Playbackpontificated on the greatest experience of my collegiate career. It also featured Dan and Jen, those two love birds who became an item through the play. Playback II saw Darius and Shanice take center stage (pardon the pun). This, the final in the trilogy, delves into all the rest: From how it came to be... to where it's taken me
IN THE BEGINNING...
Growing up on shows like Full House, Family Matters, The Wonder Years, Saved By The Bell, and Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (just to name a "few"), a part of me has always wanted to be...
And last but not least, Will Smith
We laughed with them. We laughed at them. Because of these cats, as well as some others, I've always been intrigued by acting -- even at the tender age of five
MACBET -- SHHHH!
Freshmen year in high school a friend and I caught Macbeth. I was fascinated by the unspoken sense of camaraderie that each of the actors carried on-stage. As the final act concluded, everyone in that sold out theatre cheered on the actors as they took their graceful bows. The image of those proud thespians grinning like cheshire cats would forever leave an indeliable mark. I knew then and there, ONE day, I had to be up there on the stage One day... I had to be up there
It became a tradition for me and my friend to catch every single play our high school put on. He came to the shows for the extra credit -- and I did too, but secretly, I went for the pure love that I'd developed for the theatre. I remember the 2nd play we went to had all these elaborate fight scenes, and it really resonated with a part of my being. It only reinforced what I had already known. I gotta get on that stage some how, some way, some day
By hook or crook!
Every play I went to, there was always this incredible buzz in the air. Parents and friends. The bright lights, the whole nine. I would sit in the audience thinking to myself, "Man... this is where it's at. I need to get me some of this!"
There was one play in high school that I'll always remember. The stage was so elaborate... so elegant... that sitting there in the dark, with the bright stage being illuminated like a firefly floating in the night... it was nothing short of pure magic. Combining simplicity, power, and a certain ineffable grace of design, I just sat in sheer awe that entire evening. There was something magical about theatre... and I made a promise to myself that night:
If it's the last damn thing I do in this life, I am going to make it in a play...
That was freshman year in high school.... 1997
The fateful night in which I made that promise
A lot has happened since...
THE NOT-SO-WONDER YEARS
My first three years in high school were at times awkward to say the least. My family moved when I was in the 7th grade. I missed my old hometown so much and was slow to adapt. In those early high school years I did my best to just blend in with the crowd. Not rock the boat. Conform. But by senior year I decided to take fate into my own hands. That year I got the wheels in motion; instead of merely dreaming, I was chasing it. "It" being the dream that three years ago on a cold Saturday evening, inside a sold out theatre, I'd vowed to myself
In the Spring of 2001, my final high school semester, I enrolled in Oral Composition and Theatre. It was time to walk in my own shoes... and to step away from the shadows and shackles of self-oppression
FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH
Thanks to Oral Comp and Theatre, my final senior semester was very special. It was in OC that I developed the art of public speaking. Theatre was likewise crucial. I was one of four seniors in that class. The rest were all cocky freshmen. So we had to show them how to respect their elders, y'see. Exerting our raw power and flexing our unmatched savvy on those kids, the very first week it was made crystal clear between the two camps just who ran the show -- WE DID
DID I EVER TELL YOU YER MAH HEEEEEE-RO
One freshman from that class I'll never forget. In a lot of ways he reminded me of.... me
Hugo and I acted a lot together, and generally had a great time throughout the semester. He was so mature for only being 14 years old -- in fact he was more mature than 85% of the seniors in my class (of 2001)!
GOOD kid. I saw a ton of potential in him. He was easily one of the top 3 actors in the class. And the kid... well, he adored me
*FLASHBACK TO 1998*
As a freshman, I looked up to a senior named TOMMY MOTHER F'N MACK. He had many associates and was quite popular but in reality was something of a lone wolf. A true rebel in a world of wannabe's. I shared a class with him my freshmen year. We paired up several times. As a result, I got to know the man pretty well. He told me some deep shit about him and his mom. I saw a warrior in Tommy Mack, and he reminded me of my older brother's friend. He became someone I admired quite a bit
One day after school my mom was driving me home when I saw Tommy walking down the street. Right as we passed by I stuck my head out the window, threw my fist in the air and shouted "TOM-ME!" Ah, to be 14 and innocent again. He threw up the peace sign and gave me a nod. As my mom drove on, I saw him in the distance bobbing his head to his walkman until he became a blur in a whirl of colors
3 years later, the tables have turned. Now I was Tommy, and Hugo was me. Life's funny, init. A couple years back now, circa 2004, John Cho was making the rounds advertising Harold and Kumar Goes To White Castle. He was speaking at Hugo's University one evening, so for the 1st time since high school, we saw each other again. Meeting up with him at his dorm, he took me around town and later that evening we saw Mr. Cho in the flesh
It was pretty dope; not so much seeing John Cho up-close conducting an hour long speech and Q&A session, but just catching up with my old dear acting partner and compadre. Pretty wild the road life can take you if you just put yourself out there. As my friend's dad used to say: 50% of life is just about showing up. Woody Allen says it's 99%. All I know for sure is, if you don't show up, the game is already lost
A NEW BEGINNING
As I developed my public speaking skills that year in Oral Comp, I honed my acting craft in Theatre. In a couple months, college came calling. I was so ecstatic. Finally, a chance to get away from the high school bullshit and grind. My very first class at University was "Beginning Acting" 8:30 AM sharp with Laura Smith, August 2001. First class session each of us did a quick introduction. I mentioned my high school theatre teacher as being an influence, and turns out he's one of Laura's best friends. So immediately we shared a connection. I took "Intermediate Acting" with Laura Smith sophomore year. We had a nice student-teacher relationship; in a way she was something of a semi-mentor. And little did I know then, that somehow Laura Smith and I would come full circle some years later...
I HAVE A DREAM...
It'd always been my dream to be in a school play, ever since that fateful night in the sold-out theatre my freshman year of high school circa '97. Whether I had one line, or one hundred, I just wanted to be able to say that I did it... that I was a part of that whole experience. So sophomore year in college I gave it my first crack. I auditioned with James Earl Jones' Field of Dreams monologue
I was not casted
The very next year, my junior year, I auditioned again. I came in the theatre at my assigned time, and found a panel of critics sitting in the theatre seats, near the front row. They studied my every movement, my every course of action. Off on the side, I noticed who else sitting there but.... Laura Smith! And she had with her her eight-year-old daughter. I felt comforted but at the same time... bad. I had some curse words. Oh well, I told myself. It's go time... This is it: now or never
For my second audition, I used Morgan Freeman's Shawshank Redemption monologue
... I know what you think it means, sonny. To me, it's just a made-up word. A politician's word, sonny. Young fellas like yourself can wear a suit and a tie and have a job
Not because I'm in here. Because you think I should
I gotta live with that. Rehabilitated? That's just a bullshit word. So you go on and stamp your form, sonny, and stop wasting my time
I remained seated there in my chair, still in character, with somewhat of a blank expression on my face. Out of the corner of my eye, I stole a glance at Laura Smith. She had a smile on her face and I knew I'd made her proud. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, the critics thanked me as they made their final notes and observations. "We'll post callbacks in two days. Thank you, Steve"
I made Laura and myself proud
It was a rainy night, and as I left the theatre that evening, the heavy rain splashing the sidewalk like fish flopping out of water, I felt good about my chances. I felt good about myself. I had given it my all. And even if I don't get called back, or casted, at least I knew in my heart I tried my best. And as Tim Robbins' character Andy tells Red (played by Morgan Freeman): "Get busy living.... or get busy dying."I knew which one I was doing
But once again, I was not casted
I wasn't getting any younger. But I trucked on, staying focused on completing my Theatre Arts minor, taking the acting classes required to do so. I had some great professors over the years: Kathleen Jones, Laura Smith and Harriet Carter. Since I had each of them in a couple classes throughout my collegiate career, a bond and connection we did share
Here's an email following my Shawshank audition that Laura Smith sent me:
From: Laura Smith Sent: Mon December 15, 2003 9:21 AM To: Steve
Steven: Life isn't always perfect. But what is more important is that you know what it takes, you have grown a lot this semester, and that is what I most care about. An outside "judge of talent" can't begin to understand the individual journies each of us have taken, nor can they understand our individual challenges. I think you made a lot of progress. Perhaps we all have learned something of value this semester. But art is always an unfinished journey, rewritten with each experience. We only need to give pause to understand where we have been in order to let it impact where we are going.
The Shawshank piece worked fine, as did, as I recall it, your Field of Dreams monologue last year, but you might want to build a stronger variety of audition pieces that are more in your age range.
My next piece of advice for you in your acting growth is don't try to plan a reaction so much as to hear what the other actor is giving you and respond in the moment. Allow yourself to be surprised. Generally speaking, young actors struggle with this the most. Keep your head up, because you really are improving all the time.
I haven't talked to John in a while, not since he had another child, I think he has been very busy as of late. [note: John was my high school theatre teacher]
Happy Holidays! Laura
DO OR DIE
Fall 2005. Now a senior, no longer the young puppy freshman I had once been, the promise I'd made in that sold-out theatre eight years ago had, thus far, gone unfulfilled. And just when I thought the sands of time might perish for good, one of my old acting professors, Kathleen Jones, stepped in
I'll never forget that Monday after Labor Day weekend of 2005. I was in Kathleen's acting class, chilling with my good friend Scott. Before we began our traditional body and vocal warm-up's, Kathleen called me up to the stage
In typical Scott fashion: "You're in trouble already?! DAMN, STEVE!"
I walked over to the stage and joked, "So what did I do now?"
"Steve, as you may know I'm directing the next school play. It opens later this month, and tonight we're having auditions..."
Sensing where she was going with this, my heart felt ready to leap out of my chest
".... and I'd love it if you come try out tonight"
"Me?" A mixture of shock and sarcasm
"Don't gimme that, mister," She retorted. "We both know what you can do on this stage. And there's a character in the play that I believe is right up your alley. So whadaya say? Swing by tonight at 7 and give it a shot?"
Well I told the bitch off. No, only kidding of course. I'll be there. As I started to walk away, I turned back. "And what if I'd said no?"
"How does an F for the semester sound?" She smiled, then clapped. "Alright guys form a circle! It's warm-up time!" Then she looked back at me and said softly, "See you tonight, Steve"
The rest of class and day was very much a dark blur. My best chance to make my dream a reality was TONIGHT. Perhaps my LAST chance. That evening I auditioned for the recommended character and got the gig! The whole she-bang was hands down the best experience of my entire collegiate career. The midnight rehearsals, the dressing room ribbing, cracking jokes backstage, the outside activities we did (lunch, clubbing, dinner, sleepover) and of course, the shows themselves. The dream I waited some 8 long years for was worth that much, and more
We rehearsed the play for two weeks, Monday nights through Friday nights, from 7 to 10 PM. When you're around people for that length of time, doing something as interactive as a play is, and when everyone's so passionate about it, you can't help but form strong bonds and a real deep, genuine sense of camaraderie
I remember that first night of rehearsal I took a private moment to stand center stage and look out to the hundreds of empty seats. I knew in 2 weeks, those seats would be filled with friends, family, and colleagues
I've finally made it, I told myself silently
I've finally made it...
Rehearsals were bloody intense. But since we got along so well, it was a smooth ride for the most part. The night before the play opened, we were in rehearsal until MIDNIGHT!
At 11:30 PM, our director Kathleen Jones gathered the troops. She stood just in front of the first row of theatre seats, and we all took our places sitting on the stage. What happened next, was simply surreal
Kathleen started crying. Tears streamed down her face like a school of fish swimming down the current. She told us how so very proud we had made her, for all of our hard work, all of our due diligence, and for "just being the wonderful, funny and genuine people that you are." She went through all 12 cast members, praising them for something they had done well. I was the last one she addressed
"Last but not least... Steve. Steve, Steve, Steve. I just want to say... WOW. I think there isn't a person in this room who hasn't been amazed by where you started, and how far you've come to get here. You're absolutely amazing and I have a tremendous amount of respect for you"
It's not every day we get to hear praise like that, so it definitely meant a lot to me, especially since it came from her heart
We ended the long session by bowing and paying our respects. Darius led us in a "power of unity and power in the team" speech. Driving home, at the witching hour, I never felt more proud of myself than I did at that moment in time
I loved them -- they were the best co-actors I could have ever asked for. One day, right after the cast was announced, six of us got together for lunch. It was me, Dan, Jen, Kate, Shanice and Pierre. Pierre is just like Darius, he's got an insatiable appetite for life. Like Darius, Pierre is also a pimp himself. P's kind of got this whole 80's Michael Jackson thing going for him, and on this particular day, he was sporting a top hat, gloves, the whole nine. Just the kind of cat he is
We went to this student-infested eatery slash pub just off campus. This spot is considered THE place to go for a bite or drink after or in-between classes. When we got there, people were greeting Pierre and slapping him high-fives at every turn of the way. He was like a rock star
And just as we're seated, what song comes up on the jukebox?
BILLY JEAN, of course
Pierre gets up, does a dance number and LITERALLY drives the entire place into a frenzy. Droves of college students were cheering Pierre on as he busted out his moves. The dude was simply a magnet for life... and that day the six of us shared some deep, profound dialogue over lunch. I mean, right away, the ice was not only broken... Pierre straight up obliterated it, and in the process, liberated each and every one of us
Being backstage for rehearsals was always a good time. Whenever we didn't have lines, or it wasn't our scene, we'd just chill out on the side backstage, half watching what was going on and half joking about whatever. It's really something words cannot do justice. We'd constantly, and I mean CONSTANTLY, rib on one another, girls and guys alike, and it really became like a family, as hokey as that may sound. But that's what it was
What a high this was
We performed the play six times over the course of two weekends
I'll never forget the goosebumps I had on opening night. The audience that I had always been a part of... was now watching me... me and my pals. There's no feeling of empowerment quite like that. My very first line actually goes into a monologue. I'll always remember looking at the sea of faces, all staring deeply into my soul, watching me as I did my best to take them from the ho-hums of everyday life into a moment of sheer innocent escapism I'll never forget opening night
At evening's end, the capacity crowd rose up to show us their love and respect. I stood on-stage side-by-side with each of my co-actors, and we took our graceful bows. That moment shall forever resonate deep in my being
THE LAST CURTAIN CALL
Our second Saturday night show was the final performance. It was also our best one. No rock left unturned, no ass cheek left unslapped; everyone in the cast left their blood and sweat on that stage. The audience's cheers and laughter we elicited that evening live on forever in my soul
In the hallway, post show, my director Kathleen squeezed me in a bear hug
"Steve, I'm so proud of you! Aren't you glad you listened to me? And you should hear what my colleagues have been saying about you! They've been asking me 'Who IS this kid and WHERE DID HE COME FROM?!' You must feel like a million bucks!"
"Well, maybe half"
She threw back her head and howled her patented Mrs. Santa Claus laugh
And at that precise moment who dropped by? My old acting coach, Laura Smith! The first professor I ever had at University. Beginning Acting 8:30 Tuesdays and Thursdays Fall 2001! She was grinning ear to ear as she came up to me. It had been over a year since we'd last seen each other, or talked
"Oh my God, Steve. You were terrific tonight. I remember having you in my two acting classes. You were always good then, but never THIS good. I sat there tonight thinking, 'Wow, what happened to my Steve?' You absolutely OWNED the stage tonight. I'm so very proud of you"
It was surreal, heart-felt and one of the best compliments ever sent my way. It was like everything at that moment had come full circle. I knew then and there why they say what they say:
"This is the stuff dreams are made of"
"WE DON'T STRIP FOR FREE"
10 minutes later, me and the guys were changing in the dressing room when we heard a knock. Darius yelled "Hey! We don't strip for free, ladies!" But then we heard an old, creaky voice from the other side of the track. We all knew that voice too well... Harriet Carter, arguably the most BELOVED theatre professor at our University. I had a class with her junior year, and respected the hell out of her, as did every student she ever had. Hailing from the South, and damn proud of it, this acting guru of a little old woman you couldn't help but love and respect
Dan lowered the volume on the CD player. Before Darius could open the door, Harriet made a joke about whether or not we were "indecent." Classic Ms. Carter. Just classic. She's about as old-fashioned as they come!
"I just want to tell you young men... what a FINE job you have done this evening. I saw a lot of HEART, PASSION and LOVE out there tonight... it's performances like these that remind me why I love this profession so dearly"
Yup, the hits kept on coming. And they didn't stop there
BIG MAN ON CAMPUS
A couple minutes later, in comes Bobby Walker. He's revered as the school's finest actor. Simply put, he was the big man on campus. Having seen him in several plays over the years, I was a fan of his dynamic work. He didn't audition for this show, otherwise, he'd be a shoe-in, no doubt (his mom was going through a tough time I'd heard)
And before I knew it, he came up to me
"Steve, is it"
"Yeah." I shook his hand
"Hell of a job, bro. You were the fucking man tonight"
That meant more to me than you'll ever know
That night the cast went out for a post-show dinner celebration. We got dressed up, went in 3 cars, and arrived at a semi-upscale restaurant not too far away. As we were being seated we walked by this table of 4 college kids -- 2 guys and 2 cute ladies
"Hey!" One of the guys shouted out to us. "We were there tonight. You guys put on a great show." The other guy nodded approvingly saying, "Yeah, usually we leave at intermission. You know -- enough to get notes for extra credit." The girls grinned at us and nodded
Unbelievable. We were like rock stars. Except nothing was on the house. Can't win 'em all I suppose
During dinner we talked about the performances, about the long nights we put in and how proud of each other we were. That night we toasted to our success, and we talked about life
SLUMBER PARTY AND GOOD-BYES
After dinner we went to a cast member's house for a "sleepover." Quotation mark because none of us actually slept. We stayed up and toasted the night away
Around the butt crack of dawn, it was time to bounce. The great ride was over. Time to resume our regular lives. Normalcy
I can't do justice in print what a beautiful early morning it was. The skyline was incredibly gorgeous. It was also freezing! You could see and smell the misty morning dew. It's one of those moments you look back on and can't help but smile thinking about
As we huddled around our cars like a large bonfire, Scott said something to the group I would never forget
"Life ain't gonna be the same without you bastards. It was real. It was fun. It was real fun. And I just want you all to know that"
To no one's surprise, this brought out the emotions in Jen. First she gave Scott the whole AWWW shtick, then she gave a declaration of her own. "You guys don't know how much this whole experience has meant to me. I love all of you guys... I really, really do"
We hugged one another and said our farewells
Driving my groggy ass home, I squeezed what 3, 4 hours of sleep I could before drudging off to my Sunday open shift at the mall. It was an odd feeling as I got ready to crash on my soft, inviting bed -- a mixture of being wide-awake yet at the same time, dead tired. Later that morning, all I could think about at work was the night before. About 2 hours into my shift, I realized Scott was right, the damn bastard. Corny though it may be, life would never be the same...
LIFE.... POST PLAY
As our last show closed out in late September 2005, I thought maybe it was all over. Little did I know, it was only starting!
Later that semester, the grapevine work its magic and prompted local junior high schools to contact our director, wondering if we could take the show on the road. We did. The first time we went on a charter bus -- real nice. But for later road shows, we carpooled to the schools. None of us minded since now we could play not just music, but OUR kind of music. Each trip took on a mini-road trip of its own, even though the pleasant drives never went past 15-20 minutes
And our first road show was to be performed to 250 8th graders
13 year olds can be a tough crowd. When we arrived, getting out of the car, I could hear the bastards. Darius made a declaration backstage that day: "Just fuckin' bring it." 5 minutes into the play, we turned 250 raucous monsters into 250 believers. To this day, that remains one of my proudest memories of college. We came out of the blocks like gangbusters... and put on a hell of a show for those rowdy teenagers
It was also a great honor for me to play Martin Luther King Jr. in another play that we took on the road. Highlighting the peaks and valleys of King's life, six of us got to play Martin at various stages in his life: sending the kids the message that there's a little MLK in all of us. We toured four elementary schools with this show
Then there was the morning where Shanice, Dan, Jen and I (along with two others) performed a special show at our senior community center. Playback II talks more about this. It's one of my fondest memories from college
Later that day, Pierre sent me an email
From: Pierre Sent: Wed December 7, 2005 5:51 PM To: Steve
Wassup Steve, I really love our group. Yes we worked our asses off and as an ensemble proved to everyone in the dept that we aint no average actors, together as a unit we are great. Now I heard that you guys today kicked ass for the old people and they booked several shows for next year. You aint no average joe no mo Steve, you are a big leaguer now even thou you are minoring in theatre. By the way, I auditioned in 2003 and didn't get called back for dick, hey shit happens; you just can't let it stop you. You have grown, keep up the good work. Take it easy keep doing you and we'll be outta here soon enough.
FROM THE STAGE..... TO THE PAGE?!
I was soaring high, just 3 months removed from fulfilling my 8 year long dream. It was Winter Break. I caught wind of auditions for an independent film and drove 90 minutes to the audition. A total of three hours, both way, almost four factoring in traffic. Two days later, the director called me -- I'd won the role of the doctor! It was a minor character, but I had a couple scenes, and a couple lines. I was stoked
When I signed in the day I auditioned, guess whose name I saw had auditioned earlier that day?
That day when I came home I fired him an email. His reply:
From: Pierre Sent: Tue December 20, 2005 5:03 PM To: Steve
Thats hella crazy steve we fucking traveled far as hell to audition. I was sick as fuck and I could barely even breathe but I still auditioned. Man keep doing ya thang! -P.
Then I emailed the rest of the gang about this grand opportunity. Kate, one of my former co-actors, said she wanted to go badly, but that her sorry-ass Gremlin would not allow it
I offered to drive her there myself. Hey, it's what being a good friend is all about. And so, it was on the rainiest day of December that we made the 3-hour trek. The director was still searching for a female to play the lead role, and I told him Kate's the one. Kate almost got her big break as the main (student) female lead in FREEDOM WRITERS, but the girl who eventually won the role barely edged Kate out
It was a fun and interesting day. The night before we talked for 2 hours. She came over to my place the next day wearing her sunglasses, looking like a superstar, and off we went. That long three hour drive. Just us and that oleeee road a-callin'. We made some side stops along the way, grabbing snacks and such. It became like a mini-road trip. When we finally arrived, she had a great audition. Director told us Kate was the best they'd seen yet. Now it was a matter of waiting to see if anyone better would come along; otherwise, Kate would win the lead role
When Kate and I got out of audition, Mother Nature opened a can of whup ass on my poor car. I could see for shit and Kate was laughing hysterically, graciously snapping this photo here for all eternity. Like I said, it was the rainiest, COLDEST day of December, hell, maybe ever. My windows kept fogging up and my crappy car could barely do anything about it! We had to stop and take this big-ass towel I keep in my car to defog the windows. It was sheer madness
KATE AND LEOPO -- STEVE
After the audition Kate treated me to a late lunch. Dunch, if you will. We sat by the window, watching the heavy rain splash against it as we ate. It looked like melting silverware. Kate and I talked about family. Then it was back on the road. As the miles hissed by, Kate shared with me some personal stuff about her life. Some deep stuff. I'm not sure where it came from, other than the heart
All of a sudden she revealed to me that while everything might seem "happy-go-lucky" on the surface, fact is, she was in a bit of a rut. With family. With school. With work. With the boyfriend. And with life
"Steve, by the way, thanks a bunch"
"You know! For taking me all the way out here and everything. For telling me about this opportunity. Honestly, this is the best day I've had in a long time.... so thanks..."
I squinted at the freeway roaring by us as the windshield wipers powered on medium. There was a moment of silence as I gathered myself to reply. After the deep shit she told me, followed by the compliment, it was one of those not-everyday moments, ya know?
"Well, you know --" I paused as I glanced over at Kate
She had fallen asleep
For the next 30 minutes, I drove in silence, except for the falling rain
I thought about all the things Kate told me. About her life. That I'd never known or would have guessed in a million years. I guess it's true what they say. You really don't know someone until you travel far with that person. Well, far enough, anyhow. Looking at her curled up in the slouched passenger seat, as the day waned and the neon lights flashed against the angles of her face, it was hard imagining her as anything other than what I thought she was: ... an innocent, vibrant young lady
By the time I took the exit back into town, Kate started to stir
"Well good morning Goldilocks," I teased
She smiled. "Hey!"
"What?!" I replied playfully
"Let's go to the mall!" she announced jubilantly
I laughed. "If that's what you want, Miss Daisy"
Kate chuckled. "Steve you're so silly. Let's do some Christmas shopping"
By now we were out of the rain but the sky was still a cold, humorless gray. The miles hissed beneath us as the houses, billboards and gas stations blurred in our vision. Moments later, we arrived at the mall. We stopped by the furniture store, and like two kids who had just ran away from their parents, tested out every single sofa the store had to offer. And this furniture store was huge, I mean HUGE. As big as any Toys R Us almost!
We were like two mall rats, lost in our own little world. Nowadays whenever I see a furniture store, or drop by the mall, I can't help but see an image of me and Kate running around sofa to sofa as though it were our own personal playground -- like two innocent kids with not a single care in the world
By the time we left the mall, darkness fell over the sky like someone had draped a big black curtain over it. I drove her back to my place, and before leaving she gave me a big hug
"Don't worry," I told her. "You'll get your big break"
"I hope so. I couldn't have done it without you, Steve. I owe you one"
"Well yeah, just never bring that ugly-ass car around here again, it hurts my eyes"
Our youthful and optimistic laughter dissipated into the night
KATE GETS THE CALL
Two days after Christmas, Kate broke the news to me. She was THIS close to winning the role, but they wanted to see how she would look with the makeup on. Kate was neck and neck with one other girl -- whoever looked best in the character's makeup would win out
So, once again, I drove Kate. We went to a makeup studio, and the main male lead was there. Kate read first
Four days later, the verdict was announced
The other girl won. Once again Kate was snubbed. The director offered her the last role available, a minor one. She took it
MEET THE CAST
January 6, 2006, the entire cast met up at the director's house to read the script together and get to know one another. It amazed me how everyone had a business card on them, or was talking about "their agent." My representative? Myself! I was just a young kid with no intent to persue a professional acting career, just auditioning off the high I was riding that Fall of 2005 with all the play shows I'd done with my buds
One guy said he was in movies with such stars as Sean Penn and Robin Williams!
After we finished reading the script, costume lady got our measurements and we chilled. At one point the director came over to me
"Hey Steve, wanna know something about your doctor role?"
"Yeah of course"
"My boss wanted someone older for the character, but I fought for you. I told my boss this guy's better"
I smiled. "Thanks. Hey, Doogie Howser baby!"
The director laughed and winked as he walked off
SHOW TIME, BABY! ~JANUARY 11, 2006~
I drove over to the location of the shoot -- the freakin' mansion of the mayor! The place was packed full of crew members, actors and buzzing like you could only imagine. This was also the day the party scene was being shot. It was a thrill to meet the mayor, shake his hand and then sign his copy of the movie script. There was even a stripper in the house! Scandalous! Well, she was only playing a stripper in the movie, but DAYAM! *laughs*
Food was being served by caters in the backyard that seemed to stretch on for miles and miles. We were shooting a pool party scene later that evening
THEATRE, OR MOVIES?
Wow, I knew film making was tedious, but I didn't know just how much. They had me pegged to do my scenes at 2, but they didn't wrap up the previous scenes until 5. Once it was my turn, they shot me from multiple angles. Up close, side, rear, etc. They also filmed what they called "safety shots." It was such a drag to repeat the same little thing a hundred times over. I realized then how much I prefer theatre and its more 'human' live element over film
The director had promised us that the film would be on Blockbuster shelves by summer 2006, but unfortunately, Lions Gate, nor any other company, bothered to pick it up. It was never released
Still, I have absolutely zero regrets. It was a good experience all in all, the auditioning process, the day with Kate, meeting the mayor... everything. If I could do it all over again -- I probably would
On the verge of graduating, I took advantage of my acting skills and applied them to a humanities course I was taking for my major. I was assigned to give a speech about the atom bombs in World War II. Instead of the typical, dry and boring speech most students deliver, I decided to shake things up. I whipped up some music, memorized a crazy-ass patriotic speech, and performed the monologue live to the tune of the Battle Hymn of the Republic midi blaring on my boom box. My timing had to be impeccable for it to work, and I managed to pull it off. I turned what was a mundane Monday morning class suddenly into a hectic Saturday night dance scene
Later that day, on the course's website, my professor gave me a special shout out. Sadly, I did not know about print screen then, so I took camera shots instead. At the time, I had no idea I'd have this site, so the pictures were taken with the thought that perhaps one day, I could share it somehow. In fact, I came this close to deleting the pictures because I figured I would never end up using 'em...
Part of the original shot... noob!!11
So funny how life works out sometimes..
BACK TO THE PRESENT
I no longer act on a regular basis. I don't claim to be an expert but I do know a thing or two about acting. I do kind of miss it, truth be told, so I take every opportunity I can to "put on a show" for colleagues, professors and peers. Recently, I did something crazy in one of my classes, leading my professor to comment, "Steve, what can I say, you're like a one man show!"
I always take pride in knowing that.... hey, kid still got it ;)
As for my old acting buddies, I still keep in touch with some of them. Jen, Dan and I went to a haunted house this past Halloween. Scott will be making a special guest appearance in one of my classes coming up, for a skit my group is doing. The four of us have plans to get together sometime in the future for some four player Super Nintendo fun. Jen still has her SNES after all these years. I'll never forget the night when we were at Dan's dorm and Jen challenged me to a game of Super Tennis. Now there's a cool, hardcore girl, ladies and gents!
Speaking of which, Dan and Jen often star in all the plays at my University. October '07 Scott and I were ushers for a play that Jen headlined. As she bowed at the end of the play, she shot Scott and me a huge grin as we cheered her on. I was so proud of her. I always knew she would break out, and she has. Afterward, Dan met us in the hallway, we took pictures, and then the four of us went out for drinks and dinner. It definitely brought back warm memories of Fall 2005
I'll always look back on those acting days with a real deep fondness. To me there's nothing like acting in front of an audience. Being a good actor is a process of discipline, hard work, grit and so much more. The bond and ties you build through this field is amazing. I shall forever be grateful for all the great memories and funny little stories it has given me. When I think back to my undergrad college years, and think about the very best times I had as a college student, invariably I always find myself reminiscing about those long, long, hard nights rehearsing til midnight, the electricity of the audience, those great coaches and mentors I had, the run-around with Kate and so much more -- including the fact that I can tell my future son Daddy was in the movies. As well as the thrill of being able to say, with pride, "I lived out my dream... I did it"
Officially, I may have taken my final bow moons ago
But in reality, I will always be... at heart... a performer