Putting words to picture - a behind-the-scenes snapshot of today's voiceover session for Pillsbury Chocolate Crescent Rolls:
Mid-August I posted the following little blurb on my professional Facebook page - || while this week was rather insane (two on-camera auditions - one TV pilot and one TV commercial; rehearsals for a stage play; voiceover session for a Pillsbury TV spot; and voiceover for Marketplace Events Home and Garden Shows - TV and radio spots in 5 markets), it's moments like this - noticing how the light is hitting a vintage Neumann microphone in the recording booth - that give me pause with gratitude and appreciation.
And here’s the result of that session in the booth with the vintage Neumann:
Ten points for the copywriter who gave pigs-in-a-blanket a fancy-yet-accessible turn.
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After doing voiceovers in Minneapolis/St. Paul for six years, it’s a rare occasion to find myself in a recording studio that I haven’t yet been in. So today was a treat, as it brought me to the curious and charming NoWare Media. We recorded the tag for a Yoplait Greek Yogurt TV commercial voiced by Lisa Kudrow (yes, Phoebe of Friends fame); I come in at the end to wrap it up:
NoWare is a sweet space – they’ve even got those classic sliding barn doors (swoon). But putting down voiceover in a booth that includes a chandelier? – Definitely an awesome first.
Spent today on set for a Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield commercial…I had auditioned for one of the speaking roles and was ultimately cast as an extra, which had me on set for the entire 10-hour shoot day over three locations (I was told it could have been 12 hours, so the early wrap was a nice surprise).
First location: Bang Bang Salon, Kingfield, Minneapolis
Camera-ready call-time: 6:30 am (ohmygod, 6:30 AM. *whimper*)
Second location: The Uptown Theater, Uptown, Minneapolis
This is what it looks like when you’re on set, “watching a movie.” Real popcorn! Which means don't get a hull stuck in your throat and panic a little trying to stifle your cough so you don't ruin somebody's take. But I wouldn't know anything about that.
Third and final location: curbside in Kenwood, Minneapolis
The best part about leafing through prop books on the table was discovering that one of them was the propmaster’s wife’s journal from high school. I didn’t read it, but I did happen to notice that her prom picture was pretty tubular.
Additional bonus, I discovered my friend Ansa would be portraying my fella for this scene. We joked about how, due to the camera lens’ depth of field, we’d likely be very blurry. And that we are the best blurry actors in town. And that we should just get very blurry, far off headshots taken and really sell it. Oh the dangers of idle minds…
Today marked the close of Daleko Arts’ production of Proof, a rich, complicated Pulitzer Prize- and Tony Award-winning script about mental illness, trust, and high math by David Auburn. I had the pleasure of playing Claire, the estranged sister in from New York to pick up the pieces after the death of her genius father, and reveled in the depth of and contradictions between her words and actions, in the messiness of her relationship with her sister and her abandoned past.
The show was produced in New Prague, MN, about an hour south of Minneapolis/St. Paul, so afforded a lovely, meditative drive through pastoral farmland each day, and the show was set in Chicago, from where half of my own family hail; a beautifully evocative trek to each performance.
We filmed it in three locations on February 2, and it was...cold. Ohmygodsocold. As in, high-for-the-day-was-10-degrees-Fahrenheit cold. Texts to a friend that morning consisted of helpful weather indicators like "my legs are frozen solid," and, "holy jesus it's cold." Despite Mother Nature trying to kill us, the day was wonderful.
Without further ado, a behind-the-scenes look at filming for Good Friend:
The park with the most fabulous old metal play equipment.
A portable ice-fishing tent served as our warming house.
This thing was a tiny miracle.
Musician toes + portable propane heater.
The playground was situated next to an ice rink covered in fresh snow. The adult boys made a game out of seeing who could run to the edge and then slide the farthest. There were very specific rules. The child boys won.
Adam Whisner on the swing set. In a sweet little bit of all things coming 'round, Adam was the Doug to my Kayleen in the last two Minneapolis productions of Rajiv Joseph's Gruesome Playground Injuries. When we learned of the casting, our text conversation went thusly:
Me: You and me? We're gonna be in a music video together. That makes me happy.
Adam: We're going to be yelling at each other. Next play we're in, let's just be in regular love 'n' stuff.
Me: It's a deal.
The imaginary friend rests.
Setting up the long shot while Adam and I wait on the metal bench swing.
Adam and I waiting on the metal bench swing.
The pretty, pretty long shot of the metal bench swing.
Our intrepid director, John Burgess, standing in for "Sam."
"Mom" and a spaghetti-headed "Sam."
Charles Hubbell looking up something terribly important relating to Captain Underpants on IMDB.
The light truck outside our third and final location, awaiting load-out. The sweet, quiet end to the long, sweet day.
In early April I was contacted by the ever-delightful Jay Gabler about a little article he had successfully pitched to his editor at Vita.mn – a weekly arts and culture rag published by the Star Tribune. He was looking to feature my work as a voice-over artist and part-time pirate at the Science Museum of Minnesota in Vita.mn's weekly Work: column. We chatted casually on the phone shortly thereafter, followed by a lovely photo shoot at Babble-On Recording Studios with photographer Bre McGee. The following, published May 24, 2012, is the final result.
Star Tribune's weekly arts and culture rag, Vita.mn - 5.24.2012
Read the full article here. Or, if the article has gone missing, as online articles are wont to do, check out the PDF here:
I will admit that it’s somewhat surreal to be mentioned in print sans critique on the quality of my work as an artist. I’ve become so accustomed to being reviewed that this makes me feel rather adrift. Flattered, certainly; yet adrift. Even so, thanks, Jay. It's pretty killer that you found my work interesting enough to give it ink. So far, this is the most fun making a living that I've ever had.
Our critically acclaimed run of Rajiv Joseph's Gruesome Playground Injuries closed last night after eight-performances over two weeks. I honestly can’t remember the last time, if ever, I was this entwined with a character, this invested in a role, this in love with the immediate creative team. And so to be done feels like someone has ripped my heart out of my chest and left a gaping wound in its stead. A tad dramatic? Perhaps. And yet, here I sit, marveling at the way the night air churns with this springtime thunderstorm, with an ache that has burrowed in and is taking no pains to ease.
Upon the start of rehearsal we created a little family – Director Natalie, Stage Manager Tamara, Adam, and I – to figure out the story of Doug and Kayleen. The intimacies we shared, the insecurities, the acceptance, the hilarity, the breaks spent piled on the sofa with each other – just a comfortable mess of limbs and laughter – all in service of figuring out the puzzle of these wounded people; it was exactly what I needed in my personal life exactly when I needed it.
To spend so much time together, to work so intensely for six weeks on creating a reality together, and to then just be done…it’s heartbreaking, really. Being done - not spending my evenings with these lovely people - it just hurts.
And so tonight, I will let it be what it is. And tomorrow… well, if this storm has any significance, tomorrow will dawn washed and more verdant.
Photos courtesy Justin D. Gallo Photography
End-of-year lists can be so tedious. I know this. And yet here we are. Because the only thing more tedious than end-of-year lists is searching for some documentation of some thing that happened a year or two or three ago, and not being able to find anything about it because I was too lazy/tired/overjoyed/myopic/disassociated to actually write about it. I therefore offer up this end-of-year list as a compendium of my professional shenanigans so that searching for them in the future won’t drive me crazy. You’re welcome, Me. Be sure to thank me later. In 2010 I made my living in front of an audience and behind the mic. And for that I am so deeply in awe. So deeply grateful for my fortuity. While our economy is not nearly as bad as 2009, it’s still in terrible disarray and record numbers of people are still unemployed. Even so, I was able to make a modest living via my profession; a modest living that didn’t require me to engage in morally questionable behavior (the kind where one would accompany a raised eyebrow with ‘actress’ in air-quotes).
Without further ado, my performance highlights of 2010:
- Voice-overs for ParentAwareRatings.org (listen).
- Voice-overs for St. Catherine University (listen). Turns out a friend heard the spot multiple times and never realized it was me until I mentioned it on Facebook. I kind of like it when that happens.
- Finished the six-month run of Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition at the Science Museum of Minnesota. I spent part of my weekdays engaging with the general public as Nurse Evelyn Marsden – sharing, in a darling English accent, her experiences aboard the ship in the first-class cabins and hospitals. I was sad to say goodbye to her.
- Voice-overs for Marketplace Events - 2nd year in a row (listen). Ty Pennington and me on national TV and radio urging you to attend home shows all around the U.S. (watch) TV commercials aired on HGTV and ABC and their affiliates.
- Began rehearsals for the Science Museum of Minnesota’s next exhibition – The Dead Sea Scrolls: Words That Changed the World, wherein we would perform a three-minute introductory monologue for visitors every 7.5 minutes. In all honesty, it was mind-numbing, but the visitors were mostly appreciative.
- Interviewed by Minnesota Public Radio’s Chris Roberts about my line-memorization techniques – ultimately compiled into a clever on-air story and accompanying slideshow with fellow actors Steven Epp, Mo Perry and Clarence Wethern.
- The Big Oscar Crunch 2010 – wherein I try to see as many of the Oscar-nominated films as humanly possible before the awards ceremony. The fun of doing it that way is not only seeing excellent movies, but actually feeling invested in more than just the red carpet.
- Started rehearsals for Spring of Freedom/Summer of Fear – a new Iranian play by Ali G. Ravi , produced by Table Salt Productions.
- VO gig for Carlson Companies – got to put Nurse Evelyn Marsden’s darling English accent to good use.
- Devastated to drop out of Spring of Freedom/Summer of Fear due to a harrowing family crisis which, because it apparently wasn’t bad enough, led to a nasty case of shingles. Yes, shingles. Probably the worst three weeks of my adult life to date.
- Called in by the lovely Barbara Shelton at Bab’s Casting to audition for a new WB pilot Mike and Molly. The network was looking for someone 30 pounds overweight. I was exactly that (not anymore, thanks to a newfound love of yoga), and so happily went in. Between the script (and the eventual casting choice), it became quite clear that LA thinks 30 pounds overweight is the same thing as obese. Surprising? Not really.
- Called in by the Guthrie Theater to audition for the role of Eunice in Streetcar Named Desire. Almost missed the e-mail because I assumed it was Guthrie marketing spam and was about to delete it. Didn’t recognize the sender’s name, though, so opened it. Close call.
- VOs for Nexxus demos/animatics. These are voice-overs for a concept by the ad agency for the client. If it gets approved by the client, the agency then films the spots. Since I almost never watch commercial TV, I have no idea if these ever made it though the pipeline...my guess is no (especially since many of these were the same as, or similar to, the ones I did in April 2009).
- VOs for Nexxus demos/animatics – two more sessions.
- Public reading of Casa Cushman, a new work by NYC’s Tectonic Theater Project (the folks who brought you The Laramie Project, at the University of Minnesota Nolte Center.
- Crickets. Both figurative and literal. Aside from live science demonstrations at the Science Museum of Minnesota, it appears that I did nothing performance-related in May. And I went camping.
- On Tuesday, May 11, amongst of a jumble of scheduled meetings and things to do, I found written in my calendar, “Hell-cat Maggie and Slops McConnell.” I have no idea what that means, but I think it’s funny, so thought I would share with anyone who is still reading by this point. Kiss, kiss.
June More crickets. Figurative. See May.
- Started rehearsals for See You Next Tuesday, my very first show with Walking Shadow Theater Company.
- Three-day script workshop of Trista Baldwin’s stunning Forgetting at The Playwrights’ Center.
- 2010 Minnesota Fringe Festival, and my performance in Walking Shadow’s critically acclaimed See You Next Tuesday. I was so excited to be back at the festival that I advance-purchased an Ultra Pass, with which I ended up only seeing three shows due to an emergency hospital visit and an emergency vet visit. 2010 was not turning out to be a great year for health.
- VO spots (more, again) for Marketplace Events home shows with Ty Pennington – TV and Radio (listen). Continued airings on HGTV and ABC.
- VO spots for General Mills – TV tags for Totino’s Party Pizzas (listen).
- Attended the (somethingth annual) Ivey Awards – Minneapolis/St. Paul’s version of the Tonys. Very, very swank. Very, very inspiring.
- VO spots for General Mills – TV tags for Progresso Soup (listen).
- Obscenely busy month that had almost nothing to do with performing. Included business travel to San Francisco for continued work on behalf of the Science Museum of Minnesota for NISE Net (Nanoscale Informal Science Education Network), with a little leisure travel to San Diego and LA on the side.
- No! Wait! Because of my General Mills VOs in September, this is the month that I was required to join the Screen Actors’ Guild (SAG)! That’s right, I got my SAG card in October. October was not an actorly loss, after all.
- Started rehearsals for a three-week, 30-hours/week workshop of Casa Cushman – in collaboration with NYC’s Tectonic Theater Project, choreographer Carl Flink, University of Minnesota Department of Theater Arts and Dance, a couple other U of M departments that I can’t recall at the moment, and The Playwrights’ Center.
- Sent live the brand-spankin’-shiny-new leighahorton.com.
- Performance of Casa Cushman at the Northrop Auditorium. This was a wild ride, and at the end of it all, despite some crazy-cray-cray, it was kind of awesome. And I kind of loved it.
- VOs for General Mills (42 in total) for Progresso Light Soups, Yoplait and Yoplait Light Yogurts, and Big G Cereals national TV spots. I just about died and went to heaven.
- VOs for Marketplace Events Home Shows with Ty Pennington – third year running!
- Authored and published a children’s book for NISE Net, Alice in Nanoland, which, as you read this, is being mailed to 200 informal science education institutions (science museums, children’s museums, etc.) across the nation in the 2011 NanoDays kits. What a curious little experience that was.
And there we have it! The months of 2010 demonstrate both feast and famine and average out to healthy; December being, by far, the most entertaining (well, for me, anyway). I continue to stand, mouth agape, at the wondrous profession I have chosen and the beautiful trajectory it has taken thus far. I cannot wait to see what delightful paths await!
My new headshots are in, and I’m looking for your opinion! The photographer monkey and I did a shoot last Saturday evening, and we’ve whittled the choices down to these three. Ultimately, I would like to go with two headshots demonstrating different moods to match any given project for which I’m auditioning – the smiley one for the comedies and one of the two serious ones (this is where I need your help) for the dramas.
Right now there’s a bit of a tie amongst the family and friends who have seen them, so please take a look and tell me which of the serious girls you prefer. It’s like our own little reality show where you get to vote for something to leave, and all of the choices are me.
Also, I think the photographer monkey would appreciate the mention that the smiley photo is going to be re-shot due to the lighting being a bit off…he lightened it up as much as possible in Photoshop, but now it looks kind of weird.
Vote on, my friends.