Over on my writing site I have posted free one act plays for college, high school or university drama and theater departments to use. They can also be used by acting workshops, theater classes and people who just want to put on good theater without paying anything. They are only for non-profit use and licensed under the Creative Commons license.
November 8, 2011
May 8, 2010
Today I had an audition (yes, on Saturday) where I could have stopped halfway through and said, “Thanks guys. I’m going to go.” It wasn’t a bad audition; I got the material, I connected to it and I basically did what I wanted to do with it. A couple lines into it I just felt that I wasn’t connecting with the producer and I wasn’t going to get the part (if the people I auditioned for today are reading this: you can still cast me in this and prove me wrong). What happened?
Everyone who’s ever done theater or spoken in public knows how the audience reacted to their performance. Actors backstage of a play love to determine if an audience is “good” or “bad” on a given night. If you’re doing a comedy you generally rank this by how many laughs you get but when you’re doing a drama or simply speaking in public, how can you tell when the audience is with you? It’s something innate, some feeling you get when you stand in front of them.
Auditions are weird in that you might be doing a comic scene but you can’t expect a laugh. The people doing the auditions may have seen the joke two hundred times already, it’s simply not funny to them.
Let’s take today for an example. The scene I was reading wasn’t knock down funny and it wasn’t meant to be. So when I didn’t get laughs at the slightly funny jokes I wasn’t surprised. But what let me know I wasn’t going to get this part was that I wasn’t getting any reaction, the people in the room weren’t coming along with me on the ride. Maybe it takes years to get the feel and maybe some people are just born with it, but I know when I’m in a room if they like me or not. It’s some combination of body language, reactions to my lines (verbal or physical) and how they talk to me when I enter and when I leave. It’s rarely something tangible I can put my finger on (unless it’s really bad or really good). If they’re into it and they’re hanging on my every word I can feel it, and I know I have a shot at the part.
Well intentioned people love to say, “sometimes you think you were amazing and you don’t get it and sometimes you think you stink and you really get it.” The first half is true. I often think I’m amazing and don’t get it, but I know I was in the running for it. But when I don’t feel that connection, I have never even gotten close to the part.
The weirdest thing is that this all happens without me breaking character or with any ill effect on my performance. I simply feel something in the air. When it’s going well I feed on it and it makes my performance better. I’d love to say when I don’t feel a connection I redouble my efforts and make sure I knock their socks off but it doesn’t work that way. When the connection is not there, there’s nothing I can do to force it. Sure, ont he way out I can crack a few jokes but I’m only making myself feel better.
One day I’ll write a book on how to have the room sync in with your performance. Well, I’ll get incredibly rich and famous as an actor first and then I’ll sell the book. Unfortunately there’s not much you can do to force it. Just feel it, enjoy the slight sense of closure you get when you know you don’t have to wait by the phone for that part and move on to the next audition.
April 22, 2009
People wonder all the time how they can be the best actor they can be.
Learning how to be a good actor can be broken down into two questions. The first question is, “How do you act?” This seems to come from a lot from people auditioning for community theater or trying out for their first student film. It’s natural to be nervous and wonder how the heck to perform in front of an audience or act in front of a camera.
Here are my basics: Know your lines, know your character, know the story and then try to speak clearly and have fun.
You want more complicated answers here are a few books that I’ve pretended to have read:
The second part to this question is “how do I behave as a good actor.” And here’s my personal advice on that question:
- Don’t Be Crazy – Crazy people like to say they’re actors and actors often think they have to be crazy to be taken seriously. It’s not true. Some of the best actors I’ve worked with are normal people who happen to be very good actors. Don’t believe everything you read in the tabloids.
- Don’t be a Jerk – Actors somehow got the impression that they have to be mean to everyone they meet. Series regulars are mean to guest stars, guest stars are mean to co-stars and everyone’s mean to craft services. Don’t. Be nice. People like to work with nice folks.
- Roll With It – Sad fact of life is that lines change, blocking gets switched and scenes get added/deleted. Relax and deal with it. No one is out to get you.
- Be Helpful – Performing a play or shooting a film is a lot of work. Depending on the union status of your project actors may be prohibited from doing anything but acting. That means if you’re on the set of Grey’s Anatomy and someone asks you to move a c-stand around, you say no. But when you’re acting in community theater or doing a student film do us all a favor and help as much as you can. Don’t let it get in the way of your acting but lend a hand any way you can.
- Take it Seriously – You are an actor because you enjoy acting and that’s great. But it’s a job (paid or not) and you need to treat it as such. No one says you can’t enjoy work, but you’d better put your nose down when it’s time.
- Listen to Your Director – The director has one goal, make this the best project possible. It’s not about stroking your ego, it’s not about ruining your career and it’s not about trying to make your life difficult. If the director tells you to cry as you cross from stage left, then cry as you cross from stage left. Try it before you start complaining about how it’s not something your character would do. It’s the director’s decision, not yours.
- Listen to the Script – I’m stealing from one of the books above but you’d be shocked how many actors see something in a script like “Irving hits his sister” and claim, “Irving would never do that.” Yes he would, it’s in the script. Everything you need is in the script. If you start making up crap outside the script you’re not performing the same play/film as everyone else.
- Be Friends With Everyone – This is the most important advice I can give, especially starting out. This doesn’t mean you have to buddy up to everyone and kiss butt. It means you have to smile, be nice to everyone on set and help in any way you can. This goes triply so in small projects that don’t pay. People don’t do student films forever. They go on and do bigger and better things. Or maybe their college roommate goes on to do bigger things. Either way, they become a good ally in this industry. Everyone says the entertainment industry is about “who you know” and that’s completely true but more importantly it’s about who likes you and wants to help you out.
November 24, 2008
For years the LA theater going public has been able to avoid Eitan by simply not going to see him in the Cricket Feet Showcases. Simple, right? Well no longer. Eitan has begun appearing in The Boychick Affair an interactive play. The characters mingle and talk with the audience members while the plot goes on. So not only do people have to SEE Eitan act, they actually have to engage him in conversation and pretend to think he’s funny up close. Oh the humanity!
The show is modeled after a dysfunctional family celebrating the Bar Mitzvah of one of their youngest. Eitan plays the boy’s rowdy uncle. Reservations can be made through the website above or through Goldstar.
Please go just to heckle Eitan and try to make him break character. The show runs every Sunday, 3PM at the Sportsmans Lodge in the valley. There’s a Winter hiatus coming up but shows resume late Janurary.
May 14, 2008
Lying on your acting resume? You think this would be a really short post. I’d say something like “don’t do it” and run off for another month or so without posting. Sorry, it’s way more complicated than that.
Some of the stuff I’m going to talk about is risky, some of the stuff is safe as a Volvo. It’s all about your comfort level and how honest the lie actually is. Mostly these are white lies that actors are expected to tell. But they can get pushed too far if you’re trying to be sneaky. The biggest rule I can say is don’t get caught lying. Even if it’s minor. You don’t want to have to start justifying your whole resume to a casting director in the middle of an audition.
Lying On Your Resume Can be a Good Idea – In a perfect world everyone’s acting resume would be a list of parts they’ve played and casting people could easily look at the resume and see where the actor is in their career and if they could possibly be a good fit for the part they are currently casting. Problem is, it’s just not possible. No one’s going to recognize every item on an actor’s resume. Credits don’t always mean the same thing in different contracts. School plays can be really hard to sell as “legitimate experience.” And the list goes on and on.
The First Lie Every Actor is Told To Tell – Let’s get this one out of the way. I’ve read this in books and on other websites so this is the least risky thing in the post. If you did a play at Xavier High School and you played the part of the Fiddler in The Fiddler on the Roof you don’t need to list the production company as “Xavier High School,” you can list it as “Xavier Theater.” Or if the theater has a name you can list it. “The Herbert Einstein Memorial Theater.” Whatever. Because no one really cares. It’s a play in a theater they’ve never heard of. They’ll ask about the play (if at all) and that’ll be that.
Don’t Upgrade Yourself – I’ve seen a fair number of actor resumes in my life. I can’t even calculate the percentage of which have obvious attempts at upgrades but it’s a high number. Suddenly that guy with one line has a “Major Supporting Role” in the film. Or the guy who passed by the star in the hallway is a “Guest Star.” Well guess what, the bigger the lie the more likely someone’s going to catch you. Saying you had a Guest Star part on a very successful show when you had a one liner is typically pretty obvious. I’ve seen resumes listing multiple large parts and when you type the name into IMDB maybe one of the parts comes up… as “Waiter #3.” That’s no “Starring” role. And do you know who’s going to catch you every single time if you list that extra work as principle? The casting director. They remember people they hire. And they’ll never be hiring you. And if you say you were a guest star someone just might try to check your quote, they’ll find out you were lying and you’ll get fired before you were even hired. That’d suck.
Move Laterally – Look at my resume and you’ll see the Final Justice part listed as a “Co-Star.” My contract doesn’t say “Co-Star.” In fact, I have no idea where my contract is so I can’t read the actually billing. But I was hired as a “Principle” and that’s the only billing I had. Problem was, it just stood out on my resume as a weird thing next to my other two actual “co-star” roles (as of this writing, just for the record). So I moved myself laterally. I changed it to “Co-Star.” It’s not really a lie, it’s equivalent. If I were hired on any other AFTRA show I’d be billed as a “Co-Star” with that part. I just didn’t know to ask for that when I was starting out. Also, they never ran credits on that show. Uch. How do you know what your billing is supposed to be? Read your contract. The other great time to move laterally is on a feature when you’re booked as a “Featured” part. Technically this means you got paid a day rate and had a line or two. In resume world, this means you were an extra who thinks they could pick themselves out of a crowd. “Featured” is a term that is dead and gone on resumes. It’s been ruined. You’re now a “Principle” or “Featured Principle.” That means you had a line otherwise people think you’re making stuff up. Isn’t that ironic?
A Real Serious Lie – Ok, this last one is beyond anything I’ve ever done. I’ve said time and time again that no one really cares about films and plays they’ve never seen and never heard of. They just see lines on your resume and assume you know something about being on camera or being on stage. There’s nothing that’s going to excite them unless they recognize something from your resume. That means you can completely make up student films, short films, original plays, acting classes and cast yourself in plays you’ve read and know well enough to pass a quiz on. You can, but you shouldn’t. This is where you really can play too much with your resume and head down a dark and dangerous path. I did a few student films in college but how does someone know I didn’t do three more in which I was the lead? Heck, I was in a few plays there that I know like the back of my hand. Who’s to say I didn’t play the lead instead of the guy carrying suitcases? No one would ever catch a single one of those lies and they’d pad my resume quite nicely. Or at least they would have back when that was all I had on my resume. But know I’ve seen directors ask about a random part, just to make conversation. Just make sure you could make something up if need be.
Don’t Do That! – I hope you read this paragraph after reading the one before it. Don’t do it. Don’t completely make stuff up on your resume, even if you’ll never get caught. It’s useless, no one cares about these projects. Why be a liar for something unimportant? BUT I’m totally down with making things look as good as possible on your resume. Let’s say you did a staged reading for a class of an original play your friend wrote but never did anything with. Why can’t that part be on your resume under theater? You did the part, it just wasn’t a full show. That short fillm that you shot with your buddies? Put your friend as the director and put that on your resume. You shot it, it’s a film. No one judges an actor by how small the font size is on their resume. A List actor resumes only have their latest, greatest and most famous roles listed anyway. B and C list actors don’t even have their theater listed most of the time. It’s only us working class stiffs. If you only had one liners in student films no one’s going to be upset if you make one of those a lead. The director might get annoyed but if he’s teaching 5th grade in Kansas now, how does that affect you?
Lie as Little as Possible – What we can take away from all my examples is that you should lie as little as humanly possible. Don’t go for any lies that can be caught or pointed out easily (See that guy with an iPhone at your audition? He’s checking your IMDB page and knows you’re lying). Lies should be used only to very lightly massage your resume, never to try to bump it up to the next level. Nothing I’ve suggested here will land you a single extra audition. None will make any perceptible difference in your career. They’re small and they just smooth the way towards getting some real credits that you don’t have to work to pretty up.
January 16, 2008
A surprisingly high number of people find this site after typing the phrase “how to write an actor’s bio” or “acting bio formats” into Google. So I figured I’d take this blog entry and give a shout out to the actors as far away as Malaysia and Iran who are looking for advice on how to write a good acting bio and searching for an actor bio template. While I’m shouting, I might as well distribute some of my very useful advice.
Why-o a Bio?
There are many reasons an actor might need to write a short biography. Maybe they need something to put in a theater program or they need some PR materials for a film they did. Until the day comes that you can hire a publicist to do the work for you, this job lies on your shoulders.
What’s in a Bio?
A bio is not a resume. I’ve already written an excellent post (if I must say so myself) on writing an actors resume. So I advise you read it if you’re looking on how to write an acting resume.
Like I was saying before I interrupted myself, a bio is not an excuse to list dozen parts you’ve had since 3rd grade. It’s a chance to brag about your work but also show who you are as a person. The vast majority of people reading your bio aren’t ever going to meet you, so this is an excellent chance for them to find out something about you as a person. Don’t let them come away thinking you’re defined completely by your work.
It’s also not a place for you to personally thank every member of your family for their support. Unless no one besides your family is going to see the play you’re in, it’s best to limit the thank yous and inside jokes. Make your bio something everyone who sees your play or reads the press packet will care about.
Stop listing what’s not in a bio. What IS in a bio?
Let’s first talk about credits. Unless everyone seeing the show is going to get a copy of your resume (like in a showcase) you’ll want to list a couple of credits. If you don’t have any, this is a perfect place to say “Eitan is making his theatrical debut. Please be nice.” But the general rule of credits is the same as with writing a resume: keep it simple and only list your most well known or best work. Look at the lits on my resume post if you want to know my order for which credits trump which. There’s no reason to list thirty credits in your biography. Depending on how many words you’re give for your bio you’ll want to list somewhere between one and five credits. Any more and you’d better have a Tony or an Oscar gathering dust on your mantle. Otherwise you’re probably not going to impress anyone with those credits, only bore them.
Give up a little information telling the audience who you are as a person. When I read in a program that someone has a degree in engineering I know I’m rooting for them right out of the gate because we have something in common. By telling something about who you are as a person you help the audience like you as a person before you step foot on that stage. You don’t have to pour out details you’re not comfortable with disclosing and don’t mention your recent divorce (unless you just got divorced from one of your cast mates, steamy!). Pets, hobbies, odd jobs and funny anecdotes always fit well in this area.
What if I want to be really silly/funny in my biography?
Sometimes it’s appropriate to have an acting bio which is completely silly and has nothing to do with acting. As you can guess I’m guilty of having done this many times in my career. Here are a few examples of silly bios I’ve written over the years.
- Eitan as the printing Press: Eitan was invented by Johann Guttenberg in 1440…
- Eitan as Abe Lincoln: Eitan was born in a log cabin in Kentucky. He would later issue the Emancipation Proclamation…
- Eitan as a deity: Eitan is a master of all matter and energy. Bow before Eitan…
- Totally made up information: Eitan has never been stuck in traffic. He competed in the 1984 Olympics as the youngest pole vaulter in Olympic history…
These work for me because I’m a little goofy and I think this type of thing is hilarious. Feel free to throw a joke in to a more serious bio if you think it’ll work. Be true to yourself.
First or Third Person?
Eitan says your bio should always be written in third person. It’s standard and doesn’t sound as elitist as you think it does. Also try to refrain from making the “Eitan likes talking in third person” joke in your bio. It’s been done a billion times.
There’s really no wrong format for an acting bio. As long as you keep it in third person, short as possible and appropriate for the production you’re not going to go wrong. Here are a couple examples of bios in various formats for you to enjoy and dissect like a James Joyce novel.
“Eitan has appeared in various TV shows such as ‘Ghost Whisperer’ and ‘iCarly.” He has also appeared in several national commercials for products like Saturn and the city of Las Vegas. He studied electrical engineering at UC Santa Barbara before realizing engineering wasn’t really his bag. He promptly announced to the world he would be an actor and hasn’t been taken seriously since.”
“Eitan lives in Los Angeles where he works as an actor. His most recent TV appearance was on Ghost Whisperer. In his free time Eitan enjoys playing on his computer and updating his website (www.eitantheactor.com). Eitan would like to thank each and every one of you for coming to see his show. Please form a line outside his dressing room after final curtain.”
“Eitan is an avid and horrible softball player. He also enjoys playing Dance Dance Revolution and cooking. Eitan once worked as a telemarketer so it’s very likely you hung up on Eitan at one point in your life. Eitan has appeared on Ghost Whisperer, iCarly and various commercials.”
Hope this has helped all you wayward souls searching for information on how to write an acting biography.
October 19, 2004
The world has been enraptured by Eitan’s mug somewhere far in the background of the Hertz commercial for months now (yet still considered a principal actor since technically he’s recognizable (like anyone could mistake Eitan for anyone else (one more set of parentheses can’t hurt))). His sister was heard to comment, “A monkey could have done that job.” Still, Eitan refuses to give up his residual checks and excuse to brag to everyone he knows that he’s, “Currently in a national commercial.” This works especially well at bars.
Currently and for a very limited time Eitan is appearing in a showcase of two original one acts (at the posting of this bio entry there are only two shows left, go to www.sassyhour.com for info) at the Odyssey Theater. The first is an insane murder mystery which makes so little sense it’s automatically hilarious. Exactly Eitan’s cup of tea. Eitan plays a member of the audience (a beer loving frat boy, to be exact) who’s called up on stage by the stand up comic introducing the show. The comic flips out and attacks Eitan who cries out like a little girl. The comic is murdered and everyone is a suspect. Somehow a cracker is also witness to this crime. Really, it’s insane. Since it involves the audience thinking the comedian is actually attacking Eitan the director would hate for you to have read that before the show, but the biographer cares not. Actually the biographer assumes no one’s going to read this far into the bio before they’ve seen the show. If the biographer’s wrong, he’s ready to duel with Matt to settle the score.
Then there are a few variety acts in the show. Since you’re here to read about Eitan, here’s what he does: In lieu of intermission Eitan leads the audience in chair aerobics but he does it as a psychotic type gym instructor. There are other variety acts but the biographer doesn’t go in for free advertising. If the other actors want to talk about their variety acts, let them do it on their own websites (or they could write the biographer a hefty check for a mention in this biography).
The second one-act was directed by Lesley Robin (see The Open Road at UCSB above to learn who she is). Lesley had talked to Eitan about possibly being in another one of her shows and he, of course, said he’d do it. In this play Eitan is a rather traditional father of two children and husband to a wife (go figure). With his children going off to college his wife is unhappy in her overly restrictive and boring role of “stay at home mom.” When Eitan’s character starts giving in to his wife’s wishes he sees his world cave in around him. It’s a meaningful discourse on traditional family values. Oh, and Eitan tap dances, that should have been mentioned earlier. Don’t worry, it’s a comedy. Eitan still delivers the funny as he’s totally insane (on and off stage).
On the way out of his house for the opening night of his showcase Eitan learned that Stella Archer had left Conan Carroll and Associates. Barbara Divisek has come in to take over the department. So at this moment Eitan has a new agent. Luckily, Pamela Newlands www.pamelanewlands.com (who gets a shout out, and a plug for the following reason) gave Eitan a heads up so he wasn’t too shocked. Juiciy details won’t be posted here, but there will no doubt be another posting upon Eitan’s meeting with Barbara. That is all for now.
March 7, 2004
After shaving off all his hair and getting several facial tattoos/piercing Eitan had new headshots taken. Ok, that’s a blatant lie. It’s not the biographer’s fault Eitan is boring. After discussing it with his “people” Eitan decided to get new photos. So off he headed to Arizona to be photographed by Ed Sohn (glossing over SEVERAL details there). Now the photos are online and will soon be in general circulation around the Los Angeles area (most likely they’ll be seen on the walls of the United States Post Office).
Eitan’s last show went so well he decided to do another. When his friend Amy Harber announced she was putting together a sketch comedy show at the Next Stage Theater up in Hollywood Eitan jumped at the opportunity to have his ego stroked further. Eitan not only performed in several sketches but also got to premier two original works, “Meet the Parents” (original title, but Eitan’s unlikely to get sued) and “The Lord’s Deli.” Both got a tremendous response from people (including but not limited to Eitan’s mother). At the writing of this bio there is but one show left.
Speaking of hack writers… Sorry, the biographer meant to write, “Speaking of Eitan writing.” Ok, take two. Speaking of Eitan writing, he’s also in the process of putting together a short film called “Through the Front Door.” It was written by Eitan, will be directed by Eitan and it will be starring Eitan. Eitan loves Eitan.
In sadder news (if that’s possible considering who’s site you’re reading) Eitan’s Hertz commercial is no more. It’s been pulled from the airwaves after millions of complaints about “that cretin on the phone behind the talking guy.” That’s not true. But it was pulled. Poor poor Eitan.
June 16, 2003
The play has ended. Eitan’s marvelous turn as Arnold Kessler in “The Tenth Man” is over! Reviews are still viewable: LA Times, Backstage West and the less than complimentary LA Weekly. Please note that Eitan is only mentioned in one review (the Backstage one) and his name is misspelled as it was on the program. It was the producer’s fault. Eitan will go on to do bigger and better things, although what those things will be remains to be seen.
April 7, 2003
The old saying, “No news is good news” doesn’t apply to acting careers. The biographer is happy to announce Eitan’s latest career accomplishments. The first is a rather plain and boring story as far as acting stories go. Eitan had submitted his headshot and resume (although Eitan has a staff of people working on his website, he still insists on mailing his own headshots as he claims it keeps him humble) to a newly formed company called “Ashland Entertainment” for a speculative commercial. They called him in and he auditioned. He was called back and subsequently cast. The plot of the commercial is as follows: Eitan is a guy taking his girlfriend out to dinner, he is noticeably nervous. They are sitting there drinking their wine when Eitan pulls out an engagement ring. In order to kneel and propose he pushes out his chair but accidentally pushes it right into the waiter. The waiter then spills spaghetti all over Eitan. His girlfriend picks off a piece of spaghetti, gives him a kiss and obviously has just said yes. It looks to be a very cute spot and it’s a pity that it will probably never get released. All the equipment was very high end, so the commercial will hopefully come out with a very professional look. It was done during an all night shoot from 11PM until 7:30 in the morning in an Italian restaurant in Pasadena. Despite (or probably because of) staying up all night and spending about an hour of the shoot with cold spaghetti all over his head, on his knees and unable to move for fear of disrupting the pasta, Eitan had a great time. He also had the production photographer take some photos with his disposable camera, so pictures will be posted eventually. [Biographers Note(2/9/04): The pictures will never be posted as Eitan stupidly lost the disposable camera in Santa Barbara. Silly Eitan.]
The second story is a tiny bit less conventional. In December Eitan had submitted a headshot for some play that was being done by the LA Jewish Theater. They did not call him for that show. A few months later Eitan saw a posting for another show that they were casting. He decided not to mail another headshot, as he figured they had his first one and would call if they wanted him. Eitan was shocked to discover he was actually right. This story would not be so odd except that he was not called in for a regular audition. Two actors had dropped out of the show several weeks into rehearsal. Eitan was called in to possibly replace one of the actors. He went in and did his monologue for the director before a rehearsal. He was offered the part and started rehearsal started about one minute later. Eitan would post the dates of the play, except he does not know them. All he knows is when he has his next rehearsal. Fortunately (in some ways) it’s not a large part, so Eitan will have little trouble learning the blocking and lines.
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