..(obviously).

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oklahoma!

FUN FACT: Hugh Jackman has played the lead role in “Oklahoma”… and he can sing.

Mezzanine_641

Our version wasn’t the BROADWAY spectacle that has been done before but it was still something fun to watch unfold. The perfect mix of musicals and comedy.

I was actually cast as part of the ensemble for the show, but since the role of the foreign salesman was turned down by the director’s first choice, I was asked to play Ali Hakeem, the slippery Persian business man. I was given a lot of responsibility because this character was a crucial role in the comedic relief of the story.  I got my first supporting role! Landmark reached.

By the end of the show I had performed several solo musical numbers, developed a terrible middle eastern accent, and got a strong taste of what it was like to support an entire show.

I could take away so many lessons from this production but I will try to condense them down as much as possible:

  • Singing is difficult. Singing with a small mic against your shirt is even more difficult. Practice and get comfortable with that. It is really the own way. And mics are used quite frequently in films as well.
  • Be very nice to your stage manager (in film this would be your assistant director). These people control a variety of aspects in a production. In theater, they usually help run all the sound and music and lights. So be aware that they have a million things to remember and the don’t need an attitude from you. Support one another.
  • Choreography is vital to any large ensemble dancing or fighting. We DID NOT choreograph the fighting in a few scenes…. To be brief, faces were bruised, noses bled, people complained. On the bright side it was extremely funny to talk about back stage.
  • Accents are hella fun to play around with BUT… Make sure you have the right accent for your character. I ended up sounding like a fake indian guy instead of a Persian salesman. It was still entertaining, but it was definitely not correct. Learn from my mistakes.
  • Accents also require a high level of consistency. Making sure every syllable and pronunciation is how it should be. That is the only way to make an accent believable.
  • Comedic timing is important.

elements-of-comedy-3-728

  • You can read your audience. They are another element of a performance. Feeling their rhythm and creating your own comedic life goes a long way in any show.
  • Build a strong relationship with your fellow actors. Lean on them and be open to helping one another. It’s the best way to push through the bad performances and cherish the amazing performances.

If it wasn’t already clear, I am an advocate for theater training if you are an actor. Although it is not a lucrative avenue of acting, “We” did not decide to start acting to be famous or make a lot of money. If you did I would suggest rethinking life in general… Like really.

Theater and musicals build a great foundation for vocals, movement, and acting. Learn to love them if you don’t already.

If you are interested, go watch a few youtube musicals of Oklahoma, who knows, you might actually enjoy it!

Until Next Time,

-Jesse

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Ali Hakeem in TLC’s “Oklahoma”

Sunday Night in Manhattan – Ensemble Experience

 

“In spite of my great admiration for individual splendid talents I do not accept the star system. Collective creative effort is the root of our kind of art. That requires ensemble acting and whoever mars that ensemble is committing a crime not only against his comrades but also against the very art of which he is the servant.”

– Stanislavski (the guy with a lot of great quotes)

For anyone unfamiliar with what an ENSEMBLE is in theatre I am specifically referring to

  1. a group of supporting entertainers, as actors, dancers, and singers, ina theatrical production.

Also, for anyone unfamiliar with this play “Sunday Night in Manhattan”, it follow the story of Billy Sunday. If you are of the curious nature

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Billy_Sunday

From early on, my acting consisted of any classes I could take and whatever roles I could audition for and get. Ensemble acting was my only option at this point. Luckily, I was giving the valuable opportunity of acting and contributing to a work of art.

The baptist college I attended relished in any production closely relating to religion and the successes of God. This story is about Billy Sunday, a baseball player who eventually became a well known preacher in New York. Although the play it self centers mostly on Billy preaching, seeming more like a Sunday service, it was a worthwhile story of finding a place in the world. My perspective of theatre was sightly altered as well. These are some things I learned while rehearsing and performing.

WHAT I LEARNED

  • (although I have said this before) There are no small parts. Note that I will say that a lot because at the end of the day, the audience only sees the big picture, and if someone seems off in the production it can have a effect on how it is viewed. One tiny background ensemble actor out of character can change so much of a performance.
  • Ensemble acting teaches you to collectively sustain an emotion or a feeling throughout a scene. You have the ability to lift another actor up who is not fully invested during the show.
  • You also have the power to bring people down in the production, be conscious of the “baggage” you bring into a theatre.
  • I can not do a New York accent to save my life… But I am working on it.
  • Watching and reacting to the lead actors is great practice for any actor. I was able to draw many ideas and habits by studying actors and reacting to them on stage.

MOST important lesson: we all want to be a part of something more, even if we don’t believe it. Purpose is the root of our subconscious. Whether it be a show or a group or a band or a family, we strive to a place and a purpose. So any decisions you make toward finding your purpose are the right choices to make.

At the end of the day, jump at every opportunity that is laid before you. While I didn’t particularly want to be a background performer, I definitely grew as a actor and don’t regret a single decision I have ever made (acting wise).

We are servants of the art. Film or theatre requires a level of humbleness to the collective creative effort. So go be creative. Be GREAT.

Until Next Time,

-Jesse

Titanic The Musical: A Show of Many Performances

“There are no small parts, only small actors.”

– Stanislavski

First off,

Titanic: The Musical is VERY different from the movie with Leonardo DiCaprio.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Titanic_%28musical%29

You’re welcome.

Now, this musical was the FIRST college production I was able to be a part of, and honestly this play is still one of my favorite productions. I put that overused quote at the beginning of this post, to correlate with the experience I received acting in this show. All these small roles I was a part of turned out to make me a much bigger, and pivotal part of the show.

The director, who was also my acting teacher, asked me if I wanted to be a part of the show. Usually you have to audition for a part, but I was just starting to get into acting and was still transitioning from basketball to theater. As an athlete I was oblivious to what went on in the theater department; I didn’t even know when the auditions happened. (please pardon my ignorance)

Luckily, they needed a few more guys to sing in the background and asked me if I want to be in the production. (Yay what an awesome role for the guy who has never sang in public before!…)

However that small role ending up turning into 4 more small roles, including a monologue in the first scene, a 2 minute ballroom dance, a solo singing  line in two musical numbers, and pushing my wife and kids onto life boats as they cry and scream for me to come with them.. Yes, I was part of reenacting this terrible tragedy for the public.

All I did was take a chance and said YES. Fortunately, I went to a smaller college, and became somewhat of a necessity, since there were so many roles to fill and not many actors. (I will give some credit to having been at a smallish school.)

 

Titanic Photo
One of my roles, George Widener. With a fake mustache. Get over it.

 

WHAT I LEARNED

  • Musicals are the best bang for your buck. I learned more and grew more as an actor in this one show than any other show I have done. I sang, I danced, I cried (literally on stage, every night during the last song), I acted, I messed up, I figured it out all in one show.
  • Large casts have their UPS and DOWNS. Drama increases as the size increases, remember that. On the plus side, whenever you do something ridiculous on stage or someone breaks character, you get to talk about it with 40 other people and enjoy that moment several times backstage! (It’s the best, lots of laughs, lots of memories)
  • Before you act in a MUSICAL, make sure you like the music. (That is kind of a given though, but hey, I am all about stating the obvious.)
  • Leave The DRAMA on the stage. Especially if it has nothing to do with the show.
  • I look good with a mustache. (Some people may disagree.. Those people are wrong)

The MOST important thing I learned is that No Small Role goes unnoticed. None. I can personally tell you that as an actor, I make it a point to watch the background actors in every show I watch. They are just as fun as the lead roles, if not more!

When you are coming of age in this world of theatre or film, take leaps of faith and dive into any opportunity that comes your way. You never know, the small part you thought would be a waste of time could be the best experience of you life.

All in all

Musicals are the best.

Until Next Time,

~ Jesse

 

Titanic Group Photo
The wonderful cast. I am in there.. Somewhere.

 

 

Your Passion: Did it choose you or did you choose it?

“Life beats down and crushes the soul and art reminds you that you have one.” – Stella Adler

 

I have always loved the idea of everyone having a purpose in this world, some type of contribution that elicits fulfillment. When you think about things you are passionate about, what comes to mind?

What drives you?

What makes you happy to wake up in the morning?

What can you not live without?

If you haven’t found your place yet, my advice is to travel, read habitually, meet people, love, and follow your interests. A wise person once told me,

“In 5 years, the only ways you will have changed are by the books you have read and the people you have talked to”.

I decided to start this blog because I want to share a story, of one that is still being written. My name is Jesse and I am passionate about theater & film. If anyone reading this has an aspiration for film making, a craving for helpful quotes that inspire me and hopefully others, an interest in acting as a career, or just wants something fun to pass the time, then please read on!

I am currently an actor, with a love for screen writing, fight choreography, producing, and collaborating. Film making is my passion, and I continue to follow it everyday.

Now, following a passion is easier said then done; It is not an easy road. In these blogs I will:

  • Talk about my past experiences (each play, movie, commercial, certain auditions etc.)
  • Talk about ups and downs of each experience (how I screwed up or didn’t screw up)
  • What I learned (advice you can take or leave)
  • Commit to being honest and blunt for the sake of knowledge

This is my first post, as well as the start of documenting the beginning and emotional journey that I am embarking as I find and fulfill my passions. I do many things to further my knowledge of acting. One avenue is listening to an intriguing podcast called Inside Acting.  At the end of every episode, the hosts ask their guest two questions about the career path they are on. One of those questions I recently reveled on is actually the title of this post, and seemingly fitting to answer as I actively start this journey.

“Did this life choose you or did you choose it?”

I believe that I chose the life of an actor/film maker. This love I have for acting and filming came about my second year of college half way through my basketball career at College. I hit a point where basketball became more about the practice hours then the thrill of games. I spent most of my time injured and was barely able to compete, diminishing my love I had for the game.

During this time I ventured out of my physical therapy major and decided to take an acting class for one of my electives. What I found while taking this intro to theatre class:

  1.  chance to learn something new about myself.
  2. A chance to express myself in a way that reaches and teaches people and makes them feel.
  3. A connection with myself that I wanted to share that with everyone.

Now, to be honest, I didn’t make that realization in one class, but needless to say, this elective eventually turned into a major.

…And that, in a nutshell without turning this blog into a novel, is how I fell into this wonderful path of film making.

From this point on, I will try my best to post once a week (or every two weeks depending on my adventures).

I apologize if my writing isn’t up to par, but hopefully the more I write the more I will also develop as a writer.

If you enjoyed please share and follow…. or not! Just do what makes you happy! And feel free to comment or ask questions.

Until Next Time,

~ MRG

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One of the many performance finals I had while studying theater at college. More specifically, I played Mr. Lovborg in Ibsen’s “Hedda Gabler”