Monday, June 23, 2014

11 Things to Never Say to Your Actor Friends

Rather than inadvertently offend a Tony Award-winner like I did last week, I'm taking this beautiful Monday to channel Annoying Actor Friend. So let me just step up onto my theatre soap box for a moment... I recently read something that made me want to cry. A writer in a collegiate publication* wrote an article about the Tony Awards, saying, "The show will be hosted by Hugh Jackman. Jackman has theater experience himself, staring in last year’s hit movie-musical 'Les Miserables.'" (though, I can't imagine what exactly it would mean to "stare" in a musical) Said writer failed to mention one of (if not the) main reasons that Hugh Jackman is qualified to host the Tonys, which is his, um, Tony/Drama Desk/Drama League/Outer Critics Circle/Theatre World Awards that he won for Boy from Oz in 2004. Or any of his other theatre credits or nominations. So that got me thinking about what other things my non-theatre friends have said to me that have made me want to immediately drag them to the nearest middle school production of The Music Man. To go along with my 10 tips for talking to a theatre nerd, here's things to NEVER say to your actor friends, based on actual encounters I've personally experienced (in no particular order). I think it's safe to assume that if you were fool enough to utter any of the following phrases in front of your ultra-cool theatre friends, you could definitely expect to receive that Laura Benanti look from them.

  1. Are you like that in real life? I love being called by my character name by strangers, but I once had an adult ask me if I was cast based on my own personality for my role. I was playing a bully.
  2. I liked the movie version better- NO. (see one of the tips for talking to theatre nerds)
  3. I'll catch the next show- If your actor friend constantly talks up a show and says something like, "I'm finally playing a lead!" make a point to go see it, because they may very well be playing the third nosepicker from the left in their next show.
  4. How did you memorize all those lines?- I can never figure out what kind of answer people are hoping for, so it's pretty much a guaranteed awkward moment. More than likely, even if it's a huge role like Hamlet, the disappointingly boring answer goes something like, "Well, I highlighted my lines and... worked on them every day..."
  5. That was a weird musical... It was really depressing- I realize that due to the Golden Age of theatre, everyone thinks that a musical is made of huge ensembles singing and dancing because they're just so happy to be alive, but musicals haven't been consistently carefree and wholesome in roughly 50 years (I think my theatre history prof would argue that musicals have never really been happy-go-lucky, but that's another story). See: Hair, 1968.
  6. Is Daniel Radcliffe naked in this one?- I didn't realize how much word had gotten around to non-theatre people that Harry Potter was baring all in the Broadway revival of Equus, but it seems that everyone and their mother heard about it. But unfortunately, they seem to have found out months, if not years, too late. He was in the West End revival in 2007, where it ran for 4 months, followed by a 5-month Broadway run, closing in February 2009. So why is it that 5 years later, whenever I mention that Daniel Radcliffe is on Broadway (he's been in two Broadway shows since 2009), people always assume he's nude? IT'S NOT THE NAKED SKIT!! STOP IT!
  7. Are they paying you to be in this?- Another awkward question. I will say that if it's a community theatre production with full price adult tickets going for $10, chances are the actors are not paid. But if the answer is yes, the asker bites their tongue before asking, "How much?" so they just awkwardly respond with, "Oh... Cool." 
  8. Is it half-time? This is theatre, not sports, so it's intermission. But I"ll be the first to admit that I've definitely called half-time intermission before, and I've referred to uniforms as costumes, so it goes both ways.
  9. Is it over? (at intermission) With the exception of shows like Into the Woods that might seem like they're over at the end, there are very few shows that could legitimately be over at intermission.
  10. Why are they randomly bursting into song?- That's the entire point of a musical. Solos=Shakespearean soliloquies. And contrary to popular belief, songs advance the plot considerably and often make up the majority of the character development. 
  11. BONUS: Oh, Phantom of the Opera? Is that like Star Wars?- As a Southerner, the only way I know how to answer this is, "Bless your heart."
These are just a few, but I know there are always more, especially from other theatre professions besides acting. What entertaining things have you heard? 

I realize that I provided no videos in this article, so if you need a theatre fix, revisit my top five videos- from Smash to Les Mis- that turn a regular Monday into a totally awesome, Broadway-tastic start to your week!! (no, I didn't write ads for kids in the '90s; why do you ask?)

*to protect reputations of fellow journalists, this blog will not disclose the publication or the writer.

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