Performing In China: Survival Guide.

Upon fixing up my website that I never really gave the goss on what being a full time performer was like, let alone in doing it in a culture so different as China. So, in dot point form- let me give you a general perspective of China!

1: If you drink alcohol, you’re fucked.
That can be a good thing, depending on which camp you come from on the issue. It can be ‘good’ fucked (Australians used this one), because it’s so cheap. Or it can be ‘bad’ fucked because unless you’re in for a very deadly game of Guess Who with bottles of what you thought were Whiskey ending up tasting like Paint Thinner and Liberal Party values, you might be better off not playing at all, and staying well clear.

However, it’s cheap as anything, and available 24 hours in convenience stores. So the experience won’t cost you too much. Just potentially your dignity and a bit of your liver.

2: Chinese theatres are weird.

The layout ranges from straightforward Chinese theatre, which still means you’re going to go up at least 2 flights of stare to get to the audience bay door from the stage- to NES cheat code complicated. It was the biggest impending heart attack, walking in costume to what you thought was the audience bay door, only to end up god knows where, turning back, going up left, down, right, B, B, B, A, B, SELECT- only to find the door is locked and mentally shitting yourself.

Not only that, but the audiences do ‘not’ follow Western rules at all. You can show up any time in the show, and be let in. You can go on your phone, during the whole performance and not be called out on it by staff. I may have taken advantage of my chagrin as I was making my way to the party scene in Romeo & Juliet, where, mask bound, I watched this person texting as the show went on. She had no idea, and hearing her tiny terrified gasp as she realized I was watching, was worth it. Stay off your phone, kids.

3: Vegetarian is a hard thing to pronounce in Chinese. Apparently.

Shu sai? Shoe soy? Fuck’s sake, just no meat. NO. MEAT. …This has shrimp. Could you pl… Oh, fuck it.

4: You get sick of people and they get sick of you.

It should go without saying, but yeah. Leave people alone when you can. When you ‘have’ to spend time with the same people, their little irritating things become massive, because you’re always exposed to it. Don’t feel bad about withdrawing. Took me a few days to understand my own needs. The tour got much better from there.

5: The smog, is as bad as you’ve read.
Get a mask, especially if you’re performing that night. The amount of pure muck you breathe in is simply incredible. But Climate Change is totes not real, eh?

6: Don’t be afraid of street food.
Look, I mean, use common sense- but I can tell you with certainty, my favourite foods came from street food in Jinan. Pineapple on sticks… jenbing… It’s all an experience, so take the leap!

7: Sweet stuff. Everywhere.
Chinese people love their sweet stuff. It’s everywhere. Even savory stuff tastes sweet. I love my sweets, and even I got sick of it. So… y’know, beware of that.

8: Grease aplenty.
When it’s not sweet it’s greasy. I didn’t make the rules, that’s just the way it is.

9: Traffic. All of it.
Fun fact, my second last day in China was a visit to a Stone Temple- it was 40 minutes away as predicted by google maps. By distance. But via traffic? 2 hours. Be prepared for mind numbing boredom in that regard.

10: Talk to the people!
While on that cab ride (yes, cab, that’s how cheap Yuan is to AUD, you can afford it), I talked to a cab driver named Tan. He loved the USA, basketball, his wife and son, and was also 20 grand in the hole from gambling. Another time I swear I could’ve hoked up with a masseus in Dalian, she was complimenting me that much, and even wanted a photo of me. Another time, I got a laugh staring back at Chef’s who were staring at the white people in the restaurant. Interact with the people, and your trip will be grand.

11: The Roads Are Awful. Sidewalks too.
Everyone has a bike. On the road or off. And no one gives a shit if you’re crossing the road. They will not stop for you. Cross at your own mortal peril. Also, so much honking of horns that you’ll start saying “I’m walking here!” unironically.

12: Take it one day at a time.
If you’re ever in the same situation, where you’re on a tour, and maybe suffer a teensy bit from mental illness- remember. Do what you gotta do. Read a book and take time for yourself, even if you feel like you’re missing out. Don’t let your anxiety take control of your behaviour, and always remember to be grateful you’re there, even if you feel like a square peg in a round hole at times.

Want more stories from China? Hit me up, yo!

LLAP

-Jack
http://www.jackinaction.com

 

 

 

Dance Monkey Dance! (Or: How To Stop Worrying As An #Actor)

This will be a short one, but I need to put it out there, because the more I feel I’ve repeated myself, the more I meet people who don’t seem to understand this concept at all.

In your defense, actors of the world, you’ve been fed lies since you started watching behind the scenes documentaries, or interviews with cast & crew. Rarely, if ever, do you truly appreciate the concept of teamwork that is integral to making movies, the spontaneity of it all, the joy, the importance of every team member, and most importantly, that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Yes, even greater than you.

Because despite what the world wants us to believe, despite every instagram account you see, despite every glowing review of a star’s abilities, you too are merely a cog in the machine. An Assistant Story Teller. A Dancing Monkey.

This isn’t a bad thing, though, when you come to terms with it. You’re there to play pretend, and make it seem real. Realizing that you cannot possibly hope to do this without the help of every single member of the team teaches us humility, grace, and an ability and willingness to collaborate.

Far too often, I see actors responding to the DIRECTOR OF THE FILM’s directions with “Nah, I don’t think my character would do that.”

On behalf of everyone: Please drop this line of thinking immediately. Shut your mouth, and realize what you’re saying.

You are saying “I know this character than you, boss, and you are wrong and you should change your vision because I say so.”

Even if the director lets that go, rest assured, they think you’re an asshole.

The thing about collaboration is that you “should” speak your mind when you have concerns- because your job is to be intimate with the character. If you’re doing it well, your gut should tell you when something doesn’t feel right.

But never, ever again should you be saying “My character wouldn’t do that.” Ever again. Because your job is to find a reason for your character to do that.

Get it?

Look at it this way: You’re playing a character who’s intrinsically shy, but then gets into a fight. Why? Why would they suddenly fight? This makes no sense! Guess what, mate: It’s your job to make it make sense. State your concerns, talk to the director, find a way to compromise.

Do not be so arrogant as to stick to your preconceived notions of character. That fundamentally denies what we as actors are supposed to be- empathetic. We need to understand our characters so well, that we can justify anything, with help.

You are not better than your director, your sound guy, your make up artist, or your First AD. Your ideas are welcome, but a part of a collaboration. You, like the rest of them, are here to create a vision together.

Do not get lost in the fantasy that Hollywood feeds you, that the actor creates these characters completely on their own, without help and without compromise. It is tripe, and it makes you a less versatile person, and a less empathetic human. You can do better.

Remember, monkey. Now Dance!

I’m a 2000 man

Because when I was 15 I would name my livejournal blogs with song titles stuck in my head at the time.

As Wil Wheaton tends to do, he has inspired me to let loose a little bit with the structure I’ve given myself for this blog. Because the thing is, this is still a blog. A diary. A journal. It doesn’t have to be anymore serious than I want it to be.

I want to be open, I want to be honest, and I want to try and share my journey more.

So! With that in my mind: Let’s look at my December, pros and cons.

Pros:

I have money in my account, and that’s just swell. Supanova paid me (I’m an MC now!), work is coming along nicely in the childcare realm, and I’m excited for the future of not depending on my government for handouts.

I have a callback tonight! It’s for a feature film where I play a man with slight autism. That ought to be really interesting to play. I’m very excited.

Feature film script is coming along nicely. I’m 45 pages in which means I’m officially halfway to the minimum amount of pages. I think I’ll surpass that easily. That said there’s a lot of revision to do, and I’m gonna utilise every writer friend I know to make the polish I need.

My personal life is calm. I can be lazy and uninspired, unlike my focused partner, who has a full time job and a straightforward career. I take that in my stride though. I know the path I chose, and I know that I can make things happen. I just have to make things happen. No one can do it for me.

Christmas is here. I personally don’t give a shit but Issy likes it and Shez my cat like to try to eat the christmas tree. Plus, I get gifts for the first time since forever now that I’m with her. It’s nice to be appreciated.

And finally! I’ve joined a gym. Overall I’d give my attendance a C, especially since when I go there I tend to overwork myself and need to recover and then get lazy, but I’m going of my free will and not for some stupid new years resolution, so that’s something.

Overwatch. I’m having so much fun having something to focus on. It’s like sport but less filled with mysogyny. Funfunfunfun.

Cons

All those dead people. You know who they are. I don’t need or want to get into it. But everyone, please, keep Patrick Stewart safe.

I have RAW Comedy Competition in January and I’m scared as fuck. I’m a much more experienced actor and comedy is still very new. Every time I step on stage it’s like learning to walk. But this is for new performers and I certainly fit the bill.

My theatre restaurant show got cancelled. Temporarily, but still, a bummer. It always is when a paid gig gets put off. Daddy needs his honey!

I got a haircut and they cut too much and I kinda hate it. I want my viking braids back. 😥

Certain workplaces are less than awesome. Won’t name names. But I will tell you that one team leader munches on food in the backroom like the rest of them but I’m not allowed to. So that’s super fun.

Overall, I’m pretty happy with myself, and I’m gonna try and write some jokes out for January 21 Raw comp. AHHHHHHHHHH.

Take care home slices!

-Jack
http://www.jackinaction.com

THE BIG NEWS (In Story Form!)

For those that can’t be bothered reading this story I went out of my way to create- there’s a TL;DR right at the bottom. 😉

My office chair won’t bend backwards and I frustratingly push against it with all my might as I search the casting calls for this week on various social networks. One immediately catches my eye: SHAKESPEARE TOUR. WOW! What a wonderful gig that would be- travel around, bringing the bard’s words to life.

PAID?! Holy crap! Sign me up!

IN CHINA!

Huh?

Don’t get me wrong, I love China very much- I’d visited before on a different tour in fact! Love me some toilets that are essentially holes in the ground-

china trip 2Featured- Me In China. That’s not a hole in the ground btw, that’s The Great Wall. Kinda the opposite. Anyway.

That wasn’t the source of skepticism. It was the classic gut feeling of “This seems too good to be true”.

I’m a professional actor, and one of the first things you need to accept if you want to go down that path, or the path of any  artist, really- it’s that people are going to take advantage of you. If they can get away with it, they will use you and never compensate you for your time and effort.

And this? To me it legitimately sounded like a spam email .

COME TOUR SHAKESPEARE IN CHINA. ALSO SEXY SINGLES WANT YOUR DICK AND NIGERIAN PRINCES WANT YOU TO HAVE THEIR MONEY.

With this in mind, I cautiously put my name down to be considered, and a few emails later, there I was, sitting with other young and a few mid 40’s hopefuls. It’s not crowded, but it’s certainly not an open space to do your voice trills either– but I do my best to go over my lines and shoot the shit with my fellow performers. There’s always a temptation to not talk to ‘the competition’- don’t be that guy, dudes. If they hire the other guy, they do, and you feeling tense and giving the side eye to everyone else in the room will help your case not a bit.

After a time, I’m the only guy left in the room and I begin to play my warm up music. The entirety of KISS: ALIVE! A live album I’ve always got on my phone to psyche myself up. Yes, I know. Egh- KISS- what a bunch of posers. But to me they are the epitome of my values on stage- work your fucking tail off and give the audience what they paid to see. Every. Time. It’s hard not to feel invincible when I have Let Me Go Rock N’ Roll going- and I just let loose.

It’s hard to take yourself too seriously when you warm up to these dudes.

Just as I’m really getting into it, letting my hair down and doing some air kicks- Chris- the co director and the wizard behind the curtain of this production, tells me to come in. I’m a little embarrassed- normally I use headphones- but since I was alone I was playing it full blast. I shake it off and walk in with confidence.

Entering the room I meet another director- one who’s very friendly- the good cop to Chris’ aloof persona. I introduce myself and get going performing the famous “All The World’s A Stage” monologue by Jacque from As You Like It. This along with my go to contemporary monologue (there is no record of it as it’s from a play I did in my university days)- make me feel pretty confident, I shake hands and leave.

An hour later- I get an email “CAN YOU COME BACK TOMORROW”

Um? Hell yes?

r2d2 beeps happily

The day flutters by quickly and there I am again with Chris and his codirector- they greet me and say “Are you ready to perform your Macbeth piece?”

“…Huh?”

Turns out they hadn’t sent me the email with the piece they wanted me to learn for the audition that night- meaning I was already handicapped. They said it was fine, I could just do Jacques’ monologue again.

lenny focus

Terror enters me. “It’s FINE? I don’t want FINE. I want GREAT! BRILLIANT! AMAZING! GODDAMNIT!” This flashes through my head in a split second, but I smile bravely and try not to let uncertainty enter my bloodstream- to be uncertain is death.

I take a deep breath, put my Jacques skin back on and this time I hold nothing back. I am sultry, I am slinky, I am sad at the state of the world- so sad I have to laugh. I see a stage in my peripheral vision and I RUN for it at full pelt- it’s at least 20 metres away, every second of silence gnaws at me, but uncertainty is not on the menu tonight.

Impressed, the codirector asks me to deliver the same monologue, as an older professor, tranquil. Still. Well, anyone who knows me knows who I wanted to emulate in that moment.

So I channel my inner Jean Luc/Patrick Stewart and I imagine myself behind a podium, restricting my movement and act like I’m teaching at a lecture hall, my voice as deep as I can achieve. I click my fingers at an imaginary chatterer- pay attention! I say with my eyes as I continue irritably with my lecture- and I laugh as an old man with experience as I talk about the lover, sighing like a furnace, my students comfort be damned.

I think that’s what did it. They smile. The codirector asks me- “Where did you study?” and I have to be honest- Griffith University in QLD- and he responds with “I can normally tell instantly what school people come from- WAAPA, NIDA, VCA, but your style is so unique.” I grin, I thank him. I shake hands- I walk out.

I wasn’t certain of course. You should never be 100% certain in these things, always looking forward in case it doesn’t work out. Plus, it saves you from utter heartbreak. Every time I ignore that rule, it reminds me hard why I should always follow it.

But it seems this one was meant to be. I got an email- many moons ago now- confirming my involvement in two plays for the month of April 2017- Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet and character unconfirmed (GO BENEDICK!) in Much Ado About Nothing. I didn’t want to make a fuss about this until I signed the contract, but now I have.

I will be touring for a month, fully paid, all expenses paid through the tour- and I couldn’t be more excited. I can now consider myself a professional even more than I did before. I am so grateful, and thank you to everyone for your support while I’ve been biting my knuckles trying not to tell everyone. Thank you.

Now I’m off to play some Witcher 3! TEAM TRISS!

-Jack

TL;DR: I auditioned for a Shakespeare show and I got it, I’m touring China in April for a month and it’s paid and its awesome. YEEHA!

 

 

My cap would be glad of a copper or two

In my childhood, one of my fondest memories is the joy of popping into a Video Rental Store (ask your parents, children) and grabbing the VHS for Mary Poppins. Again. My adult self giggles in retrospect to be honest, because god knows we rented that goddamn tape from that little store so many times throughout the years that my mother may as well have bought me a tape of my own long ago. Maybe she simply liked the tradition and consistency of my grabbing the tape as she looked through the “boring adult” section of new releases.

And my favourite character? Bert. I mean, come on, who couldn’t love that chimney sweeping, art making, one man big band scallywag? I’d be remiss not to acknowledge the affect he had on my young life. He made me realize that you need not be ashamed of your work- as long as you’re passionate about it, that the process is the joy, to have a sense of humor about yourself, and probably most importantly- money matters little.

I’ve struggled with that in adult years, as I found out slowly but surely that Walt Disney had not engineered our lives, and that money in  fact matters  a lot. We need it to eat, we need it to keep warm, and, like it or not- it’s what people use to define you as a professional or amateur artist. Is he making a living or not?

Well- it depends what you mean by “living”, I suppose. I need art to live, like anybody; and my art cannot, could not, would not live without me. Is that enough?

Should it be enough?

I found myself wondering this as I came down from the stage of my first comedy show in Melbourne. I was excited just to be on the poster, and to get on stage, and I knew, if successful, money would come. Or not! It didn’t matter.

Well put simply? It was wonderful. I hadn’t practiced in months and it was my first time being a comedy show MC. I’m not going to lie, I felt I probably sucked a little, but made up for it enthusiasm. The acts were varied, strange, bouncy and quick as a whip, warm and dry… it was so wonderful being the ringmaster of that crazy circus… and I learned a lot.

I thanked the audience for coming, and pick up my bag to leave. All of a sudden, the host, Lawal, and the guy that brought me on board to the show, shoved some money into my hand. This was not expected. We had agreed this would be pro bono. An experiment… Yet there was the money, being placed into my hand.

“You did a wonderful job”, Lawal said. “Thank you.”
I was flabbergasted.
“Holy fuck mate, no, thank you” I said, putting the cash into my pocket without a word of protest.
“It really means a lot.”

He clapped my shoulder, smiled and went to talk to someone else. I could feel the cash burning in my pocket. Was I a professional now? What did it all mean?

Did I deserve this? Guilt began to rear it’s ugly head.

And then, my favourite worst cockney accent of all time popped into my head.

No remuneration do I ask of you, but me cap would be glad of a copper or two!”

Pride took its place as I made my way to my car. Who can say it better really?

 

A Professional Update!

Hello friends! I’ll be honest- I’ve got no issue writing down stories here, but updating as an actor here is kind of a new thing for me. Still, I’m excited about a bunch of things coming up, so I thought I’d spread that enthusiasm like fairy dust.

First, I made my first film appearance in a year playing the android Lukas in Thomas Carroll’s Terminal Kingdom. It was an incredibly interesting experience, doing mocap, and I can’t wait to do more work!

I know, I know, something something, you seem a little blank.

Jamoke, The Radio Play I had a wonderful time playing the second banana Devon, will be recording again on the 19th! Exciting stuff, and it gets me closer to one day voicing for animation. Dreams in the making! You can listen below:

I also have an audition for a comedy show! 5 bucks to guess if it’s paid or not.

Did you guess unpaid? Good for you! Pay yourself 5 bucks. C’est la vie.

AND! I have an audition for Macbeth here in Melbourne. Hugely excited to tackle Shakespeare again… we’ll see how it all goes!

That’s it for now, I’m gonna write an update on a audition I had recently later on today, so stay tuned for that. Or maybe go watch some TV or something, I’m not the boss of you.

Cheers!
-Jack

Must Try Harder

This past week I have worked every day. Weekends included. Performance, study, assessment, auditions, or children’s entertainment.

Yesterday I spent the morning cleaning and trying to relax after a stressful week, and received a phone call.

The phone call nicely told me that my services were no longer required.

An hour later they had picked up my gear.

After the phone call I had a boost juice and felt so sick I stuck my fingers down my throat and vomited it up just to feel better.

Today they did my final invoices, with a three word response to my effort:

“Thanks for that.”

Today I didn’t go out. I felt sick. I felt beaten, I felt like a rudderless ship.

Today I tried making progress and found my engine was stalling.

Today I tried to find a new agent and was told “We’ll get back to you when we can”.

Today I wanted to throw up the few bites of waffle and strawberries I bought as anything in my stomach felt like poison.

Today I watched what work I could have done fly by as I wrote this message to no one in particular.

Today I drank water as I couldn’t keep down anything else.

Can’t keep down.

Can’t keep up.

Can’t.

Can’t I do anything right?

Can’t I just get started making money doing what I actually want to do? Can’t I be accepted as who I am, not something someone wants me to be? Can’t I be doing what I want?

How long can I keep this up for? When do I just stop trying?

Must try harder.

Hard to try.

Harder to stop.

Can’t keep it down. Won’t shut up.

I wish I could.

I really, really do.

All I can do is try.

Must try harder.