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.
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What I learned about life and art from JM Barrie and Peter Pan

Just finished working on my first devised work, “The Boy Who Couldn’t Grow Up”. What an amazing experience! Working with this group of people to tell a story about the tension between childhood imagination and adult relationships was inspiring. It was an incredible journey, from walking into rehearsal the first day with nothing but our knowledge of Peter Pan to performing a 45 minute show that we created ourselves, 5 weeks later. This is an experience for the books! Not only do I wish every one of you had been able to see it, I will also carry this show with me for a long time. Not only was I reminded why I love making art, but I discovered a lot of the lessons in the process can also be applied life.

Trust that it will all work out in the end.

Trust yourself and your instincts.

Surround yourself with passionate, talented, and hard-working people who believe in you.

If something isn’t working, don’t be afraid to change it.

It isn’t about who’s fault it is; it’s about finding a way around the problem.

Not everything you do will be seen, but might be a stepping stone to what will be seen later.

Challenge yourself and others to do something you’ve never done before.

Commit! Whatever you do, give it everything you’ve got.

Be present. You can’t change what’s already happened and you can only plan so far ahead. Be in the moment.

Prepare. Be ready.

Take time to reflect.

Dream big!

Play! Have fun!

Then. Let it go!

Interviewed by the Ballard News-Tribune!

As a part of being a Finalist for The Reel Deal, press releases went out to all of the local newspapers about this exciting opportunity. Seattle’s local paper, the Ballard News-Tribune, contacted me letting me know that they would love to do an interview. Last week, I was able to talk to Christy Wolyniak for about 40 minutes and answer her various questions. We not only talked about The Reel Deal, but my experience as an actor and my new production company, Light a Match Productions! Enjoy.

Read the article Here!!!

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How can I help you?

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Bill Coelius

Recently, I took a commercial acting class with Bill Coelius, who has done over 40 national commercials and several cos-star roles on major series. (I highly recommend him as a teacher, by the way!) His life philosophy is lived out in asking the question(out-loud or silently), “How can I help you?” He uses this attitude of service in everything, especially acting.

How much would that change how we live if we could put that into practice?

For one thing, I believe it would change how we approach auditions. Instead of being focused on myself, how well or horribly I am performing, or how much I think I need this job; I can place my attention on the other people in the room. I’m less self-conscious and stressed; it makes me a better listener, scene partner, and actor. As I’ve put this into practice, it has lessened the pressure I put on myself. I am there to help the casting directors make their decision. If I happen to be the solution to their problem, then great! If not, then I know I helped them (and possibly the other actors) along the way. Either way, it’s a win!

Outside of our auditions, I have experienced how this philosophy improves many artistic relationships. Helping each other out builds trust and loyalty. Theatre and film are both highly collaborative arts. Where would we be without the people who helped us along the way? The more we can practice giving, the more we will connect with people and find the relationships which keep on giving. That sounds corny, but I think it’s true. I think of the places where I’ve given a little extra, volunteered when I didn’t “have to,” and been generous with my time; usually something good comes out of it.

Take this philosophy to all your personal relationships and you could have a revolution on your hands!

Of course there is a disclaimer here: There is a difference between service and servitude. We have to be able to recognize when our service is being abused. When that happens, walk away.

So, here we go. How can I help you? How can we help each other?

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.

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?

A Love Letter

Dear Dad and Mom,
Thank you for taking me to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival to see my first play when I was 4 years old. I couldn’t get enough. And all the plays that followed (at The Bathhouse, Seattle Children’s Theatre, and Taproot) kept my imagination alive! Dad, thank you for reading bedtime stories to me in funny voices. Mom, thank you for organizing our school plays, driving me to all my rehearsals, and seeing as many of my performances as possible. You both instilled in me a love of story and a belief that I should follow my heart. Thank you!

Dear Molly, Loren and Wendy,
My first drama teachers, you turned a passion for story into a love of acting! I loved being on stage. I loved speaking those words. I loved becoming the character. I loved it so much I couldn’t believe any of my friends wanted to do anything else with their lives. If you hadn’t been there, I have no idea what I’d be doing with my life. Maybe making a decent wage? Ha! But really, I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else and you got me started! Thank you!

Dear ECA (my school in Madrid),
Thank you for the experience of a lifetime, directing Arsenic and Old Lace my senior year. Thank you to everyone who helped make, what seemed impossible, possible! Sometimes I still can’t believe we did it. Thank you!

Dear David P,
I don’t even know if you will be able to read this, but I need to thank you anyway. When I was in Prague, you gave me a chance that I didn’t deserve. You saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself. You encouraged me to keep pursuing my dream, at a time when I had let it go. Thank you!

Dear Jeff,
At a crossroads in my life, you came along and guided me through. You helped me see through the fog of fear and doubt into my true desires and helped me believe pursuing them was worthwhile. Thank you!

Dear Taproot Theatre,
You gave me my first professional acting job… and you keep asking me back. Every time I get to work with you, I am encouraged and overjoyed. You are a wonderful group of people, full of integrity and creativity. It is always an honor! Thank you!

Dear Melissa,
As my agent, you have hustled and fought for me. Thank you for believing in me and opening doors to my career that I didn’t think possible!

Dear LA friends,
Thank you for housing me, encouraging me and helping me build a foundation for a career down there!

Dear Leah (and the cast and crew of Julius Caesar),
I am so grateful for being in Julius Caesar. You don’t know the depth of disappointment I’ve experienced over the past few months and how going to rehearsal every night was  a rock to hold on to. Being in this show saved me(from quitting). On top of that, the artistic and friendly spirit I have found in you, excites me for the possibilities of the future. I can’t wait to create with you again!

The Seattle theatre community,
Every community is flawed and cracked, because it is made up of human beings. I’ll be honest that sometimes you haven’t been my favorite, but for some things I owe you a debt of gratitude. Thank you to the artists who treated me as an equal when I felt less than. Thank you for giving me the benefit of the doubt when I doubted myself. Thank you for demonstrating the camaraderie that is possible in a competitive world. If we keep working together, who knows what could happen?! ART? Let’s do it!

Dear, dear friends and family,
You, who have sat and talked with me over the phone or countless cups of coffee, helping me process, mourn losses and dream dreams; thank you!

Dear Michael,
Last, but most of all, my husband. Too often I take you for granted. From the beginning, you have believed in me and pushed me forward. You have made so many sacrifices so that I could pursue this dream. I don’t deserve these gifts and yet you keep on giving them. I apologize for the times I’ve dismissed your words of encouragement, downplaying what you see “because you’re my husband.” I was throwing away the sweetest offerings of love because I couldn’t see past my own insecurities. Thank you for your love, belief and sharpening imagination. I owe more to you than I can ever repay. Thank you for not letting me quit. You keep me going!

Well, I know I have missed people. Once you start thanking people you can’t stop. It’s contagious. Think about it. Thank someone. It will make a world of difference!