One big fat fact of show biz, I've learned, is waiting. It's an unfortunately significant part of any actors life, unless you are irritatingly well connected or have had your destiny mapped out with finger paints since you were three.
Guillaume and myself, as you may have guessed, fall somewhere outside of these two categories, since we've just moved to L.A. to pursue acting. That means, until we “hit our big break”, and possibly even afterward, there's bound to be a lot of waiting. What kind of constructive things can an actor do in this between time, you may ask? Well frankly, your guess is as good as mine, but below are some fun things that probably won't hurt.
See Lots of Movies & Screenings
I've had more than one agent, manager or acting coach tell me to watch good movies as homework. Okay, check. Actually, double check. How to one-up that? Screenings. Even better, screenings are usually free (though you might want to factor in that 45 minute queue), often before release dates and usually have with Q & A's with the stars and/or director of the film. Sometimes they even say inspiring things that make Guillaume and me sigh, with stars twinkling in our eyes.
These shows are usually targeted for industry people, but if you are SAG (the actors' union) or subscribe to Backstage (a free actors e-newsletter), you can get on the list for many of these with relative ease.
Zero Dark Thirty screening
If we fancy something a little more “live” on our night out, Improv shows. They're like Saturday Night Live, with lots of improvised skits, and, of course, they're not just on Saturdays. Plus, improv shows are a great way to get acquainted with some up-and-coming stars. These shows are about as affordable as live theater can get: every once in a while you'll pay twenty bucks to get in. But we've been to shows that offered free beer for attendance. Cheap fun, lots of laughs . . . improv is hard to beat.
Watching a show with actor friends
After studying drama acting in New York City, both Guillaume and I started taking improv classes when we got here to L.A.: myself at Groundlings and him at Upright Citizens Brigade (UCB). While that might make this next sentence biased, they are still the best two Improv theaters in L.A.
Nestled in the heart of Hollywood, shows at the UCB theater generally run from free up to $10. Groundlings shows will set you back $10-$20 and they are on Melrose, in West Hollywood, a fun street with bars and restaurants and heaps of other comedy clubs around. For anyone new to the improv scene, you will probably run into some favorite comedic actors performing in the show themselves. You may think, “Hey- that's the kid who played little Chris Rock in Everybody Hates Chris a.k.a. Tyler James Williams” or “That's the sister-in-law from Wanderlust a.k.a. Michaela Watkins” Actually, many of the best comedic actors and writers of today studied at UCB or Groundlings: think Will Ferrel, Kristin Wiig, Amy Poheler, and a lot of SNL actors.
Improv is really special, because
1) it's cheap - there are no rehearsals, no props, no stage design
2) every show will be different
3) you are getting to see these actors actually work . . . not the finely polished stuff you get after a 85 takes and believe it or not its often better.
Last but not least are the independent shows. These may not be quite as refined, but they are fun, raw and usually free. Typically we go because it's a show that a classmate or friend is in, and that's what support is all about. They can be anywhere from the back of a comic book store (check out the NerdMelt theater in the back of Melt Down Comics on Sunset) to somebody's basement, and a lot of other places too. These shows are composed of motivated people who are doing their own thing because they are tired of waiting . . . and that I can totally relate to.