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!

Finding the Right Teacher

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’s Advanced 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.

Photo of Annie Grindlay from anniegrindlay.com
Photo of Annie Grindlay from AnnieGrindlay.com

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!

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!

What You Do Next

A couple weeks ago, one of my best friends left the United States to join the Peace Corps in Zambia. She will be gone for two years. We usually only get to see each other about once a year, but still this was a very difficult goodbye, knowing our contact will be extremely limited. She is one of the strongest, most passionate, adventurous people I know and I am proud to be her friend.

When we were hanging out right before she left, she was sharing her feelings about jumping into this crazy adventure and how she was preparing for it. Her parents, who have a lot of cross-cultural experience, passed on a great piece of advice from a mentor of theirs which really stuck with me.

“It’s not what you do; it’s what you do next that counts.”
Marvin K. Mayers

She is going to encounter new people, customs, languages and many cultural differences. It would be easy to get overwhelmed and live in fear of making a mistake. The truth is, mistakes and missteps are unavoidable, no matter who or where you are. However, it isn’t about the mistakes you make, it’s about how you handle them moving forward.

This piece of advice was so freeing to me. Granted, I am not moving to Zambia and starting a completely new life, but I did just move to Los Angeles and commit to following my dream of being an actor. I will make mistakes, both in the business side and acting side. But it isn’t about making the mistake, it’s about handling the situation and/or relationship afterwards. If there’s a misunderstanding, do I clarify it or let the embarrassment create a rift? In an audition, do I hold back in my acting or take the big risk and see what happens? If I flub a line, do I let it ruin the audition or do I move forward with grace and spontaneity(even after the audition is over)? If I find I have a certain area of weakness in my acting, do I seek to improve it or hide in shame whenever that weakness is put to the test? There are more examples, many of which I am sure I have yet to encounter. The point is, I am moving forward inspired by this mantra AND even more so by my friend who is actively living it out on the other side of the world.

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!

Vulnerable?

So this great opportunity just recently came up to audition for this new reality TV show called The Reel Deal. It will be filming its first season this summer… and I’m kinda excited about it! It will be the first Reality TV show for ACTORS, DIRECTORS, WRITERS, and COMPOSERS who will be mentored by CELEBRITIES… to make a movie in a week!!! Pretty exciting.

The first part of the audition process is to make a 90 second personality video. I heard a producer say that everyone in the spot light should choose to be vulnerable about something. If you aren’t, the public will find something and make you vulnerable about it. The biggest thing is finding something with which people can connect. With that it mind, I chose to be vulnerable (on the scale of completely surface(1) to guts on the floor(10) I was a 5 or 6?)… pretty vulnerable. Once I posted it and entered it into the registration process(no going back now), I almost immediately regretted it and started doubting myself. I was especially disappointed when I remembered that there was more that I wanted to do with the video that I just couldn’t accomplish after hours of thought and taping. I remembered other takes where I liked how I said things better than the one now on the internet for the world to see. I watched other audition videos and was jealous over their interests, hobbies, props and editing skills. Basically, I just beat myself up over all of it… for a couple of hours.

BUT then I stopped myself. Why? Because I can see what happened. I opened up. I didn’t talk about how my favorite color is orange (sometimes) and I can weld and have lived in Prague and Madrid. I talked about how I almost quit my dream. That is scary to admit to celebrities and casting directors and producers(whom you want to impress). That is a different, kinda gutsy(or stupid!) thing to do. Now I can see that. I can name it. Truth is, I have had a few pretty vulnerable moments on this blog. If anyone cares to read them, they are here for the world to see. I am proud of those moments because those were the moments when people connected with what I was saying and said, “Me too!” What I want to say with my audition video is that I am the type of person that will go there with you … and come out the other side with renewed purpose! My hope is that people will connect with my video. If not, it was a personal exercise in putting it out there and releasing control. Thing is, that’s what we do as actors. We put ourselves out there and become vulnerable to people’s opinions and judgement. But we also become vulnerable so that people can connect with our character or story. That’s why I chose to say what I said, not just to entertain but to relate and to inspire. THAT is what I am all about!

So, here we go. This is a window into my story. Take a look!

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.