Even the pros take lessons

voicelessonOne of the things I love about being an accompanist is getting to play for voice lessons.  Not only is it a fun way to make a little extra money, but I always walk away with more knowledge than when I started.

This weekend, I accompanied five lessons for master teacher Kurt Robinson.  This guy definitely knows what he is doing.  It was mesmerizing to listen to the sounds he could get out of people in an hour, and the transformation from the time I entered to the time I left.  As soon as I finished each lesson, I went right to my notebook to write down everything I learned, so in essence, I had five voice lessons of my own that day.

And the most inspiring part of the day was when one of my Broadway idols walked into the room.  I don’t want to say her name on here and sound the Google alerts alarm, but let’s just say that if you know musical theatre, you know who she is.  You probably have a recording or two she’s starred on, and if you’re like me, you’ve spent countless hours on YouTube, watching every performance she’s ever given!

Obviously, I was cherishing every second I spent sitting at the piano accompanying her, while trying to maintain my composure and not just giggle with glee.  What impressed me the most was that this wasn’t any different from any other voice lesson.  When she had issues, Kurt called her out on it.  Part of me was thinking “how dare you say that wasn’t transformative, this woman is flawless!”  But she was there to work, and work she did!

I rode the elevator with her after her lesson was finished, and she mentioned that this particular piece was making her nervous.  She’ll be performing it for a July 4th concert, and she wanted to start working on it now.  And that is admirable.  This woman is an absolute star, and yet she doesn’t take anything for granted.  No wonder God named his garden after her. (wink, wink)

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Lesson of the day: Answer Your Phone!

man_on_phoneToday’s lesson is simple: answer your phone.  And if you can’t, keep checking your missed calls and voice mail.

On Wednesday, I was working in an office where I recently started temping three days a week.  It was only my fourth shift, so I was following every rule, and trying to be that perfect office drone.  Naturally, I had my cell phone on silent.  And that was my mistake.

After work, I met a friend to see Tyne Daly in Mothers and Sons on Broadway—more on that later—so I didn’t really look at my phone until around 10:30. I had a voice mail from a casting director with Lion TV, wanting to schedule me for an audition for a true crime TV show on Discovery ID, a network I’ve loved shooting two previous show for, Fatal Encounters and On The Case with Paula Zahn.  I was psyched.

I do the serial killer thing pretty well, so if I can get in front of a casting director, I can usually creep them out a little.  I also matched  the physical description pretty closely.  The guy was an ex-Amish, gay guy who murdered five women, and talked himself out of being charger with four of them.  “A slimy, smooth-talker,” right up my alley.  I love playing the creeps!

I called Lion TV first thing the next morning and left the casting director a voice mail, while excessively checking my phone ever five minutes.  I did the same on Friday, and didn’t hear anything.  Monday came around, and I left a third voice mail, which I know is a little excessive and annoying, but I really wanted this role!  I never heard anything.

Here’s the thing: television works on a very tight and last-minute schedule.  And for something like true crime, the casting directors aren’t as concerned with finding the most gifted actor they can.  Most of the time, the actors hardly speak.  If you think about the reenactment shows you’ve seen, there might be a little dialogue from the actors, but the majority of the show is interview style, or the visual recreation which is underscored by someone else talking about what happened.  Rather than sifting through hundreds of headshots and bringing in dozens of actors, the casting director just wants to find someone competent who could resemble the real life people, even a little.

I’m pretty sure that the day I missed the call, the casting director scheduled a few guys to come in the next day to audition, the guys who actually answered the phone.  And one of those guys booked it.  They’re not going to wait for me to call them back, because by then, they’ve already found someone able to do the job.

Sadly, I won’t have an ex-Amish, gay murderer on my resume any time soon.  All because I was trying to be a good little worker bee at the office.

Lesson learned.

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Ask and ye shall receive

BePreparedRemember that little show I was writing about the other day, the one that just released their cast album?  The one that I’ve auditioned for twice, and keep reading the script so I can have an inside advantage when they audition again? (I’m not mentioning the title because I don’t want it to come up when you Google it)

Well, as it turns out, there was a posting today on Playbill seeking submissions for that very show!  There weren’t any dates; they were just asking for mailed headshots and resumes for future replacements, audition dates TBD.  And now that I have the cast recording, I’m more ready than ever.  When I auditioned for the Chicago production, I was sent sides and that was it.  The audition wasn’t terrible (I got a callback) but I really didn’t have a clue about the show.  For the New York production, I was sent a bunch of sides, but also the complete script, which was a HUGE help.  And now, for this next round, assuming I get asked to audition, I’ve seen the show twice and listen to the cast recording daily.

Even though my headshot and resume are still sitting in a bin at the post office, I’m getting ready.  For the last audition, I was really prepared and felt great about what I did.  It happened at a time when I wasn’t working on a show, so I had a lot of time to put into prepping the sides.  But this time, since I already know the material, I’m getting a head start.  I reprinted the material I was sent before, and just started working on it, before the casting office even knows I’m submitting.  This time, my goal is to go in memorized and let them know I’m serious about this show!  I’d love to go in there and just blow the competition out of the water (at least most of the competition)!

And as a side note, I always try to go into callbacks memorized, to let them know I’m committed to what I do.  But for the last audition for this show, I was sent thirty pages of material, more than I’ve ever had to prepare.  Since it’s only a two person show, and both characters need to sing, act, and play piano, they need to see you do just that.  I was sent a song to play, a song to sing, two songs to sing and play, and to scenes to read.  And it was about 75% memorized.  Enough that they could tell I put in the time.

But enough blogging.  I’ve gotta get back to my script!

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The Girls On The Ground Floor

Kevin B. Winebold and Charlotte Munson in Master Class

Kevin B. Winebold and Charlotte Munson in Master Class

I got to wear my composer hat today, for the first time in a long time (like a really long time).  Last May I filmed a web series called The Girls On The Ground Floor.  A friend of mine got together with another friend to create the series, then her friend Blayne wrote the script while my friend Abby acted as producer and SAG/AFTRA liason.  It was an all-hands-on-deck process, which I love.  When we weren’t in a scene, we were holding a light for the director, who was also DP/Camera Op, or we were moving furniture out of the way for the next scene.  We kept joking anytime someone did something besides act, saying “I’ll make sure you get IMDB credit for that.” Blayne mentioned she wanted music for the episode while I was there, and Abby told her that I was a musician, and I could write something.  And that was that, a composer was born. Me being me, though, I kept dropping the ball and forgetting to write anything, so I was sure I’d be replaced.  Luckily, the director/dp/camera op, who just so happens to be editing the project, added the title of husband to his resume since we filmed, so he hasn’t been rushing to finish Ground Floor. Blayne called last week and we made an appointment to get together today so I could play through some ideas for her.  She wanted something Randy Newman-esque, so I tried my best.  I came up with two theme song ideas that could also be broken down into five beat chunks (I’m sure there’s a better term for that) that could be used for transitions. The melodies were really catchy, at list to me, so I was excited to play them for her.  But I was also incredibly nervous!  If I was suggesting public domain music that I played for her and she didn’t like it, it wouldn’t be personal.  But I wrote these, and I was so afraid that I’d proudly play her the songs, and she’d just look at me and say “no, that’s not what I had in mind.  What else can you come up with?” Luckily, she loved it!  She hugged me, hugged me again, and then once more for good measure.  So with the nerves gone, we broke the songs down, deciding what pieces to use for which part of each episode.  All I’ve gotta do now is go to a studio in midtown to record them into Garage Band; I could do it at home, but I’d rather use an acoustic piano. Hopefully it won’t be another nine months for me to remember to get to work! (and in case you’re wondering, the photo above is from Master Class.  but it’s kind of what it looked like today with me at the piano, and Blayne standing behind as I nervously played)

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Too excited to sleep!

JimandSteveTonight was incredible, simply incredible.  I was back at the Metropolitan Room playing Character Man with Jim Brochu.  The show tonight was a “double feature” with Steve Schalchlin performing at 7, and Jim at 9.  I had to miss Steve’s last performance because of rehearsal for Master Class, so it was great to finally see his show.  And what a show it was!

I first became familiar with Steve around 2000, when I was working as a pharmacy technician at CVS.  One of our regular customers worked at the record store, Sounds Fine, a few doors down on the Ithaca Commons.  As soon as he saw me in the Showtunes and Soundtracks section, we became fast friends.  One of the first albums he recommended to me was The Last Session.  And I was hooked!  I kept finding opportunities to perform Save Me A Seat for every benefit possible.  Fourteen years later, Steve, Jim, and I are great friends, and I cherish every second of it.

In Steve’s show, the biggest surprise came when he was sharing his story, familiar to most of the audience, about his being on his death bed, literally, when he found out he won a lottery to try a new prescription.  Sure that this would just be another failed round of poking, prodding, and pill swallowing, he reluctantly agreed, expecting nothing.  Then he gained a pound.  And then another.  Then he was taken off the feeding tubes and was actually eating.  He kept up with his blog, though the word had yet to be invented, and eventually he received a comment on one of his posts.  The man who wrote the comment expressed his joy in Steve’s remarkable recovery, absolutely elated because, well, he created Crixivan and not only saved Steve’s life, but countless others!  I started to tear up as he was sharing his remarkable journey.

And then he introduced the very man who wrote that comment, and invented the drug that saved thousands, Dr. Bruce Dorsey.  There weren’t enough cocktail napkins in the building to dry my tears, not to mention those of every single person in the audience.  I don’t think I have ever cried so much at a live performance.  Applause erupted and a standing ovation ensued, to which Steve remarked, “it’s not every day a chemist gets a standing ovation!”

The show concluded with Jim and Steve singing a delicious ballad they wrote entitled “How Do You Fall Back In Love.”  More tears, more joy, not enough napkins.  As Steve put it, the concert was an unbelievable celebration of life.

After a brief break, I went to the piano and started playing the bell tones to signal the start of Jim’s show.  And if you’ve never been at a cabaret where the audience spontaneously joins in four-part harmony during “Trouble” from The Music Man, you are missing out.  It also happened at 54 Below when we performed there, which you can see here (and if you see me at the piano, I can’t stop laughing because the audience participation was one of those beautiful “only in New York” moments).

At the end of Jim’s show, as the audience was paying there checks, Tony winner Cady Huffman complimented my playing, which instantly put that stupid grin on my face, making people wonder if all the lights are on upstairs.  And then I went to say goodnight to Danny Whitman, who was having a conversation with a couple whose faces I couldn’t see.  I sat down next to Danny, and then he said “Kevin, have you met Len Cariou and his wife Heather?”  WOAH!  I heard he was going to be there, but now Sweeney Todd and I were sitting across from each other and he said “You were the music man, right?  You played great!”

Two Tony winners, two compliments, and now I’ll be up until two in the morning, too excited to sleep!

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Screening Success!

screenshotmotelmidwayLast night was a blast!  (as evidenced by the fact that I got home at 6:00 this morning)  After a few rehearsals and three solid days of shooting, it was great to finally see the short on the big screen!  Most of the crew that worked on Midway Motel were from Arseniy’s class, so even though I knew them as DP, camera op, grip, and so on, I was able to see their work as writers and directors.  And apparently, my director Arseniy, is a rockstar in his class at NYFA.  So many people came up to me saying how excited they were to see the film because his work is the best in the class.  And I’m not gonna lie, it was pretty damn impressive.

I was sitting in the third row with the other two actresses from the film.  As predicted, when they got to ours, I was excited and scared, but mostly excited.  I knew no one was there to criticize my acting, only to support their fellow filmmakers, so there was no pressure there. It was absolutely thrilling to be able to watch myself on this larger than life screen.  I’m sure it gets old for people who work in film regularly, but I couldn’t stop grinning, thinking “that’s me!  That’s me!  Oh, look, that’s me again!  See those tears?  Yup, they’re mine!”  Since most of my work is the theatre, I rarely get to watch what it is I’m doing; I could definitely get used to this.

There’s an incredible monologue in the film, which was one of the reasons I wanted the part so badly.  My character is explaining to a girl why he’s afraid of water; he and his friend were at a beach, and he ended up helplessly watching his best friend drown.  It’s one of those monologues that are dreamy for actors, at least for me.  It’s not forced, it’s not overly dramatic, but reciting the words and believing in this memory make the tears come down your cheek every time.  Getting to just sit back and watch the story unfold, surrounded by other people as excited about film as I am was truly memorable!

And then the after party.  And then the after-after-party.  And then somehow it’s 5 in the morning and we’re all getting a slice of pizza before heading home.  And I’m pretty sure I agreed to go to a strip club on Friday for the director’s birthday, but the details are a little fuzzy.


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My first screening

littleredOk, so what does this image have to do with your first screening, you might ask.  Well, as Little Red describes her first encounter with the wolf in Into the Woods, I’m excited and scared!

I was invited to an in-class screening for a music video I did, but I wasn’t able to make it (which I’m kicking myself for because the director still hasn’t sent me the promised dvd).  And actually, now that I’m thinking about it, I did go to another screening of another music video I did.  But it was in a bar that the featured band was playing in, and there were only about ten of us there, so it wasn’t anything to write home about (do people still use that expression?).

Tonight is the final screening/graduation at The New York Film Academy, NYFA, for the class which my director was in.  Last month, the DP for that film, Andre, had his own graduation and screening which I went to, partially to support him, and partially to see what the event was like so I’d know what to expect tonight.  Because it’s a graduation and screening in one, you get a good mix of actors coming to watch themselves, and family members of the student filmmakers ready to see their kids get their diplomas.  Andre’s father had just flown in from Russia for the event.

They have a huge room that has been turned into a theatre, complete with a giant screen and booze light refreshments in the back.  I had a great time watching all of his classmates short films, but now I’m a little nervous,  When I was there before, I wasn’t watching myself.  It was more like attending a short film festival.  But tonight, I’ll get to see my face up there, much larger than life.  I’m pretty proud of the work I did in the film, but I haven’t seen any of the footage to know how it looks and sounds, and I’ve never seen myself that big.  Should be interesting.

Off to grandmother’s house…

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An apple a day…

apples_optimizedIf you were to look at my planner–and yes, I still use an actual, paper planner–you’d see a lot more entries there than you would here.  Like a lot of well-intentioned bloggers, I haven’t been keeping up with posting as much as I should.  Sometimes I think that I’ll wait until such-and-such happens so I can report about it, or I’ll decide “rather than give a daily report on a shoot, I’ll wait until the project is finished,” and then I’m overwhelmed with where to start, and I put it off and eventually forget about it.

So I’m trying to commit to a daily schedule, where I can just get in the habit of summarizing the day right before I go to bed.  Good, bad, or boring, I think it’s a great routine for me to start.  It’ll be like a nightcap…unless, of course, I’ve already had too many nightcaps and can’t remember my log in credentials.

Generally, I try to do something creative every day, so the posts should still be relevant.  And even if not, part of what I’ve been missing is the day-to-day stuff that we all struggle with: paying the bills, finding the time and ability to schedule as many auditions as possible, networking, social media, wondering if I should tell my OKCupid date that I’m too sick to meet up because I can’t afford a cup of coffee until Friday, all while trying to take care of yourself mentally, physically, and spiritually.  It’s exhausting, and definitely worth writing about.

My favorite blogger, Ken Davenport, made a commitment to himself to blog every single day, and he is far busier than I am; he’s an incredibly successful Broadway producer who has kept that commitment for years, much to the delights of fans like myself.  Me?  I’m just an incredibly successful Broadway dreamer, so my excuses pale in comparison.  He’s also the chap whose idea I stole borrowed for crossing out text when I’m feeling witty.  (He’s not English, in case you were wondering.  I just felt like calling him a chap.)

So here’s to blogging a little bit every day.  And yes, I’m raising a glass as I type.

Hopefully my next post won’t be weeks from now, starting with “The best laid plans…”  (and if so, I blame Candy Crush)

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Laura Osnes and Santino Fontana at 54 Below

Steven Reineke  ©Kevin B Photography

Steven Reineke
©Kevin B Photography

Tonight I was photographing Santino Fontana and Laura Osnes in a benefit performance at 54 below.  The proceeds from the event went to the Ronald McDonald House and PopsEd, the New York Pops Educational Outreach program.

I just posted my favorite shots on my photography website, so make sure you check them out here!

It was an incredible show, and since my roommie works for the Pops, I caught the dress rehearsal so I had the inside advantage, knowing where I should be when to get the best shots!  And besides, who wouldn’t want to hear these two perform a show twice in one night?

(the photo above is one I took this evening of Steven Reineke, conductor of the New York Pops)

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