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!
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
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.
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!
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.
WHAT A WEEK!!! Monday I started #The100DayProject with 100 days of self-taping. Tuesday I hosted/produced/acted in a reading of Stimson Snead’s female driven Sci-Fi/Action script The Dogs, which is now up on The Blacklist. Thursday I got new headshots along with my husband, taken by one of my favorite photographers…. Oh yeah, and I got dropped by my commercial agent!
So, that’s a pretty awesome week! Okay. I’ll be honest, when I got the news that my agent was no longer going to represent me, I was seriously bummed. I even did my share of moping, not wanting to get out of bed, feeling sad and sorry for myself. I’ll say it was a healthy amount. I really liked my agent. They sent me out on about an audition a week, which is pretty darn good! I also don’t blame them for dropping me. In two years I spent more time in Seattle than LA; I got very close to being cast several times and booked one non-union gig, but over all I was not making them a whole lot of money. I get it. But just like getting dumped, getting dropped by your agent usually just feels terrible.
However, I’m not telling you all this to get your sympathy and condolences. Once I got over the initial disappointment and sucky feelings, I actually got really excited! See, I know I can do better! (In two ways…)
When I say I can do better, I’m not just saying I can get a better agent. I know I can get an agent that is a better fit. My commercial agent liked my look, but I don’t know that they got ME and how to best pitch me. Honestly, I don’t think I knew how to best pitch me, so I can’t blame them for not know that either. But, I know I’m getting closer to what I do best and these new headshots I took this week, really capture that (look for a blog about that in the coming weeks)!
It is also about being a better client. I am willing to admit that maybe I took for granted that they represented me. I know that I rocked some of those auditions, but some of them I didn’t. I showed up, but I didn’t bring it! That is on me. What was holding me back? Fear, self-preservation, self-defeating attitudes prejudging whether or not I was the best choice for the part. No more of that. I’m bringing it, no matter what!
Another thing that happened this week was finishing up Dallas Travers’ Agent Equation game. I started it last week to help me look for a theatrical(TV and Film) agent, not knowing that this week I would need to start searching for a commercial agent as well. How about that?! I was already preparing for what I didn’t know was going to happen! Through Dallas’ little program, I’ve figured out some things that might have been holding me back and am ready to hit the ground running! Getting dropped isn’t holding me down. I’m up on my feet, going full speed ahead!
A couple years ago, when I first arrived in LA I audited a whole bunch of classes and wrote a wish list of the ones that interested me the most. Then, last year I was able to take Annie Grindlay’sAdvanced Intensive Audition Experience. It changed my life! Well, maybe not my life, but my acting, which in turn changed my life. With my previous training, I felt well prepared for auditioning and developing a character in theatre(in other words, when you have time to figure things out), but not super confident when approaching the limited time frame you have with film and TV auditions.
Soon after taking Annie’s class I booked The Reel Deal with this audition (even though the show was postponed, I’m still really proud of my work). Then I booked a feature film in Seattle over the summer and GRIMM last fall. Booking jobs aside, I feel more confident going into auditions and I know my acting has improved. Just yesterday, I had a coaching session with Annie in preparation for an agent showcase and I was reminded of all the reasons I love working with her. I left, having worked out the kinks, confident in my performance, and ready to have a great showcase!
If you’re an actor reading this, looking for a teacher, I highly recommend you check out her FREE Workshop/Audit!!! Hey, IT’S FREE–which not a lot of things in LA are. BUT, here’s the thing. I’m raving about Annie Grindlay, but she may not be the right teacher for you, just like I didn’t click with all the teachers who came highly recommended to me. She also may not be the right teacher for me in a couple years. I know at some point I will move on to someone else who can help me with a different area of acting. But for now, I know I’m where I’m supposed to be.
Here are a few questions I’ve come up with to help me find the right teacher:
Does the teacher’s philosophy connect with me?
Is this teacher helping me with the area(s) that I want to improve?
Is my acting better, whether or not this teacher is present? (In other words, is this teacher giving me tools to take home or just teaching me to rely on their coaching?)
Do I feel the money I am paying is worth every penny and then some?
Can I see/feel a difference in my acting?
Listen to your instincts. If you’re on the fence about a teacher, they’re probably not the right one. Look around. Find the one who speaks to you where you are right now. In LA, there’s bound to be at least one!
Over the last couples years I have been going back and forth between Seattle and LA. My LA stints have ranged from 3 days to 4 1/2 months. Now I am a permanent resident of Southern California and it feels good! For as much as I have accomplished in the last couple years and as thankful as I am that I could live in two cities, I am so happy to be able to focus my attention on one place.
It occurred to me over the last couple weeks as I am settling into this new life, that this time is different. I was telling a friend that I was anxious to get out there, audition, find my agent, dive into pilot season. She stopped me. “Charissa, you have time. You need to make your home and get use to life here. You’ll need that to be able to sustain life here.” Right. Yes. That helped me take a step back and breathe. When I was here before, I had no life to establish; I just jumped right in to the acting stuff. I had a pretty singular focus, with a very limited time line. I was in a sprint. Now I’m in the marathon.
Now my whole life is here. I need a safe space. I need balance. I need routine. I need sustainability. All of that will take time to establish. During the Superbowl, a car commercial came on with the tortoise and the hare. They twisted the ending of the beloved story a little bit, BUT it reminded me that slow and steady wins the race. I’m not in this for a couple months. I’m in this for life. Taking a couple weeks to set up my life is working towards that end goal. A runner wouldn’t consider going out there without the proper gear. I’m making sure my gear is together as I get ready for the long haul.