Dec 26 – Sunday at the Opera with Clowns.
I am finally getting around to posting again. Without having classes, I find my inspiration running a little short. Add to that the fact that I had the flu last week and I will throw that up as another reason for not writing. Although my fever induced rambling might have been more interesting.
I have done a little bit with acting. On December 16th I got to take my clown out in public. I had seen an audition notice looking for clown extras for a promotional video for the Seattle Opera’s production of Pagliacci. They were looking for people who were willing to dress crazy and preferred people with an already established clown character. How perfect.
I emailed the people in my clown class, and three of ended up doing it. We had to show up in costume at 8:00 am outside the Seattle Opera’s stage door. From there we were ushered into a holding area. I was the first clown to arrive, but soon others came. Two guys from class showed up, so we had fun chatting while we waited for the area we were shooting in to get enough light.
We were to shoot in the entry atrium of McCaw Hall which is apparently lit only by natural light. In Seattle the sun doesn’t come up until 8:00, and we ended up waiting until 9:00 to start shooting. This gave us only 2 hours to do this part of the shoot, because McCaw Hall was opening at 11:00 to let people in for the Nutcracker matinée brunch. Who knew they had a brunch?
The basic storyline for the video is a hick from the country gets the idea in his head that he is going to try out for the lead role in Pagliacci so he can become famous. He shows up at the Opera House thinking it won’t be a problem only to find a long line of clowns already there to audition. Discouraged by the fact that he has competition he uses some less than ethical means to try to get ahead, beating up one clown and stealing his accordion, cutting in line in front of a little kid (who later beats him up), etc…
My part was being one of the clowns in line to audition. I ended up being the second clown in line behind a mime. My job was to act like I was about to audition, alternately being nervous and psyching myself up. Two security guards dressed in all black would yell out “Next!”, inspiring panic in whoever was next. The guards were meant to be intimidating, looking like Secret Service agents, sunglasses, dragging us in, and then when our audition failed, throwing us out.
So I had to be nervous, psyche myself up, and then become very scared when my turn came up. The thing about doing film is of course you end up doing the same thing over and over and over again, so the camera people can get all the different angles they need for editing. The challenge of being an extra (and an actor who actually talks – I imagine) is keeping your energy up the 7th and 8th time.
I had already had a headache, but after the first hour it was pounding. The were some long stretches where I got to sit while they were shooting the back of the line. I’m not sure if it was good to sit because my head pounded less, but then I lost my energy, so it was a struggle to get motivated when I had to do my bit again.
11:00 rolled around and they opened the doors to the public. We finished in the nick of time. My payment for the gig is two free tickets to see Pagliacci. I have never been to the opera, so it will be interesting. And it was fun to get the clown out after two weeks off. It is funny, but the other two guys and me all said we missed clown class, which considering how we felt in the beginning, and most of during, is a testament to how profoundly altering that experience was.
I packed up the clown costume and put it away, with the costume from the play I did last summer. My drawer is getting full of costume bits and props. I am going to have to find a place to store all this stuff, because I am sure I will need it someday.