Friday, May 14, 2010

Selfish Promotion

I have a show opening tonight.

I tweeted a couple of times, I invited people to the event on Facebook, and I'll most likely do so again before closing weekend. I definitely want people to come, and I want Ka-Tet to have a successful run. The folks I'm working with have put a lot of time and effort into the show, and they deserve to have it seen by many people.

I did a little work, too. Not much, but some.

Thing is, it's always been readily apparent to me that my biggest weakness as an actor isn't on stage, it's out here in the real world. The gladhanding and the hustling and the getting yourself in front of people. I'm just not that into "the wonder of me."

I work, I try to do the best I can at every moment. I have this silly, silly notion that good work will move you forward. Well, of course it does, but selling yourself is what makes people care.

I can't do it. I never could. I am who I am, I work hard and I bring a modicum of skill to the table. I am fiercely loyal to those who are loyal to me, those who I respect, and somehow, my naive mind thinks that ought to be enough.

Which is probably why, at 38 years old, I have not one Equity point.

Intellectually, I know this attitude is idiotic bordering on brain-dead. Frankly, I wonder if that's not my problem, anyway. I can't remember the names of 30% (at least), of the people I've actually worked with, let alone the assistant casting director I meet in the lobby, so maybe I have a problem....What was I talking about?

I've been through it, "oh, you should meet...." I'm introduced to some big-wig from somewhere, and I say hello, and try to make polite conversation. I can see the dull-eyed glow of someone who's been through this little process about a billion times, and sees me as processed cheese-spread. Which, of course is just a jump-start for my less-than-meager conversation skills. So I blather something nice about the production, we stand around awkwardly, and I finally beg off.

They don't really want to meet me, and I'm just there because someone (with more of my interests in heart than myself) pushed the issue. I'm a basically shy person (really, it's true!) It's all awkward, and nobody comes out looking good. As Neil Peart said, "I can't pretend a stranger is a long-awaited friend."

That's me, other people FLY in those situations, and they're remembered.

I've always been a story guy, a teamwork guy. I don't really care if I look good, I want to know if the show looks good. I do what I do because I like to tell stories. I like to be on a stage with a lot of great actors and just, flat out, go for it. My first true acting teacher, Jeff Green (to whom I'll always owe a debt), used to call it "taking flight." That's where I want to fly.

After a show, I get really introverted. I've got to take, at least, five minutes to berate myself for the crap I screwed up. I tend to take a long time in the dressing room so more people will leave. I hate the "storefront walk" from the dressing room, through the lobby, to the front door. There's always the folks hanging out, talking shop. Families waiting for their son/daughter/sister/brother/nephew/niece to come out and accept their congratulations. Folks who, when they see you were in the show, always give you that "good job."

Every actor knows that "good job."

"I can't pretend a stranger is a long-awaited friend."

Of course, I am happy to see my friends at a show. There's no theatre without an audience. (Although, as I've said many times, the fact that we just accept that our audience is our friends and other theatre people is, really, an extremely sad comment on where we are as a craft.) Don't any of you think this means I don't want you to come.

It also never has anything to do with how I feel about the show. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and Dashiell Hamlet were probably the two greatest acting experiences of my life, and, if anything, I got even MORE introverted in the lobby.

Maybe it's ego. I've certainly never claimed to be ego-free, even slightly. Maybe I feel like I'm giving on stage, and I don't need to give any more when I walk off. I suppose that's possible, maybe it's wrong, but isn't that better than the opposite?


  1. So does this mean you are, or are not, getting a "Mark Pracht is in this show" stamp?

  2. I'm telling you, staggering. O_O

    I can relate to every word you said, and it was well said. Thanks, life feels better today.