Being an actor often means one leads a double life: day job, and real job or however you want to phrase it. And then, there's the fear that one’s day job may become the real job. And then what do you do?Being an actor often means one leads a double life: day job, and real job or however you want to phrase it. And then, there's the fear that one’s day job may become the real job. And then what do you do? This thought occurred to me at my other job – the one currently keeping a roof over my head, clothes on my back and food on my table. I work for Metro Trains Melbourne, the private company that run the metropolitan trains in the city. They have only been on the job for less than a year. Metro Trains have improved the service, so far as I can tell, but there is still a long way to go. I could go on about public transport but that perhaps is for another time and site. The bosses held a meeting to keep employees informed on where Metro is at, and where they hope to go - all very good and useful, and, dare I say it, inspiring. The men and women who gave presentations were from all over the world with long CVs and a clear passion for their work. Yes, a passion for public transport and trains. It was quite infectious. All of a sudden I was considering my alternative life. I could work my way up in Metro, from Leading Station Assistant to – well just about anything. There is a wide variety of jobs on offer, actual career paths, promotions, structured pay rises, holiday pay. Creativity has its place here too - even in my present entry level job. It’s also a job I don’t have to think about after-hours. I do my work at work and leave it there. This is also attractive. I don’t have to rush off to job interviews (or auditions) at odd hours and in odd places, at short notice, wondering what the hell do they want this time, I don’t have to pay for photos or voice reels - on my to-do list for the next two expensive weeks. I could go to theatre just to enjoy it. So what keeps me going? Till next time, gentle readers, Love and mercy, Nick Incidentally, I have started to hate the word passion. A beautiful useful word in itself, it is often used to excuse rudeness, ignorance and anger. It is also a meaningless buzzword in many advertisements:
In many ways, the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to our judgment. We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read. But the bitter truth we critics must face, is that in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is probably more meaningful than our criticism designating it so. But there are times when a critic truly risks something, and that is in the discovery and defense of the new. The world is often unkind to new talent, new creations. The new needs friends.This is salve to anyone who has ever felt the brunt of the critics’ scorn (and felt the nagging fear they may be onto something). But for me, an equally magical moment occurs some minutes before this scene, when he is served the titular dish. One mouthful and his mind shoots back to his childhood and memories of his mother cooking him dinner in a beautiful bucolic and fleeting scene. We discover Ego’s drive – he wants food that feeds his soul. He is bitter because he finds it so rarely. I think all the great critics – of food, of theatre, of art, of literature, hell, even sport – are trying to find their equivalent of that mouthful of food that goes straight to their soul. And I believe audience members too want that, though perhaps they are not so mindful. But when they receive it, they know. I believe that because that is my experience when I go to the theatre, a film, pick up a book, or watch TV. Yes, much of that may be purely entertainment, fluff or time-filler, and excellent as examples of such. But I also need those shots to my soul. They may be irregular, but they must keep coming. Continue reading Soul food: a fourth letter from a voluntary exile
GUEST POST: Nick Backstrom is an actor and writer, formerly based in Brisbane and more recently in Melbourne. He also sings, teaches and directs, though rarely at the same time. Nick's Melbourne relocation will form the basis of his occasional posts to Greenroom. He would be delighted to respond to any comments or queries made here.Hello friends Let me tell you a story. I went to a casting the other day for an RACQ commercial. If I had landed it I would have been flown up to Brisbane to shoot it, and it was a Queensland-only ad. As I waited, one of the other actors asked the receptionist if they were looking all over Australia for the right face. She replied “Oh no, we just do all our casting out of Melbourne.” I told them that was why I moved to Melbourne from Brisbane. So it goes. It’s been interesting reading all the stories recently about what’s wrong with Queensland theatre - or not wrong. May I weigh in? Too few venues, too little funding. I know, startling insights.
Melbourne is chocka with little venues seating less than one hundred or thereabouts. These places are affordable, accessible and if it all goes wrong, it really doesn’t matter. If it works, fantastic!Continue reading Letters from a voluntary exile: a third letter
GUEST POST: Nick Backstrom is an actor and writer, formerly based in Brisbane and more recently in Melbourne. He also sings, teaches and directs, though rarely at the same time. Nick's Melbourne relocation forms the basis of his occasional posts to Greenroom. He would be delighted to respond to any comments or queries made here.‘Sometimes I’m up, sometimes I’m down’ as the old spiritual goes. How do we describe these spirituals nowadays? Negro was the adjective of my childhood, but that’s at least three PC language generations ago. Slave, I suppose, would be the most accurate. The adjective is important. But I digress… My last letter discussed how much more I was enjoying the audition process. This is a new step for me. Tom McSweeney told me as part of a class many years ago – my final year of uni in fact - that my job was now auditioning, and that I should see auditions as a chance to act, and not as a nerve-jangling job interview. It’s taken me that long for that simple idea to penetrate my admittedly thick skull. It is, in modern parlance, an empowering idea. I did a workshop in auditioning last week with Ann Fay of Maura Fay and Gary Davy of Gary Davy Casting (UK). While there were no startling revelations or ideas, it was good to hear the casting experience from the other side and to watch them work with actors and take note of the advice they had to offer. This was a free event organised by Equity – join the Union, people! Fired by confidence and renewed focus, I went to my audition the next day for a very minor role in a very large production. I had three scenes (only one of which was the character in question, the other two for roles I would understudy) and of course, I had learned all my lines, watched the film of the show so I knew the context - better to read the script of course, but not possible in this case - had thought about three possible approaches to each scene, vocally warm, physically warm and raring to go. The auditions were running about 15 minutes late, not bad in the overall scheme of things. I went in at about 2pm; I was out on the street at five past. I was only introduced to two of the three auditioners. I didn’t even get to do the whole of the first scene. I had heard the two women at the sign-in table, looking forward to Hairspray auditions, that would be, and I quote “real auditions.” The warning signs were all there. So it goes. As it was a very minor role, I am certain that they were looking for a visual, and as long as I could do an American accent and remember lines, all the rest was how I would fit into the cast as a physical presence. So they had indeed seen all they needed to see in those three lines (out of four) that I was able to say. Still… I felt pretty low afterwards. The rehearsal notice had said to be prepared to hang around for a couple of hours afterwards just in case. Turned out this was a standard clause for dance auditions. I didn’t know that and, having hoped I would be asked to hang for a couple of hours, walking along Chapel St with an empty afternoon ahead of me was not my happiest moment. I have discussed this with my agent and other actors and discover this is a fairy regular experience for a musical audition. Well, I guess it just goes to show that we live in an industry that at times cannot show simple respect for its members, and we accept that as normal.
We live in an industry that at times cannot show simple respect for its members, and we accept that as normalAlso, another city is not a magic remedy for the dispiriting experiences that actors go through. Love and mercy to you and your friends tonight.