November 15th, 2007

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Digging the scene(s)

Last night, I attended the 15th Annual Actors’ Scene Showcase, sponsored and run by the Women’s Theatre Alliance. It was, as usual, performed at the Theatre Building on West Belmont here in Chicago. I attended it two years ago, but this year there was an added attraction in it for me – 3 different people I know were performing in it. But before I get to that, let me back up and tell you how this thing is set up.

The showcase consists of 10 separate scenes, each of which runs about 10 minutes in length. Each scene has two actors in it. Each scene has its own director. The purpose of the showcase is to present acting talent for local agents, theater representatives, and anybody else who’d like to see up-and-coming talent. The people who performed last night had to make it through an audition process, which took place last month. It was announced before the show that, for the record, 29 pairs had auditioned in all.

One of the scenes contained two people I know – Carrie Bruno and Dana DeLorenzo, and they performed a scene from Savage in Limbo by John Patrick Shanley. In fact, it was quite a night for Mr. Shanley – another person I know, Anna Carini, appeared in a scene from Shanley’s Danny and the Deep Blue Sea. Yet another pair performed a scene from Shanley’s Doubt. It appears from last night’s selections that Shanley has become the uncrowned master of the two-person scene!

Carrie and Dana were funny as hell in their scene, and Anna displayed some genuine acting chops in her scene, so it was a feel-good night for anyone who likes the three of them (and I certainly do!). There were other fine performances too, which I will not detail in this space. There were also, to be fair, a few performances that sadly missed the mark by a wide margin, as well as a few scenes that appeared to have been seriously mis-directed or under-directed. These individuals too shall go unnamed here, since the good far outweighed the bad.

So what about me? Have I ever thought about trying to put together a scene for this showcase? Oh yeah. In fact, I sat watching the showcase last night from the third row with Francesca to my left, Alison to my right, and Carmen to her right. At one time or another, in one year or another, I have been in discussions with all three of these women about the possibility of putting together a scene for this. Oh, and Jackie, who was originally going to join me but who had to cancel at the last minute, is yet another person I’ve talked to about that possibility. To quote a line often heard among fans of our local sports teams, “Maybe next year!”

Having now watched this showcase in two different years, I have formed a few opinions on what I would and would not like to do with my own scene. First and foremost, I am not interested in doing something half-assed. If I’m going to do this, I’m going to work my butt off and do it just as well as I possibly can. I look at it as a rare opportunity – it’s a chance to perform a role of my own choosing, rather than being cast in a show and playing a role someone else has chosen for me. It’s a situation where I would have an almost unprecedented level of control over what I do and how I do it. If an actor can’t take pride in an opportunity such as that, then there’s a big hole in their artistic heart.

Another thing I’ve decided is that I want to find a scene that is A) right for me; and B) NOT set in a bar or restaurant. Point A needs no explanation. As for Point B – well, half the scenes we saw last night were set in bars or restaurants, which is about the same as the last time I attended this showcase. One of the scenes took place on a raft in the middle of the ocean. I liked that a lot; it was interesting, though I must say it did limit the actors’ ability to move around much. So if any of you have a great two-person scene on your bookshelf that isn’t set in a bar, let me know!
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