The Life and Many Deaths of Peter Pan

Today I return to my beloved home town and jump straight into the last rehearsals for The Life and Many Deaths of Peter Pan at the Seattle Fringe Festival. I am delighted to be reprising my role as Lady Cynthia Asquith, JM Barrie’s secretary and friend for the last 20 years of his life.

As his light wanes and the tick-tock of the clock winds down, the man who made Peter Pan is confronted by the shadows of his past.  Eclipsed by his greatest creation and burdened with devastating loss, JM Barrie has forgotten how to fly.  Dark and whimsical, tragic and joyful, silly and profound – this shadow play romps through the borders between true and make-believe, journeys back to Neverland, and invites us all to remember what we have forgotten.
If you are in Seattle, please let me share this little story with you!
Performances:
The Life and many Deaths of Peter Pan
directed by Leah Adcock Starr
Seattle Fringe Festival
At the TPS Black Box
2.25 @ 7:00pm
2.27 @ 3:30pm
3.4 @ 8:30pm
3.5 @ 5:00pm

Tickets may be purchased at the door and online at:  click4tix.com/fringe/peterpan
For interviews and adorable childhood pictures of the cast(including myself) and crew, click here.

The 100 Day Character

I am terrified.

I have made the decision to do something different for the next 100 Days of Self-Taping. Starting November 1st, I will be embarking on a journey with a single character that I am creating that I will live with every day for the next 100 days. Each day I will tape a 15 second or less excerpt and post it to a new Instagram account that is dedicated to this story.

There are several things about this that terrify me. 1) I have never done anything like this before. (Nor have I seen a story told like this before.) 2) I really want it to be amazing and I’m afraid that it won’t live up to my own expectations. 3) The whole story isn’t written yet. I have a good idea of where I want it to go, but I want to be open to changes, both that are influenced by myself, as the writer/performer, and by you, as the audience.

Every day that I prepare for this I have been on the edge of quitting and going the much easier route, but then I remember that the things that terrify me are the same things that excite me. And that is why I HAVE to do this project. November 1st is this Sunday. I invite you to go on this journey with me. As I said, there may be points where you have the power to influence this character’s fate. To follow be a part of this character’s journey, go to my new Instagram account: The100DayCharacter. If you want to do a 100 day project of self-taping or another 100 day project of your own with me, follow my regular Instagram account: CharissaJActor, where I will be posting updates and encouragements for the group of us who doing these 100 days of creating together.

Let this terrifying adventure begin!

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Own it! (Part 3)

It’s been a long time since I wrote on the subject of “owning it,” but I am realizing it will be a reoccurring theme in my life. I first talked about taking ownership of my pursuits(Part 1 & Part 2) back when I came down to LA for my first short-term stint. It was a landmark in my pursuit of acting as a career. I was realizing all of the fears I had surrounding whether or not I would be successful and choosing to pursue my dream anyway.

Recently, I have noticed a lack of ownership on my part in other areas of my career. As I prepare for the next 100 days of self-taping, I am writing, producing and directing my own thing. However, I’ve noticed myself saying this a lot lately. “I’m not a director, but sometimes I direct.”  Or “I’m not a writer, but I’m working on this script right now.” Basically, I am not a “noun” but I “verb.” I am trying to figure out why I make this qualification every time I tell something what I am doing rather than simply owning it. Two things come to mind.

First, I don’t want to do a disservice to the people who are writers and directors full-time. I want to respect their time, effort, training and years of work they have put into their careers and I don’t want to insert myself into that category without having earned my place there. I also don’t want to give a false impression of my background or of my focus as an artist, which has been on acting. Although I think those reasons are valid, just because I have less experience, does not mean I am not one of those things.

Secondly, and this is the one that I think requires the biggest shift in my mind, I phrase it that way as a “way out” for myself. If I write, but I’m not a writer, then people’s expectations won’t be that high. If I occasionally direct, but I’m not a director, then I can let myself off the hook if it wasn’t as good as I wanted. THAT is dangerous. Dangerous if you think mediocrity is dangerous. And I believe it is. I act. I direct. I write. If I don’t own that I do those things, then I won’t ever take myself seriously in those categories and, therefore, won’t reach the point of calling myself those titles. It’s a vicious cycle of low expectations. That is NOT what I want.

What I DO want is to pursue these things fully, whenever I do them. I don’t want to hold back or give myself excuses or downplay my expertise. I want to be proud of what I put out there. Can I improve? Always. Can I work harder? Yes. Can I learn from the process I am currently in? Certainly. This is my declaration that I will own what I do and change my language to reflect that ownership. I am owning it!

P.S. Another reminder that if you want to join me for 100 Days of Self-Taping or another version of The 100 Day Project, I will be starting November 1st. Follow me on Instagram for more details!

The NEXT 100 Days of Self-Taping!

Almost three months have passed since I completed The 100 Days of Self-Taping. It’s incredible how quickly one can fall out of a habit once the expectations and accountability fall away. I had high hopes of continuing self-taping, if not every day, at least multiple times a week. But I have to admit that, acting class and auditions aside, I have self-taped very little on my own. Life and excuses can so easily get in the way. This simply reinforces my observation that routine and accountability are absolutely key for me in practicing my art. Without those, it becomes a habit of saying, “Tomorrow!” And tomorrow never comes.

Rather than continuing to put things off, I am giving myself a deadline, another routine, a new system of accountability. The last time I was a part of a large group of people, led by The Great Discontent, doing The 100 Day Project. This time I will be leading a group of people in 100 Days of Self-Taping beginning November 1st, 2015. The main platform will be Instagram, using the hashtag #100daysofselftaping. If you would like to join me, follow and message me on Instagram. If you would like to tweak your 100 days into another artistic practice, go right ahead and make your own hashtag to track your progress. The main point is to be in this together, cheering each other on. Come on and join me!

The 100 Day Project: Process

I can’t believe The 100 Day Project is over. I did it! I put myself on camera and worked on my acting for 100 days straight. What a journey! Now I am looking back at what I learned and how I grew over the last 100 days. Not only did I see my skills improve, I can actually see a difference in my ease in front of the camera, from my first post to my last(you should take a look!). Through the journey, not only did I recognize the obstacles that lay in way to doing the work, but I also learned a lot about my artistic process. What do I need to do to get the best result? One of the best things about the 100 day project is that it forces you to do something tangible every single day. While that created a habit of practice for me and improved my on-tape acting skills, I began to wish I had more time with each piece. Some didn’t require that much time: commercials, improvised bits, co-star roles with a couple pages of script. But the Shakespeare monologues, guest star roles, leading roles ask more of you and I wish I’d had more time to dedicate to them. That being said, I learned a lot about what I need to do to best prepare for all sorts of auditions or roles.

  • Accountability. I work best with accountability. Social Media has been the best form of accountability for me. If I put it out there that I’m going to do something, then I am much more likely to follow through. If I have an audition, the accountability with my agent and the casting director is built in. I need some form of accountability for my daily practice(at least I did to get started).
  • Time to memorize. Or at least get familiar with the words. I have learned to audition with script in hand, without staring at the page, but sometimes(more often than not) the better you know the words the better you will do. While my focus was on doing the character prep work, I didn’t dedicate as much time to memorize and I could tell. I am learning some new memorization techniques and I think that will help me, moving forward.
  • Figure out the technical requirements. I know that I have to figure out what the scene/monologue will require physically and rhythmically. That takes some trial and error. That’s where self-taping is very handy. Something I think reads on screen, may be completely lost.
  • Emotionally connect with the relationship, truth and need in the conversation. In Annie’s class, we work on being able to connect to the conversation with only 40 minutes and then with 48 hours. Obviously, 48 hours gives more time to find a deeper connection to the relationship and words. For the most part, I was only giving myself about 40 minutes in the 100 day project. I started to miss sitting with it for longer and having the freedom to explore, image, and create.
  • Time to make it my own. After I’ve done all of the above, then I feel like I can finally discover some things that are a unique perspective that only I have. I might come up with some of that off the first read, but more likely it will come with a bit more familiarity and experimentation. Also, the more I practice, the more quickly I can find those things that make it uniquely mine.

Now that The 100 Day Project is over, I know that I have created some excellent habits and carry more knowledge and experience with me moving forward. I may not be posting a self-taping video every day anymore, but I will be working daily on my craft. Again, so many thanks to Elle Luna and The Great Discontent for organizing this group of artists across the globe. I had so much fun and connected with such a great community of people through this project. May the creating continue!

 

To view my journey through The 100 Day Project, go to my Instagram feed and search #100daysofselftaping.

The 100 Day Project: Obstacles

I am over 75% of the way done with the 100 day project. Wow. I knew when I started out that this was going to be a challenge; that I would grow and discover things, but I hadn’t quite anticipated what this whole journey would become. One of the things that I am learning about is discovering what keeps me from doing what I want and need to do.

My Obstacles (in no particular order of importance)

  • Varying schedule. It would have probably been easier and better for me to schedule a certain time of day for me to do my self-taping and actually dedicate a block of time to the activity. I am not sure this is something I could have done, because my schedule looks different each day, but I have realized that I do better work in the morning or afternoon. If I push it back to the evening, in addition to being tired I am less likely to dedicate all the time and focus that the scene/monologue needs.
  • Lack of focus. I realized at some point that I became very weary, maybe somewhere around the halfway mark. I couldn’t put my finger on it for a while(besides the fact that I had committed to doing something every day for a hundred days and that is bound to make anyone tired at one point or another). I also realized that I really hadn’t set any parameters for myself, other than taping myself every day. I thought that the option to do any type of scene or monologue would be freeing, so I wouldn’t get tired of it. But I think at this point I am actually burdened by making a choice every day of what I am going to do AND having to find it. That is half the battle. Instead, I could have decided to do the first 100 of Shakespeare’s sonnets. That way, I would at least know what was next and see some improvement in that particular area of acting. I see the boundaries other people have set for themselves with a lot of the other 100 day projects. Many of the visually based projects were very specific with what they were creating (i.e. #100daysofsprocket or #100daysofthingswithfaces). I know parameters can be frustrating, but in the limitations I think there is freedom to be found. Something to consider the next time around(Yes, I will be doing #the100dayproject again!).
  • People. Well, the lack of people. Now more than ever, I am remembering that one of the reasons I love acting is the community aspect of acting with/for other people. Whether that is on a set, in rehearsal, or before a live audience, I feed off that energy. Although I’ve gotten great practice for auditions, I don’t enjoy acting by myself nearly as much. I do appreciate the accountability and community that Instagram and The Great Discontent have provided, but I’m really craving the in person human interaction right now.
  • Speaking up for what I need. I mentioned this to my husband the other day. I have made a life long habit of always putting other people’s needs first. While that might make me a nice friend, it does not make me the best entrepreneur or artist. If I need space or need someone to read with me, I will always try to find someway around it before even asking for help. This is something that I am consciously making an effort to change. If I want to improve, advance, and grow, I need to speak up for myself and ask for what I need!
  • Myself. Even if none of the things above were factors, I am my own worst enemy. I can come up with all sorts of reasons why I can’t do the work. Or even “do” it but not really commit to it. Every day I have to face my fears, my insecurities, and my excuses, and overcome them. Some days that is really hard to do.

I like to analyze things; looking for cause and effect; searching for meaning in what does or does not happen and why. As much as I see an awareness of these obstacles can be helpful in optimizing my performance, I also recognize that there will never be a time when no obstacles exist. They will change, morph, grow, shrink; but they will always be there. It’s probably time I make friends with these obstacles, rather than let them get the best of me. And with that… let me get to work!

One of my most recent posts. Click here to see more!

The 100 Day Project

A friend of mine that I follow on Instagram announced that she is going to do The 100 Day Project with Elle Luna and invited anyone to join along. It is a challenge to commit to making something every day for 100 days. It could be anything, art related or not. This idea got me really excited! I’ve heard of this concept before. Bonnie Gillespie also wrote about the 100 day challenge in her column on The Actors Voice. While Bonnie’s concept is more goal oriented and Elle’s is more process oriented, they both utilize the idea that doing something every day will get you farther than not. What can I learn or improve by showing up and doing the work every single day? This links back to The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. Steven writes about how fear and resistance keep us from our art. He says that the difference between an amateur and a professional is not all wrapped in pay-grade, but in a mindset. An amateur will let excuses keep him from practicing. A professional shows up and works because she/he is committed and in it for the long haul. As a professional, I’m excited to join in this challenge with thousands(or more) of other people around the world, creating for 100 days.

My 100 Day Project? I am going to tape myself every day– acting for an audition, performing a scene or monologue, answering a question or telling a story as myself. I won’t be posting every single video, but I’ll post about my journey which you can follow on Instagram: #100daysofselftaping.

The 100 Day Project starts Monday, April 6th. It isn’t too late to join. If you want to get the emails, go sign up here. Or you can just participate or follow along on your own on Instagram and search/use #The100DayProject.

 

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