Sunday, June 03, 2007

Pettiness Becomes Me

I'm a little hesitant in writing this post. Mostly because I believe that it'll come across as whining when I'm simply getting things out of my head.

Also, this is about an upcoming project that I'm working on. I know that some of the folks responsible for producing this project check in here every once in a while, and I want to state up front that this is merely me processing...I'm still enthusiastic about the project (which, like the theater company involved, will remain unnamed, thanks to google), and I am genuinely looking forward to working with the folks involved...

With that out of the way, I have to confess, I've been harboring feelings of pettiness. Part of being an actor, I suppose.

I was passed up for the lead in an upcoming production. The part: A latin american author, in his late 20s (which'd make me a bit too old for it, I'm assuming), who left his homeland at an early age, and after becoming a successful author in the US, will be going home for the first time in over a decade and a half. The various personal dynamics involved in his homecoming are dealt with rather realistically, and well, by the playwright.

Old school readers will recognize why this story has some resonance with me.

But, I didn't get it. Instead they cast a man of Danish descent in the part. I wish I were kidding. I have some reservations about whether he actually looks latin american enough, but that may be the cloud of pettiness skewing my views. Fortunately, dialect coaches will take care of some other issues I have about it all.

However narrow-minded this may paint me, there's a part of me that wonders if this isn't a natural response for an artist (if I may call myself that for the purposes of this entry).

I think of it this way: Let's suppose that Raul Julia had been auditioning to be Tony Montana in Scarface, and he really wanted the part. How would he feel when he found out that he was passed up so that Italian-American Al Pacino would get the part? (Let us set aside the typical arguments about Hollywood casting, and needing certain names for projects to get produced for the moment.)

Take a look at the cast list for Scarface. In my hypothetical situation, how on earth could Raul Julia not get cast as a latino, and yet there's F. Murray Abraham, Robert Loggia, hell, even some dude named Steven Bauer got cast as a latino named Manny Ribera for pete's sake, and he gets second billing!

Could you imagine theoretical Julia's reaction to hearing Pacino's accent in that movie? "Motherfucker ain't even Mexican," would be one of the recurring thoughts, I'm betting.

So, anyway, I'm owning up to the pettiness, and accepting it as part of what I'm about.

Today was the first read-through for the piece, and it was fun and it promises to be a great show all around. I will say that it was revelatory for me to just say that I felt a kinship with the lead's story aloud, in front of the director, playwright, and the already informed Artistic Director.

Hopefully no one felt discomfort at that statement, but if they did, oh well. Part of the deal, I'm sorry. So are the occasional "wait a second, you're Danish! I can tell!" jokes I'll be making during the rehearsal process. Having fun with it is the only way I'm going to be able to deal and not let resentment overtake me.

That and the constant reminder that I'm not directing, am simply an actor in the piece, and I did say yes, after all.

Fucking UStians.

19 Comments:

At 11:14 AM, Blogger JJisafool said...

Your last two words remind me of my need to once end an otherwise brilliant op-ed piece on mens' roles in the rape/sexual assault education movement with "Peace," a choice for which I was roundly jeered even as people said they loved the rest.

Anyway...

Lou Diamond Phillips as a Native. Angelina Jolie as Daniel Pearl's wife (I'm too lazy to check - is it Marianne?). Said list would be endless.

Petty? Maybe, but at least you own up.

Stepping aside from the politics of it for a minute, I'm comfortable with the idea that the Danish dude can pull it off, at least possibly. Hell, I was asked by a 7-11 clerk if I was Kuwaiti not so long ago, and I'm Brit-Kraut.

Isn't something of what makes you an actor the desire and ability to step out of yourself and into someone else?

I dunno, I get it, but am actually more annoyed when Hollywood does it. There's more challenge finding a late-20s Latin actor in Seattle than a light-skinned African-American actor in Hollywood.

 
At 11:40 AM, Blogger the beige one said...

JJ, I hear you on the last two words of the entry, but they crack me up, so...and there's also a bit of truth in those two words...

Isn't something of what makes you an actor the desire and ability to step out of yourself and into someone else?

Part of it is also having the feeling like you could kick the shit out of a role, especially one you usually don't get a chance to play. There's one of those in the production that's currently running, and I feel I would've been, not necessarily wasting my time, but having a whole lot less fun with the project, had it not been for that one role.

I dunno, I get it, but am actually more annoyed when Hollywood does it. There's more challenge finding a late-20s Latin actor in Seattle than a light-skinned African-American actor in Hollywood.

There is a challenge, yes. And I can't say that the producing entity didn't try hard to find more latinos for the production; this is a bone of contention I have with minority actors in smaller communities (not enough outreach, waiting for people to come specifically to them, instead of proactively going out and searching for work).

and I'll concede that the dude may be able to pull it off with honors, it's likely that he will, but, it still rankles.

There was an awkward period during last fall's Book of Nathan rehearsal process because I was cast as a native/african mix when I'm sure enough neither. The person with the animosity wasn't either, but, his argument was that it was a black part, so it should go to a black dude.

Was only able to calm him down when I was nailing shit right and left, and was able to prove to him that I wasn't going to clown the part...

Same would apply here, but he's gonna have to sell me, just like I had to sell the other guy.

 
At 11:42 AM, Blogger the beige one said...

by the way, this still rankles in smaller productions...If you don't have the necessary numbers to cast West Side Story, could you kindly not fill those parts with blonde haired blue eyed folks wearing wigs and doing bad accents?

The songs are mildly annoying and racist as they are, no reason to push it over the top.

 
At 2:49 PM, Blogger rob said...

Mghugmn....

I'd love to explain this frustation away as occupational hazzard. Indeed, that's exactly what it is. As actors, we run the risk of the soul crushing frustration one feels when someone who we feel indubitably unfit to play a role we know we can grudge fuck into submission sans lube or foreplay sticks their dick in our girl.

But you do have a couple of points. How do producers (using the term broadly; encompassing administrative production staff in general) sleep soundly at night when they cast completely off-type whilst the obvious, on-type choice is not only haunting their dreams but spooning them with a monster rodney poking them in the lower lumbar?

The best answer I can give you is that the production isn't for the performers. It's for the audience. Yeah, we're making art and you are, indeed, an artist. If the producers feel that an audience will dig an Afrikaner with a no arms and endometriosis to play Othello, well...okay. So long as the audience creams over it.

That, of course, by no means, mitigates the frustration you must and do feel over their decision. And for that, my vagina bleeds for you...outside my uterus, even. Sorry, mate. It happens and it sucks. See: Hazzard, Occupational.

The snarky cock-ass in me wants to say, "Well...wait a minute! I'm not gay and you cast me as 'Chaps'!" or "Wait a minute! I'm not white and you cast me as a white, Coast Gua- oh...hold on." But I know that such an argument is bunk because A) You were under such pressure to find anyone, both times, that you would have cast a sock puppet with...ummm...endometriosis, and B) I really don't want to open up the obvious, silver-bullet gambit of, "No, Rob...I cast you to type both times."

You just wanted to look at my hot, leather-clad ass, huh?

Wouldn't it have been awesome if, just once, Chaps showed up as the Coast Guard?

Getting punchy now. Summing up.

Sorry, hermano. You'll kick ass. Grin and bear it. Or bare it. Or Bayer it.

If it makes you feel any better: I know that you're a dirty, dirty spic. For that, alone, I would have cast you.

poop...

r

fin...

 
At 3:53 PM, Blogger Missuz J said...

This is going to sound so dumn and silly, but honesty seems to be the policy of the day so...

The reason I quit participating in high school theater was the casting of Grease. I could have kicked ass ALL OVER Sandy's part. Dumb drama teacher cast me as Cha Cha (A latina, I guess, and actually, I'm mostly danish as well) because I had big tits and a bit of a rep. I spent the whole production period seething and boiling, and after that, pretty much quit all together. It wasn't worth it to me. Lame--eh?

I think it says a lot about your dedication to your art that you were willing to still take a part in the play.

 
At 3:54 PM, Blogger Missuz J said...

dumb--not dumn. dur

 
At 4:49 PM, Blogger JJisafool said...

"I had big tits and a bit of a rep."

Shucks, ma'am, it just sounds so pretty when you say it.

 
At 8:43 PM, Blogger JJisafool said...

OK, I been thinking about it, and you know what seriously Robs my ass?

Jessica Alba as Sue Storm.

How dare they sully the image of my blonde-hared, blue-eyed, lame-powered vision of Aryan perfection by casting an actress of shall we say various lineageness? And with a bleach job that, frankly, I find offensive.

Naomi Watts in a WonderBra, goddamnit, and a purer Hollywood for all!

 
At 9:45 AM, Blogger the beige one said...

Looks like JJ's trying to make a point? Not too sure, I think he is.

Wonder what he has to say about the casting of Nicholas Cage as Muhammed Ali...

 
At 9:50 AM, Blogger JJisafool said...

No, I was trying to make a joke.

How come coloreds never get my humor?




And, frankly (a new favorite word), there is very little I care to see Cage cast in anymore.

 
At 10:10 AM, Blogger the beige one said...

doofus, I was joking too...Despite plenty of evidence to the contrary, Hollywood ain't that dumb.

 
At 10:23 AM, Blogger JJisafool said...

Yes, dipshit, I knew you were joking about Cage and Ali. But then it occurred to me - is there any role I could hear Nicholas Cage announced for that would inspire me at all? Enough to even flicker my eyes away from the eye candy in my wife's US to the sidebar carrying the news?

Really, does anybody care about Cage anymore? TBO, you want to mount a stirring defense of him? Anyone?

I know its a tangent, but it struck me this morning that he's burnt through all his credit with me an then some. I think I might hate Nicholas Cage.

 
At 10:30 AM, Blogger the beige one said...

coloreds...dipshit...

JJ, buddy, I can't tell, you on the caffeine or not?

re: Cage, everytime I write him off, he comes back with an odd ball 1-2 like Adaptation and Matchstick Men...but I sure can't hell argue for the guy's career of late, so...there ya go, chief.

 
At 4:11 PM, Blogger Kate said...

Well, well, well. Aren't we in the shoe on the other foot now. I do feel for ya, Beige, but I have to tell you, I hear so much more of this from my X chromosome pallys. And of course, it's been the name of the game for me.

Sorry if I'm getting this thread off track (not like you haven't done that already talking bout Cage). But usually the guy just has to show up and he gets the part in this town, there is so much more arbitrariness with the casting of women. And I ain't whining, I can laugh pretty easily in my alligator skin at this point. Of course you should've got the part, sweetheart!!..
...But I can't help smirking a little when helplessness of it all barrels into one of my amigos (vs. amigas, por supuesto).

 
At 5:10 PM, Blogger the beige one said...

Ahh, KK, I hear ya, and have been on the listening end for many a sistren in the profession, and the reply is about the same: Nature of the gig...

It doesn't stop anyone from complaining, though...

 
At 2:50 AM, Blogger rob said...

...you know what seriously Robs my ass?

That just totally made my day.

 
At 10:06 AM, Blogger Stine said...

As actors, we run the risk of the soul crushing frustration one feels when someone who we feel indubitably unfit to play a role we know we can grudge fuck into submission sans lube or foreplay sticks their dick in our girl.

- Oh yes, oh yes...this is the best description of how I have felt many times over the last few years.

And it's totally frustrating Beige. Who the hell knows why certain casting choices are made. I think that, for me, that is the hardest part - the not knowing why, really.

I do agree with Kate though, I think it happens much more for women in the Seattle fringe, because there are 12 million of us out there. And once you get past 30, the available roles start to decline dramatically.

 
At 1:45 PM, Blogger JJisafool said...

As actors, we run the risk of the soul crushing frustration one feels when someone who we feel indubitably unfit to play a role we know we can grudge fuck into submission sans lube or foreplay sticks their dick in our girl.

- Oh yes, oh yes...this is the best description of how I have felt many times over the last few years.

Um, dare I ask which part of said description, Stine?

 
At 9:04 AM, Blogger Stine said...

when someone who we feel indubitably unfit to play a role we know we can grudge fuck into submission sans lube or foreplay sticks their dick in our girl.

- This part. I hate it when someone sticks their dick into my girl. And grudge fuck just sounds so satisfying. Ya know?

 

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