Milt Abel is a stand-up comedian traveling the world, and places closer.


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Acting Out in Northeast Portland

By Milt Abel | May 31, 2010

| May 31, 2010

Acting out in Northeast Portland

I’ve lived in the Portland Area for nine years now and I’m still wary of driving around downtown because of all its one-way streets and bridges across the Willamette River. Take a wrong turn and suddenly your on a bridge crossing a river you had no intention of crossing with no chance of turning off or around. You’re in a chute with water rushing underneath, it like being in a water park where a flume can dump you offsite and you’ll have to pay to re-enter.

Friday I had an appointment in Northeast Portland at a place I had easily driven to just Wednesday, so that was the easy part, it was the unwanted bridge crossing on the return home I hoped to avoid this trip. Friday, on my outward route I shot glances to the ramp I had wrongly taken, studying and planning my return, even looking backwards at road signs like a second-guessing adventurer.

I was returning to Simon Max Hill Casting for a call-back on a low-budget feature film called “The Wait.” Because my frequency of traveling to the four corners of the world as a cruise ship comic has reduced some, I’ve resurrected my acting career. A fear gnaws at me that, like Dr Frankenstein, I’ll come to regret re-animating the corpse, but try I must. The beauty of stand-up comedy is you are writer, director, and actor -total freedom and total responsibility for execution of the show. As an actor I hand over so much to someone I haven’t yet met. The audition process is so dis-empowering. If you are of equal talent to another auditioner it comes to looks and that makes me feel like I’m at a middle-school Sadie Hawkins dance, standing against the gym wall hoping some gal doesn’t think my nose is too big.

Here comes the dicey part; when I received the email notifying me of the call-back right next to it in my inbox was a solicitation to attend a TV/film acting workshop from a respected local actor and director, Shelly Lipkin. Guess who was also ready for the small part I had a call back for? That’s right: Shelly. My second audition in 15 years (remember the use of the word ‘resurrected’) and I’m competing with an acting teacher. No need to be nervous, either my nose is too big, or it isn’t.

Actually the call-back went quite well. I had a call-back for a part in Leverage a few weeks back and that went poorly. Two for two in auditioning and getting a call-backs, which is good, but that first call-back went poorly. For the Leverage call-back I was obviously nervous, not to the point of the casting people spreading newspaper beneath me, but nervous enough not to get cast. And nervous enough to walk out of Lana Veenker Casting loathing myself for blowing the opportunity; I looked like no one else auditioning for the part of Bank Manager and I sensed it was mine for the taking. The problem was lack of focus, all that excess energy that should have been directed toward  being ‘in’ the ‘here and now’ of the script was squandered on self-consciousness. I was not going to that for my film call-back. And I didn’t, I was so focused on being focused, so much so that when I was ready to ‘read’ in the auditioning room Simon, the casting director that had obviously liked me from my first reading, asked if I was okay because I had such a distant look on my face. I was just busy getting rid of me and trying to be in the ‘here and now’ of the part I was reading for: Irritated Dad in Candy Store. Me portraying an irritated dad is not a stretch, so I was hitting the ground running with this audition. I don’t remember saying the lines, hardly; I was so ‘into’ it I didn’t even observe what I was doing. The film’s director had no directing requests for a second reading except to add the line “You little weirdo” Which I did, and which I barely remember doing.

As I left the audition room the director got up from behind his casting desk, a folding banquet table strewn with script fragments and photos of hopeful actors, and crossed to near the room’s threshold to shake my hand before leaving. Why? I was so good? He shakes everyone’s hand? A shake is like a mafioso kiss, ‘You’re dead to me’? I was so thrown off, and my self-consciousness was streaming back in, that I had to make a joke of it. When he said, “I just want to shake your hand.” I replied, with a comic’s attempt at a call-back (different context for that expression here, it means bringing up a previously used phrase or expression to get a laugh) I said, “Because I’m a little weirdo.”

I think I took a wrong turn there, but I don’t know yet if I’m lost.

Topics: comedy, humor | No Comments »