Wednesday, November 18, 2009

What is acting?

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A quote from Ruth Gordon (1896-1985)

“I wanted to be an actress in 1912; I want to be an actress today. That walk from the darkness backstage through the door or opening in the scenery where I make an entrance into the bright lights with that big dim mass out beyond, which bursts into applause, then the first terrifying sound that comes out of my throat, which they describe as a voice, but that first instant it is the siren of terror and intention and faith and hope and trust and vanity and security and insecurity and bloodcurdling courage which is acting.”

I just closed two shows- and now I have some free time to think, and blog! More to come...

Erin Cronican's career as a professional actor and career coach has spanned the last 25 years in New York City, Los Angeles and San Diego. She has appeared in major feature films and on television, and has toured nationally with plays and musicals. She has worked in the advertising & marketing departments of major corporations, film production companies, theater magazines, and non-profit acting organizations. For more information, please visit http://www.erincronican.com.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Dorian's Personal Stylist

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This week, I appear on an episode of “One Life to Live” - here is a rundown of my 5th experience on the set as an “Under 5” (U5) player...

I was cast as the “Florist” and was excited to pick up my script and see what scenes I would be in. Happily, my 5 lines were spread out over 3 scenes, which adds up to more possible screen time. Without giving anything away, I’ll just say that Dorian is preparing for an event and is her usual demanding self, and me as the poor florist gets the brunt of it! A few days before the shoot, I got a call from one of the producers who said that the character had been changed from “Florist” to “Stylist.” I was instructed to replace any reference of “flowers” to “shoes” and I was told that the costume would also be changing. As the florist, I would have been given a pair of khaki pants and a polo shirt. As the stylist, I would get to wear something a little more fancy- awesome!

I got to the studio for my 7:15am call time (ugh!) I went into the dressing room, dropped off my stuff, and then went to the green room for our “dry” - which is a dry-run blocking rehearsal where the actors can quickly go over the scenes/staging with the director prior to getting ready. I met Erika Slezak (Viki), Tuc Watkins (David), and Robin Strasser (Dorian) who all took the time to shake my hand and introduce themselves personally. They are exactly what you would expect them to be- gracious, talented, focused (and gorgeous!) What I didn’t expect, and was delighted to see, was the sense of humor they had about their work. We laughed a lot during this first rehearsal, and the blocking of the scenes went very quickly. Tuc, in particular, as David threw in some improv-ed lines of his own, and had us in stitches.

I was done with the rehearsal at 8am, in time for me to get into hair and makeup. One of the things about being a “U5“ character is that the scene is focused on the main players, so the U5’s makeup/hair is generally nondescript, so as not to pull attention. The stylist and I joked about how “severe” my hairstyles have been for every episode that I have done (as I mentioned, this was my 5th time on the show.) As far as makeup, because of the cameras and the lighting, the color of the base makeup is dark, and it is thick! And with every facial expression, deep creases appear on the face that look comical when seeing it in person. But, strangely, it has always looked perfectly fine on camera. Here’s a sneak peak from behind the scenes:


The costume above is actually mine. U5 roles on the show usually involve uniformed characters- cops, doctors, EMTs, bartenders, waiters, etc. Because I was a more upscale character (a stylist) I didn’t have to wear a uniform, so they asked me to bring some clothing that I felt comfortable wearing on set. I often prefer that- at least I know I’ll look good because it’s something I’ve purchased! Plus, the unions have negotiated a little bump in pay when you provide your own costume- so getting that extra fee is not too shabby. I finished up with hair/makeup around 9am, and got into my costume by 9:20am.

Once I got onto the set at 9:30am, things progressed very quickly. As I mentioned, I was in 3 “scenes” with 5 lines spread out over those scenes. (I put scenes in quotes because it is really just one scene broken up into pieces throughout the episode.) Those of you who follow the show know that Dorian is a hysterical character- she’s impulsive, passionate, and quirky, and this scene is no exception. I count myself lucky- often, U5’s get one line that is a throw away (a bartender saying, “Coming right up,” or a nurse saying, “I’ll be right back.”) But I feel like I got to do some more fun stuff- we’ll see how many of my reactions make it into the episode.

When you are shooting a soap on a traditional 3 camera/proscenium set, you perform all of your action toward a bank of cameras that are rough edited (turned on and off) by the folks in the control booth. There is usually a camera capturing a wide shot of the room (often used in the first part of the scene to help establish the location); there are 2-3 other cameras that pick up the action of the individual actors. When you are in a scene with multiple lead actors, U5’s won’t often have a lot of camera time- it is more important to focus on the key players. But there are several moments in this script where it is just Dorian and her stylist, so I think I have a good chance of being featured well. The first 20 pages of the script were staged and shot within 40 minutes, and I was out of costume and on my way home from the studio by 10:20am.

I really, really have a blast working on the soaps. Despite what people think, the actors give honest and raw performances, and do remarkable things in a short amount of time. There are a huge assortments of team members who make the shoot possible, and they have always been so welcoming to me. You really get a sense that they love their job, that they feel like a family, and it makes me root for the show even more strongly. In this age of DVRs, there’s no reason you can’t cuddle up in the evening and take in a good soap opera. Well, you can at least do it when I have something airing!

My episode is scheduled to air October 28 (Wednesday) on ABC. On rare occasions, they may move scenes around, so there is always a slight chance I’ll be airing a different day. But hopefully it will run as planned. Please tune in, and be sure to check out the credit on IMDB!

You can read about one of my other shoot days at “One Life To Live” by clicking here and clicking here.

Also, the Soap Opera Network has started following me on Twitter, and posted a news item about my upcoming episode of “One Life to Live!” Check it out here.

Erin Cronican's career as a professional actor and career coach has spanned the last 25 years in New York City, Los Angeles and San Diego. She has appeared in major feature films and on television, and has toured nationally with plays and musicals. She has worked in the advertising & marketing departments of major corporations, film production companies, theater magazines, and non-profit acting organizations. For more information, please visit http://www.erincronican.com.

They do it in England too

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As most of my faithful readers know, as a service to other actors I post all of the strange fan letters/requests that I receive, particularly those that seem a little odd (for example, people who claim to love my work in a movie that has only shown at a NY festival, and they are in the Midwestern USA. Or England. Huh.)

I get tons of “thank you” emails and comments from readers who have been contacted by the same autograph seekers. It has been wonderfully validating to see how useful the sharing of information has been for others. So, in the spirit of helpfulness, here is another fan request I received via email (the full address has been redacted, but the rest of the email is exactly as received...

dear erin
Just a short e-mail to say that i am a great admirer of your work.
It is with much interest that i would like to know your favourite leisure interests.
Would you please consider sending me your autograph, it would be much appreciated. My snail mail address is:-

GRAYDON WALL
[specific address redacted]
WEST MIDLANDS
ENGLAND

Blech.

Does anyone else think the language of the message sounds eerily similar to the Nigerian scam letters?

Erin Cronican's career as a professional actor and career coach has spanned the last 25 years in New York City, Los Angeles and San Diego. She has appeared in major feature films and on television, and has toured nationally with plays and musicals. She has worked in the advertising & marketing departments of major corporations, film production companies, theater magazines, and non-profit acting organizations. For more information, please visit http://www.erincronican.com.


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