When I lived in New York, actors would cram into little theaters to audition for a role in a non-paying, non-equity, black box, bathroom, basement, or outhouse theater production. Rain, sleet, snow, floods, or swamp ass humidity (which caused serious chafing), actors showed up. They were hungry and wanted to work. They wanted to work on their craft and be seen. It's that warrior like hunger to be a working actor that I miss from New York City actors. Although I was born and raised here in Los Angeles (Echo Park baby!); I am proud to consider myself a New York actor.
In that same spirit of creativity and a warrior like desire to get better at my craft, some friends and I started a creative company called Working Artists Lab. I wanted to bring the same spirit of unity that spurred the formation of companies like LAByrinth Theater Company in New York (who I studied and worked with) and Steppenwolf Theater Company in Chicago. Both started out small, meeting in basements of churches and black box theaters.
Man! Did they expand into something great. Some of LAByrinth's notable members are: John Ortiz-Founder (Before Night Falls, Miami Vice, Narc), Stephen Adly Guirgis- Playwright (Jesus Hopped the A Train, The MotherF#@%er With the Hat, The Last Days of Judas Iscariot), Phillip Seymour Hoffman (Capote, MI3, Along Came Polly, Moneyball, Ides of March), Sam Rockwell (Choke, The Green Mile, Cowboys and Aliens).
A few of Steppenwolf's members are: Gary Sinise- Co-Founder (CSI:NY, Forrest Gump, of Mice and Men), John Malkovich (In the Line of Fire, Dangerous Liaisons, Con Air, Being John Malkovich), Joan Allen (The Contender, The Upside of Anger, Manhunter).
Pretty damn Chingon! Right? Sadly, this desire to get together and create new work or push one's creative boundaries has not been too evident here in Los Angeles. At least in my experience.
I worked with an upstart theater company from 2009-2010. We did an outdoor Shakespeare show, using the caves at the Old L.A. Zoo as our stage. It was a hell of a lot of work, but the show was a success. I thought I found a company I could grow with.
During the time of the Shakespeare show, the company would get together and read new plays, devote one night to working on acting exercises and scenes.
Then, the meetings started to become a party, less people showed up, and what we referred to as AA (Actor's Anonymous), should have developed into an actual AA meeting. I started to see signs of flakiness in actors and people started to show up to rehearsals late, not having lines memorized 2 days before the show opened, lack of response to texts and emails about production matters. This was happening with the board members, mind you. Show was over, on to the next.
Our next project was this massive undertaking of "Alice In Wonderland", which we called "The Alice Project". We should have called it "Alice in CacaLand". All of the actors put in so much work to get this show running that divisions happened. It didn't help that we had a director that was only there half the time. Not my choice, by the way.
There were also many, many, dramas and issues going into the show, that many people just chose to stay away from each other. By the time the show finished, we were all so sick of each other, and I drank enough to fill many many beer halls and liquor distilleries. Throughout this time, the same people were showing up late, not responding to emails, not fulfilling their commitments, and many of these actors had big, juicy, weenie, roles too. How f'd up is that?
The signs were there, I got the hell out of that steaming hot pile of mierda.
After some time, my buddies and I started Working Artists Lab. It's funny, because I invited some of the former members from the above mentioned company (all who left the hot mess that it was), to come play, work on your game, and just have fun. No response. NADA! I thought things were cool. Even if you have no desire to work with my group, a simple email or text to say "No thanks" or "Too busy" right now doesn't take much. Right?
Looking back, I'm the pendejo. Some of the people I invited to play were those actors who had lead roles and didn't have their lines memorized or just showed a general indifference to things.
WTF was I expecting when I invited these fools? I'm the type of brother that likes to give people the benefit of the doubt. Probably one of my biggest downfalls.
It stings. I ain't gonna lie. I like to have a lot of people at my parties. But you know what? Quality is king. The handful of my peeps that show up to work on scenes and monologues are the real rock stars. They are the ones that I will refer to an agent, producer, manager, or director, to help them get ahead. I know that they are troopers, and their heart is in the right place.
The other fools get added to my D-Bag list. So it's all good.