I like to leave ten day chunks in my blog to drive down readership every once in a while. Also, there are times when my thoughts really should remain private. I don’t have the ability to do anyone any harm, but I think people may think I’m trying to injure them at times, so it’s best that I don’t say anything.

There is a funny dichotemy that I’ve discovered in the theater world between, and these are terrible terms so bear with me, “musical theater” actors and “straight” actors. Despite the fact that there is so much similarity between being an actor on stage who sings by himself and an actor on stage delivering a soliloquy, the kinds of personalities it draws are totally different.

I started out as a musical theater guy. For years, there was a sense that the people I was in the show with were all either not living up to my standards, or that they believed I wasn’t living up to theirs. In order to succeed in musical theater, there is an understanding that you have to be a triple threat, able to sing like the very best singers, dance like the very best dancers and act with as much skill as the best actors. Hugh Jackman who can do all three is the model.

Because there are three disciplines, there is no way to survive without an almost militaristic work ethic, and that bleeds into the productions. There is a perception that a joke has a correct delivery, that blocking can be devised that is the *ultimate* use of space and contrast, that there is a mysterious set of perfect light cues that need to be uncovered and discovered. I don’t mean to describe this as humorless, because there is also a lot of love in musical theater, in fact there is a lot more of a sense of “magic” being created than in straight theater, where it leans more toward “expression”. In straight plays, I never hug my director, in musicals, everyone gets little cards and gifts for each other on opening night.

If you have eschewed the idea of being a good singer and a good dancer, then you focus just on acting, and you find that in order to live a complete life as a character, you need to be afforded a lot more latitude. In the same way that there is no perfect way to order a sandwhich (you may order it a thousand different ways, even if your motivation is the same) you realize that there is no perfect way to do the blocking, no perfect way to deliver a joke.

Straight theater can be really frustrating, especially when, for the sake of freedom and expression, your castmates or director start improvising shit that has nothing to do with the script. It’s a lot like people who believe they were Catherine the great in a past life, these actors want their characters to have fantastic storylines that they think will reveal some kind of truth. The number of times I’ve heard about a character’s relationship to their dad, which sounded suspiciously exactly like the actor’s, is beyond my ability to count. They keep journal entries, they take to wearing similar costumes in regular life, and they are unreliable to *deliver the lines that are written*.

I’m describing extremes here, but the theater world has, on one end, a group of micro-managing emotionally explosive musical lovers who quote the show “Fame” without realizing it, and on the other end you have a group of free-wheeling darkly brooding professional pretenders who sink into their characters so much that they ignore the scripts that their characters are based on.

Obviously, I don’t find myself at home with either group. I have a deep love of musicals, but I’m always surprised at how very little fun people are having in rehearsal. There is a sense that opening is impending doom, that one must have a perfected set of business and blocking in order to be prepared to go into the show, and every single run before opening has that desperate air of either proudly remembering every “bit”, or of feeling lost when left to your own devices.

But I have to say, I’m usually less at home in the casts of straight plays. A total hands off technique when it comes to lines and blocking, and I certainly feel, y’know, *respected*, but I don’t feel like the material is. The rehearsals are always confusing affairs for me, stretches of time playing children’s games and talking about scenes our characters might do that *aren’t* in the script.

It’s easy for me, I’m just a actor, I can talk as much shit as I want and go into every situation and say, “That’s not it, nope, that’s not it.” But I can also tell you that I’ve been in several plays in the last five years where the actual lines were the lines we all delivered, and we had a sense of when and where it would be best to enter and exit and when to cross, but we also had the freedom to play a moment, to use the audience and the other actors to shape a performance. There is some really nice common ground, that I have found when I work with directors that, to be fair, I have hand-picked.

I will say this, if I had to chose a side to fall on, I’d chose to quit. I enjoy the shows where there is no structure and the shows where there is a micro-managed veneer, but only as much as I enjoy a recording session or a writing session. It’s very rewarding and it’s better than digging ditches, but it doesn’t make me feel any more alive, and it’s an incredible amount of work for what amounts to very little pay. I have, unfortunately, set the bar at what is rewarding, and sometimes it’s just too high.