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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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!

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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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5 Factors of Fringe

I started reflecting on my experience doing independent/fringe (in this case-read unpaid) projects, specifically Julius Caesar. Often these types of projects can be absolute disasters, but Julius Caesar was not. This was an ensemble experience for the history books(my history book, anyway)! I am generally wary of fringe theatre. I have all but stopped auditioning for unpaid shows. It takes a play that I love or a company I know to get me to take a chance. For this one I did it because it is Shakespeare. I only took the role, because of the 5 minute interaction I had with the director in the audition room. I had this feeling that she really knew what she was doing and that I would be safe in her hands.
Still, even if the director gives off a good vibe, you never know if they’ll show their crazy later on. You also have no idea who else will be cast and how they will approach the process. There are so many variables, so many things that can go wrong, that those of us who have seen them go wrong many times, stop taking the risk.
But Julius Caesar was different. Not perfect, but one of those experiences that reminds me of the incredible potential of ensemble creations.

Julius Caesar with Handwritten Productions
Julius Caesar with Handwritten Productions

The following factors are what I think made it great!

1. Commitment
It is special when there is an agreement among individuals to meet and create something which would otherwise be impossible. This especially astounds me when it is a group of strangers and no one is getting paid.
2. Talent
Perhaps this goes without saying. In addition to the traditional meaning of the word talent, I would add a curiosity and eagerness to explore. Talent without curiosity is dead. Curiosity without talent is lost.
3. Vision
I have been in plays with committed and talented actors, but without the light to guide them, confusion and/or chaos ensues. With vision, I count organization, clarity of thought as well as artistically mapping the course of the project.
4. Respect
Without respect, there is revolt. (Respect of time, of personal cost, of talent and individual contribution.) As mildly mannered as I am, I have revolted a couple times when I did not feel respected in a cast. Money or not, without respect it is easy to lose the passion with which you started. Without the passion, you can easily lose the drive and then the commitment follows quickly after.
5. Decisiveness
It’s all great having a bunch of wonderful ideas, but if you can’t ever settle on which one to use, the vision is diluted and the process and product suffer.

When all of these factors are at play, I believe beautiful art can be made.

Since writing this bog about Julius Caesar I also participated in the 8 Hour SIFF Film Challenge and the 48 Hour Film Project and I would say that the same rules apply. What about you? Would you add anything? Take anything away? What have been your experiences?