Friday, April 26, 2013

Lilyhammer -BIG in Norway!

Star of the series, Steve Van Zandt
Foreign productions are terrific fun (although this one was commissioned by Netflix* -see link at end of this blog)!  They allow for a lot more latitude of roles -even for us extras.  Central Casting put me on the path to a 3-day gig with this Norwegian hit (presently picked up by 130 countries) and I relished it completely. The series centers around Steve Van Zandt, formerly of The Sopranos... and formerly a guitarist of Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band -and now playing a mobster in protective custody for being a snitch.  Protective Custody in this case being in Norway -where he's still up to his old tricks, albeit in a dramedic manner.

DAY 1- I walked into the holding area of a restaurant on the West Village's Hudson Street... and was treated to a sight of colorful people made up to be in a gay-party scene.  Most didn't have to be "made up", they brought their own costumes.  I was given a see-through black blouse and wore my own bird mask (not exactly "La Cage Aux Feulles quality" -but passable enough for me to be in the scene.  My role was to "flirt" with a pretty mini-skirted girl... YAY!!!  Steve kept walking past me and I bantered with him about missing out on the ongoing E Street band's tour.  He laughed -after all, he was involved in this show in various ways: not just acting but musical scoring and the production angle as well. Steve was a busy guy these days.

Partyboys
During the party, there's a plot being hatched to knock off one of the gay-mafioso (is there such a thing?).  And so the party was gay and flirty and certainly flamboyant.  Various camera-POV's were going past where I was standing with my partner and we were certainly in the shots.
Gaudy tourist
In a second scene, I was told to wear "gaudy tourist clothes" and a small bunch of us "gaudy tourists" were placed at the Minnesota tourists' dining table who were being honored in the middle of the restaurant.  Sitting across the table from Steve Van Zandt there was a cameo appearance by another former Soprano star,
Tony Sirico
Tony Sirico (aka Paulie Walnuts)... the two of them, RIGHT NEXT TO US! Tony interrupts our meal (meat, meat, meat,herring and cabbage) to take a moment of silence for grace. I kept getting the clapboards (fiddlesticks) in front of me as a two-camera angle shot was repeated a few times.  FEATURED! Although I barely missed out on being on The Sopranos a few years ago, I was now making up for it... big time.
The Minnesotan Norwegian family (snap, snap)
DAY 2- A traditional tourist costume was provided complete with strange buttoned pants, high socks, buckled shoes and a "poofy-shirt" (shades of Sinefeld).  A family unit was formed complete with wife and daughter and my bug-eyed son.  We were directed to board a tour bus across the street from our restaurant.  Village people kept asking us what we were shooting... one of our responses was "a Louis Vuitton commercial"!?  Completely accepted by the innocent village people.

An hour later, the bus was supposed to take us on a "tour" while one of the Norwegian actors would give us a bogus description of the city's Norwegian heritage (think My Big Fat Greek Wedding, except instead of Greek, substitute a Norwegian slant for historical connotations).  Unfortunately, the bus wasn't starting up and while we were sitting in it -night fell, and it was time to go home.  We were informed that we may have to return for a third day.  Excellent!
Suite-hopping through the halls of the Gansevoort Hotel
DAY 3-Holding was at the modern Gansevoort Hotel in the meatpacking district of the West Village -which was now one of the trendiest areas of NYC complete with the latest fashion clothiers, restaurants and the quaint cobble stoned streets of a bygone era.  One of them provided a scary spill for me as I stumbled to the ground.  No worries -I bounce.

Only a few of us were selected for this scene but getting us dressed into our traditional Norwegian duds was a back-and-forth deal from one hotel room for wardrobe to another hotel room for makeup, with rest stops along the way in the lobby... a kind of musical suites.  But eventually we were put into a van and driven over to Weehawken, New Jersey.  You just know you have to touch base with Jersey if you're in a mob movie -even if it's a Norwegian mob movie.  Here we were given lunch inside a sumptuous restaurant built on a restructured pier which jutted out into the Hudson River and providing a panoramic view of the NYC skyline.  Very elegant.
Entertaining each other on the Tour Bus
Once fed, we were now put into yet another van and told that we were going to La Guardia Airport!?  But it was close to rush hour now and the Lincoln Tunnel was full of traffic and carbon monoxide.  Our van didn't have air-conditioning and the temperature was increasing inside.  The windows had to be opened and we were all treated to the voluminous fumes of the surrounding buses...CAUGH!  CAUGH!  But we persevered and once we saw the light at the end of the tunnel, we just knew that oxygen was not far away.
Director and sound-man on bouncing bus
The director, Geir Henning Hopland, rode the bouncing bus with us along with the camera man, script lady and sound man.  He decided that he wasn't going to wait another hour to get to the airport and gave his crew the ok to start filming.  And so... as we slowly did a stop-and-go crawl down 42nd Street's congested traffic, the retakes went bouncily well.  Our "tour-guide" began his script and proceeded to point out where the Norwegian composer Ole Bull lived and played fiddle from his building's roof.  And that THIS was the inspiration for a Jew to compose the musical of "Fiddler On The Roof"!  Yah?  (Of course that was a lot of bull -Ole Bull lived from 1810 to 1880 and Jerry Bock, the composer of FOTR lived from 1928 to 2010. Not much of a chance of seeing each other.)  But we "gullible tourists" ate it all up with scripted Minnesotan expressions of "Don't you know?" (aka "I never knew that!).  And soon the filming ended... our "tour guide" and cameraman hopped off the bus in midtown (made me think of the Hop-On/Hop-Off tour buses that ran in every county in the world) and the rest of us continued on to the airport.  Truly an entertaining experience.

At the airport we were given back our original clothes and vouchers to fill out as we were wrapped. Someone mentioned that we would not be left stranded here but that we would be driven back to the Gansevoort Hotel.  Four of us took advantage of that offer and we were treated to some interesting anecdotes from our young driver about the movie-making attitudes of the Norwegians.  It would appear that they do not condone the rough yelling and inconsiderate treatment of the crew (including us extras) -as some other movie makers do.  Instead they prefer to use a gentle and more humane approach toward all.  And indeed, I can attest, that was the case here.  No one ever yelled "QUIET ON THE SET" at the top of their lungs or any other rude exclamations laced with expletives like "SHUT THE FUCK UP!".  No... the Norwegians were kind and considerate and did a successful job without any of the egotistic antics.  What a concept... to respect one another.  Who'd a thunk it?

And the best part: nothing was "lost in translation".


*http://www.fastcompany.com/1814701/lilyhammer-netflix-wants-destroy-traditional-tv-get-you-hooked-all-once-watching

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Jamie Foxx Electro-fies Spiderman

Made up to look like the president of the NERD-fest club, Jamie Foxx was having a great time with us between takes. He flirted with the girls and danced a few steps between takes. Luckily there was an army of paparazzi around to capture us in the background.  And of course they posted their photos that same night -and since there were soooo many photos, I picked out only the ones that I was in.




The shoot itself went relatively fast.  Jamie walking down the street in a typical "disgruntled employee" style: huffing and puffing, gesticulating in the air and bumping into people who inadvertently knocked off his glasses.    He makes a sharp turn into the office building and slams his way through the doors.  THAT, basically was all there was to this scene in front of the Hearst Tower on NYC's 8th Avenue -which was now doubling as the fictitious OSCORP building in the story.

Hearst Tower on 57th Street
Unlike the last time I was in Spiderman, where director Sam Raimi updated us on all of the backstory -on this set, there was no such "intimate" interaction with the background people.  The PA's were nice to us and gave us whatever we needed -but that special (caring) Raimi-touch was missing. I had no idea who the director was supposed to be at this shoot.

There were a few other background extras recruited for a "rainy night" scene later on (apparently they were told to bring raincoats) but I was happy with my small bg-role and the fact that I was able to be part of this second coming of the Amazing Spider Man.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

UMLP... starring Hugh Grant‏

Hugh Grant
Don't you just love those ambiguous projects where you have no idea what you're getting involved in -you just go because... it's there (and it pays).  This was one of those excursions, albeit with a pleasant surprise.  Hugh Grant was the big star and from what some of the other extras were saying,
Marisa Tomei
Marisa Tomei was in it as well. The working title, "Untitled Mark Lawrence Project", was in honor of the director.

Marc Lawrence
Holding was at a new studio experience for me, SIR STAGE 37 on the west side of Manhattan near the Javits Center... in fact, the set WAS the Javits Center!  It was scouted to be an airplane terminal for both New York and LA!

I was just here the other week with my wife for the car show and now I was here to be in a Hugh Grant movie.  But no one told us what the movie was going to be about.  The best I could surmise from the two scenes that we had to wear dark and subsequent light clothings for, was that of a lonely traveler, Hugh, who was apparently some kind of a celebrity in his own right.  As he passes through the fake airport screening devices and collects his shoes, the airport guards all want to shake his hand!?  Unfortunately, I was not near enough to the dialogue to hear anything definitive.

Hugh was strictly business.  He didn't interact with any of us -only the director et al.  He kept his head down and seemed rather sad. His signature gestures of constantly running his fingers through the hair was missing. But the day went by quickly.  I met a few friends from previous gigs and helped a young Ukrainian girl with her first-time-as-an-extra experience.  She was relatively new in the US, had a green card for her ID and spoke English with a heavy accent.  I also met a tall middle-aged woman who was an "inventor" of an "immigrant control process" (an interesting juxtaposition with my Ukrainian friend) and held the patent which she'd been trying to hawk to government agencies for the past 12 years.  She ran out of ideas so I recommended that she take her "cause" to one of the NYC radio stations that holds an open forum for various types of political discussions.

Another woman was having problems with getting work after she joined the SAG-AFTRA union.  I've heard  of this before, from my more advanced extra-friends.  I suppose the cost of the extra pay for union members makes them somewhat less viable for regular work selection.  I could only advise her to complain to her casting agencies (maybe the squeaky wheel can get some oil... or work, in her case).  Unfortunately, this aspect of bg-work discourages me from wanting to eventually join up with the union. But I still need my 3rd waiver before I mull that over again!

The 2 scenes went quick and we were fed a regular warm lunch followed by deproping and a wrap-call! And, I might have another gig on Sunday to another one of those mysterious "project" titled shows: "The Untitled Columbia Pictures Project".  Ahhhh... the working life of an unaffiliated extra.


Tuesday, April 09, 2013

ROYAL PAINS in the ice


HankMed Team: Paulo Costanzo and Mark Feuerstein
I didn’t know if I was going to make it to this gig at all! 
It was on the day after I did The Ordained, which went very late and I only got an hour’s sleep before I had to get up in the cold morning chill and prepare a few clothing-change options for this shoot at a relatively nearby Long Island location.  I was foggy and bleary-eyed as I rushed a couple of haphazard “summer outfits” into my clothing bag.  As it turned out, the shoot was at Oheca (rhymes with Bohica) Castle in Woodbury.  
Oheca Castle's "back yard"
The scene was that of a fashion show, and we were all to be a mix of fashionistas, models and wait-staff.  My light jacket and white pants passed muster but had to be accessorized with a rainbow-tie and colorful pocket handkerchief.  The wardrobe guru was pleased and I was now part of the glitterati procession –which included some very attractive tall young female and male models dressed in various expressions of bizarre fashion.   And then the atmosphere got more bizarre.

An announcement was made by one of the PA’s that the shoot was an all-day exterior scene and that we would be paid and extra $250 for our “commitment” (CA-CHING!!!).  It seems that a bunch of extras had already left because none of us were told that we would spend our day outside in frigid, albeit sunny weather –in our SUMMER CLOTHING!?!  The exodus of extras was stalled when the extra-pay-incentive was announced.  Nonetheless, some had decided that being outside in mid-30 degree weather was just not worth it… and packed up to leave.  A new announcement was made that we could wear our winter coats in-between shoots and that other amenities would be provided to keep us warm (chemical heating pads for our hands and feet).  That seemed to calm most fears of the upcoming inhumane working conditions.  The rest of us were greedy enough to risk compromising our health for the extra cash.  I stayed because I wanted to experience the environs of Oheca Castle and ogle the shapely models.


Sam (and the rest of us) trying to stay warm between takes
A few hours passed by and we were all taken to the set outside and placed on our 1’s.  It was breezy and the occasional gusts were making it a frigid experience.  As each of the scenes started up, we had to take off our winter coats and “act like it was the middle of summer”!  At first it was bearable as we all walked about an opulently fountained lawn area that had a round cat-walk at its center.  Models would parade on top of it as a pretty-golden-panted blond “dress-designer” took her bows for the new line of coordinated-shmatta-shiek.  Some of the principals (Mark Feuerstein et al) would dialogue and the rest of us just jaunted about the pebbled paths with mimed obeisance.


Extras with coats between the "summer scene" takes
I was paired with an interesting man, Sam –who as it turned out had a Russian accent with a passion for speaking French and discussing philosophy.  During our chilled waits for “ACTION!” our topic drifted toward the question of whether humanity is getting better or worse.  He explained that he and his wife were optimistic about the future of humanity –I was not.  I put the blame on the ever-increasing world population and the Earth’s diminishing resources.  Eventually, humans would have to compete desperately for food and at that point most of us would be reduced to our brutal “survival instincts”.  Other dour examples provided by me were the ever-increasing mass-murders in recent history a la the “intelligent proponents” of Nazi Germany (doctors, scientists, writers) who intentionally destroyed millions of lives, Stalin’s brutal murders of his own people, today’s terrorists and the lack of compassion in general for the human individual (perhaps inspired by our shivering as the incessant retakes of our scenes continued into the evening hours). 

Fortunately Sam was a good conversationalist with stimulating topics that also provided some laughs and word games which diverted our attention from the gusty cold, as well as the scene specifics that were robotically proceeding around us as time flew by.  By dawn we were frozen and each time we were allowed to go inside to warm up, there were less and less extras to be found for the next scene.  As a few of us were picked for an exterior evening shot, the rest of us were thankful to have been passed over for selection.  We sat around our holding table drinking warm fluids and chatted incessantly (about several “meal violations”; and where was the union representative when we really needed one…).  But the chatter was energizing and it was as though life had returned into our frosted bodies.  Unfortunately, I felt my nose start to get stuffy and a deepening in my voice as laryngitis began to kick in.  The cold temperature exposure and the lack of sleep from last night’s late gig had culminated in my getting sick.

The first to be dismissed were those who had come by bus.  The rest of us, who self-reported by car would have to wait for another two hours before it was felt that our usefulness for the day had been tapped out.  After our vouchers were approved and signed, three of us extras banded together to walk to our cars in the pitch darkness of the cold spring night over Oheca Castle.  It was a few minutes walk to the lot, but we all felt great at the prospects of getting into our cars and turning on the HEAT –basking in the joy that we would be warm bodies again… and contemplating the real meaning of ROYAL PAINS.

Party time with THE ORDAINED in the Bowery


For a while, my ride into the city on the Long Island Rail Road was restful, until the conductor informed me that the train was still a “peak-time-train” and that I would have to pay the extra money for the appropriate ticket.  I should have taken the later train and risk missing my call time of 10:30 AM in the Bowery section of Manhattan.  I should know better by now… that it takes a while to process people and that being late by half-an hour would be “acceptable”… but I just can’t bring myself to do that.  I’m a stickler for keeping my engagements on time. I guess that would classify me as an obsessive compulsive personality –but the truth is that I love a challenge and like to achieve my goals as planned… or in this case, “ordained”.

I arrived camera-ready in my tuxedo at the tightly spaced holding area of China-town’s Ukrainian church! The PA’s were cordial and smart so the sign-in processing went fast and soon we were taken over to the set at the old Bowery Savings Bank (an 1895 Roman Revival landmark desgned by Stanford White). It was yet another New York City legacy building that had been converted into a Cipriani-style banquet hall going by the name of Capitale.  Huge Corinthian columns on the interior were holding up a vast 65-foot high ceiling above marbled floors that was now complete with hanging stage lights and speakers.  The scene was to be that of a fundraiser gala for the latest Hollywood version of a New York City mayor… played by Hope Davis in a shapely red dress.  There was no doubt who the center of attraction was  going to be.
  

I had seen Hope in a successful Broadway play with James Gandolfini, Jeff Daniels and Marcia Gay Harden (God of Carnage).  She was very good albeit the least known of the four at the time.  With a serious countenance there’s something about her that is reminiscent of a young Hilary Clinton… a role that Hope already played in "The Special Relationship" back in 2010.  Perhaps she's starting to get the ole' political typecast treatment.

Hope and Hillary
The PA’s paired us up with partners to sit at the banquet tables.  My partner was a pretty blond, Nicola, whose origins and consequent accent hailed from South Africa.  We chatted it up and felt comfortable with exchanging acting stories.  Although she had studied and done acting, she confided that this was her first experience as an extra.  When I told her that she looked a lot like the actress Jessica Chestain, she admitted that she didn't know who that was!?
  
Nicola
A short time later, one of the attractive black women standing nearby also remarked to her that she could easily be a stand-in for Jessica.  Now her interest in Jessica Chestain was really aroused! I expect she'll be IMDB-ing her soon.

Jessica
The woman continued the conversation with my partner, asking if she had an English or Australian accent.  Upon revelation, the black woman said “So you’re really an African-American!”.  Laughter and friendly banter ensued.  It was a replay of a former pronouncement made by Charlize Theron during an interview on a talk show.  This gig was a particularly uplifting experience for me since I was constantly paired with attractive women.  It brought back memories of when I was a kid going to school, and how much I got a kick out of sitting next to the prettiest girl in the class room... or anywhere else for that matter!

Soon this show began to roll and we were given direction to mingle around the party room at various tables.  We were eventually placed next to where Hope Davis’ scenes were taking place with her “brother” played by Boardwalk Empire’s Charlie Cox.
Charlie Cox
The story line was that he had left the priesthood in order to become a lawyer so that he could be near to... and protect his sister, the mayor, from an assassination attempt.  There were kids in the scene and even a baby…. which was a recipe for lots of repeat takes.  That, and the director’s finicky indulgence toward perfection, made the day… and night stretch out… to 2:30 AM.
director RJ Cutler
The subways don’t run too often at this time of the night and I didn't want to risk missing the last train out of Penn Station –which might have caused me to wait an extra 2 hours for the trains to begin running again. I decided to take a taxi to Penn Station and caught the 3:10 AM home for some well-needed rest.  After getting home at 4:15 AM , I had to check my email first –and lo and behold there was my confirmation check-in number for tomorrow’s gig on Long Island.  By the time I organized my info it was 5 in the morning and I had to set my alarm clock to 6! 

It’s just… Us and Them


Mandy Moore
The casting agency called me the day before to keep calling back for a gig in a new pilot.  I was apprehensive to do any background work due to a minor medical procedure I had a few days ago.  But I was feeling better and wanted to get my mind off of worrying –so I persisted in calls back to the agency and they came through.

US and THEM is the name of a new ABC TV pilot starring Mandy Moore of singing fame –unfortunately, she wasn't in today’s scene.  She’d been transitioning toward acting in the past few years, doing cameo roles and now landed the lead role of a newlywed in this show.  “Us and Them” refers to the distinction that she is learning to make between family members, friends and others -and the ensuing emotional complications that arise whenever allegiances need to be made.

Call time was for 7:30 AM at a Greek Orthodox Church near the movie house set.  I got there an hour early to avoid any lateness due to the notorious Belt Parkway traffic from my home, as well as to make sure I got parking.  Two other extras had the same idea and we commiserated about how nothing was set up for us (i.e. breakfast) and the brutally cold weather that just didn’t want to leave –even though we were now into the days of Spring. To warm ourselves up, we walked down the block where we found an open McDonald's and I suggested we go for the $1-any-size-coffe they were hawking on the billboards.  An hour later crafty got set up and we all had a second helping of coffee along with a sumptuous choice of breakfast goodies which included a veggie-juicer option.  Drinking that vegetable juice while it’s still fresh, is like feeling renewed life injected into your body!

While waiting to go to set I was surprised to find that the young woman at the next chair was studying to be an environmental lawyer.  She was very keen on all the “green issues” and proceeded to inform me about every one of them.  Another woman sat down and began to discuss how necessary it is to have your own business and to diversify your activities (she was both a tour guide and a real-estate agent)!?  Remarkable. You can learn a lot from these impromptu lectures while sitting around in holding.

Our role was to be movie patrons watching a movie.  Some of us were spread around 2 of the principals, arguing in the middle of the movie.  The funny part of this whole set up was that the regular movie shown in this theater was continuously running while the crew was filming us. 


As it happened, the movie was “Identity Thief” with Melissa McCarthy and Jason Bateman –with the sound turned off.  Nonetheless, we could all follow the story and couldn't help cracking up laughing at inopportune moments of the US and Them filming… the director had to keep admonishing us not to laugh since it interfered with their shoot.  The movie house was rented for only a short period of time and the rumor was that the automated film-schedule that’s usually in progress at this theater couldn't be interrupted –hence the freebie, albeit silent movie… whether we wanted it or not!


Scene setup inside the movie theater
After hearing this, we knew it would be a real short day.  And it was!  They paid us for the whole day and released us by noon.  I got home at 1:30 PM.  No lunch on set but that was OK with me… lunch at home is always good to look forward to.

Murder In Manhattan –who cares?


Bridgette Regan with friend
Rush call again to a new pilot entitled "Murder in Manhattan" with Annie Potts and Bridgette Regan.  After checking out their bios on IMDB, and getting some arousing reviews from my son about her role in "Legend of the Seeker", I was really looking forward to catching a glimpse of Bridgette.  The pilot’s story dealt with a mother / daughter detective team.  Zzzzzzz.

The first scene was an upscale restaurant –across the street from where we filmed Alpha House just the other week.  The majority of us extra were put in the shadows at the back of the restaurant as “atmosphere” for the main action which was Annie Potts toasting someone of something.  (I remember Annie Potts from "Ghostbusters" and "Designing Women" -her performances are always memorable.)
 
Annie Potts
We were all too far from the center of the main activity to know anything about the scene, and no one told us anything… only a tall PA kept screaming at us to “SHUT UP!” (How rude?!)  We “gentle extras” usually don’t get that kind of a treatment from our “hosts”, and it immediately put us into a bad mood to be treated like that.  Not a good portent for the success of this project.

The second scene dealt with us being pedestrians as red-haired Bridgette and her dark-haired female companion walk by in conversation.  It was an exterior shoot in front of the Hippodrome Building near Bryant Park and the weather was chilly.  Bridgette was stunning but somehow transparent… as though she didn't effect anything. Her companion said something about “sex” and gesticulated as though she was frustrated.  That’s about all I caught as we were told to walk past them. 

Later on the wind kept kicking up, and some of the others began to sneak into the lobby of the Hippodrome to take refuge from the cold.  Luckily it was a short day –we were released at noon!  Great… but the lingering feeling here was that there was no sense of caring about this project.  For some reason, working on this set gave me one of the most meaningless sensations I've ever encountered.  Joy Behar expresses this sentiment best as: "So what –who cares... so what?"

First... and probably the last impressions at the Actors Studio



A triple appointment day –very rare for me to be that busy these days.   In the morning I had to go to Brooklyn’s Steiner Studios for a fitting to be on the 4th season of Boardwalk Empire.  I was cast as a “political dignitary” going to a Chicago mayoral rally… that goes bad.  Excellent!  But it took them 2 hours to get me into the correct fitting of a 1924-ish suit.  Most of the delay dealt with getting “remote approval” via iPhone photos from the head wardrobe lady, Lisa.  She wasn't on site and I found out later that her dog, Gus, had been run down by a car.  I remembered Gus from my last fitting here.  He was special in that he was part of the “wardrobe experience”… I’ll miss him.

Finally, I got out and made my second appointment on Long Island… barely.  The third one would be in Manhattan, the Actors Studio.  I called them a long time ago to be put on a waiting list for going to one of their plays and finally got the invitation.  I was to be one of about sixty or so people in the audience.  A few of us arrived early and were trying to figure out which of the three doors to enter.  They all seemed to be locked.  But since the show wasn't starting for another hour… I decided to seek a place to hang-out.

After walking around the block for a while to kill some time, I decided to settle on a small “hole in the wall” wine bar across the street from the studio.  It was appropriate to my mood –the name of the place was “Wine Escape”.  I went in and sat down at the nearest chair by the lengthy bar… chatted with the only other  patron while the bartender poured me a glass of fantastic Malbec.  It was a busy day for me and I needed the calming atmosphere that this low-lit place provided.  Soon I was nibbling on olives, a bit buzzed and really didn't want to leave.  But more patrons were arriving and suddenly the place was crowded.

Reluctantly, I left the bar and went over to the studio on the other side of the street.  After figuring out which door to enter, a rather surly elderly man immediately asked if I had my invitation.  Luckily I brought the copy of the email, presented it to him, and in his brusque manner (sans “Hrrrumph”) efficiently checked me off his list.

James Lipton
So… I was finally here –HERE, inside this theatrically historic method actors’ “shrine”: THE ACTORS STUDIO! I was almost feeling the ghosts of Marilyn, Marlon and Newman and James Lipton... ooops, not James -he's still  doing live acting (albeit strange).

And while I gazed around the small living-room-like-lobby, I spotted a Craigs-List-special-couch that looked very inviting.  I sat and watched more people arriving… and one of them was now next to me, sharing the comfy-now-cozy couch.  We chatted a bit and he told me that it was his wife who really dragged him here.  He was a lawyer and he was just taking it all in stride.  I was disappointed.  I was sure he’d be one of the actors attending “The Actors Studio”.  He seemed like one -but maybe it was just my wine-induced wishful thinking.

An interesting large sign on my right side attracted my attention.  Hanging on the wall was a kind of “credo”… a “mission statement”… perhaps even a warning of sorts in “must-readable” large type, stating (visions of a town-crier) that everyone here was “working on a volunteer basis”.   Hmmmm, it kind of reminded me of the School of Practical Philosophy, where I once met the actor Remak Ramsay. Here, I just took in all the impressions created by the modest furniture, the low-key understated atmosphere and the “people-of-all-ages” crowd who were gathering in this small "lobby-scene".  And then the lights flashed, and an announcement was made to take our seats.  Entrance to the theater was up a very narrow set of steps -so it was a while before we all got settled in.  We could actually take any available seat as there were no seat assignments.  Very democratic.

I sat in the front row near the “narrator” of the play.  There was no “stage” per se –only an open area with some chairs, a low table and a set of screen-dividers, the type that could be used for privacy to change clothes (in the play they were used to symbolize a ride in an elevator).  The seat-rows were staggered in height so there was no problem seeing for those in the back.  There were also two balconies on either side of the theater.  It was plain –one had to realize that it was all about the actors… and their interactions with each other, the minimalist props and ultimately us.

The play entitled “Existing Privilege”, started with a short announcement from the narrator about the time and place of the scene.  The actors came out in more or less plain clothing… carrying their lines in a black loose-leaf book.  I didn't expect it to be a reading.  At one point in the play, one of the actors had a different version of the lines than the others.  She began to “break character” and started to share her partner’s book –looking down at the “expressive” lines, barely getting through her part without cracking up laughing.  The play seemed to center on a development of relationships both political and sexual, but the characters were somehow miscast and it was difficult to feel anything for them or the story-line.

What can I say?  It was a play “read-through”… not great… just a play.  Meh?  
But my bigger disappointment here was that I had “expected” both actors and directors to be “rehearsing”, and the director to give various types of coaching to the actors, from which I and the rest of the audience might have learned something about “stage acting”.  But no.  I was attending a reading rendition of the play –and not an actual “teaching session” that I had hoped for.  The intermission was pretty good –they had free coffee and yet another narrow hallway (eventually leading to the bathroom), with photos of many of the legendary actors who studied here. Very museum-like.


Marlon and Marilyn
The play eventually ended with a bang (one of the characters got shot).  The audience mulled around -quietly putting on their coats.  I was not inspired, didn't sense any "method" -and so I left and reflected only on the fact that I’d been to the legendary Actors Studio, followed by another reflection of my short time at the Wine List bar across the street… each had its own effect of a dulling sensation on me.  

Chalk it up to an "eventful day".