The Work

During the last two decades, I have had two problems with my acting career.

The first problem was trying to figure out how to make it more than simply doing the actual work on stage, how to create a mystique about me or my life or whatever so that the auditions wouldn’t be quite so blind. I want to be a part of a community that makes plays (and, I guess, movies) and I want that community to trust me and know what I can do.

I grew up as a classical musician, practicing X hours a day, expecting each and every note to be played in the right place and in tune. I have a standard for the artistic process that is fairly high, and the professional associates I have usually match or exceed that standard. But most of the theater world consider their stage work to be a means to an end, and so there are very few people that I trust to make theater with.

Too many designers are excited by how distracting their designs can be. Too many directors are moved by the amount of obvious work they have done to a piece of theater, the over-the-top refinements that let the audience know that the director shaped the show. Too many actors read reviews and glad-hand casting directors after the show, yet when you look in their eyes on stage the only thing you see behind the glassy vacant exterior is a vague sense of panic.

Too many producers care only about money. I know, they should care about money. But there are a *lot* of better ways of making money than theater, so if all you care about is money, get the hell out.

So, it’s been difficult for me to build a larger reputation because, although I have been invited back virtually everywhere I’ve worked, I’m generally so grateful to be done with the show that I just keep moving on.

The second battle in my career has been one for respect. Not just personal respect, but respect for the craft and for the other actors.

I have never produced a show in New York where the artists weren’t compensated. We even offered metrocards to the cast of Second String who were doing a fundraiser. When we work with someone who lacks imagination or talent or work ethic, we’re generally pretty disappointed, but we’re still respectful.

If someone comes in and designs your set, pay them. But, if you can’t pay them, and they know that, then don’t start telling them that this is an opportunity for *them* to show their work. Thank them for donating their time and energy.

That goes for your actors as well. Pay them. Go ahead and pay them. But if you can’t pay them, make sure that they know that the show *would not exist* without them. I am so sick of directors and producers thinking they are doing *me* a favor by letting me be in their shows.

You know what? Don’t do me any favors. Acting is hard, and I work really hard at it, and a lot of times it isn’t any fun. Try playing the part of Oliver in Act 5 of a three hour As You Like It with kids in the audience, it isn’t fun. Y’know, just as an example.

So, when you offer me a role, talk to me about the character. Talk to me about why you think I will be the person who can bring this character to life. Because if you talk about how you are giving me an opportunity, I will be phoning it in from then on.

The director of the last show I was in, when he called to offer me the above mentioned role, he said, “many of the productions I’ve seen have let this role go to a ‘bad guy’ actor, and then they’ve just suffered through the end. I feel like you are going to be able to make this guy real. There’s a balance between the first and the last act that seems impossible on the page, but you’ve got a way of fighting for your characters that makes me love them even when they’re mean.”

I don’t need me ego stroked, but you can tell that he loves the characters. And that’s the fight I’m gonna keep having, the fight to make people respect the craft. In classical music, the craft is holy, no-one becomes a second violinist to get girls or fame. No-one practices clarinet for six hours a day because they think it’s sexy. I just wish acting was the same way. I wish models were trying to be violinists and they let us do the acting.

By the way, while it’s possible that no-one practices clarinet for six hours a day because they think it’s sexy, when they play the glissando at the beginning of Rhapsody In Blue, I’m pretty sure they expect panties to be thrown on stage.