Tuesday, August 21, 2012

She's a Byrd Dog...

Michelle Wade Byrd (Co-Head CD of Betty Mae Casting). Incredibly nice. Completely approachable. Extremely knowledgeable. And, loves her job.

I went to her workshop at Actors Advantage Studio last night.  Instead of preparing a scene, I opted for a cold read.  This was a tough decision for me as my instincts say if you have the option to pick your own scene and just blow someone away with your full, rich performance - do it. But I also need to sharpen my skills dramatically when cold reading. Michelle is no one to scoff at. She was a tall wall to scale in terms of this experiment.

Betty Mae Casting is one of the most respected casting agencies in town. They just wrapped the casting of Darren Aronofsky's "Noah" (wow...I get goosebumps thinking about the possibilities of this film, I LOVE Aronofsky) and they currently cast about ten projects at once (because so many movies and projects don't go forward or get put on hold or one thousand circumstances that are normal for Hollywood projects come up "unforeseen").  Betty Mae is also doing a worldwide search at the moment for the right actor in the role of Tupac Shakur via video submission. Surprisingly, they've only received about 300 submissions. Say what?!! WorldWIDE?! How funny is that? You'd think people would be jumping like rabbits to get their Tupac on.

Anyway, Betty Mae is the place to be known. Tons of indie films go through there as well - and I hope to begin building a great relationship with the associates there so that I'm always on the radar.

For our cold reads, Michelle paired the actors up. When I received my scene, my heart almost sank. I had read it before online and did NOT connect so I had to stir a major pot pronto in order to find my character and her emotional journey in the given script. Conrad (my scene partner) and I went outside to prepare. From "The Air I Breathe" script, I was to play Sorrow - a 20 year old pop star with no sense of real identity because its been honed and also swallowed by the masses. Conrad was an interviewer with whom Sorrow was quite familiar, but instead of giving her a standard interview - he turns the tables and asks her some surprisingly uncomfortable and inappropriate questions that unveil her insecurities and nearly break her down on-camera.

It's a very intense scene and I'm not 20 anymore, kids. However, I worked diligently to create the essence of a young woman who is deeply sad, but can instantly "turn it on" for those fans watching, a girl who hides behind a sexy, sweet persona in public but really just needs a good long sob and someone to hold her. Well? It's true! I know it sounds cheesy, but most of the time the needs are simple. Incredibly famous people just want to be loved for who they are, not what they are famous for. Janis Joplin is a marvelous example. She could never let go of the gut-wrenching rejection she felt for YEARS growing up, especially in grade school. You continuously see her pain in interviews, her desperation to hide it in a carefree smile, and the channeling of such intense energy and pain into the most thrilling rock and roll of all time.

The result? Conrad and I did the scene. We made it as real as possible. We improvised an ending that caused Sorrow to jump up from her chair, repelled by the embarassing intensity of not knowing the Interviewer's name, even though she's talked to him on more than three separate occasions.  Michelle responded with great enthusiasm and delight at our interpretation of the scene. She said that she loved our work and did not need to make an adjustment for a second performance, so we were good to go and it was a pleasure.

Not bad for a cold read. I was happy with the evening. I'm also happy to know that my instincts are getting stronger and sharper.

Next stop, Lisa Beach at Actor's Key this coming Saturday. Preparing a scene this time...

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