ASK

When I was thinking about the changes that I want to make this year, the work ASK came to mind. In an effort to limit embarrassment, pain or being a burden, I have made a habit of trying to come up with the answer or solution myself. Whether that is anticipating someone’s answer or just trying to do it all on my own, I realize that NOT ASKING has, more often than not, led to a more limited life. This year I want my life to expand.

I want to be more curious, more assertive, more helpful, and more open.

The best way I know I put these things into practice is to take action and ASK. Ask for help. Ask if I can help. Ask for the answer. Ask for clarification. Ask for space. Ask for what I need.

I think I’ve been afraid of looking needy or stupid. Of course there is a balance to all this asking. Be willing to give if you are asking to receive. I think what I am opening up myself to is being vulnerable. I am opening myself up to the possibility of being wrong or being refused. But the possible rewards far outweigh the few moments of discomfort.

At worst, the answer can be no. At best, I will find a new path, a new piece of knowledge, and new friend or collaborator.

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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.

Restart

Sometimes I get so caught up in the minutia of life, that I forget about the big picture, the long term goals, the reason for it all. I haven’t written in a long time. Every time I think about writing something, the gap since my last blog weighs heavily on me, as if I must have something REALLY important to say THIS time. But one of the things that I’ve been thinking about lately is that it is never too late to make a change. Just because things have been one way for a while, does not mean that making a shift or action has to be so hard. Most of it is all in my mind.

So, here I am writing a blog about restarting. It is a month and a half into the new year and it still isn’t too late to start or change some habits. Here I am taking a small action to that end. Already, I have been amazed at how sometimes a little effort goes a long way. Some of the goals I set out with at the begging of the year have already been accomplished(more on that soon). For now, I am taking a step into that place where all the “I haven’ts” or “I faileds” live and saying it doesn’t matter. The past is in the past. It does not dictate my future. It is never too late to start again.

Step taken. More coming soon!

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.