That would be me

That would be me

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

In hiding

Or how Sami is tucking her tail between her legs and running for the hills.

Okay, so I admit it. About certain things, I am completely non-confrontational – even cowardly, you might say. When it comes to defending the “little guy,” I will get up on a desk and yell and scream my head off. If it is about ME and/or something I am involved in – Big Fat Scaredy Cat.

A few months ago, I walked away from something I cared about because of a battle with myself and other forces. I didn’t really “want” to but I did. In the wake of my leaving, there was paperwork and financial things that needed to be taken care of. Money needed to change hands. Financial ties permanently severed.


I still have not done so. At first, I just couldn’t seem to bring myself to do it. Like putting the finishing touches on the “break-up” would make it more real than I could bear it to be. Now, though, it has been so long that not having taken care of this has put me in an embarrassing situation. It NEEDS to be done. It is imperative. I have to face the music.

And it is humiliating.

I keep scheduling “times to meet” to hand the items over but my brain seems to conveniently block those out and then next thing I know it is the next day and I am faced with an angry email admonishing me for doing forgetting it . . . again.

I feel like an ass.

I am not TRYING to be irresponsible or insensitive and it isn’t like I NEED those things to be STILL sitting in a bag in the corner of my office.  I am just . . . scared/nervous/embarrassed and have so much stress that I am under right now that I can’t seem to face it.

So, and you know who you are, I am REALLY sorry. I will take care of this tomorrow. Somehow.

I hope.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

How Do You Want To Be Remembered?

Or How Sami Faced Her Mortality and Lost.

Marcus has cancer.

The news (given by The Bruce by way of a friend) hit me hard in the chest. I had difficulty catching my breath and it took more than a few moments before I could gather up the air to ask “what, where, how bad?”

There are certain people that you don’t deal with on a daily basis that are always floating somewhere in the back of your consciousness. You may not speak to them constantly but they are always easily accessible in your thoughts. For me in recent years, Marcus Walker has been one of those people. This has been especially true the past year.

Marcus has always reminded me of my pseudo-dad in a variety of ways: his dedication to theatre, his knowledge and passion and even his penchant for bad puns and stressing out of the small details. I liked him the first time I met him for those reasons (even though in typical Sami fashion I was completely intimidated by him).

This past year, Marcus cast me as Ma Joad in The Grapes of Wrath. He did so knowing that I did not “fit” into the image that most people have about Ma Joad. I will never forget him for that. There is no way to thank him enough for the domino effect that one little expression of confidence created. That role opened up a whole new world for me. It showed the world (and me) that I was capable of more than just being the “cute” one or a chorus girl. I have gained an entire level of confidence in my abilities that I would never have thought possible because he saw something in me - saw a depth and technical skill of which I had previously been unaware.

And now he is ill.

There is something indescribable about seeing one of your gods stricken. It is akin to that feeling when you were a kid and you discover your parents were human and imperfect. An innocence dies.

A few days ago, there was a fundraiser for Lakewood Playhouse/Roast of Marcus. Seeing him look frail and thin on the stage took my breath away with the same ferocity that the news of his illness caused. The Bruce, sensing this, reached out and grabbed my hand as if to steady me but I was seated. The moment was fleeting though because the light and joy that radiated from Marcus eased my initial reaction quickly.

One by one, people spoke about Marcus’s work and about how he touched their lives with his passion and generosity and talent. Marcus sat and looked pleased and embarrassed at the same time, like a person who overhears a compliment that was not intended for their ears. The evening was filled with tears of sadness mixed with roars of laughter.

On the ride home, all I could think about was what my legacy would be. I believe each person wants to somehow impact their world but when you are an actor, you have to wonder just how important or profound that impact would be. Being talented and hardworking is all well and good but in the grand scheme of the world, how truly important is how well we say a certain line or wear a costume? 

Not too much, I am afraid. 

Most actors are blissfully unaware of those who came before us (unless there happens to be a Broadway Theatre named after them). Unless there is a film of a performance, all that work disappears into the memories of whatever audience witnessed it.

In order to truly have a lasting impact, we have to accomplish things that are greater than just acting or directing. We have to touch people. We have to make a difference. We have to aspire to grander goals than just standing ovations and bio fillers.

And in that respect, I currently find myself to be lacking.

I need to do something about that and quick. I want to be remembered. I want to make a difference in people’s lives.  Even if it sounds weird and selfish and morbid, I want the news of my humanness to take someone’s breath away.

I want to be like Marcus. Is that too much to ask?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Are We Sensing a Pattern Here??

Or Fitting a Square Peg into a Round Hole.

So, October 2009 I officially embarked on a professional acting career (or at least the beginnings of one).  
This week I received word that I had been cast in my first show at Seattle Musical Theatre (after a whopping WEEK without a show – the shakes were starting to set in). I thought back on the past year plus and I noticed something. Play along for a second, will you?

Shows SINCE Launch

A Streetcar Named Desire – play
The Salvation of Iggy Scrooge – musical
A Taste of Honey – play (with music – I sang one song)
HMS Pinafore – musical
The Grapes of Wrath – play (with music – although I did next to no singing)
The Last 5 Years – musical
Eleemosynary – play
And now
Don Giovanni – musical

Do you see it?? Weird, right???

I am first and foremost an actress so the realization that MORE THAN HALF of the shows I have done in the last year have required me to sing came as something of a shock. Even though I have worked very hard to overcome the fear of the whole mess, knowing that I get cast in musicals as often as I do was surprising. I have spent a lot of time lately evaluating my career path and somehow this little fact had escaped me.

I am getting better – less neurotic (honestly, this is NOTHING compared to how I used to be), auditioning for “bigger” projects, trying harder material – so in time these little patterns won’t be blog/alarm fodder but in the meantime I appreciate your support as I try to wrap my head around this all.

Now, of course, that I have noticed the pattern, the ridiculous OCD part of me is probably going to try to maintain it – or analyze it to death. I do think though, that having noticed this pattern, I need to acknowledge my place in the world of singers and not hide behind what I think myself to be or not be.

I often wonder when this “refusal” to see myself as a singer started. Was it when I tore a vocal cord? Was it is the voice teacher in college who claimed to hate the sound of my voice? Was it years of following AMAZING singers at auditions? Was it 20 years of singing lessons? Was it getting “old?”

I am not sure. All I know is that somewhere along the way, I lost it. I lost my confidence, my vocal mojo. Damn it, I want it back. I am sick of being crazy and neurotic about it. I am sick of caring quite so much what other people think of my voice. 

My voice is what it is. It isn’t perfect or “pretty” or powerful. It is most often described as . . . interesting. You know what? Carol Channing had an interesting voice. Ethel Merman. Bernadette Peters. All have interesting voices.

MILLIONS of people have pretty voices. What are they doing? Singing in churches? Leading roles in community theatre shows?

I think I don’t want pretty. I think I find being interesting more . . . interesting.

Sometimes “interesting” will get you farther than pretty. I am just going to run with THAT one.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Sami's Cure for the Audition Jitters

Sami doesn’t care what anyone else says; psyching herself out COMPLETELY helps the nerves.

There is something incredibly freeing about “not standing a chance” at a show so you might as well just have fun.

I just left a musical theatre callback. Yay! Singing and dancing auditions – my FAVORITE!

Are you picking up on the sarcasm? Good.

The Bruce and I were both called back for a brand new musical being presented by one of the musical theatres in Seattle. The Bruce was called back for one of the leads (of course) and I was just called back for Ensemble (oh thank GOD). We go in and look around and one fact strikes me immediately. Everyone else there is about 25 and younger. And then there’s me and The Bruce.

Awww. We’re the token ‘old people.’ When did THAT happen??

The second thing I noticed is how TERRIFIED most of them looked. This meant so much to them and the amount of angst in the room was palpable. I had decided before even getting there that odds were against my getting cast. I am not a dancer (I have dancing ISSUES – long story there) and my fear of solo singing is well documented and I still have The Plague, so why make myself all crazy with worry. I just wanted to go in and have a good time and limber up the muscles some and watch my man be brilliant.

Seeing how scared all the little girls were, I decided to say “Screw It. Let’s have some fun.” I had nothing to lose. I adopted my best “Shelia” (from Chorus Line) stance and proceeded to ‘attitude’ my way through the callback.

I didn’t worry about each and every step – I just did the dance.
I didn’t fret about every note – I just sang the damned song.

And when I was done, I left. Confidently.

And you know what? Two things happened.
  1. I did not spend the next 15 hours obsessing about how I did. I asked The Bruce if he heard me and was I in key. He assured me “yes” to both.
  2. I got cast. With a named character. A MINOR one but a named character nonetheless.
How about that? Not too shabby for a show I had “no shot in hell” at.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Performing with the Plague

Or The Show SOMETIMES Must Go On

There is something NASTY going around. Everyone I know has been sick at some point in the last few months. I have now had the Plague to some degree or another for almost a month now. Mostly it has been an upper respiratory/ear clogging thing but that doesn't make it any less intrusive. Auditioning and performing while sick is not the best of circumstances.

Plagues and Launch do NOT mix.

It is one of those things though. You have to plug through anyway. If I lived in a larger market, I could just hang back a week or so until the illness went away because another audition is frequently around the corner. In Seattle, though, the auditions are not as frequent so missing one or two here can lead to a pretty sizeable break in work. PLUS hardly ANYONE does understudies anymore so if you are sick – you just have to suck it up.

So what is a girl to do?

She auditions and performs anyway.

Just this past weekend, I had 4 performances of Eleemosynary (a 1.5 hour one act during which I never left the stage) and an audition for a musical all of which I had to accomplish with a stuffed up face, clogged ears and a sore throat. The clogged up ears made the show particularly difficult as I had to climb a ladder and say lines while wearing a hat. I could not hear a word that was being said and the clogged ears plus the height of the ladder were giving me a minor case of vertigo. I just clutched on for dear life and prayed I didn't sneeze because that surely would have sent me flying off the set and into the audience.

The audition went shockingly well considering I had NO idea how loud I was singing or even if I was in KEY! I am assuming I was fine since I got a callback but it could have been a pity callback since they could tell just by looking at me that something was not quite right.

There is an advantage to performing when you are not 100% yourself. For starters, being sick (or tired or in pain or whatnot) FORCES you to up your concentration level. You can't just get by on your basic talent when it takes a phenomenal amount of energy just to stay upright. Being "off" requires that you have to work that much harder to keep your head in the game. People pay just as much for tickets on days you are sick so you can't just throw that performance away.

Same goes for the auditions. If you suck the life out of a room during an audition just because you don't feel well, what makes you think that a director is going to trust you to be able to keep it together in front of an audience if you happen to come down with The Plague?

And so, I power through. My head is killing me. My ears are STILL clogged and painful. The throat is still on fire. Yet, I continue plugging away.

Because tomorrow I have to sing at a callback SICK for the same show I auditioned for sick LAST weekend. At least they will know I am consistent.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Show Mustn’t ALWAYS Go On

Or sometimes there are more important things to do.

This week a dear friend of mine had a MAJOR family crisis. Not your run of the mill family crises but the kind that would flatten the toughest of individuals. It floored my friend SO much that she had to get a ride home from work because the shock of the event was so great that she couldn't even drive. Due to circumstances, she had to go "home" to be with her family – several hundred miles away. She had to drive there.

And she had to go alone.

Her husband stayed home because he had a show.

You see, my dear friend's spouse (who is equally near and dear to my heart) is a "theatre person." Theatre is his life, his calling, his joy. I have said on more than one occasion that he has (to quote one Mr. R. Lindblom) "forgotten more about theatre than I will ever learn." When I think of a true dedicated theatre professional, HE is the first person that springs to mind. The show ALWAYS comes first. No matter what. Always.

This is something about him that I love dearly, but it is also the thing that drives me nuts about him.

And it is one of the things I get accused of as well. And, frankly, THAT scares me.

We all espouse the old adage about the Show Must Go On but at what point is real life allowed to stop taking a back seat? When is the need at home more important than the need on the stage?

In the past, I have let the "important" things take a back seat when maybe they should not have. I have learned from that and have been trying to correct the errors of my ways. I have worked to assess what is more important in picking projects and whatnot. Sometimes a sick baby has to take precedent over other things.

To me, the needs of my friend during her intense heartbreak are FAR more important than a show. ANY show. At ANY stage of production. Period. This might get me in trouble with the Theatre Gods but there has to be a line. A time when enough is enough.

Even GOD takes a day off.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Torn Between Two Maybes

Feeling like a fool.

Or Sami needs them to make up THEIR minds so she can make up hers

The worst part of auditioning is the wait. The wait for the audition to get scheduled. The wait as you stand in the lobby. The wait as you worry if you've been called back. The wait to hear if you have been cast.

All this waiting can be a bit much to take – if you are someone, like myself, who does NOT handle the "not knowing" well.

Normally, I can handle this. Normally I just go to an audition and then it happens or it doesn't happen but I just move along.

THIS situation is not normal.

There are two projects that I REALLY would give a limb to do. Two amazing scripts. Two great companies. Two Big Fat Maybes. And they are going up at the EXACT SAME TIME.

And their auditions are several weeks apart. So if I got the first one, I would have to walk away from the other without knowing if I would have had a chance.

Now, I could sit here and do a pro/con list for days and days and days. There would still be a tie. Sort of. The first one is a dream show which is definitely more Launch friendly and closer to home. The other is a dream show with a group of friends I adore – one of whom may not be with us as long as any of us would like.

Do you see my dilemma?

The last few days I have been going over and over these two projects and probably being a pest to everyone around me.

At the end of the day all this stressing could be a moot point. I could end up completely empty handed because sometimes that is how this game is played. Truthfully, I am quite glad that I have even gotten to the point of "maybe" having to choose between roles.

This is what happens when I want things too much. Maybe I should go back to not caring and just take whatever comes along.

Sometimes a plan can ruin a good thing.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Well, how about that??

Or Sami loves surprises.

Sometimes you run in the same circles with people and yet never really get to know them. People drop their names to you, you see them across rooms and yet somehow you never actually "meet."

Today I got to spend a few hours with one such person. And it was amazing.

To be perfectly honest, I was not sure how it would go. This particular person is a very intense, strong woman and frankly, I was intimidated by her. You see, my strong, kick-ass femaleness is mostly an act and I get VERY intimidated and shy around women who actually seem to have it together. Plus, the rumor mill being what it is, I was not sure what kind of person she truly was. Words like intense, difficult and demanding seem to follow her around (and BOY do I know that feeling).

When she contacted me, I honestly had no idea why she would want to hang out with the likes of me. Again, the Bad Self Esteem monster had reared its ugly head and I assumed that she did not like me (after all, she had never sought me out before – neither had I sought her out but that is because I am a chicken).

Plus I worried what on earth we would talk about.

Well, surprise surprise surprise. I had such a great time with her. Conversation flowed easily. We seemed to be on the same wavelength about so many things

It was effortless. At least on my end.

Of course, the reason why we were getting together in the first place (we are both writing for NaNoWriMo) seemed to fall by the wayside, but it really did not seem to bother us.

So now, I feel like I have made a potential new friend. And I got a few words written. Not a lot but enough.

Welcome to my little circle of crazies, Erin. I am glad to have you here.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Let the games begin

The Sami vs. Seattle audition dance is off to an interesting start.

So, the whole reason (okay not the WHOLE reason but the practical reason as opposed to the Ain't Seattle Swell? reason) for the Big Move to Seattle was to get me and my Ego closer to the Big Fat Theatres in order to help facilitate the furthering of the career.

Say what? Vacillate the what?

Sami was sick of the pitying look accompanied by the tilted head and "you live in Tacoma" questions. So here she sits in West Seattle (and is currently commuting to TACOMA for a show – but that is a topic for another day) and waits for the auditions to start pouring in.

Well, as we all know, auditions do not just pour in BUT there have been some pretty good ones posted up on TPS (Theatre Puget Sound – for those of you not local or not yet 'in the know') so I jumped all over those puppies and have two under my belt now and 4 currently pending.

Both auditions were for theatres I had never auditioned for previously. AND both theatres are ones I have been heavily promoting Launch to.

I have heard pretty good things about both theatres. About the people and the quality of the work. They both seemed to be the types of theatres I would be interested in working with.

The two theatres could NOT have been more different though. Aesthetically speaking.

The first one is housed in the a Community Center. The theatre itself seems to be an old high school auditorium – big and cavernous and a little Haunted House-ish. I personally LOVE theatres like this because it reminds me of the type of theatre I first started working in but also because there is something utterly endearing to me about theatres that make great work happen in challenging spaces. (plus I LOVE that the theatre's initials are BLT, but that is just because I am a dork.)

The audition itself went pretty well. The room we auditioned in (not the theatre) was a lot more echo-y than I expected it to be so when I opened my mouth, my voice rang back to me a lot more than anticipated. This threw me off a bit so I was VERY relieved when she gave me adjustments and asked me to do it again. I love adjustments. This means that the director saw SOMETHING she liked and wanted to see what else I could do. I felt pretty good about the second time (even though I had to start over because I flubbed the words a bit).

The director said she liked the adjustments I made, gave me the run down of the where and when callbacks would be and that I would hear back either way and thanked me and I left. I was out in the hallway gathering up my belongings when the director poked her head out from the audition room and said, "You know what? Just come to callbacks."


The next audition was for a musical (singing audition – AHHHHHH!!) and this particular theatre is one located in a strip mall-esque area in a more moneyed part of the area. The lobby was slick, the bathrooms were slick, the theatre (although small and a thrust) was slick nonetheless so I assumed that the audition would be like some of the other "slick" theatres I have auditioned for in the past. Slick, business-like and to the point. But it wasn't. The auditor and the accompanist were both warm and welcoming and made me feel relatively at ease – which I really had not expected from what greeted me in the lobby.

My audition was not as slick as I would have liked. The monologue went well but I started to have some . . . well . . . phlegm issues halfway through. Dang it! I hate that feeling and once you are in there, there is not a whole heck of a lot you can do about it. It's not like you can say "Hey, I have a ball of boogies in my throat. DO you mind if I go deal with that really quick while you wait?" I tripped my way through as well as I could and tried to clear my throat 'unnoticeably' before the 16 bars of vocal hell. The song. Oh the song. It was going so well. I was sultry in spots, legit-esque in spots. I felt really good about it. UNTIL the belted note at the very end. Then that little bit of phlegm that had been hanging out at the back of my throat decided to work its way down. How is THAT for a sexy image?

Needless to say, the voice cracked/croaked a bit. I finished the song, thanked them and hightailed it out of there. Coughing the whole way.

Ah well. You win some. You phlegm some.

Monday, November 8, 2010

How to Fall on your Face and Still Feel like a Winner

Or When Getting That A for Effort is the Goal all along.

As anyone who reads my blog knows, singing freaks me out. This is not a new revelation. Yet, I continually put myself in positions where I have to do it. People ask me with somewhat alarming frequency why I do this to myself. I have to wonder if the constant questioning is a reflection on my singing but I digress.

There are lots of things I am afraid of: heights, the aforementioned solo singing, science class, success and failure. Just to name a few.

Wait a minute, Sami. How can you be afraid of failure AND success? That doesn't even make any sense.

Well, if you think hard about it, most people have a fear of one and/or the other.

I had a brother-in-law who was once infamous in his family for spending WEEKS preparing a kick ass topic for a huge Speech and Debate meet. Spent a long time, had loads of research done, knew his topic inside and out. The night before the big meet, he "changed his mind" and switched topics. And LOST . . . big time.

Why would he do that do himself? After all that time spent, why would he not just go with the topic he knew?

Because what if he had spent all that time and all that effort on something only to lose anyway?

I see actors and singers do this kind of thing all the time. They worry over an audition, stress out over their choice of song and monologue, format and then reformat their resume and then just do not show up for their audition. After all that work, they just don't go.


Because by not going, they KNOW why they did not get cast. BUT had they gone and auditioned after all of that work and THEN did not get cast, then they feel a sense that all that time spent was wasted somehow.

Why is it a waste? Why allow it to become a waste?

Right now, I have several projects going on – any of which could blow up in my face at any given moment but I am doing my best to make them all happen because they are important to me.


November is NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month ( according to the website it is 50,000 words in 30 days. Participants begin writing November 1. The goal is to write a 50,000-word or approximately 175 page novel by midnight, November 30.

I wrote a children's book a few years ago that was lost due to poor planning on my part and a "helpful" teenager. It had taken me almost 2 years to write the book in the first place. When the book was lost, I felt lost too. I was determined to rewrite it but had not forced myself to do so. I think in the back of my mind, I was terrified I would do all that work only to lose it again.

I WILL finish the first draft of Evie: Take 2 this year. It is much harder to write a book all over again. I am having difficulty recreating the world and wonderful kids I had spent years nurturing. I know that because I am focusing on this book that I may not "win" NaNo by getting my 50,000 words. I know it and I am okay with it. The IMPORTANT thing is that Evie sees the light of day and Nano is the vehicle I am using to get her there.

The Big Birthday Bash:

I turn 40 in 7 weeks so I decided to take the occasion to produce a huge fundraiser. I have a script to write, food to gather, donations to beg for, a gown to scrounge, posters to pose for and create, charities to contact, auditions to coordinate, song lists to assemble . . . I think you get the idea. AND I have to make that happen over the holidays.

Am I worried? Of course I am, but if I don't pull out all of the stops NOTHING will happen and that is worse than a few weeks of no sleep.

Launch 2.0:

Last October, I "launched" my professional acting career and now that I am in year 2 I have decided to up the stakes. I have very specific goals for Launch 2.0 which I even have written out on the inside of my audition song notebook. I am auditioning for the Big Fat Seattle Theatres until they get fed up with me and either cast me or call me back to shut me up. I am prepping my audition materials with those goals specifically in mind. I will be choosing projects specifically with those goals in mind.

I am going to singing auditions at theatres I am intimidated by and auditioning for theatres that I have coveted from afar. I am even trying to whip out a "legitimate" song at an audition next week – something I normally run away from screaming like a 3 year old girl at the swimming pool. I will probably not have the greatest audition but it is worth it to just rip off the cliff and dive in. Who knows how it will turn out but I will never know if I don't try.

All of these projects have the potential to be huge, very public disasters. The "safe" side of me tells me not to make big public declarations about my plans. That way if I fail, no one is the wiser.

But I know how I am. The potential for a big public humiliation is what keeps me on task. Plus what do I really have to lose? If I am successful then I will raise tons of money for organizations I feel strongly about, a character that has been living in my mind will get to meet the world and my career will finally head in the direction I have always wanted .

If not . . . well, I am having a blast trying to make big things happen.

And isn't THAT worth the risk of failure and success?

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Dreaded Question

Or why isn't there a simple answer to a simple question?

"Are you a singer?" "Do you sing?" or the most dreaded "Are you a GOOD singer?"

One would think this is a Yes or No question but for a neurotic performer/human being such as myself, it is a very loaded question. You see, when one is surrounded by people who pride themselves on the prowess of their vocal cords, being the one whose voice merely gets them by can make someone particularly sensitive about the answer to that query.

The fact of the matter is I AM a singer. Down deep I know this. I have sung professionally. I have carried a musical or two to great effect. I have more than 20 musicals on my resume. I have been the lead singer in several bands. So what the hell is wrong with just saying "yes?"

Truthfully, I think it is because I do not trust the motivations behind the question. I think most performers are completely crazy, petty, neurotic, self-centered, validation seeking piles of goo and under all that mess they want to feel that they are good as/better than you are. If you are merely adequate and they know they are better than you – your admission of being what you are offers them the opportunity to tear you down in a vain attempt to boost their own flagging self-perception.

I have enough problems. I do not need that on top of it.

You might feel I am being paranoid but you are honest with yourselves, you KNOW you have done it yourself. Schadenfreude is a very real thing. Not just among performers. How many times have we mocked the work ethics, body shapes, hair styles, choice of life partner when what we most fear is what other people feel about our own choices?

I feel very confident in the majority of the choices that I have made in my life and so therefore I have no problems freely and openly admitting these things about myself.

Singing . . . not so much.

Someday I hope to be able to answer the questions without cringing or scanning the faces of the people around me for a reaction. Maybe I won't. Who knows. But that is my goal. So for now I get by and admit that I truly don't know my own skill level but that I plug along anyway.

But may I just say that the definition of singer is one who sings so since I am one who sings I have to admit that I am a singer. Just please don't ask me if I am a good one. The jury is still out on that.


Saturday, November 6, 2010

“Home” Hunting

Or where will Sami run to when she just needs a fix?

In the last year or so, I had really begun to feel that I had found a home – a family of sorts – with the group of people at both Lakewood Playhouse and Tacoma Little Theatres. For a few years I felt I was struggling to break in and then suddenly . . . poof . . . I moved in and fell in love with the people there and I hope they grew to love me as well.

So, of course, I have to go up and move out of town (smacks self on forehead).

I still love these people and plan to continue to have them in my life but logistically, it makes no sense to have my "theatrical home" to be so far away from my actual one.

So I am on the hunt for a new home.

There are several lovely community theatres (Twelfth Night and Burien Little Theatre) and one "professional" one (ArtsWest) in my neighborhood-ish that I am hoping will fill that void. My plan is to let them know I exist, audition when opportunities become available, volunteer in any capacity they may need and cross my fingers that I like them (and they grow to like me) and much as my Lakewood/Tacoma family. Not that my "theatre family to the South" could ever be replaced – nor do I want them to – but sometimes a girl just needs to hang out with people who "get" her.

I will, of course, continue to audition all over creation (or Seattle) for artistic and career development but the need for a Home is great. The need for a safe place to rest my head and feel the love of the work and each other wash over me is profound. Community theatre offers just that. Love and commitment. Much like home is where you go to take off your shoes and just unwind from a hard day at the office – that sense of community is a welcome antidote to the difficulties and competitiveness and just plain pain in the ass-ness of the "professional" theatre.

In the meantime, I will keep plugging along feeling like a soul without a country - longing for my family down south. I love and miss you guys.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Taking Them Down a Notch by Taking It Up One.

Or What Happens When the Gods Fall

For a long time now (at least 10 years or so) one particular Seattle theatre has been my Mecca. I worship the ground it sits on. I fantasize about the day I will stand amongst the Great Talents that currently frequent the boards there. It was a partial motivation for the semi-cross country relocation. I have been training and working and improving to get to the point that I too may be among the privileged few to cross that particular proscenium. All the while I remained in awe of those lucky enough to be deemed worthy of playing with the Big Boys.

But of late, my awe has been replaced by something more akin to confusion and occasional disappointment.

In recent months, I have been 'fortunate' enough to get to see a decent amount of theatre and a good bit of that has been at the Big Houses. This has been both a wonderful opportunity to learn and, frankly, a bit of an eye opener. I somehow expected "professional" actors to achieve a level of perfection far greater than anything that I myself – or anyone I know personally - would be able to attain. I believed that "professional" actors would not be beleaguered by the scores of difficulties that we mere mortal actors face – lisps, tongues that refuse to cooperate on certain performances, the inability to walk in a straight line, performances when we just don't quite get to where we wanted to go.

I thought that these actors were somehow superhuman and that just isn't so.

I am not sure when this shift happened. I distinctly recall seeing shows at Big Fat Pittsburgh Theatres that blew my mind; that caused me to second my worthiness as a human being, much less an actor. When the performances of my college professors left me feeling so in awe that I had to sit in the theatre for long periods of time afterward because I wanted to stay in the place where "that happened."

Even when I first moved to Seattle, I saw SEVERAL shows that left me feeling enamored and star struck and completely unworthy of sharing the same stage.

Lately, however, I have felt that the performances I am seeing are totally within the scope of my capabilities. Everywhere I look, I see imperfections, vocal issues, pitch problems, muddy gesturing or worse – from the professionals. Sometimes the performances seem downright mediocre and amateurish. Was it always this way or am I just more knowledgeable now? Is it that the Gods are becoming more human or am I just attaining a higher standard within my own work and my demands as an audience member?

None of this is meant to imply that I am somehow better than the actors I witnessed. I still do not feel quite on their level, but there is a definite feeling that with the right role and right director, I COULD be and that is an odd and oddly amazing sensation.

Maybe, just maybe, Mecca is closer than I had previously imagined.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Sometimes You Feel Like a Nut – Sometimes You . . .

Or All The Praise You Can Eat – One Show Only.

"How did it (the show) go?"

It is the actor equivalent of small talk. The kind of question that really doesn't beg an answer but we feel compelled to give one anyway. What the askers want to hear is "it went great," "kicked its ass" and/or something either snarky or sincere about the audience.

Eleemosynary is a tough one because the only answer I seem capable of giving is . . . "I don't know."

This is not a response given to elicit pity or false praise. It is not fishing for a compliment. I give this answer for one very simple reason.

Because I just don't know.

After a performance of this show, I don't feel triumphant (as I rarely do but as some lucky actors somehow manage); I don't feel relieved (as I did after Grapes of Wrath); I don't feel an adrenalin rush (as I did after Last 5 Years). Sometimes I feel agitated. Mostly, though, I don't feel much of anything.

This could very well be a byproduct of the role itself. Without giving too much away for the people who have not seen it yet and still plan to, I have decided (with the director's blessing) to portray Artie as having Asperger's Syndrome (a form of high functioning autism – for those of you unaware of it). I am pretty well-versed in Asperger's because one of my children is so afflicted. It manifests itself in a variety of ways but with Artie, I decided on a physical rigidity and profound lack of eye contact. Spending such a large amount of time staring off into space (with purpose) and closing off the body from the people around you makes it really hard to assess what the hell happened on stage. Usually the way an actor assesses how a show "went" is by analyzing the effectiveness of this or that interaction. My character spends most of her "interactions" off in her own mind.

So therefore, I don't know.

And I wish I did.

I am getting some of the best reviews of my life. The word "amazing" gets bandied about. Total strangers come up to me and say my performance was "outstanding." And I stand there – still feeling . . well, nothing.

I WANT to ask "why?" What is it about what I was doing that deserves such praise. I can't "watch" myself from stage. I know actors who can but that throws me off significantly and that is no good. So I wish I could ask. But how does one go about that without sounding like a: they are fishing for a compliment or b: an attention whore or c: a complete loon (which is probably what I am).

So I will likely never know. This may be a good thing but I fear not knowing might mean not repeating.

So for now I say Thank You and try to move on. Maybe someday I will know what was so special about this performance. Maybe I will never know. Maybe there is some grand conspiracy trying to keep me in the dark. I don't know that either.

What I DO know is I have some "amazing" quotes for my marketing materials and that is worth feeling something for.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

An Afternoon of Transit-ory Chaos

Well, at least my life is never boring.

Right now mass transit is my best friend. If it wasn't for buses, I would not be able to get to the gym, the store, auditions, rehearsals or to Tacoma for my daily "pick up Lorelai from preschool" excursion. I rely on transit almost daily and therefore frequently have "the best stories" (according to my friends) about the ridiculous nonsense that happens aboard these buses.

Today took the cake however.

I got on the 594 (Tacoma-Seattle) bus at 2 p.m. to find that it was already pretty packed and therefore we could NOT find two seats together. I hate when I have the kid and that happens because 1. They like the window and 2. Lorelai HATES not sitting directly next to me. I found two seats that were across the aisle from each other and we sat down. Lorelai and Perrin were both being moody about the lack of a window seat but since no one was willing to give up their window, we just had to deal.

About halfway between Tacoma and Seattle (somewhere around Kent for those of you in the area), a woman on the bus screamed at the driver to stop the bus. A woman seated behind her was having a seizure. The kids and I were about nine rows behind her so I could not see much except that the top of her head was, indeed, twitching. The driver pulled to the side of a VERY busy I-5 and called the emergency in to dispatch. Most of the people close to her were just repeatedly asking her what she needed (as if she could say).

"Lay the bitch on her side," a voice from behind me shouted. "You gotta lay her on her side or she will die."

A young man of about 20 moved towards the woman, muttering expletives just loud enough for us to hear. He walked over to the seizing woman, sat next to her, put her head in his lap and started patting her back rhythmically.

"I got her," he screamed to the bus driver who was on the phone still with dispatch. "F***ing drive. I got shit to do."

The driver tried to explain that by law she was NOT ALLOWED to leave until the aid truck had gotten there. The young man was all pissed off and yelled that he was going to lose $2000 if he didn't get to where he was going on time and that he didn't "give a shit about the seizing bitch" and that if the bus made him late he was going to bust out the door and slit the tires on the way out. All the while, he had the seizing woman in his lap and was still patting her back.

It was a wonderful act of charity while being a messed up selfish hissy-fit. I wanted to hug him and punch him in the throat simultaneously.

When the aid truck arrived, the young man just upped the tantrum. It got so heated between him and a paramedic that a state trooper was brought in to get the young man to back off.

Finally, a second bus arrived and passengers were asked to deboard the bus and get on the other one. I was VERY hesitant. I had Lorelai and Perrin with me and as I mentioned, we were ON THE HIGHWAY – during rush hour. A few bus drivers from the second bus (it was a bus transporting drivers to Seattle) came back and helped me carry the kidlets and all their gear to the second bus and, even though the bus was packed, people made sure I had two seats together so that I could sit with both kids.

At the end of it all, it took almost 3 hours to get home and the kidlets had HAD it and were screaming, crying messes on the walk home from the bus stop (4 blocks).

I will sleep well tonight. After a glass of wine – don't judge me, I earned it.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Don’t Be a (S)Lacker

Our heroine is fast approaching burnout or a breakdown – one or the other.

I seem to have lost all motivation to move. This happens every now and then. I schedule myself to the brink of sanity, trip the teeniest bit which sets off a LONG series of events which eventually devolves into being completely behind schedule for several weeks until finally I am to the point in my calendar where nothing is expected of me. Then I take a VERY short break to "collect" myself and then start the ridiculous ride all over again.

Right now, I am in collection mode.

I have things to do, classes to un-enroll from, other classes to plan, auditions to prep for and a Big Birthday Bash to plan but I just don't wanna. I WANT to sit around get caught up on the last 5 weeks of Grey's Anatomy and eat pizza and drink Dr. Pepper.

When I get like this I try to push through it and get what needs done done. The problem is when I force my brain to do things it is not in the mood for – the end product is always crap and then I feel worse than if I had just blown the responsibility off in the first place. But that is just not how I work.

So I muddle through.

Hopefully this less-than-stellar level of activity will improve soon but for now the mere thought of actually accomplishing anything feels a touch overwhelming.


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

What do you say to taking chances?

How to improve your life without sounding slightly like a mediocre pop song.

I have always been a "risk taker." Of sorts. I am not one to jump off of a perfectly good bridge but I am risky nonetheless. I have always done impulsively things that most people wring their hands over and budget and try to talk themselves in and out of. Not this gal. If there is something I really want to do, I have to just do it. If I do the whole "thinking it through" thing – NOTHING happens. I freeze. I give myself 8000 reasons why it won't work and I stop moving.

Because of this I have had some wonderful opportunities and I have also spent a great deal of time dusting myself off again.

Sometimes though, things are such a big deal (at least to me) that I actually psych myself out so much that I talk myself out of it as it is going on. Yesterday had the potential to be one of those days.

Yesterday was the Intiman Theatre mid-year Equity General Auditions.

Those of you who know me probably know two things about me:

  1. I am not Equity. . .yet.
  2. The Intiman is my dream theatre, my Mecca, my Holy Grail, my perfect pancake, my . . . (well, you get the idea)

I had not yet auditioned at Intiman because those two factors kept me at a standstill. I was terrified. I wasn't "ready." I was not "good enough yet." I was thinking it through and over-thinking it to the point of getting nervous just walking past the building. I am way too hard on myself and so I wanted conditions to be absolutely PERFECT before I even considered auditioning for them

So . . . of course . . . I hadn't yet. Lived in the area for FOUR YEARS and still hadn't.

Well, enough was enough. I had a day off of rehearsal (luckily) on the day of Generals so I was going to go – Damn it!

I jumped through 700 hoops to make arrangements for the care of the kidlets (since I would potentially sit there for 5 hours and never get seen), I prettied myself up enough to look like I was making an attempt without trying too hard, I bought myself a sandwich (because of the aforementioned potential 5 hour wait) and I went to where the auditions were being held.

Things started to go south almost immediately. Even though I had NEVER heard of such a thing, it turns out that the Intiman allowed non-Equity actors to get put on a waiting list so before we even started (and in spite of the fact that I was the third one there) I was already 14th DOWN on the waiting list.

Now (before we dive too deep) the way the waitlist works is if an Equity actor who signed up for a slot doesn't show up, one of the waitlisters gets to be seen in his/her slot. Sounds ludicrous, right? Why would they NOT show? You would be amazed at how often actors don't show up (and YES, directors do remember those people who are consistent no-show-ers).

So now I had to hope for FOURTEEN irresponsible actors . . . or a miracle. Damn.

Nope. I already have the kidlets taken care of and I don't need to be anywhere else. I am staying.

Then about 30 minutes after arriving, I decided to eat my sandwich. NONE of the waitlisters had been called in yet so it felt pretty safe to eat something and try to relax. So, of course, the sandwich I bought (a gyro) was NOT "easy on the sauce" like I had requested and I looked down to discover about a full ounce or two of gyro sauce had found its way on my black shirt and WHITE pants! I grabbed my things and RAN down the hall to the restroom to try to assess the damage. The shirt was not savable (neither was my sweater, I discovered). That left me with just the blue tank top that I had worn UNDER my black shirt. . Thank god. The pants were . . . okay. The sauce was white and after about 10 paper towels worth of soapy spot cleaning, the only person who could tell that I had splattered myself was me. But I was enough.

Maybe this is the Acting Gods trying to tell me something.

NO, I am here and I am staying here.

As time wore on and the crowd diminished, I began to seriously doubt my odds of getting in. Actors who were leaving the audition began to shoot pitying looks at those of us waiting. Friends who had arrived AFTER me (but had smartly gotten themselves on the list) went in and auditioned and left – leaving me sitting there with my stained pants, undershirt and increasingly wrinkled headshot.

Finally at about 4:15 p.m. (45 minutes before the END of auditions and almost 4 hours after I got there), they ran out of schedule Equity actors and were going to do the waitlisters only. At that point I was 11th on the list. 11 actors in 45 minutes? Not impossible but not a definite either. I began to get into my headspace. I told myself that all I wanted was a callback. A callback was the goal. Odds were against me since I "lowered" my expectations just a bit, it soothed my nerves significantly. I also knew that they would NOT go past 5:00 and that there was still a chance I would not get seen.

What I did not know what that 6 of those people in line ahead of me had gotten tired of waiting . . . and LEFT. So at 4:45 p.m., as I was the LAST person waiting, I was called in. I tried to ignore the nerves, concentrate on the fact that I was ready and I went in.

There were two people sitting at the table and they both looked worn out. I could tell by their expressions that they weren't expecting much. I introduced my pieces, found my focal point and dove in. I was about 10 seconds into the first monologue when out of the corner of my eye, I noticed one of the guys perk up, he shot a glance at the person sitting next to him. I tried to tune him out and kept going. I finished that piece and moved on to the Shakespeare. I saw the perked up expression grow into a full smile and by the time I was done, they were both grinning at me.

"Wonderful," the gentleman on the left said. "Thank you so much for sticking it out."

And I left what felt like one of the best auditions of my LIFE. And for the Intiman so . . .

Yes, Sami, thank you so much for sticking it out.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Not A Cause for Celebration

But still a good thing to have done.

Today, after 7 months of separation, I filed for divorce. I had been hoping to wait until the dust had settled and tempers had cooled so that we could move forward in a calm, adult manner. However, after seven months things had not calmed down – in fact, they had heated up. So I decided that I would be the cooler head all by my lonesome and move forward.

I am glad I did it. My stomach was all in knots but in the end, I KNOW it was the right thing to do.

This is not a reason to celebrate. A marriage is ending. A marriage I had had great hopes for. A marriage that brought forth two amazing kiddos who are now on their way to being a statistic. A marriage that I now and will continue to mourn and try to remember fondly (even when the dissolving of said marriage is terribly sour).

I will continue to try to be civil and honest and fair with the proceedings. I will try not to take the lashing out personally. I will try NOT to react when I feel bounds are overstepped and I will try not to overstep them myself just "because he is." I will continue to love the kidlets and let them know that NONE of this was their fault. I will not badmouth Daddy in front of them and I will pray that he offers the same courtesy. I will continue to love him as the father of my children even though I can no longer love him as my husband.

I am lucky that I have stumbled across a great love and I hope that he is lucky enough to do the same. I am sorry we were not able to be exactly what the other needed or wanted us to be.

I hope that he finds everything he wants. I know that I finally have.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Work is what you do for others, liebchen – Art is what you do for yourself

If this isn't "work" then why am I so tired afterwards?

I am an actor. I have been an actor for over 30 years. I work my butt off as an actor. Sometimes I even make a decent chunk of money as an actor. So why do so few people actually acknowledge acting as a real job?

I get that for a lot of people acting is a hobby. I get that. And I get that since it is "fun" work that some people are loathe to call it "real" work. But work is exactly what it is. For a show like Eleemosynary, I have to do script analysis, memorization, movement, carry around big heavy wings and run around the stage while flapping said wings and I have to climb a ladder. Sounds like work to me.

In recent days, I have (yet again) had my dedication as a parent and human being questioned all because of my chosen profession. I have been accused of being selfish, narcissistic, even sociopathic because I continue to pursue acting as a profession.

Sociopathic? Because of my ACTING??? Seriously?

I have a Bachelor's degree in Acting. I am one of the FEW people in my graduating class who still pursue the field they spent $50,000 to study. In NONE of my classes was I warned that parents are not allowed to do the job for which they trained because it makes them terrible parents. I would think if this were true, SOMEONE would have mentioned it.

I do not make much money as an actor. I am aware of this; I have seen my bank account numbers. Being poor and an actor is not terribly shocking. In fact, last time I checked the stats, fewer than 3% of all SAG (screen actors guild) actors made more than $5000 a year solely on acting. I would also warrant that a large percentage of SAG actors are also hobbyists. I just happen to not be a hobbyist. I am a lifer.

So what this makes me is poor – perhaps misguided from an economic standpoint – but it does NOT make me selfish.

This is why most actors supplement have to their income as temps, baristas or table jockeys. I supplement mine with teaching and coaching work (when I can). I charge about $35/hour for private coaching and a little less than that for classes. This rate allows me to work fewer hours to still bring in the amount of money I need to survive and to make the hours away from the kids pay for themselves.

When working full time on a show, I put in about 25-30 hours of work per week. That is a HIGH estimation. With my current show, last week I put in a whopping 10 hours of work outside of the home plus about 3 hours of at-home marketing work. 13 hours a WEEK. Wow, yeah. I spent FAR more time than that shuffling L back and forth to preschool.

I know a LOT of people who spend more time than that glued to a TV on top of 40 hour per week jobs AND they have kids.

I MUST be crazy not to see the problem here.

There are LOADS of professions that require a great deal more time from workers than I put in on the busiest of weeks. Doctors frequently have to put in 18 hour days (if not longer). Policemen often have long shifts and their lives are put in danger. Social workers have high amounts of job-related stress, low pay AND ridiculous hours. Ministers have one of the highest job-stress rates and one of the lowest PAY rates.

Are ministers and social workers sociopathic and narcissistic for doing what they feel is the job they are born to do? Or are they "okay" because no one else wants to do their jobs?

Is that the point I am missing? My job is enjoyable so therefore I am selfish for doing it. Good thing I didn't like sports. I would hate to think of what I would be accused of had I tried to pursue professional volleyball.

I am an actor. It is what I do. It is who I am. In NO way does this fact make me an unfit mother or human being. It just makes me more animated at storytime.

And less able to afford to buy tickets to one of the shows I am in.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Did we get that on tape?

Or How I Learned To Stop Being a Baby About It and Watch Myself on Screen

Yesterday, I traveled to Portland to participate in a Film Audition Intensive workshop. Portland has a thriving film community and so when I saw about the class, I jumped on the chance. I have taken a few film acting classes in the Seattle area but they seem mostly about Commercial acting and not necessarily FILM acting (which is SO not the same thing).

I was pretty pleased overall with the class. I feel that any opportunity to learn is a good thing. Life is absolutely what you make of it and that is especially true, I feel, when it comes to classes.

We were sent monologues two days ahead of time to learn for the class. I was a slacker and did not learn mine fully before class. I was telling myself that I did not have time but truthfully I did not make the time to learn it and I know it. I think in the back of my head I was afraid that I would not be able to go and I didn't want to get my hopes up by actually learning the piece. (I need to work on that)

There were 13 of us in the class and the instructor had brought in two friends of his that are heavily involved in film in both Portland and LA to act as "good cop/bad cop." The monologues had been doled out to us in groups of two and, lucky me, I was in the first group chosen to perform. We were not allowed to watch the person who was performing the same monologue we had so I was sent out to the waiting area while the first girl went.

When it was my turn, I walked into the room and went to my mark. I tried to remember what I had learned in other classes about taking all of my energy and emotion and condensing it to about ¼ its original size. I felt okay about what I did. I hate having to work with a script because of being so near sighted and the mild dyslexia. I felt my insides shaking but am not 100% sure if that was the "character" or if it was Sami Nerves causing it. The guests gave me some adjustments and I did it a second time – working very hard to incorporate the adjustments. I didn't like the second time as well because I felt like I was "acting" and I know on film "acting" is not desirable.

After everyone else went, we watched the tape of what we had all done and discussed them. At first I thought I could get away with NOT actually having to watch myself (I HATE watching myself on screen) but the instructor wanted us to critique our OWN work. SHIT. I had to actually watch it.

The FIRST thing I noticed was how tired I looked. I mean REALLY tired – bags under the eyes, grey-ish complexion, the works. I made a mental note to myself to wear more mineral makeup before my next taping session and then tried to focus on how I was DOING versus how I looked. Acting wise, I was actually pretty happy with what I saw. I was making very clear choices, my rate of speech was good, I was connected to the lines, my diction was not muddy. BUT my face was all over the place. DANG IT!

My face has ALWAYS been uber-expressive. On tape, I always look like my facial muscles are playing a fierce game of dodgeball and I have never really known how to stop that from happening. It causes most photos of me to have the strangest expressions and makes me pretty darn hard to shoot during performances if you want any hope of getting a shot of me looking anything resembling sane.

The feedback that they gave me was to just repeatedly put myself on tape and watch it and that – over time – I would get to the point that I would just know how to control the face and not have to "think" so much about it.

Watch myself on tape? On purpose?? Ohhhh geezz.

Well, if I have any hopes of getting over this latest neurosis, then putting myself on tape is EXACTLY what I am going to have to do. Maybe I will even turn it into a "thing" and invite some friends over, whip out some audition sides and put all of us on tape and make ourselves watch it. Maybe they are right. Maybe with practice – over time – my face will look more like a ballet than a rugby match.

A girl can always hope.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

And the hits just keep on coming

At what point do you say No More?

I am a lousy parent. I am a terrible wife. I am a horrible and selfish daughter. I would deserve it if my children and love were all taken from me because I am worthless and selfish and no one really cares about me anyway.

These are not thoughts that just randomly were placed into my head. Over the years I have come to realize that I was bullied, by not only classmates – because I WAS that girl in the playground that had rocks thrown at her – but by certain family members as well. It took a LONG time to come to that realization and once I did, the thought initially felt so ridiculous that I was actually angry with myself for having thought it.

But bullying was EXACTLY what it was.

As recently as a few weeks ago, this family member felt it was perfectly appropriate to publicly shame me and then tried to twist things around so that I was the bad person in the scenario because I had the audacity to be upset about it. I have had this person berate me for having children, to having a job, for NOT having a job, for having a boyfriend/spouse, for NOT having a relationship. I have been called fat, ugly, a slut, useless, a loser, etc. You know, the usual. At one point, the words "I hope you get hit by a truck and lose that baby because it would be better off dead than having you as a mother" actually left this person's mouth and slapped me in the face.

Bullying is not just a playground activity.

I was expected to put up with it because that was "just how . . . is."

So now, here I am approaching legitimate adulthood (as I like to call 40) and I have the voice of THAT person floating through my head constantly. That voice is my inner demon. THAT voice haunts me.

I have gotten pretty good at being a doormat. I tell the world how happy I am in my put-on sing-songy way. I bounce through life with my bubbly Sami persona wrapped tight around me. I jump to the defense of the defenseless and yet, when I need to jump to my own defense – I fumble. I can't do it.

I am not worth defending.

It is especially bad in times like now because during (yet another) divorce, I HAVE to stand up for myself. I have to say that my opinion matters, that I actually CAN parent my children, that I have a right to be treated fairly.

And I am having a VERY hard time with it.

I am sitting on public transit for 5 HOURS a day in order to keep Lola in the same school because I am the one who moved to a place I wanted to be. Clearly I need to be punished for this in some way. I cannot get a new job because my soon-to-be ex-spouse has a ridiculously inconsistent work schedule and I am expected to be available to the kids at a moment's notice. The ONLY reason I can do shows is because doing shows almost ALWAYS leads to new acting students and I need the work and so The Bruce watches the kids for me. But I was informed by said EX that I am not "allowed" to do back-to-back shows anymore. As if he has the right to tell me that.

I can't LIVE my life so that he can have more access to the kids and YET, he spends HOURS accusing me of making it "impossible" to see the kidlets. I have become the bad guy. Again.

No, I am not. Damn it. I just can't make it EFFORTLESS for him to see the children.

And yet, in spite of the fact that I KNOW he is being unreasonable, KNOW that I cannot keep up this pace, KNOW that transferring schools will be easier on her in the long run – I cannot seem to work up the nerve to do what I KNOW is right because that fucking voice in my head tells me that if I do, I will lose the kids because I am being selfish. Like courts will deem me selfish and - therefore unfit - for wanting me and the kidlets to be happy and actually have time together.

I am even terrified to ask for custody and child support (even though I have physical custody of the children 95% of the time) because I am afraid he will try take them from me and succeed.

I believe this fear all can be linked directly back to the bullying and the fact that NEVER was I told I was okay and smart and capable by the people who should have had my back. So, because I was bullied by a family member and it was allowed to stand, I am allowing myself to be bullied by this MAN because I can't seem to muster up the balls to stand up for myself. At 39.

It is getting better. I know it is. I have the love of a man who says he loves me "Because. Not Anyway." I have amazing friends who come to my defense when I am attacking myself. But I NEED to learn to be my own cheerleader.

I do NOT want my kids to see that it is okay to allow yourself to be treated that way. I want and need them to know that THEY are loved and are worthy of being loved. That THEY deserve happiness. That THEY are amazing, beautiful creatures that I am proud and blessed to have in my life.

So that when they are on the cusp of legitimate adulthood, the guilt and fear of not being good enough does not leave them weeping on the living room floor.

Living rooms should be for dancing.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Just you and I . . . restoring sanity

The Big Move: Phases 1 & 2 are complete. Now comes the longest of the phases. Phase 3: The Unwinding

The last few weeks have been ridiculously busy and stressful. We had performances of "The Last 5 Years" (which I produced with The Bruce) had the kids fulltime, moved into our new place, have had Eleemosynary rehearsals, had an audition last night, etc etc.

Typical Sami chaos.

But now, the end is in sight. We are moved in (although not unpacked) and Eleemosynary opens in two weeks. I have the newsletter (which is coming out late – hopefully the day after tomorrow) and rehearsals and general living to do and that is it. I did not get a callback out of last night's audition which was more of a relief than a disappointment. I know, shocking right? But wait, here is the kicker.

Sami needs a break.

Launch turned One Year Old last week. One year of pursuing acting hard and heavy. One solid year of back to back shows and I am just tired. Not ungrateful. Not burnt out. Just exhausted. My batteries need to be put on the charger for a while.

The stress of moving and the divorce and all the stress that comes with is starting to get to me. I feel tense and moody. There are a lot of days I just don't recognize myself and if I don't know who I am at the moment, how am I supposed to put the best of me into an audition or performance?

So I will take the next few weeks and recoup. Just allow myself to enjoy my current show without worrying about the next one. Unpack. Actually sit down and ENJOY the kids. Take them to the park myself. Sit and watch mindless TV with the man I have been so lucky to find.

I would like to participate in my life rather than just dictate it. Just for a few weeks. Before I return to "normal."

Then Sami will be BACK, babies. There is an EPIC Birthday Party in the works and I need to conserve my energy for it.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Drowning in the To-Do

When the To is longer than you can Do.


Memorizing Lines

Address Changes

Doctor's Appointments

Big Moves



Arranging Details

Planning New Year's Blow Outs


Writing articles and Editing the Newsletter


Each of these things sound great and totally workable – until they all need to happen simultaneously.

I am not complaining; I usually live my life with 15 balls in the air, but this week the 15 balls are all clamoring for more attention than usual and I am just having a harder time keeping them all up in the air. This is all just to say that I may not be up to my standard 5-7 blogs a week this week.

Try not to be TOO disappointed though. With this much to do, there will be much to write about later and I am sure SOMETHING will happen that you will find entertaining. Plus the Newsletter is coming out Thursday.

See you on the other side of the chaos.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Keep a Lid on it

Sami is PISSED and is trying not to take it out on anyone.

Normally I am one to take things pretty well in stride but the last few days have just been bound and determined to set me OFF. First of all, a dear friend is being abused by a castmate and someone closer to my life than I would like is being less than civil about certain proceedings.

Maybe on a normal week these two things would be able to roll off my back the way so many other things have done but under the strain of finances and the move and the new show, I just don't have the energy to fight off the temper goblins.

Then I have to go and read that a sudden increase in anger and temper can actually signify perimenopause. PLUS it turns out that women who have fits of rage score higher on pain scales than women who don't – whether or NOT they have fibromyalgia.

Well, that sucks now, don't it?

We just can't have that. If Sami starts to hurt, THAT tends to send her into a rage so if that rage were then to cause MORE pain well then . . . laws would be broken and that just will not do. Plus Sami is NOT old enough for perimenopause. No, she's NOT. Stop Laughing!!

SO, for tonight, I will sit and sip my glass of Pinot Grigio and try to squelch the desire to drive across town and punch a much deserving someone in the throat. After all, what would the kids think?

Setting a good example may not be the most satisfying thing in the immediate but it is the most gratifying in the end.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

When is “good” good enough?

Seeing "professional" actors at work always makes Sami second-guess her place in this world.

Today we saw Cider House Rules (Part 2) at Book-It Rep in Seattle. This is a show I was called back for earlier this year (and obviously did not get cast in). I generally avoid watching shows I audition for and don't get because my poor fragile psyche usually can't take it. One of two things usually happens.

  1. The girl who got my part was so outstanding that I bow down to her greatness, acknowledge her superior skill and thank the director for having the good sense to cast this way
  2. The girl who stole my part from me was so atrocious that clearly there was some mix up in the casting procedures; she must have been someone's niece/sister/girlfriend/favorite prostitute and that my not getting the role was due to poor, gin-soaked judgment.
The thieving hussy was wonderful (damn her). I think I could have done a good job with the role - DIFFERENT, of course, which is probably (hopefully) the main factor in how the casting was decided - but good nonetheless.

But is that enough?

This whole move to Seattle, while thrilling and exciting and all, is completely terrifying for me. A MAJOR factor in the decision to move is the fact that time and again, it has been 'hinted' to me that I would have been cast "if only" I didn't live so far away. Once I live IN Seattle, what happens if they had been lying to me all along? What if the reason I did not get cast was NOT because of distance? Maybe they were just being nice. Maybe that is their go-to kiss off phrase. Maybe I stunk up the room.

Today in the program, I saw the picture from a previous production of an actress that lives down in Pierce County. SHE got cast in spite of the distance! Why didn't I?

If I am just not good ENOUGH to risk the distance, what will I do if I am not good enough close by?

I watched these wonderful actors in a tough show just give it all they had. The show was tight, clean and moving. Do I have enough to bring to the table to even be allowed to play the game?

I will use this confidence breaker to work harder, learn more, be better – but if after all this time, THIS is as good as I get . . . will that be good enough?

Friday, September 24, 2010

Drop Everything and . . . Act


Sometimes you just can't leave the real world behind . . . no matter how much you would like to.

At 8:15 this morning, I got a call from my agent to check my email (which is what most calls from my agent consist of). There was a commercial audition. Today. Which (if I get it) pays $425 a DAY. Four days. Could I be there at 5:40 p.m.? In Seattle.

Crap. NO, I have rehearsal at 6 in TACOMA. Is there another time I could possibly come in?

Sure. Can you be here in 45 minutes?

Ummmmmm . . . NO.

Even if I didn't have to try to make childcare arrangements, Tacoma is still at least 40 minutes away AND I don't drive.

Obviously, I did not get to do the audition today but it got me thinking about how tough this business can be on moms. Or parents in general.

This is not the first time I have gotten a call to come to an audition NOW. Whether it is a last-minute cancelation or a short-sighted producer, sometimes the lives and needs of the actors is not even a minor consideration in the scheduling of things. Callback auditions that you get the notice of on the day of, two-show days, 12 hour rehearsals. These are sometimes 'necessary' for the running of a theatre but create severe hardships for those performers with small kids at home.

It is not just limited to scheduling.

During a recent rehearsal process, a director chided me for not "leaving home at home" once I got to rehearsal. And while I understood what he was saying (you need to leave the pressures of your day behind you and enter the sanctity of the world of the play), it is sometimes next to impossible to do that. While it would be nice to say that when I am on stage, the pressures of the world fall away (and SOMETIMES I manage to do that) what is more likely is that I am worried about a bill or if the sitter is putting L on the potty at 45 minute intervals or if the Dad of the kidlets is calling ME to wish them goodnight (knowing FULL WELL I have rehearsal and am not with them) or if the cat has finally returned or did I schedule that doctor's appointment or does P have enough diapers or . . .

What do I suggest? I have no real ideas, to be frank. I could say give us 15 minutes at the top of a rehearsal to get into a decent headspace. Maybe run a scene or two before diving into a full run – just to let us grease our wheels and get the focus where it needs to be. Is this feasible or even reasonable? Who knows? Probably not (much like most "good" ideas – this too probably would never work).

All I know is it is pretty hard for me to drop everything without breaking SOMETHING.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The “Art” of Noiselessness

Sometimes it is the silences in the middle that have the most meaning.

Today seems to be all about noise. Seriously. Soon after midnight, P woke up screaming and spent the next almost 2 hours alternating between high pitched animal howls and discomforted mumbling. But not silence. Even AFTER he finally went to sleep, he managed to keep me and The Bruce awake for a long time with moans and talking in his sleep.

This morning, L decided she was NOT going to school and let us know this with a high-pitched hissy fit.

The neighbors were trimming their bushes with a very noisy chainsaw-type contraption (which if I was not as girly a girl as I am I would know the name of).

My phone rang a LOT today but only when I was NOT in the room.

The children spent the majority of the afternoon bouncing between squeals of delights and shrieks of Mommy-Please-Let-Me-DO-What-I-Want.

Even The Bruce came home from school all "noised" out having spent the day dealing with 8 year olds who did NOT know when to shut up.

Rehearsal seemed like it would be a welcome refuge from all of the noise. But, alas, the noise just continued - only in a different vein.

What is so beautiful about this play is that (much like Pinter and his ilk), Blessing has some wonderful silences built into the script. Neither of my castmates, however, seemed very comfortable with the silences. Rather than relishing in them – enjoying them – they seem to be in a huge hurry to fill the silence with their next lines. I think this stems from a fear of the silence.

I understand that fear. Too well. I am a nervous chatterer. In life when I am nervous, I will chatter away (which ironically gives the IMPRESSION that I am actually confident but that is the subject of another blog).

The way a person knows I finally feel completely comfortable with them is when I can sit there and shut the hell up – THAT is true intimacy.

At some point, I would like to try a day of silence. See where that lands me. It might make me completely crazy, who knows. For now, however, I will bathe in the seconds of silence as I manage to come across them. However infrequently those seconds may occur.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Stuck in the middle with . . . who?

All around me there is stress and most of it isn't even aimed at me. So why do I feel trapped by it?

I am going through a divorce. One that is looking increasingly like it will NOT be amiable and may possibly include a custody battle and yet, I feel like my life is in SO much a better place than just about everyone I know.

I have more than one friend who is contemplating leaving a spouse, a few who are engaged in extra-relationship tryst-ery, several friends who are in the middle of divorces and custody battles, friends and relatives who are out of work, who are moving cross-country, who are pregnant and non-thrilled, who are NOT pregnant and not thrilled and who are just basically having a hard time with life and things.

And yet here I sit – out of work, on the verge of a huge move and a divorce (HUGE life stresses) and I feel . . . fine. Happy even. So what is wrong with this picture? Why am I not freaking out like everyone around me is?

Okay, let's be honest. I am a little stressed out but NOTHING compared to the chaos that is surrounding me.

Some time in the last year I seem to acquired quite a bit of a Zen attitude about stress. Life has frequently been overwhelming for me but in recent months, it has taken a awful LOT to get me down. I might have a day or two where I am "off" but overall my attitude has changed significantly. I have decided that life is actually too LONG to deal with a lot of nonsense so, because of that, I refuse to put up with a lot of it. If you piss me off, you know about it pretty quickly. If I love and appreciate you, you know THAT pretty fast too.

But now so many people I love are falling apart and seem to need me to lean on. I am doing my best to take it all in stride but there are days that THEIR stress starts to weigh on me.

I can't walk away and I refuse to turn my back on them. So I bear their burdens as much as I can and continue to breathe and remember that it wasn't THAT long ago that I was in their shoes with more stress than I could bear on my own. I choose to return the many favors that were granted to me.

So for the time being I will put up with feeling stuck in the middle with them. I know that most of them would gladly be stuck in the middle with me.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Soooooo close and yet . . .

31 points.

A little more than 2 years ago, I was having major issues with my hands and feet randomly going numb on me. I kept going back to the doctor who at first thought it was MS (that is the FIRST place his mind went) and he ran a battery of tests – all of which came back 'normal.' Finally he just declared it fibromyalgia and sent me on my merry way.

Problem is that fibromyalgia is not supposed to get worse . . . and I was getting worse. A lot worse.

It all came to a head in November of 08 when as I was driving the kids back from a pediatrician appointment, my feet and hands suddenly seized up and I jumped the curb and slammed into a fence. In a school zone. Right in front of a cop.

That was NOT good.

That culminated in a $2200 fine and the temporary loss of my license since my health issue was 'non-conducive to safe driving.'

I finally changed doctors. The FIRST thing the new doctor asked me was "did he check your vitamin D levels?" "Ummmmm, no?" "Okay then, we will check that before we worry about anything major."

17. My Vitamin D levels were a 17. "Normal" is 32 and up.

Well, no WONDER!!

He prescribed MEGA-doses of Vitamin D (a in 50,000 iu daily) and within a week or so my hands and feet were back to normal.

Cut to today. Finally after 3 tests and almost 2 years, I have finally passed the test and am being recommended for license reinstatement by my doctor. Okay, I actually didn't PASS. I needed a 32 to pass but since I got a 31 this time and a 31 6 months ago AND since I have not had an episode in more than 6 months, he said he will approve me to be declared "cured."

So NOW I can get my license back. . . . as soon as I pay my fine.

Dang it. Where am I going to get that kind of money?? I am SO close to being an "adult" again only to be thwarted by my bank account.

What else is new?

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Bust a Move

The Bruce and Sami are moving to Seattle . . . so why doesn't Sami feel like celebrating?

After many years and countless concessions, I am FINALLY getting to move to a "real" city. I have been jonesing for this for all of my adult life. Pittsburgh was close but not quite what I had been looking for and now, finally, I am preparing to move to a city with real transit and a rocking theatre scene and tourists! I should be over the moon about it.

If only it wasn't for my ex.

We are moving exactly 39 miles away but you would think we are moving 3900 miles away and that I am secretly hiding the kids in a box in the basement based on the reaction to the news of my big exciting move.

I feel like I am bending over backwards to give him a much time with the children as humanly possible but it seems to not be enough. Now he is threatening and bartering and accusing and, frankly, he is TOTALLY harshing my mellow. It is really hard to be excited about something that is making someone else so unhappy and bitter.

I am not here to badmouth him (or anyone else for that matter) I am merely expressing my frustration. I just don't see what the big deal is. The new place is 3 buses away from his house. L will STILL be going to the same preschool and we will be still coming into Tacoma fairly regularly (The Bruce teaches here and the show I am currently in rehearsals for is here PLUS I have other kids and a huge pile of friends that live here). I would like this to all be as civil and grown up as possible, but I know that divorce rarely is. I was just hoping ours would be the exception.

I will continue to try to make things as easy as possible – not for HIM but for the sake of the kidlets. The First Batch's dad totally bailed on them – physically, emotionally and financially – and while I know the dad of the kidlets would not do that, I still want to make sure that they get as much Daddy Time as his schedule (and the National Guard) allows. If I have to, I will bus down to T-Town with them every day. I want them to have a relationship with their dad and vice versa.

But NOT at the expense of making my simple dream come true.

Friday, September 17, 2010

When work and real life collide – guilt flies

This is the second show I have done this year in which I play a terrible mother. Is the world trying to tell me something? Hate to disappoint you. I already knew.

I have 5 kids. Two sets. 21, 20 & 18. 4 & 2.

I was really young when I had the First Batch. I did the best I could under the circumstances but by virtue of being so young and raising them mostly on my own, I made a lot of mistakes. I had the best of intentions (fortunately) and did not make the mistakes SOME young moms make. I did not spend my time partying or resenting the kids or things like that. I just think I had grander expectations of what we all were capable of handling. I worked all the time, went to college and ran a theatre company while trying to raise the kids. I thought I was showing them that hard work was important. I seem to have taught them that they "can't" live up to my standards.

And so they do nothing at all. Which makes me feel like a huge failure.

So now that I am being cast as all of the "bad" mothers, it brings all of those feelings of failure right to the front. I know that I am not an alcoholic and that I didn't abandon my kids but I can't help feeling my personal sense of failure as I am trying to explore the failings of my characters.

I have never felt so "method" in my life.

And I look at my little ones and think about the choices I am making now – mostly different choices than I made with the First Batch - and I worry that THESE choices are going to cause some of the same harm THOSE choices made. In other words, I am still screwing up.

One of the best things about being an actor (as far as I am concerned) is that it forces one to evaluate one's behavior pretty much constantly. The "why" of character development is my favorite aspect and the "why" of Sami usually goes hand in hand. I am consistently fascinated by why we do what we do so these characters are forcing me to look at my life and ask WHY am I doing what I do.

And in the end – with luck – I will be making more good choices than bad ones. Then I will be able to get to know these women without feeling like I am one of them.

Maybe then I will start being cast as GOOD mothers but not GRAND mothers . . . I don't think am not old enough for THAT yet.    

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Since when is being an ASS considered a valid “process”

People are the problem.

Meeting and working with new people is both my favorite and least favorite part about this business. I have met some fellow theatre-types that have gone on to become lifelong friends.

I have also met people I want to stab in the eye with something acidic.

I have been pretty lucky. On those occasions I have had to work with someone who makes my skin crawl it has primarily been in large cast situations. It is VERY easy to avoid a rotten apple when there is a whole bushel between us. When the cast is teeny . . . it becomes more challenging.

I have a pretty high BS tolerance (out of necessity) but there are certain things that just set me off. I can handle actors who take forever to learn their lines or are timid to start off with or are clueless about blocking or just plain don't know what is expected of them. What I cannot handle are actors who are completely disrespectful to their fellow actors or the crew or the director.

Lucky me. I seem to have one of those to play with now. Yay. (Note the sarcasm drippage)

Now, this is where my mouth tends to get me in trouble. I am having a very difficult time NOT telling this person off. I want to scream "shut up! Cut out the snarky attitude because you are not talented enough for us to have to put up with that mess."

The problem is I don't think ANYONE is talented enough for that mess. There is a great line in the tv show "Action!" where someone says, "It's nice to be important, but it is more important to be nice." I strive to be the kind of person that people want to work with – that people will know will not got all crazy and diva on them. I don't always succeed but I do try.

I think some people relish in being the asshole and expect the rest of the world to put up with it because they are ARTISTS.


I understand that everyone has their own process – their own way of getting where they need to go. I really do. However, I feel that some people use their "process" as an excuse for bad behavior and that fully gets my goat. If your process interferes with the rest of the casts ability to enjoy THEIR process, then clearly there is something wrong.

Theatre is a collaborative art. It is about relationships and communication and if all you can be concerned with is how all of this is affecting YOU, I want to throw kiwis at your head.

SO PLEASE – I beg you – stop directing your fellow actors, stop mouthing off to the director and stop treating the stage crew as your personal whipping posts. Follow these simple requests and we will get along just fine.

Just don't expect me to let you get away with it if you don't.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


What do you do when all you do STOPS all at once?

In the past week an awful lot has changed. "The Last 5 Years" closed, my "real" job ended, I quit another "job", my acting class did NOT 'take' for this session, Lorelai started Head Start, the "ex" came back after being gone for over 2 months, we have started packing for the Big Move, I began rehearsals for Eleemosynary (which means for the first time in 6 months, I am working on a show The Bruce is NOT a part of) and well . . . you get the idea.

I have always seemed to thrive under chaos but this all may be just a bit too much chaos at once. A friend once told me that a "normal" person would crumble under the amount of pressure I put on myself. Right this moment, I feel like I am crumbling under the LACK of decent pressure.

I seem to be having a case of emotional bends.

I will get back to my normal soon enough. Please just bear with me in the meantime.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Last 8 Months

$2800 spent, 8 shows, 6 solos, 2 duets, 49 seats, 273 audience members (in 2 cities) and what ended up being one shockingly successful production of "The Last 5 Years."

Well, CRAP, now what?

The bad thing about accomplishing a goal is that once one has done so . . . there is really nowhere to go from there.

I mean, how do you top a show that was described by audience members as "amazing" or "spectacular?" When friends and strangers alike approach you in tears after your performance. When good friends (who came to support you) seemed genuinely shocked that you "pulled it off." How do you come back from that?

But mainly, how do come back when (in spite of the external praise) you are not 100% sure you made it all the way to your destination?

As I have said before, the main purpose behind producing "The Last 5 Years" was to try to overcome my fear of singing in a musical. Our director and musical director were amazing about guiding me through the scary bits and helping me refocus. The Bruce was incredibly gentle and supportive during my many meltdowns and pleas for an understudy. The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.

Then why can't I be happy about what happened?

Maybe I expected too much.

Let's focus what did happen: I did a lead in a TOUGH musical without vomiting once (unless you count the almost vomit session on Preview) and we got good (if not GREAT) audiences without any press.

What more do I want?

Maybe it is still just too soon to try to analyze it. Maybe I am completely insane. Maybe I just should NOT do musicals because I will never be happy with it.

Who knows?


I got through it and if nothing else, I do have THAT sense of accomplishment. Everything else will just have to be a bonus. Not an expectation.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

A small test of priorities

Tonight, the things that matter most took a front seat from the back seat.

Tonight we had a music rehearsal scheduled to tighten things and refresh the ol' muscle memory before we launch into the second (and final) weekend of "The Last 5 Years." The Bruce and I were not 'required' to go but felt that it would serve everyone best if we went to sing along to help the flow of the music. Having had to spend all day away from the kidlets (and knowing that the next two days would be a flurry of activity resulting in limited kiddo time), I opted to bring them to rehearsal with us. Yes, the rehearsal would have been easier without them and we did have a sitter lined up but Sami needed toddler loving.

The eldest child had taken the kidlets to the mall while I did "real job" nonsense and so The Bruce went to retrieve them. Eldest child had fed them pizza so we were able to just head straight up to Seattle for rehearsal without having to worry about dinner-ing them. Lorelai chatted happily in the backseat while Perrin entertained himself with a rubber duckie. 50 minutes later (and less than a mile from the rehearsal location) with NO warning, suddenly Perrin let out a cry and the poor thing vomited all over himself . . . and his carseat. And there were no towels, no change of clothing and very few wet wipes to deal with the gastro-intestinal fallout. On top of that, we were already 20 minutes late to rehearsal.

The Bruce and I shot each other "now what?" glances as Pip sobbed with disgust and discomfort.

"Screw it," I said. "We're going home."

We cleaned Perrin up the best we could with what we had on hand and headed back south after a call to our musical director to explain our absence. Perrin seemed to sense that we were going home "because" of him and must have liked the idea because now he took over the chatting and babbling from his bigger sister and seemed instantly "better" the moment we started heading home.

Was this the most professional thing to have done? Likely not, but as I learned from some mistakes made with the First Batch, there is always another rehearsal but the kids have to come first.