Our local membership has certainly shifted to our lives and livelihood. Many have chosen to take advantage of the downtime and hone their skills. Members continue to attend the online education workshops provided by the President’s Task Force on Education, Outreach & Engagement, while others build their home studios or find ways to give back to the community. And many are doing all of the above. Here’s how two of our members, actor-turned-real-life hero Michelle Wiesner and voiceover performer Wynt Woody, are handling this new normal.
Life on the Frontlines
I began my acting career during the Robocop; JFK; Walker, Texas Ranger; and Barney days in the early ’90s, and spent my days working at The Studios at Las Colinas in Irving, Texas. When I then moved to the small town of Sanger, Texas, I felt the need to give back to the community and my husband and I decided to volunteer at the local fire department. Soon, we were hooked! I wound up getting my emergency medical technician, paramedic and firefighter licenses, and my work as a first responder has been my second career for 15 years now.
I always say acting helped me prepare for my firefighting career: The wait times and rapid movement; the adrenaline rush, as you never know what the next minute will bring — oh, and eating in about five minutes! But one of my first calls as a paramedic, one which had a gruesome ending, made me realize this scene is real: real people, real blood and no second takes.
My first responder schedule of 24 hours on and 48 hours off makes my acting schedule a bit more difficult, and shifts have now changed to 48 hours on and 96 hours off, but it’s worth it. As we face COVID-19, we have a new enemy that is unpredictable. As a first responder, when we go into a fire, there is some understanding as to what to expect with fire behavior, building construction and other factors; with a virus, we don’t know what we’re walking into and need to change protocols as the unknown progresses.
Acting is still a part of my life, but doesn’t happen very often anymore. I look forward to the day when I can bring my real life-and-death experiences into my performances. I continue to study acting with a newfound respect for those times I walk into people’s homes and experience their dark times, transport their loved ones to the hospital and put out the fires, and lift them up and make them feel better. I love helping people the best way I can. Trust me: There are a lot of “characters” to study out there who keep me laughing and crying.
Stay strong and love each other. We will get through this one day and one call at a time.
By Michelle Wiesner for the Dallas-Fort Worth Local
Message in a Bottle
I was a teenager when I saw a poster I didn’t understand: Lemons on one side, a glass of lemonade on the other. But no bowl of sugar! At the top: “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” It was hanging up next to the sink in my buddy’s kitchen, shortly after his family had experienced a tragic loss. It was two decades later that I realized what the poster meant: I had to add the sugar.
Recently, we’ve all had to make lemonade to some extent. When producers are shy to hire, what do we do? Well, I’ll tell you what I’ve done. My voice work is primarily in audiobooks, which I record in my home studio in Houston. This past year, I’ve done more in the way of business books, but in years past, I’ve narrated military fiction, murder mysteries and some literary award-winners. This past quarter has seen a decrease in auditions for union work, and so I find my studio is available in the downtime.
I’ve got a great little studio I don’t mind saying I’m very proud of. It’s taken years of technical study, testing and trial-and-error to get it to this level of audio quality. Recently, I added to my mic locker a 971 Neumann U87 condenser microphone. It’s an awesome piece of gear: rich, round and totally flattering. If you’ve gone through a vintage U87, you know what I mean!
But, first and foremost, what matters most before the gear is the resonance of the voice, diction and expressive delivery. I mix it up a lot in the rehearsal booth with poetry, old-time radio scripts, classical and modern theatrical monologues, sci-fi and crime thrillers, and accents and character voices. I find it worthwhile to review the fundamentals periodically: opening the vowels, softening the consonants and making my alliterations crisp; avoiding lip-smacking; minimizing my breath between clauses and much more. If I record something I think passes muster, I put it up online. As an example, my video “The Undertaking,” which was an exercise in “abiding the meter” of a classical poetic text. Or “Barbecue Spacecraft, Texas Style!,” which was done in a comedic Texan accent.
Over the years, I created dozens of short comic audios which I sent just to friends. During the downtime this past quarter, I edited them into two albums of crazy comedy just for fun.
You see, to be drinkable, lemonade has to be sweet!
By Wynt Woody for the Houston-Austin Local
- Local News