Here I post my discoveries, epiphanies and lessons learned during my ongoing pursuit of the art of performance, on stage, film, street, park, etc.

My Rehearsal Rules

Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Often a lack of rehearsal protocols for lengthy rehearsal periods can make the experience frustrating. I have found the following set of basic rules to be extra helpful. I make sure I remind myself of these each time I step into a rehearsal.

Respect people's time
Show up on time, that doesn't mean 30 mins after or 5 mins after, that means whatever time it takes you to get to the rehearsals and warm up and be ready to work at the time stated. I hate it when people stroll in while mouthing their excuses and waste more time justifying what happened.

Also, leave on time. Some people take advantage of people's time thinking "Oh I would go on all night with the rehearsal" too bad, you hopefully have a life. And when you succomb to such demands.. you are not following the schedule and you are giving out the message that it is ok to be unprepared till the last minute and by then we can just make up for everything we should have done by ridiculous rehearsal times. If you were suppose to leave by 10pm, you leave by 10pm. If things are really heating up, stuff's getting done, tell the stage manager or director at 9:30 or 9:45 that you are scheduled to leave at 10pm that way they will know how to coordinate. Bottom line, if you show up on time and leave on time you declare by that simple action that you mean business in terms of committment.

We've been given 2 ears and 1 mouth, use them in that ratio.

Listen more than talk. With a large ensemble it is important to follow this constantly. There is no way to emphasize this enough. Just do it.

Keep your suggestions and ideas to yourself during rehearsal.

Sometimes a director may have a lot on their plate, if they are performing as well, they might feel stalled in making observations quickly and providing sound creative input right at the moment. That doesn't mean actors and others start telling them what should be done and how something can be made better. Shut up people.. just let the person think for a second. If you feel something else should be considered try reaching them during a break or email them or call them.. but for God sakes don't interrupt them during rehearsal. Especially in dance, don't ever tell the choreographer how it is suppose to look.. trust me it's only gonna end up making you look like a jerk and not help the rehearsal at all. If you have to get the baby out then the least you can do is ask for permission to suggest or express your beliefs.

Do not tell another artist how to perform or initiate a conversation about what YOU think of their performance
When we rehearse, we are experimenting, we are artists are making ourselves vulnerable and trying out things that may make us look good or bad.. the last thing we want is another artist telling us why it didn't work or why it did. . unless you ask them.. their is no reason they should be vocalizing their opinions.. again, director is there for a reason.

Overall, rehearsal is suppose to be about more than just blocking and learning lines.. infact if you are gonna learn your lines during rehearsals might as well not bother... rehearsal is about discovery, about materializing your vision with bodies and actions. When I say vision, it is not the actor's vision.. no sorry... it is the director's vision.. I know that sounds kinda weird but seriously.. that's what the director is for.. if you as an actor have a vision discuss it with the director, ask for permission to show what you have in mind, if it involves changing other actors' blocking ask them for permission too. Now, in some skills rehearsal is just practice for example, stage combat if you don't know much about it, then you rehearse to perfect a routine. Sometimes in dance you rehearse to get something right together as a group. So rehearsals in different areas can mean different things. It's a good idea to discuss with the director what they want their rehearsals to be about. Do they want collaboration if yes, how? All this work prior to rehearsal will make it beneficial for all.

Musical Theatre Conservatory

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Tomorrow is a new day. I can't sleep, I'm nervous yet eagerly waiting. For next few weeks I will be in class for something I love, something I am passionate about. Next few weeks are gonna kick my ass and I can't wait. It's the beginning of the Summer Music Theatre Conservatory . Let's read from the site:

"The Music Theatre Conservatory is an intensive, professional program of classes, rehearsal, and performance experience, offering training in the three disciplines of Music Theater: Acting, Singing, and Dance. The program is an educational/professional development project of Notre Dame de Namur University, offering college credit through the Department of Music and Vocal Arts, and Broadway By the Bay, an all-producing Bay Area professional musical theatre company. The core faculty and visiting master teachers are all established professionals with extensive resumes as performers, directors, and educators."
I remember around March I believe it was I saw the ad in the theatre bay area magazine and I thought man it would be great to do this program, to train for musical theatre. At this point, I'm feeling quiet comfortable with acting in general. I want to branch out try out other aspects of theatre. At this point, stuff like stage combat, miming, physical theatre, kabuki , etc., are adventures I want to pursue. I want to see performance through different aspects. I also apply to the San Francisco Mime Troupe and I consider applying to the ACT summer conservatory.

So I saw the ad in March when we were full swing with nautanki , which by the way I'm very proud of because it was yet another form of theatre, different from a simple play. So I decided I would get vocal lessons to prepare for theaudition. I put an ad on craigslist went through at least 3 dozen replies and finally I picked a coach and I am not disappointed in fact I am very lucky for someone who has tasted the professional world and who know what they are talking about and most of all someone who I can trust. April began lessons and within 3 weeks was the audition, this involved picking two songs... get the sheet music, get the accompaniment, get your audition practice, get your audition outfit, shoes and what not.

Audition day came. We started with the dance audition I was ready in my outfit clearly there are people far more experienced than I am, I somehow get through the routine and then comes the singing part. Change into dress for singing, get your music, sing, perform your monologue and then comes the part that I did not expect to be hard but was infact quiet testing. The interview. The questions they throw at you while you stand their unarmed on stage. How old are you? Will you able to invest time? Why do you want to join this program? Have you studied performing arts? For every single one I have nothing extraordinary to offer. I sum up with saying , I want to learn and train the right way. I want to acquire skills to make myself a better performer. I can sing I know that but I have not had considerable amount of formal training. I need to refine my dance skills, I feel very comfortable with my acting skills, but it is parts that I'm struggling with is what I want to improve and that this the program that will guide me in the right direction. I had overheard the other hopefuls answer to questions with following endings "oh .. so you toured with that?", "...was that a professional production?" I knew I hadn't offered material in my resume that required questions of that caliber. But this was an audition for a training program, they knew that right?

Weeks go by, I am hanging out with a bunch of friends who I know through my computer science classes.... we are chilling with the game called rock band. I ask for the mic since I would like to be the singer. They have never heard me sing before. Friend number 1 is on bass Friend number 2 on drums and I am singing to Roxanne from The Police. To everyone's surprise I have never heard this song before, I butcher it, I don't sing .. I pretty much scream the song till my friends beg me to stop.. it was my attempt to get out any frustrations I had felt as I had not heard back from the conservatory. I heard back from the San Francisco Mime Troupe, I was selected for that one.. I couldn't confirm what if, music theatre conservatory got back to me ? I couldn't say no to that. I would love to be involved with the Mime Troupe and I will some day but for some reason waiting for the music conservatory seemed like an intuitive decision. I answer my friends' request by setting the mic down. My sister calls..she speaks of a certain envelope that has arrived, I ask of its size.. it's big.. means good right? She opens and tells me the good news... I jump in joy I tell my friends that I am in I got accepted... they repeatedly ask me. .. "wait you are going to be training for musical theatre?" After listening to me howl.. they refuse to believe any of this ... they pass it as a joke.. I for one I'm ecstatic beyond belief.

And then this is today 40 mins before midnight, the day before the program begins, I am too excited to sleep. I have arranged everything, leotards and dance shoes and tights and sheet music and I'm ready. I am nervous but I can't wait.. coming this far has meant a lot. I want to make the most of the days ahead. It would be ideal to record each day here.

The raw and the rehearsed

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Kinda late to post this and I wish I had written this before the actual performance. Anyhow. So last Friday I performed a piece in SF for a theatre group that auditions people by having them perform infront of a live audience. Yes that's right! I was given a script a few weeks back and told to memorize the lines and interpret it anyway I wish and come to the show and simply perform in front of live audience. I did exactly that, with a few blocking notes so I know where my reader is and I remain in the light.

What surprised me most was my reaction during the phone conversation with a company member on the phone... question posed... "are you up for it"? I said .. why the hell not? From that very moment I was excited about this.. the idea of all the things that could be done, that could be invented, that could go wrong... I was ready for the raw stage experience ... to be vulnerable.. to really tap into your craft.

I walk in the theatre, turns out there are many performances lined up for the night
More actors start to trickle in ... confident people, who upon learning of my purpose at the theatre that night respond "Oh you are the audtioneer... good luck!! you're gonna be great".
I am curious about how they have costumes on and more confident about what they are doing ... I find out that they have been rehearsing for weeks, it's just the first act , my act, that is not rehearsed, because I am auditioning ... of courseeeeeeeee!!! Why else would they be advertising all around town about their $15 show.. if all other acts were not rehearsed. and oh .. I'm up first!! ... Feels great to know that I'm opening with no rehearsal, only my lines and instinct and oh yea.. it's a comedic piece... not my forte but oh well... I cannot refuse that I am more excited than nervous... it's great to feel that I can do this.. how will it turn out to walk in on a stage and not know your every move.

People are getting ready, folding programs, going over their lines, everyone is helping out with getting the place ready, sound checks, tech stuff ......I didn't have my headshot like some other people so we all draw our faces (caricature) on a piece of paper and post it next to the professional headshots that other more responsible actors had produced. What better way to recognize me than by a cartoon version of moi... apparently there was a show happening next door, another theatre company. I have to write about their warm up... all performers are on stage before the show and are warming up with peculiar theatre warm ups that involve walking around the space, yelling and screaming and what not .. you know the good old .. theatre warm ups... but the one that really works for me is ... marching around screaming this

continuously repeating that while walking in circles with increasing intensity really gets me ready for what's ahead... loved it!!! (piano fight.. don't sue me for revealing your warmup chant.. i love you guys)

Audience start walking in someone directs them to the correct door, I help with handing them a pencil and voting card... oh there is voting too..... The left door leads to the space where I'll be performing.

Show opens, I am relaxed, not nervous, I play with my gutt, it's exhilarating. It's comedy, so keep the pace, keep the flow, take chances, take risks... it lasted not more than 10 minutes but I'm happy I did it. My performance is followed by the rehearsed scenes written by local playwrights. Ranging from dramatically intense to hilarious.. each is very well written and performed. Each scene will be voted by the live audience and they shall pick two best ones to move on to the next round... performed next month perhaps, till they choose a winner, and that will be a play performed in full length.

All in all, this unique audition experience was a chance to reflect on my stage abilities. I have been told they are looking for actors for their upcoming round and will get back in touch with me if they have an opening for "rehearsed" pieces.

Company >
Production >

Believing in your craft

Monday, March 24, 2008

This came up on the second night of our performance (Sultana Daku) we were praying and expressing our thoughts right before run, when an interesting point was made, people will have have different reactions based on their perceptions to what we offer on stage. We must not make hasty decisions, we must have faith in what we have worked on and believe in our craft. I think this is an important message for a show like ours where there is a certain way of doing things and it should be adhered to if we want to perform the art form the way it is meant to be. There are audiences that we have had and will have (March 29th show) , who are not familiar with true form of nautanki, who will be challenged and will react, but we must stay honest to what we have learned and portray it with artistic audacity. We cannot compromise the art for those who do not know about it. Who knows what they didn't necessarily agree with might cause them to learn more.

Pictures from the first two shows : Click Here

Taking risks and exploring

Thursday, March 20, 2008

It's on yahoo today, in case you didn't notice (click here). Needless to say that this is a production full of lavish sets, costumes and amazing talent.

But why is this really exciting? Because it screams exploration, it shows artistic risks and melding and mixes brought together by an artist from bollywood which we wouldn't expect. This brings me back to my previous post about our upcoming production of Sultana Daku (only 1 day left... woo hoo) I had mentioned that us Indians do not focus on preservation, we are busy bragging about our culture. I would say that Padmavati proves that there are individuals who can change that, who have the resources, artistic ability and power to change that.
(tried finding a better image, but oh well.. and yes I know! the elephant image is all over the web)

Padmavati is heavily influenced by the music of India, more so than any of Roussel’s works. Where he doesn’t use actual Hindu melodies, he uses Hindu scales extensively; these scales use different melodic intervals than in the West. Notice the “oriental” effect of these scales in the enchantingly ethereal song of the brahmin, describing Padmavati’s beauty

Padmavati marked an abrupt change of Roussel’s style, away from typically French manners and civility and toward classical forms, rhythmic power, powerful emotions, and even occasionally, a very un-Gallic ferocity.
(click to listen). (source: click here)
We have substance in our art forms that must not be lost, Roussel saw it, he captured it and I'm glad to say that an Indian, Sanjay Leela Bhansali brought it to stage. This will show and hopefully cause our talent to take risks and explore, in this manner. Here we see an indian artist showing indian art on a western stage, challenging western audiences to another dimension of art.

We have conformed to adapt our art to the west, we continously struggle to fit in that group, which is also a risk but I think there needs to be a well-formed approach to that. Here with Padmavati we are bringing forth our story, I'm hoping we will see many other stories, that otherwise seem to fade away, from India come to the center stage in the west.

I hope I get to see it, it's gonna take some hoping because looks like it will only be traveling to Italy, Brazil and India after the run in Paris. How can they miss San Francisco... come on people!!!!!

Sultana Daku

Monday, February 11, 2008

I am currently taking part in a nautanki called Sultana Daku... now hold on a sec... for all Indians reading this... this nautanki is very different from the nautanki portrayed in Bollywood. I have to admit that I went into the auditions with a preconceived notion, thinking ...oh nautanki... funny stuff.. over dramatic / over comedic funny stuff....nope not at all... first off, you need to be able to sing.. and sing like.. up there sing ... like waaaay up there...and there are about 18 ways of singing least in this production..behertabeel, sher, vaarta, qawwali , etc.. each time we have sat down for rehearsal, it has turned out to be more than just learning our parts and knowing what to do on stage.. it has been cultural enlightment. There are nuances and details and stories that are shared by the director who is well versed in nautanki... I was not aware that in my own family people had actually watched nautanki in villages and they had experiences that they reminisced when I talked about how I was in a nautanki... (generic reaction of some relatives in India : "Ok so you are in U.S. and you are performing nautanki, an indian folk art, there??") Being in this production has given me a chance to talk to my family about something new, something that I had no idea was a big part of their growing up, they have been telling me about stuff like.. how no one in the audience would know what nautanki was to be performed till the very last minute.. it was a suspense..and a nautanki would run all night so from 10pm all the way to 6am.. so how does that work? The script is only about 60 pages max.. so what happens is that sometimes the audience really like the way something is sung ... there are many encores.. a song is sung in many ways to please the crowd.. I picture it in my head and it's like..those scenes from Shakespeare in Love where the audience is as involved in the play on stage as the actors .. our nautanki in India was perhaps the same way... We may not have a globe theatre.. but it seems as though we did have the spirit and the enthusiam... there are many events and historical significances of nautanki that we discuss in rehearsal, and I am amazed to know that I didn't learn any of that in my indian history classes in india (1st std - 8th std). I am from a place where nautanki was and probably still is performed in its original form and my credibility of being from there was questioned when I was speechless during discussions... I felt deprived that I didn't know anything about all that ... but I'm glad that I am learning... I ended up asking my aunt in India and she talked about how my grandma had a whole nautanki memorized, somehow it occurs to me that all this should be preserved and kept alive... I hope I can do something about that...

So I'm also taking lessons for musical theatre singing and I told the teacher, that I'm in this Indian musical .. it's a nautanki..I told him to come check it out and then quickly I said.. um .. but it's in might not get the thing... we are passing out a synopsis or scene-by-scene summary... but you know it's in Hindi ... so you know... at this point my teacher tells me ... OH so it's like Opera...and I had an epiphany.....he carries on about how not even native italian speakers might understand the opera and what is specifically being said .. but it's about the performance and the singing and the soul of the whole performance... I have to say I was amazed at this interpretation ... it made me think of how... us Indians a lot of times brag about how ... we have so much culture and the west is deprived of a rich heritage like ours... and we brag and brag and brag ... but to no effect or any value ... because I have learned that the west has an enthusiasm and yearning to learn and adapt .. something I think we don't have... our nautanki director shared with us that a student from Berkeley, actually spent years with their family perfecting and learning this art... a foreigner, a westerner.. felt drawn to what we don't even recognize... we brag but in the end.. it's them who preserve and truly cherish...

For our rehearsals we were looking for musicians dholak and harmonium players... let me tell you.. for a nautanki you need to be somebody who is versatile as a musician who can read the movements and improvise and hit the beats at the right spot... a good foundation is required.. no questions asked... but there is more than that... you need to be I emailed a few indian music institutions about how we are looking and perhaps you can join us... I received one particular reply that made me ... well let's just say .. think about many things.. It read something like this ... "We are very rigorous and serious in our classical training, please do not send us messages about such things.." Now... my first reaction was to invite them to our rehearsal so they could learn what rigorous and serious really second reaction was... were they confused by "nautanki" did they think we were doing a cheap dance number (as Bollywood has made nautanki out to be) If they really are indian musicians there is no excuse for them to not know what real nautanki is ... I mean these people are claiming to know the music of India .. how can they not know nautanki... I have decided to invite them to rehearsal and then to the show and have them experience the rigorous and serious art that they obviously don't know anything about ...

Spin off!!!!
Ok, so our nautanki production poster had a footer showing the designers of the poster .. so I go to their page and started browsing and under portraitures..(I need a headshot soon :P).. I see none other than my co-blogger's pic !!! what the... life is so weirdly connected.

If you are around in the SF Bay Area, watch us!! tickets and info Pix from rehearsal