Thursday, September 23, 2010

Thinking of Typecasting

Typecasting is a fact of life in this business. It ain't ever going to go away. I look the way I look, every actor does, and that look, whatever it may be, lends itself to certain roles more than others. I know I won't ever play a role where one of the specific requirements is to be weak or frail-looking. I'm 6' 3", and come in at over 200 pounds. I cannot change that.

Let's take The Sound of a Yellow Flower, for example.

It's a good show, the cast is great, Dustin wrote a solid piece, and Letitia put it together beautifully. I like my role, and it does have some inherent challenges for me, I'm not trying to denigrate the work that's on display, because I think it's very worthy...YOU SHOULD SEE IT.

...But it's also well within my "safety zone," my "type," if you will. I knew how to play Nikolai very quickly, and it all became a matter of refining. Chipping away, and adding, parts to a character, on a very broad-based level, I have played many, many times before. That's valid, and God knows, we're all a "type." I feel no shame in playing within that type when needed. It certainly doesn't really make things easier, I'm usually dripping sweat when I exit the stage from my last moment of Yellow Flower. It feels good. It feels like I worked for it.

The conehead strikes

Still, physical effort is only part of the deal. Endurance and creating a physical presence on stage have never been my problems. What I don't do in this show is worry that I'm not getting across what I want to the audience. The reasoning is two-fold, Dustin wrote a solid script, in regards to Nikolai's motivations, I knew how to play the character from long practice, and Letitia kept me from flying away from it.

It helps that the text itself gives me some great "left turns" away from the expected with Nikolai. I thank Dustin for that, profusely. I can't just "phone it in," thank God. Plus, Tisha would kick my ass.

What this has gone a long way to say is that I'm more than happy to play my type. I'm especially happy to do so in such a positive and supportive environment. Top that off with the fact that Strangeloop, as a company, really didn't know me at all. From their perspective, there's no reason to trust me with something outside my type. I understand that. I absolutely, 100% respect that.

Seriously, what is going on with my skull?

So, what I search for, and yearn for, are the roles, like in Yellow Flower, where the type takes strange turns and surprises you. Those roles, or the ones that are flexible enough to allow me to be the "big guy," and still play a teacher, or a scientist, or a writer.

I've played plenty of cops, crooks, soldiers, wife-beaters, thugs, etc. I'm not going to say I won't ever play them again, because, y'know...I haven't played Stanley Kowalski yet. I used to say, in college, that typecasting just meant you got all the best roles of that type, which is true, but you get older and realize you also get offered all the not-so-great roles of that type, too. I was young, and just wanted to get cast.

I mean, I still do. Who doesn't?

Thing is, how much of my own desire to try more and do more has to be balanced against that. As I've gotten older, I want to be challenged more. I flat turned down roles recently because I read the plays and realized that I could sleepwalk through the role. I could give absolutely zero effort, and still fulfill the needs of the production.

What the hell is the point of that?

I love the feeling of being scared of what you have to do, of fulfilling the needs of the role. Where I've felt that creeping sense of "maybe I really can't pull this off." It's that feeling, that fear, that makes me feel on top of the world on stage...If I can pull it off.

Because, if you don't? Ugggghhh.

That, however, is the point.

What's the use of doing this if you feel like every, single time you walk out there, you've got it under control? Where's the danger? Where's the risk? How can I ever fail? How can something amazing happen if there's no risk? No chance of failure?

I mean, it's not like I'm making a living at this. I can see myself playing anything I'm asked to, if a living wadge is involved. The shows I did at the Great American Melodrama and Vaudeville weren't challenging on pretty much any level (except the music, oh God, the music), and were 100% pure typecasting. I didn't care. I was making a living and surfing, and the shows were fun to do, because the check was the thing that made me feel fulfilled. I was a working actor, I was making a living.

It wasn't something I wanted to do forever, but it was a job.

I begin to wonder about my longevity in this business. Maybe I'm just freaking out because, not 3 years ago, I was working constantly and just busy as hell. Now, I routinely face months of inactivity and the lack of motivation that breeds in me. I hate it so much. It makes me feel useless, and a failure.

Which, of course, is a sure sign that I've wrapped too much of my self-worth into acting. God help me. Sure, I can write, or work on music, or whatever other projects I can dream up for myself. At the end of the day, however, I'm just not as good at that stuff as I am at acting (though, I'm sure some would debate me on that one- Ha! Ha!).

When I am not working, I just get depressed around other people in the business. That is my problem, I take all the responsibility, but the unfortunate thing is that others have to see the effects. I apologize for that, but, hey, if we didn't have psychological quirks, we probably wouldn't be in this insane business.

Anyway...Yeah, it's been another "vomiting up my personal bullshit" blogs.

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