Take some time away from warming up your voice to hear tips on acting in Baltimore, shared by UMBC alumnus Alexander Scally. He offers enough insight to make heads spin; if you get overwhelmed, remember to fall back on your training by remaining grounded, poised, and ready for anything that you read. Perfect.
My experience knowing Alexander started in college when working together on a 48-hour play festival and after college with Glass Mind Theatre Company, which he co-founded. Alexander has always showed professional attitude, dedication and an ability to build memorable onstage personas. Today, Alexander is making an appearance this summer with Quarry Theatre's Meditations on Nationalism.
Alexander has attended the Fringe Festival "since year one." His comedic one-man show, Building Your Emotional Home, is set to run as part of Nights on the Fringe on June 8th and 9th.
Tips for Acting in Baltimore
There are Baltimore companies that specialize in producing Shakespeare alone (such as Baltimore Shakespeare Factory and Chesapeake Shakespeare Company). For this reason, Alexander suggests that a professional actor ought to have a classical monologue prepared. Baltimore audiences enjoy contemporary work, as well. Getting musical numbers ready to perform should be part of your plan, since Alexander mentions that plenty of musicals audition in Baltimore.
On the topic of being open for opportunities — Alexander says staying non-equity will help you keep your options open while living in Baltimore. But a flexible schedule is just as desirable. "Keep your nights and weekends open for auditions and rehearsals,” he says. “Any job with nights and weekends is not easy to manage."
Advice on Material and Character Work
Actors must keep tuning up their repertoire by taking workshops and classes, according to Alexander. "Keep your material fresh," he says. "Do it because you love it … You have to really love it. I never understood performers who don't love it. Go and do something else that doesn't ask for your emotional and physical being at all times."
As part of his system for acting, Stanislavsky wrote, “In the language of an actor, to know is synonymous with to feel." The actor must work with feeling like any other artist works with their materials, but the job of acting is to create, refine, and recreate a living person. “Character” comes from the Greek word meaning to engrave, stamp or mark. Alexander mentions that character work is especially successful in Baltimore and that audiences enjoy eccentric qualities.
Alexander's one-man show, Building Your Emotional Home, centers on a motivational speaker named David Mark Davids. The character was unveiled to Baltimore audiences during a vaudeville-style variety show called LAF*fest, alongside comics, performers and poets (Bunny Themelis, Mike Allison, BreezyBrisk, and Chris Hudson). It was produced with the help of Charm City Comedy Project in 2016. Alexander and his wife, Caitlin Bouxsein, produced the premiere of Building Your Emotional Home at Annex Theater in December 2017.
On building this character, Alexander says, "It was about using structure [to become] familiar with his background. What does a motivational speaker do? You go out on a tour, do a structure based on a book they wrote, then there's the [psychic] cold reads…"
Build a Company, Build a Show, Be Part of a Community
In a city that loves original work, writing and producing a show is a viable option. "If you don't like the work you're getting or not getting enough work, make your own opportunity. That was how Glass Mind came around," Alexander says. In addition to being a founding member of GMT, he was the Community Engagement Director for four seasons. The company closed after five seasons.
Alexander doesn’t necessarily recommend sticking to acting in Baltimore exclusively since there's always the option to audition online or travel. He auditions and performs in New York City and Washington D.C., and he toured with Baltimore Rock Opera Society when they took a show to Philadelphia.
The last bit of advice Alexander has comes from being pushed for too much information. Actors have to know when to turn roles down, and they have to know when someone is asking too much of them... When Alexander was asked to summon one of his previous characters from a show called “Meredith's Ring,” he did not do it. Instead, he calmly said, "I'm not your monkey," and he went on without further comment.
Behind the Mask is a monthly Q&A with different members of the Charm City Fringe community written by Communications Committee member Shaun Vain. Shaun is a playwright from Baltimore. The UMBC graduate studied writing and theater. For the latest reporting on local and world events visit his news site, The Mid-Atlantic Exposè.