Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Stuttering is......

I came across this article today on my morning commute and it's a vivid and accurate description of what it's like to stutter.  Stuttering has been in the news more this past year than it has even been before thanks to the Oscar nominated film "The King's Speech".  If I may piggyback on Mr. Heller and add a few more thoughts, I'd be my obliged.

I started stuttering around 2nd grade and have not stopped since.  There are days of good speech and months, years, moments of horrible debilitating stuttering.  At this point, I've just kind of accepted it as part of me and I've also been able to hide it enough that most people who have met me after college have no idea that I stutter. 

It's funny, (albeit in a cruel way) that a stutterer is chasing a career that relies on the mastery of speech and various vocal variations.  A peculiar and maddening aspect of stuttering is that no one really knows what causes it and there is no universally accepted way to fix it. I think that, because of that inherent issue people still don't fully understand what it is like to stutter.  For instance, I'm not blind, but I understand what it means to be blind.  Would you ever walk up to someone with a cane and tell them "Just see it!  It's right there, what is wrong with you!??!!?!?"

No, of course you would never do that, it would make you a monster of sorts.  So why then, is it socially acceptable for teachers, pathologists, parents, friends etc to say "Speak!  Just say it!" ? It's not that easy.

OK, I've been telling  you what stuttering isn't, now here is a list of some of the things that stuttering is

Stuttering is depressingly ironic:  When I was younger and I would begin to stutter, people would become very frustrated and yell "SPEAK!" to which I would immediately blurt out "It's not just that easy for me!"  How about that for humble pie.

Stuttering is PC to mock: Have you ever made fun of someone in a wheelchair?  Of course not.  (Even elementary school math text books go through great lengths to assimilate wheelchair bound people into those ridiculous cover shots of the black boy, the Asian chick, the geeky redhead and the Latino/possibly Arabic girl.  I promise you, there is always a kid in a wheelchair.)  WTF.  But it's totally cool to make fun of a stutterer.  I was once openly mocked by my 9th grade health teacher in the middle of class.  I had to read something out loud and I stuttered on "A".  I kept on saying "A A A A A A A A A A A A".  The health teacher blurted out "I guess the B never came."  The class found this to be hilarious.  Me, not so much.  I went into the bathroom and bawled my eyes out in the toilet stall.  I was late for my next class and got detention.  Awesome.  I could write a book about the times that I was made fun of, marginalized and insulted.  Shouldn't a health teacher be sensitive to stuttering?  Or at least...oh I dunno COGNIZANT of stuttering?

Stuttering is fattening:  It forces you to order food that you don't want.  "Turkey" used to be hard for me to say, so I would order a "BLT" without stuttering.  Thanks for raising my blood pressure and cholesterol, stuttering. I would also like to go to Mexican restaurants because I could just point to "chilequiles" on the menu and look puzzled at the waitress and she would write down my order because the gringo could read that word properly. 

Stuttering is a dictator:  It makes me say certain words.  I rarely say "other", I'll say "different" or even "'nother", like I'm a gold prospector or something. "There's gotta be 'nother way" /spits tobacco into bronze urn...puh-TING!

Stuttering is a meaning changer:  When you are as quick witted as I am, you want to say things as soon as the synapse occurs, of course this rarely happens.  This makes me constantly think a few lines ahead of where I am in the conversation, constantly planning different ways to say things in case I stutter.

Stuttering is my biggest fear: A lock up can happen at any time, so I am always on my toes and worried that I will be laughed at, lose a real estate client, lose a role, be perceived as weak/nervous/whatever.

Stuttering is like drowning:  When I stutter, my lungs and mouth feels like someone has grabbed me by my hair and is holding me under water, trying to murder me.  Think of the moment when all the air bubbles out of your mouth and nose and how hard you will be pursing your lips to keep the salty death out of  your lungs.  Bingo.  That's what it feels like to me. 

Stuttering has defined me:  It's who I am, it has shaped me, it has given me a sense of humor, it has forced me at a really young age to pick my friends wisely.

Stuttering is also ultimately my bag, my thing to deal thanks for reading.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Onion Callback with the director

Well, that was fun!  Just came back from the offices for The Onion.  This was call backs for the moviegoer role that I blogged about a few entries ago.  I also received a new pair of sides to work on.  The new ones were particularly hilarious.  The idea is that google, in a tremendous display of power has messed with gmail rendering is useless and toying with google calendar etc.  Just the thought of google shutting down paralyzes me with fear.  I am not joking. The role of office worker was a "man on the street" blurb.  It was quite funny. 

Sidenote: do you even know anyone who doesn't have a gmail account?  The only person I know who still uses an AOL account is my Dad, but in his defense it's tied to a business and he has had it since 1997 or so.  He also has the same username on gmail that he uses often so I suppose it doesn't really count. 

Just last week, a real estate client of mine gave me her email account for getting in touch during the day.  It was a hotmail account.  Gross.  Perhaps mindspring has some novelty to it....but hotmail?  That just seems cheap to me.

The call back went very well, I did each line twice and they gave me adjustments between each take, and I feel as if I took them well and nailed the takes.  You can never tell, of course...but they do seem to bring me back often.  So it's just a question of me matching what they need in a performance. 

Hotmail?  Ew.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

An Actors Phobia: Getting "Medusa'd" by the CD

I was told in college that when I audition I should never make eye contact with the people assessing me.  Since this was my first time taking any kind of theatrical class and I was an impressionable 19 year old, I believed it.  I also carried this nasty habit with me through graduation and I finally rid myself of it about a year ago.

Who was the first person to make this "rule"?  This falsehood is accepted by so many people in show business, usually the people on my side of the lens.  People are so averse to looking a CD in the eye that I think they are afraid of being turned into stone, or as I call it.... "getting Medusa'd".

It's bullshit.  Complete and utter lies.  Acting (and admittedly I'm painting with a broad brush here) is about making a connection.  You either make a connection with your scene partner, or you make a connection with the people viewing your work.  You want them to feel with you and, in the lamest way that Hyundai*.

It's impossible to make a connection with someone if you are staring at something.  It doesn't matter if it's the most specific and tiniest crack on the wall, no one buys it.  No one will believe your dead mannequin eyes.  No one.  Make is easier on yourself and make a connection with a sentient being, and guess what....there's one standing right next to the camera.  

My acting coach told the class something yesterday that I thought was so wise.  "The whole thing [acting] is phony, they just keep calling it the truth."  When you talk to someone in real life, do you stare off into space?  Nope, of course not.  You look them in the eye and speak like a human being.

Do yourself a favor and be an actual human being when you audition. 

*Sorry Jeff Bridges, nothing personal.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Hey, Chris Cooper. You are really good at acting.

Hey....Hey Chris Cooper. I just wanted you to know that I think you are a really really (really) good actor.  I first saw you act in "American Beauty" where you portrayed that really hard line father of the protagonist.  The ex-Marine who collected Nazi memorabilia and turned out to be a closeted homosexual.  I thought that....well (uh oh, I'm blushing a bit) when you were so defeated in the scene with John Doman in "The Company Men" and you made yourself allllllmost cry but your character was so quietly and unassumingly masculine that you gulped it down.  Wow.  That was also really really great.  Mr. Cooper, I just wanted you to know....that....well, if I came across a magic genie, and the genie was all like "Hey, I will grant you a wish...just one."  I would probably be like "Well, let me think about this one."  And I'd think about it for a while, a few minutes probably, in silence.  I would emerge from said think tank of solace and say..."Hey, Genie.  I want an acting career where I am respected by my peers, work regularly and get to play awesome roles and am not swarmed by crazy fans*.  I am wishing for an acting career like Chris Cooper's."

Poof!  I'd get it, and it would be really fun, there would be much rejoicing.

Thanks.  I guess.  Now if you would please let me finish my meal, I would appreciate it.  Best of luck to you, by the way.

Ok....Thanks for that, BYE CHRIS COOPER!!!


*totally assuming this.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Sore body and a clear head

Man. This whole insane workout schedule is really tough. I knew it would be, no surprise there. My triceps are hurting, my back is hurting, my ankles are stiff in the AM and my head hurts from 6 rounds of sparring last night. Backing down is not an option.

I'm going proverbially balls to the wall until I drop another 20 pounds. If I lose another 20 pounds I will be very healthy. My cholesterol has dropped dramatically in the last year, but I want it even lower.  I have a lot of muscle/bulk left over from years of competitive weight training, so the weight I plan on dropping will mostly be fat.

I should start eating more fish. I love fish. I prefer it to most meat actually. I even like sardines, mackerel and bluefish....all those less glamorous fish are wonderful in a spicy tomato sauce with some crusty bread. Yeah, that's what I'll do. I'll eat more fish and I will have a first course of vegetables. I love vegetables! I love steamed and braised greens!  If I like the stuff I should have it only makes sense.

As you can probably tell, it's pretty quiet on the acting front this week.