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!

Shakespeare’s Works in Progress

IMG_2653_2_Fotor_CollageIf you followed me on Instagram at all in 2014, you probably noticed that I was reading through all of Shakespeare’s Works. I am happy to say that I completed that goal in November, almost exactly a year after I started(with the exception of The Two Noble Kinsmen, which was not included in the edition I was using). As I was reading through the works, roughly in the chronological order in which they were written, I went on a fascinating journey with him. I watched as his stories and characters grew in complexity. His themes matured with his age and I was comforted by the fact that not all of his plays were genius hits! He wrote for royalty and paupers; inspired by life and (often) a paycheck. As we know, his stories and works have stood the test of time and still relate to audiences today.

Words, words, words… Well, you’ve all heard this before. What’s the point? Shakespeare inspired me as little girl. My aunt tells the story of the first time I attended a play at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and I was on the edge of my seat. I was four years old. I never felt that Shakespeare was confusing or unintelligible because I was exposed to people who spoke the words as if they were their own. The first of Shakespeare’s characters that I played was the widow in The Taming of the Shrew— at the age of 9. The next year I played Phebe in As You Like It. Since then I have played Portia(Julius Caesar), Margaret(Much Ado About Nothing), a Witch(Macbeth), and performed monologues and scenes of Beatrice(Much Ado About Nothing), Joan of Arc(Henry VI, Part 1), Helena(A Midsummer Nights Dream), Malvolio(Twelfth Night), and more. As long as the company and director were quality, knowledgeable people, I would say “Yes!” to doing Shakespeare over anything else.

I started reading through Shakespeare’s Works for multiple reasons. First, I was ashamed that, as a lover of Shakespeare, there were at least a third of his plays which I had never read or seen performed. Secondly, there are so many roles that I want to play which I will (most likely) never be able to play due to my being a woman; and others I could play, but I’m tired of waiting for permission to play them. Having served the purpose of the first reason, I am now working on a remedy for the second. A few weeks ago, I started meeting with two of my childhood friends — friends that I met doing As You Like It all those years ago — to write a script inspired by all his plays. At the very least, I am having so much fun discussing and nerding out with these two. More than that though, I can’t wait to bring this idea to fruition. Stay tuned for this work in progress!

Working Hard

Maybe you’ve noticed. Maybe you haven’t. I haven’t written that many blogs this year. Last spring I was writing one every week. Then I went through a period last Fall where I felt like I didn’t have much to say. In the last few months I have had much to say, but too much going on to actually sit down and say it. I am so thankful for this busy period of work. What’s been going on?

  • Performing in Diana of Dobson’s at Taproot Theatre. Closing this Saturday, June 14th!
  • Auditioning and getting cast in The Reel Deal: A new reality TV show about Filmmaking!
  • Executive Producing, acting and directing for Light a Match Productions.
  • And a few more things that I will announce in due time…

It is quite a change from how I felt last summer. Even though I had things going on (Julius Caesar), I was very unhappy with where I was in my career and didn’t know what to do about it. Things have shifted in my life and career for sure. It would be easy to say that I am happier because I am doing more, but I feel that it’s the other way around; I’m doing more because I’m happier. (Although, to be clear, I don’t think that the former is always a direct result of the latter.) It took a change in perspective!

What changed?

  1. Being Grateful. Not Jealous.
    One of the biggest contributors to my unhappiness was jealousy. I used to be jealous ALL THE TIME. I got frustrated when I saw people getting cast more often, looking like they were more successful. It’s a pretty depressing place to be, because no matter how successful you are, you can always find someone who is more successful that you. The problem was that I didn’t know how to stop being jealous. Then I realized that the root of my jealousy was an insecurity over whether or not I was good enough to be pursuing this career of acting. I would compare myself to others to see if I measure up. If anyone else got more recognition, then I felt they were more worthy; if I got more recognition, I was more worthy. Let me tell you, that is a useless, tiring, joy-stealing game. Don’t play it! I finally had to come to the conclusion that I didn’t care whether or not other people thought I should be acting. I want to act, so I am going to act, no matter what. Then I stopped worrying about other people and just became so thankful every time I got the opportunity to do what I love. Which leads to my second point…
  2. Adjusting My Expectations
    I had this certain picture in my head of what success looked like. At the time it looked like this: working at x, y, and z theatres and getting paid to do everything I do as an actor. If I wasn’t doing either or both of those, it wasn’t good enough, therefore I wasn’t good enough, therefore I wasn’t successful. I just had to let that go! Maybe I was expecting the pay too soon in my career. Maybe I just needed to remember why I started doing this in the first place. Now I am so busy doing what I love and I’m not working at any of those theatres and I’m only sometimes getting paid. And I’m so happy! Just because I hadn’t met those goals, didn’t mean it was time to give up. It meant it was time to adjust my expectations and focus on creating my own work. Which leads me to my third point…
  3. Working Hard
    Have you heard the phrase, “Work begets work”? I feel like I hear that all the time in LA. This last year has proved that phrase to be true. As an actor, there is only so much you can do to get cast. Audition. Build Relationships. Audition. It’s more complicated than that, but there isn’t a lot of control in your own hands. I decided I was tired of waiting around and wanted to create my own work. That sparked an idea for a short film spoof that I pursued that didn’t quite make it off the ground. (Maybe I’ll come back to it. Probably not.) Then I started reading through Shakespeare, to make my own project. (Still in the works, but on hold for the moment.) Then I had the idea of making movies with my friends, which turned into Light a Match Productions! (Now THAT’S some exciting stuff! LAMP-Logo2Check out our website and new short film.) I’ve learned that what’s important isn’t necessarily completing each project, but pursuing it as far as it will go. My first spoof idea may not be the right thing for right now, but it got ideas flowing and helped me reach out and start building a network of co-creators. The Shakespeare project helped keep my mind off of whether or not I was cast after every audition because I had another place to focus my creative energy. Now, working with LAMP has turned into something beyond what I could have imagined. Work begets work. This is what’s important: Keep creating. Keep doing. Keep working… Hard.

Whether or not this streak of work continues, I know I have the tools and the mindset to keep pursuing my dreams and be happy whatever the result. Thanks for going on this journey with me! What an adventure!

Admin Group

My Admin Group Journal
My Admin Group Journal

Recently, I was sitting around with my roommates talking about keeping our to-do-lists(something we all love to do) and realized the one thing that was missing in getting all these things done was having accountability. Of course, we were pretty good about doing at least half of the things on the list, but sometimes we avoided certain difficult tasks and kept putting them off, or we had trouble with some and needed help breaking through the barriers to our productivity.
Partially inspired by Bonnie Gillespie‘s article about Masterminding(which is definitely worth checking out!), we decided to create this group to help each other accomplish these things. Starting a month ago, five of us have been meeting once a week for about two hours to admin our way into this acting business and I have to say it has been very beneficial. (It so happens that all of us are actors, but I think this kind of group could be helpful with a variety of occupations and interests.)

What we do in our meeting:

  1. Share what we accomplished last week.
  2. Share what we will* accomplish this week. (Using the word “will” is important in stating our commitment to the task and not just “try.”)
  3. Share what we are thankful for.

How it helps:

  • Deadlines– I am less likely to put something off if I know I have to answer to someone for it.
  • Brainstorming– Sometimes a few of us have had a mental block about something we are trying to accomplish. Often we have been able to brainstorm around the problem and help each other break through.
  • Encouragement– Even in the first month of the group, some of us have experience extreme frustration with where we are at. Having people who understand and can speak into that place is invaluable.
  • Celebration– We also have had some great successes! Some of those were as simple as sending a postcard. Others are as big as booking a job. We are here to celebrate with each other in the small and big accomplishments. Today, just one month after starting, we had LOTS to celebrate!

I am so thankful for my admin group. I can wholeheartedly say that my productivity and hopeful spirit has thrived in the last month. I highly recommend it!

Shakespeare in a Year: The Beginning

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This last year I was inspired to create my own content. Many ideas have sparked, developed, come, gone, and some lay in hibernation. That is a part of the creative process, isn’t it? Run with your ideas until you can’t run anymore. Something like that.
Anyway, over the Summer I had this idea to read all of Shakespeare’s (known) plays and make one or many performance piece(s) out of it. As a lover of Shakespeare, since before I can remember, I consider it a great tragedy that I have never read ALL of his plays. So, I have a copy of Shakespeare’s Complete Works and, starting with (what we think) was his first play, I am reading through it from beginning to end. I realize that is quite an undertaking. I usually don’t like to announce such projects before they are completed, because I’m afraid I won’t finish and then I will have let myself and everyone else down. But, in this case, I have gotten far enough that I have created and partially executed a plan and now I can’t wait to share this journey with you…. wherever it leads!

The Goal

1. Read all of Shakespeare’s Works.

2. Create and perform a piece(s) from all of Shakespeare’s Works.

The Plan IMG_0915
Starting on Monday, I start a new play reading one act a day so that by Friday I have finished it(Shakespeare’s plays have 5 acts). It is manageable, a small commitment per day, and in no time I feel accomplished! It also makes me happy to daily do this thing that is just for me. I’m not doing it because I have to, like so many other things that fill our lives; I’m doing it because I love to. (This plan fluctuates in practice, but so far I’ve been able to complete at least one play per week.)
The Progress
If you look at the list of plays in the order we think they were written, you can see that Shakespeare started with a bunch of histories. If you’ve ever frequented a Shakespeare theatre or watched any movies made of his plays, you’ll notice that the histories (especially these first three), are the least often produced. There’s good reason for that. At this point I have read King Henry VI: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, King Richard III, The Comedy of Errors, and Titus Andronicus. What a way to start?!?
The Observations
One of the things that I love about this plan is that as I’m reading, I am able to map Shakespeare’s progress and maturity in his writing. I am no scholar, and I know many reading this probably far outshine me in the research department, but there are a few things I’ve noticed.

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King Henry VI
In the King Henry VI saga, Shakespeare mainly seems to be repeating history, as best he can from his sources. Of course it isn’t completely historically accurate, but Shakespeare didn’t do much to write an interesting story. There are so many characters, sub-plots, and (unimportant)tangents, that, without an extensive knowledge of the history, it is sometimes very confusing. There are a few monologues that stand out to me, but for the most part the story and characters are fairly one-dimensional: good vs. evil; England vs. France; weak vs. strong. (P.S. Joan of Arc and Queen Margaret are probably my favorite parts of this trilogy.)
These plays were not for me. But at least now I can say I read them!
My Modern Comparison: A History Channel Three Part Documentary.

Richard III
For the first time, it seems like Shakespeare figured out having a central character works really well! Following one main story line makes a better story. Wow! Good job, Shakespeare. On the very first page, Richard tells the audience that he will do everything he can to become king and that is the story we watch unfold. The only mystery of the play is how he will do it. It follows a good, traditional structure of: beginning, middle, end; but as far as characters go, Richard is pretty one-dimensional: just plain evil. There is one monologue in the fifth act, just after the spirits of all the people he has killed haunt him in his sleep, where he wakes up and has a sort of “come to Jesus” moment, only to realize it is too late and he will reap what he as sowed. Yes, you will, Richard. The End.
I can appreciate Shakespeare’s shift in story-telling style, but Richard III seems to lack some of the multi-dimensional aspects of his later works.
My Modern Comparison: House of Cards (only House of Cards is more interesting, in my opinion).

The Comedy of Errors
Mistaken identity times two! Shakespeare copied a lot of the plot from a Roman comedy by Plautus, called Menechmi–The Menechmus Twins. Essentially, “I gave you the money two minutes ago.” “No you didn’t. I’ve never seen you before in my life.” And, “Oh, husband, I’m so angry with you.” “Who’s this woman who thinks I’m her husband?” Hilarious! *sigh*
Also, rhyme. Rhyme. And more Rhyme. That is another thing I noticed. This play seems a lot more rhyme-y than his other comedies with which I am more familiar. “Trying out the rhyme, William? Great.” He uses it (a lot!) and perhaps figures out how to use it with purpose and specificity in his later plays.
As for story-telling, the first scene starts out with Aegeon explaining to the Duke of Ephesus how he lost his wife, other twin son, and his other twin servant a long time ago and begs to be allowed to search for them now. It is a LONG winded story of exposition. It seems that later on Willy figured out how to show the exposition rather than just tell it (i.e. Twelfth Night).
I can be entertained by this play (and I have), but it isn’t one that I want to return to again and again.
My Modern Comparison: The Three Stooges. (Maybe that’s not quite accurate, but the idea is lowest physical comedy.)
 
Titus Andronicus
Blood. Blood. And more Blood. I have read Titus before, performed Lavinia for auditions, and last year saw an all female production of it which was excellent. It is still bloody and brutal. It is another revenge story. Since writing Richard III, I feel like Shakespeare develops his characters a little more in this one. There is still a clear distinction between the good and evil sides, but I see a little more character and story arc.
I appreciate the story and loved the production I saw, but this is not a story on which I’d like to dwell or tell over and over again. Perhaps, once in my life.
My Modern Comparison: Hannibal

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The journey continues. Next time I will be writing about The Taming of The Shrew, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, Love’s Labors Lost and more. At least those are on a slightly lighter note. Again, I don’t claim to have any training in literature analysis, I’m just sharing my opinion and observations. I’m excited about what I’ve learned so far and can’t wait to see where this project leads.shake

My biggest take away: Shakespeare wasn’t the best writer when he started off. That is comforting to me. The point is that he wrote, wrote, and wrote some more, which led to some of the greatest works of literature and performance in known history. Let us learn from his example and keep working, writing, creating, doing, so that we continue to grow, change, and improve.

For the Love!

I’ve been thinking a lot since writing my blog, About Quitting. I can’t tell you how helpful this honesty has been. It’s initiated several important conversations and I thank each of you who have responded with encouragement and insight into this time of my life.

I think one of the biggest things I realized in writing my last blog is that I wasn’t happy. For something that costs so much (mentally, physically, emotionally) that I wasn’t finding rewarding… Why? Why? Why was I doing it? After I wrote that blog, my husband challenged me to answer that question. If I’m not doing it for the love of acting, then I should quit.

What is enough?

One of the biggest realizations I’ve had is that, when pursuing acting (business or artistic side), I never feel like I’ve done enough. I never feel good enough. I’m still trying to prove myself. I keep trying to prove I’m a professional, that this isn’t just a “hobby.” I’ve desperately needed the affirmation that the sacrifices I’ve made have been worth it; that I’m good enough to be cast and pursue this career. All these people say you have to go into auditions not “needing” to be cast. As much as that makes sense to me, I’ve never really gotten there. I need to get cast to be happy. As a result, I’ve put my happiness into the hands of people who don’t care about me personally, only about what I can do for them.

There will always be someone wealthier, more successful, working more, more famous than I. If I’m not happy where I’m at, then I won’t ever be. It’s like a drug. We can end up like junkies, not even happy with the drug when we get it, always wanting more. If we treat it that way, it will never be enough.

Change the Relationship

Recently, I had coffee with a lovely fellow artist who is going through a very similar process right now. She likened acting to a romantic relationship. She pointed out that if we were dating someone who used us, beat us up (emotionally or physically) and took more than he/she gave, that would be an abusive relationship and our friends and loved ones would tell us to get the hell out of there! Yet, here we are in this relationship with our art which can turn abusive, yet we stay in it because we can’t quit the dream. Maybe it doesn’t mean breaking up, but it does mean something has to change.

I’m talking about freeing myself from the vice grip an acting career has over my life. What would it look like to reorient my life and focus? I don’t want to be happy only when I book a job, and sometimes not even then. I am making a conscious decision to change my relationship with my career; it will look different from now on.

Back to Basics

What do I love doing?

  • being with the people I love
  • making something out of nothing
  • engaging in stories: listening to, watching, and telling
  • giving back/serving
  • laughing
  • building community
  • exploring people and relationships

Am I giving up? YES, I am giving up:

  • feeling like I am never enough
  • needing other people’s affirmation or approval to be happy
  • letting titles define me
  • being controlled by the whims of people who have little vested interest in my well-being
  • trying to see my career through other people’s eyes
  • making decisions based on what is only “professionally” advantageous
  • chasing the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow= “Making it!”

I am NOT giving up:

  • acting
  • creating
  • collaborating
  • trying new things
  • pursuing projects and people I enjoy
  • running with an idea until I can’t run anymore
  • doing it, just because I love it!

The other day, my husband pointed out that the root of the word “amateur” comes from the Latin word, amator meaning ‘lover.’ The meaning has taken on a negative connotation over the years, but at the root it describes someone who does something because they love it. If I am an amateur actor for the rest of my life, that will be a life well lived.

I’m getting back to the reason I started acting in the first place. For the LOVE!

P.S. If you want to participate with me in doing something for the love, come see Julius Caesar this or next weekend. We are doing this show purely for the love of telling this story… and giving it away for free! Yes, I am shamelessly promoting this show, because it has brought me back to this truth: Beauty can result from doing something, just because you love it!

About Quitting

How many motivational posters, slogans, and stories have we heard? Never quit. Don’t give up. Just do it. How many times did all those famous people fail before they succeeded? As much as that makes me feel better about my failures it doesn’t make me think I will be so lucky. Not everyone “makes it.” stash-1-5020355b9ac95That’s a fact. If everyone tried as hard as these success stories, would they make it? No. That would be impossible. The very nature of “making it” is being at the top and of course not everyone can be at the top, because then it wouldn’t be the top anymore. WE ALL CAN’T MAKE IT. No one ever tells you that. Most of us won’t get to the place we want to be. What then?
A lot of this motivational advice comes from people who have made it. Of course they can give this advice, because they’ve made it. But what about those of us who have done everything the successful ones have done and we haven’t made it.  It’s like those married people who tell the single people, “Just you wait, it will happen.” or “When you know, you just know.” And all you want to do is punch them in the face! Some things are just out of your control. You can’t just live your life waiting for it to happen. Every contented single person I know who would like to get married someday is living life, making plans without that certainty. Of course there is still disappointment when a potential relationship doesn’t work out, but without it a very happy and fulfilling life continues. Can I approach acting the same way?

In my career, I find there is a chasm between where I want to be and where I find myself now. When I recognize that that gap isn’t getting any smaller, I find it difficult to keep going. And how can I be content, keeping this goal in front of my face without being able to grasp it? Sometimes I feel like this:

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Why am I doing this?

Lately, I’ve been really discouraged. Faced a lot of rejection. It makes me wonder if it’s all worth it. How much money have I spent on gas, classes, headshots (and the list goes on)? How much time have I wasted because I was trying to keep my schedule open for auditions? I’ve given up on having a regular well-paying job. I’ve made sacrifices (including missing weddings and not going on vacation) for this career and where am I? I’ve devoted years to this and I’m still only getting paid for MAYBE one show a year. The rest I am doing for free. The other shows that I get a stipend for barely pay for my gas. Why am I doing this? I had hoped to get to the professional level, but I feel very little progress in that area. Every time I think I might be close to that next tier, I get another “We went in a different direction” letter. Will I ever make it?

If I’m not making it, why do I keep going? I’m starting to question my commitment. I’ve told myself I would never quit. Is that just because our culture shames quitters? Is it just “fate” that is keeping me going? Acting seems to always find me. I can’t stay away. Yet, I have this love/hate relationship with it: I love the work; I hate not getting cast and it discourages me so much that I consider giving up.
I suppose that there are a few reasons why people quit.

  1. You don’t want to look like an ass (see above).
  2. You face resistance, fear, challenges and start to back down.
  3. You figure out that other things are more important.
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It’s ridiculous, isn’t it? We believe so strongly that we need art; the world needs art, so we keep going. We starve, we sacrifice, we hold on because of a feeling, a belief that it is all worth it. Is it?

Although #1 is true, I’ve had just enough nibbles on the carrot to keep me going. Yes, #2 has been tempting, but looking back I know that I have or can find what it takes to face them and break through. #3 is the kicker. This is what I’ve been sitting with all week. Is there something that is more important? For that matter, what is so important about acting? Would I continue auditioning and acting for the rest of my life if I never got paid another cent? Would I continue even if I never got into my goal theatres or onto my target TV shows?  I need to know what I want in return. Is it money(because I’m certainly in the red on that one)? Is it personal fulfillment? Is it a contribution to the community at large? Is it fame?

An inspirational graphic by Bill Watterson has  been going around lately. I love this idea. It is the the reason I haven’t pursued anything that I thought would make me a lot of money. I want art to be a part of my life no matter what. However, what if you give up all of these things that the world says we need, and yet you still don’t get those things for which you made these sacrifices?

It’s been a week since I wrote the first part of this blog. While I’ve been contemplating all these questions, I’ve been in rehearsal. You say, “You mean you’re complaining, doubting, and thinking about quitting while you are actually IN a show?!” Yes, yes, I am. You see, this show (not getting paid, at a fringe theatre) is not where I thought I’d be at this point in my life. Perhaps I’m greedy and ungrateful….Yes, I’ll grant you that. Even more reason for me to reflect on where I am and why I am doing this. This week, a few things caught my attention.

  • When my director pointed out that this play is only happening because we all agreed and committed to making it happen.
  • Through collaboration, I am still surprised by the magic that results.
  • Story is powerful.

As I sit here, trying to explain what happened this week to give me hope, I can’t put my finger on it exactly. Some experiences are beyond words.

These are glimmers of why I starting doing this in the first place. Perhaps that is all I needed. Am I quitting? Not today.