Monday, January 31, 2005

Storymaking 101

To quote Bono as well as my good friend Rufus, yesterday was "A Beautiful Day". The Sun was out. It was a reasonably mild -1celsius, and it was time to begin Second City Improv Level B.

After meeting up at my place, Rufus and I headed out for the journey to downtown Toronto, only stopping once to fill up on the nector of the gods (Tim Horton's Coffee). We parked in our usual location, received a smile of recognition from the parking lot attendant (Almost a "Hey, I missed you guys!" kind of look), and then bustling with as much energy as we can muster (and believe me, Rufus has a lot of energy), we trotted up Blue Jay Way to the Second City Training Center, cameras in hand. As we both have photo blogs now, we are always looking for those cool shots that avail themselves to us, especially on warm sunny days.

Our fellow classmates from Level A, Chris and Charlene were at the door as we got there so we chatted for awhile, then all of us headed downstairs together. Studio 4 was our destination this time...right next door to our old class. Soon the other students began trinkling in. Then we had the count - of the 16 students who started Level A in our class, 8 had moved on with us to Level B. Add 6 from different classes and external venues and we had a whole new dynamic on our hands. Plus, we have a new instructor. Herbie Barnes of the most excellent Native Improv Group Tontos Nephews has taken the reins this time, and I get the feeling we are in good hands.

Rufus and I had seen Herbie and his troupe perform along with our Level A instructor, Kerry Griffen during the Christmas break at Bad Dog Theatre in Toronto (to recap that experience, go here., and I remember being impressed by his stage presence. In the classroom setting he is genuinely funny, and extemely informative. He knows his stuff, and is consistantly pushing us on finding the most important aspect of Improvision - The Story. Like Kerry before him, I see Herbie being the kind of person who gives us a reason to continue on to further levels...and I'm more excited than ever before to excel.



Tight spaces and proud moments

I'm sort of proud of myself this morning.

As I've mentioned in the past, I have an extremely sore and stiff right shoulder. This began about two years ago, and even now nobody has a freakin' clue what's wrong with me. So far many diagnoses have been made, but each has been eliminated due to medical tests. This morning one more test was setup - an MRI.

I've had an MRI before on my neck and spinal column. That one was a simple procedure - a sort of doughnut shaped machine that scanned down my body. Easy stuff, no stress whatsoever. This morning however, I was startled to find that they were putting me into the full MRI device - a coffin-like enclosure.

I'm claustrophobic. Kind of stems from when I was a young child and was temporarily locked in an unused freezer by one of the foster children at my Grandparents. Most likely was for only 20-30 seconds but it felt like forever. Since then I've never been too keen on any enclosed space that I can't envision an easy escape. I remember being drawn to hysterics on one of those orange plastic tube slides at the age of six because the bigger kids would go halfway down and then block the tunnel, so that all the other kids were trapped inside. Trauma at its finest.

Even more recently, when I was in the dark comedy "A Good Man", there was a part when my character had to get into a casket, the lid would be closed and then I would be wheeled out. I had to demand that they had to get me offstage and then open the lid within 14 seconds or I would be kicking my way out. Suffering for one's art, indeed.

For those of you who suffer from the same phobia, I know you'll all understand where I'm coming from here. For those of you who don't, suffice to say that the panic and shortness of breath we suffer is almost impossible to control.

That's why I'm so proud...I did it today.

After the usual Q&A about whether I have any metal plates in my body, etc; the technician got my up on the table and strapped me in. He then placed my right arm in one spot, gave me a sandbag to keep it in place, and then handed me the panic button and a pair of headphones to block out some of the noises the machine creates. Then he said quickly that it was going to be a tight squeeze on my left side because they needed to place my right shoulder at center mark and then pressed the button to slide me into the machine.

Within 3 seconds I wanted desperately to hit that panic button. A surge of panic welled up. No clearance at all on my left side, less than 3 inches clearance above me. This was a tomb. My finger slid onto the button, but then my rational brain asserted itself. 'I've been trained in relaxation...I've been trained in deep breathing. Use these skills....relax! You'll get through this'. So, I closed my eyes, shut out everything I could, and focused on keeping myself calm.

Amazingly, it was easier than it sounds to do. I focused on different muscles on my body, I thought about stuff I was going to blog that day (including this post), I thought about dialogue for my show. By twenty minutes into the exercise I was so calm that I was able to open my eyes and glance around (without moving my body of course). 'This wasn't so bad. I wouldn't do it eveyday for fun or anything, but I can handle this if need be.'

At thirty minutes it was all over. I had defeated a mental conditioning. The tech let me out and informed me my results would be ready in a week. Now, I hope they find something...anything that would give an answer, but the reality is - at this moment I don't care either way. I faced something today that was just as big if not bigger than a sore shoulder and I won. The visit was well worth it no matter what.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Bloody bunch of disorganized &(#*&(@!!!

Received a frantic call from my agent at noon today regarding a surprise audition at a Casting House in the DVP/Richmond vicinity. Now, since I haven't had an acting gig in a few months, I agreed to go.

What a waste of &^#@(*#@% time.

My calltime was for 4:10pm. Hoping that I could cut that back a bit and get back to the grindstone ASAP, I left a bit earlier and actually found myself in the waiting room 15 minutes early. After signing in, I asked the receptionist for a rough estimate of how long it might be. She had absolutely no clue - often a bad sign.

So, I resigned myself to sit it out in the waiting room with the rest of the cattle (actors) for awhile, and the minutes proceeded to creep by. Finally I saw people ahead of me getting picked, but then started getting even more nervous about my potential of getting out ontime when I noticed the casting director being confused about who was next. This kept happening over and over again....he would ask for somebody, and 5 hands would jump in the air with statements like "Yo! I've been here an hour already". AN HOUR??? Oh shit.

This one poor guy (hereafter known as Pissed Off Guy #1), who had been here before I did, specifically was frantic because he had another audition to go to. So, he mentioned this to the casting director, who promised him he would go next. Then he picked 3 people other than him to go next. Soon he was asking people who came 25 minutes after ME to go in first. I askeed about this politely, as I'm prompt to do. On the other hand, Pissed Off Guy #1 then did the obvious, he got pissed. He grabbed his jacket and bag, walked into the office and screamed at the receptionist about how they had not only screwed him out of one gig but two and stormed out.

I was the only one left for that audition spot, so I went in next. Sadly, it was now 5pm, and four people with times after mine had already been in and gone. I was not pleased, (read, Pissed Off Guy #2) but this is work - keep a straight face. I entered the room to met "Sammy", the director. Simple enough audition, in my mind my comical timing could be put to good use. So, I did the audition thinking of how I'd direct it.

Director no like my style. He wanted flat and unemotional. Think Bill Murray in 'Lost in Translation', or Steven Wright in just about anything. Deadpan. So, I gave him what he wanted...but it didn't feel natural.

I'M A CHARACTER ACTOR, DAMNIT!!!!! I DO CHARACTERS!!!! I MAKE FUNNY FACES!!! ARGHHHHHH!!!!

Why do I keep getting all of these auditions for directors who get a hardon for deadpan work? It's unnatural! I'm not deadpan even when I'm not acting!! My acting style could be compared to a combination of Jack Black, Jason Alexander and Woody Allen. Do any of these scream minimal???

{sigh} Now I'm staying a bit late at work to catch up on the time the casting house stole from me. I'm hungry, and tired, and cranky. I need to vent.

AIIIIIIIIIEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!

There, that feels better....

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

mmmmmmm...chocolate....


Like chocolate cake, you are friendly, dependable and make a great friend. You're the perfect person to turn to in times of need!


What Kind of Junk Food Are You?

Found on Trying so very hard to be perfect

Monday, January 24, 2005

Thoroughly Indisposed Yet Excited

Well, what an up and down week this has been. The down first....Melanie was diagnosed with Gall Stones. We discovered this on Tuesday when she called me first thing in the morning from work (she works the overnight shift at the Ontario March of Dimes certain days), saying that she was getting sharp pains in her side and Telehealth advised her to go to the hospital. Hell, we've never had kids before...for all we knew this could be some kind of contraction. So, I called work, told them I would be either late or off altogether and ran to her work to pick her up. If she was having health issues, I didn't want her to drive...even if the hospital was only 5km away from her.

Soon enough we found ourselves in the Maternity wing of Southlake Hospital, and they checked her in fast to a ward room. Various tests were ran, blood, Ultrasounds, blablabla, and at around 3pm we received the final diagnosis. They want to remove her Gall Bladder to stave off further attacks, but will wait until after the pregancy if they can. Until such a time, Melanie is confined to "rabbit food"...basically cut the fatty foods down to a negligable quantity. So far she's trying her best, but that's gotta be horribly difficult to do when you're pregnant. Hell, I doubt I could do it.

I ended up taking the next day off work as well to stay home with Melanie. She was freaked that I would get into trouble with work for doing so, though I doubted this would be case. In fact, I told her point blank that I wouldn't give a rats ass if they tried to give me problems...as far as I'm concerned, my wife and my child are first on my priority list...work comes somewhere down the chain. Possibly below the need to feed on cockroaches....but that's another story. :) As it turns out, I was right...in fact my department was very supportive of my choice to stay home. That feels good.

Good news this week is that I'm actually getting some of my multitude of back projects completed. The largest one of all, the re-structuring of my home office has been finished...and I even found myself taking the rare role of the handyman during the gig. My bookshelf backing was so warped from the dryness in the apartment so I did the measurements, ran out to Home Depot and bought a new, stronger hardwood backing and remounted it. My desk is now on the opposite side of the room, switched with said bookcase, and everything in the room seems so much more functional. I've also decided to expand my desk...so this week I'm doing more measurements, buying the wood and adding a few feet on each side (it's a corner desk)...that way I can fit all my video and editing equipment properly. It's good to be inspired, and it feels good to know I can be a handyman when I need to.

I'm currently in line memorizing mode for "The Man With The Plastic Sandwich". We have just under a month before the big opening and I'm so far totally off book for 1/2 of the First Act. So, 2 1/2 Acts to go. I'm slowing recording all the lines as MP3's, and I practice in the car to and from work. Rehearsals are going very well, and we did a photo shoot on Saturday for the poster and programmes. I figure I'll have the poster in a few days...I'll post it when i get it.

Anyway...that's my life at this point. I'll try to write more soon!

Cheers!

Thursday, January 20, 2005

New approach to blogging

Not much on content lately, but that's just because my brain is spinning faster than I can write anything down...I'll get to it, don't you worry. I've decided to can one of my blogs...the GTA Theatre blog was a good idea, however I think it'll take too long before anything useful comes from it. Plus, I just don't have the time to track people down all the time for audition and show info. To replace the void it has left, I've taken up a photoblog called Timpix. Feel free to head over and check it out. I'm currently re-organizing my photo collection, both digital and analog, and should have lots of fun stuff to post there.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

As we go forth into the great unknown....

The University of Blogging

Presents to
Tim Norton

An Honorary
Bachelor of
Non Sequiturs

Majoring in
Whingeing
Signed
Dr. GoQuiz.com
®

Username:


Blogging Degree
From Go-Quiz.com

Found on Rics Thoughts

Friday, January 14, 2005

Icy spice of life



Your Icecream Flavour is...Neopolitan!
You aren't satisfied with just one flavor. They say variety is the spice of life and this shines through in your Ice cream of choice! Just don't eat all the chocolate and leave the strawberry and vanilla behind!
What is your Icecream Flavour?

Find out at Go Quiz


Found on Rics Thoughts

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

The best bunch to learn with...


Second City Level A Posted by Hello
Last Sunday, my Second City class completed Level A, and for the most part, all of us knows in our hearts that we need to continue as a core group through each consecutive level. Everybody in the class brings something slightly different to the creative process of Improvisation, and I'm excited to see where each of us will grow in the future. Take a good look, people...one or more of the people here could eventually go onto something really big.

Er...um...hopefully the cameraperson does too...

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

A tree and two persons.


A tree and two persons. Posted by Hello

I'm taking my life into my hands by posting this, but it's such a good shot so I couldn't resist. This picture was taken at my Uncle and Aunt's in Orangeville during their Christmas party, and you can really see the baby coming along quite well.
We're at twenty weeks today...half way through!


Quite the tree, eh? You should see the house!

Monday, January 10, 2005

Book Author LibeMeme

Copy the list of ten authors below. Replace any that are not included in your home library with one(s) that are. Note any replacements in boldface. Reference where you found LibeMeme when you post.

1. Charles Dickens
2. Brian Lumley
3. Terry Pratchett
4. Bernard Shaw
5. Mark Twain
6. Neil Peart
7. Frank Herbert
8. C.S. Lewis
9. William Shakespeare
10. J. K. Rowling

Found on Rics Thoughts

Need to wash my ears out...

Worst thing ever overheard on someone else's phone conversation, and I've heard some wicked ones over the years...this JUST happened now.

"{Name Omitted} was caught having an affair with her brother again...".

ew!

Just the way I heard the person say 'again...' really creeped me out....

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Oh, woe is the geekness in our hearts...

You're a literary minded as the Bard himself!
You are a complete literary geek, from knowing the
classics (even the not-so-well-known classics
and tidbits about them) to knowing devices used
in writing, when someone has a question about
literature, they can bring it to you and rest
assured; you know the answers.


How much of a literary geek are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

Friday, January 07, 2005

The audition at CHUM went really well. I found myself somewhat out of my element though, as it was obvious they were looking for a Stand-Up Comedian, which I am not. I don't see myself as being naturally funny...my comical timing tends to come out more when I play characters on stage or when I have a good writing day. I can throw some good quips at times...can even crack a room up from time to time. But when compared to some of these guys who just ooze funny all the time I'm a rank amateur.

It must stem from the fact even after so many years of theatre I'm still naturally shy, and I often struggle to find the right words to say when in a small-talk situation. In fact, I'm not a fan of small-talk at all...I'd rather have a nice long philosophical conversation with somebody. These don't happen all that often though, so for the most part I keep to myself when around people, either engrossed in a book, or listening to what's happening so I could jump into a conversation if it get's "good". In the past some people considered this mannerism of mine to be arrogance, because they couldn't imagine a comedic actor being shy.

To compensate for this in public school, I created characters all the time. I played with accents and sound effects, and it was through those that I could carry conversations with people "normally". I'm sure I was downright annoying at times.

In high school I threw myself into the areas of most attention in what could be viewed as an almost masochistic manner. I was in Drama, Dance, Vocal Music, and was most infamous as a Morning Announcer for every grade level I attended. Does that sound like a shy person to you? I was though...and was able to persevere in all these areas because I wasn't necessarily talking or performing to a person, but to a mass entity that renamed faceless and nameless. They didn't respond or ridicule (much) in the moment, so I could continue without worrying about them.

A director or producer in a small room can be more frightening then anything. You can't ignore them, or de-entify them. You have to stay aware of their facial expressions and mannerisms, because they can be clues as to whether you are on the right track or not. So, I pulled on my "Uber-Tim" character, which I use when I need to act like I'm just as boisterous as the next guy and happily volunteered to go first.

Fortunately, I'd met the director previously, and he remembered me, which can help ease the situation (and the chances of getting the gig). The producer was also a nice guy who responded favorable to my take on the script. I ran with it three times, trying different energy styles and not worrying as much about the script then I was with the timing. I felt positive about the result, so I'll chalk this up as one of my "good ones". Whether the director and producer agrees is their business even though that will ultimately reflect whether I get the gig or not. I would like the job, of course...but I also like just getting through an audition without making a complete ass of myself. Each of those good ones make it easier for the next to roll smoothly, and so on. Perhaps one day I won't need the character...It'll just come naturally.

I'd like that...

Bring 'em on...

After the long quiet, I finally have been noticed once again. I have an audition down at CHUM today at noon, and my agent left me a message this morning saying I have another on Monday. 2004 started as a good year for professional acting roles but then it quieted by the 3rd quarter. I hope 2005 can begin on the same path but keep the momentum up the whole way through.

Last night on the radio they were discussing how the Toronto film industry still has not picked up, even with the incentives offered. Not even one new production has been added to the books. So, I have to rely on commercials and short films for my fodder for awhile, but hope that something more interesting comes around soon. Until then, I'll take what I can get, as long as it doesn't jeopardize my main bread-winning job. If something comes up that'll replace the job on a financial level at least, you know where my heart will be.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Releasing pressure

I'm slowly falling apart.

My family doctor had requested I get my knees and ankles X-Rayed last week, so I found the time to do so while Melanie was in having an Ultrasound done (I'll write about that later). Now, this was the most thorough session I had ever encountered in the radiology department...usually it's just click click, out the door. The technician this time had me position myself in literally a dozen different angles to get a better view of my joints. I left not expecting they'd find anything substantial, and that it was just a waste of time. I was wrong.

My doctor called me two days later requesting I come to see him. So, last night after work I cruised up to Bradford not knowing exactly what was in store. Once in his office, he explained. I may be a youngish, 30 year old myself - however my knees have been experimenting with time travel. They are about 75, and have the look of swiss cheese.

Diagnosis #8347. I do have Arthritis afterall. It's Gouty Arthritis (apparently there is no cooler or more scientific name for it). So I've gone full circle in both directions. One doctor said arthritis. One said it was a rare version of gout. Who would know that they were both right?

Best case scenario? The can raise my meds to counter any further damage. Worst case? Surgery and total replacement. And I really wanted to leave this world with all my parts intact.

Between that, my consistantly sore shoulder with what is considered nerve damage, along with what I expect to be hearing loss, I feel a lot older than I really am. January, and I expect Febuary will be fraught with medical visits. I get vampirized again tomorrow morning for testing purposes, I have a Hearing Test next week, and I have an MRI on my shoulder scheduled for the 31st.

The emotions since have been all over the scale. I'm angry, scared, depressed and occasionally just numb. I have much to process and am only at the beginning of this new path. I'm thankful to have Melanie to support me through this...it's just difficult knowing that we are bringing a child into the world, and I have no idea what condition I'm going to be six months from now, never mind five or ten years.

It's actually ironic that I'm performing in 'The Man With The Plastic Sandwich'. Though his scenario is slightly different, Walter is a man who is dealing with the exact same gambit of emotions that I am handling in real life. Angry, Confused and Scared at the changes in the world around him. Another role that seems to have been written for me. I always considered acting to be cathartic, but this one will take the cake.

Language, people!

I happened to be listening to CFRB 1010 last night when I was leaving the parking lot, and Peter Shurman was filling in for John Moore. His debate for the drive home centered on the controvery of Vince Neil from Motley Crue swearing on the live New Years Eve Tonight Show, and how NBC had "surprisingly" not received any flack from the viewing audience. What was felt to be surprising about it was that Bono of U2 had commited a similar offence on last years Golden Globe awards on the same channel, and they received a tremendous amount of complaints.

I decided to call in and was impressed that I got through. I was the third caller.

I explained to Peter how I figured the reason for the difference was that any audience that was turning in to watch Motley Crue on New Years Eve would pretty much be expecting this kind of behaviour. He countered though that this was the Tonight Show, which has a certain reputation to uphold. I countered this with obviously NBC is trying to reach the younger demographic and perhaps move away from the clean-cut image by using Motley Crue in the first place. Motley Crue and Certain Reputation are not the cleanest fit you could imagine. This he totally agreed with. And with that he closed our conversation...I had time to get a "Oh yeah, totally", and he moved on to the next caller.

It had been seven years since I called in to a radio programme, and it felt kind of neat to do so again. Though I obviously couldn't listen to myself on the radio due to feedback issues, I felt I was able to get my thoughts across in a fairly succinct manner and will most likely do it again when the right subject comes my way.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Move #6 and onwards...

As foretold at the beginning of December, I have been forced out of one horrible location at work and forced into the 343rd ring of the Abyss. My department and I now find ourselves confined to the 3rd floor training room - a sunless, florescent lit tomb that I doubt is going to inspire bright cheery mornings.

{sigh}

Best case scenario - 1 month before Move #7. Worst case scenario? 6 months and beyond. My thumb is a bit itchy.