That would be me

That would be me

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

What to expect when you’re (not) expecting

I have had an amazingly awesome/stressful/horrible/wonderful week.

I knew going into this week, I would most likely be stressed out. I have a LOT going on this week and while I thrive in chaos, I also crumble a bit under the stress of it all. I have no one to blame for these things but myself. I hold myself to ridiculously high standards and have mini-implosions when I can't live up to them. But even with those expectations of myself, even though I throw myself out to the Universe on an almost daily basis – I never really expect the Universe to catch or even TRY to catch.

This week (so far – it is only Tuesday) has involved an AWFUL lot of Universal catch and release. I had the Big Commercial Audition but didn't get a callback. Had a fabulous audition Sunday night but am UNAVAILABLE for callbacks (which is usually casting DEATH). Started to actually feel GOOD about my performance in the show only to destroy that confidence by watching a tape of rehearsal (note to self: Do Not EVER Do That Again).

Life is a balancing act. There has to be bad in order to the good to appear. If all you ever see is success, how do you truly know it means anything?

I have made a life and career out of taking huge risks and falling on my face. The major difference between me and a lot of people is that all that falling just callouses me up so that the next trip doesn't hurt quite so bad.

So, I will continue to go through this week (and the next several hundred) and repeatedly throw myself to the ground in the hopes that one day, when I least expect it, someone or something will catch me right before I land.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Something BIG is coming

Every once in a while, I find myself facing a daunting week. THIS is one of those weeks. Between today and next weekend, the following is happening (ready?):

Release of first issue of Actors and Auditioners Newsletter (Saturday – okay, that was this morning but it still counts!)

Audition for Eleemosynary (Sunday night – AFTER all day Tech Rehearsal)

Audition for Big Fat National Commercial (Monday – plus dress rehearsal)

Audition for Big Fat Seattle Theatre (Thursday – plus Preview Performance)

Opening Night of Last 5 Years (Friday)

Annnnnd scene!

Now, for those of you in the "real acting cities" this may look like a normal week, but around these parts this is exciting.

Ironically, my feelings of jealousy and inferiority just yesterday have given way to a "holy crikeys, things is about to get huge!" Now, I am well aware that nothing may come of any of it, that I may fall flat on my face and have to spend the rest of the week nursing my imaginary wounds. But the opposite is just as likely to be true and THAT is where the adrenaline rush comes in.

Every audition is an opportunity. A chance to be seen. A chance to play. A chance to show your stuff.

I am OVER this idea of not being good enough or pretty enough or young enough. All I can do is go in and give it my best shot. Be the most prepared. Be the most professional. What happens on the other side of the table is totally out of my control.

The fact that so many opportunities have been presenting themselves to me lately tells me that great things are on the horizon. I just need to keep my eye on the prize. Need to keep my wits about me and keep up the work.

When things finally blow up, you will be the second to know.


Friday, August 27, 2010

A confession of sorts

Two of my former classmates from college had "big" things happen to them this and they were both mentioned in the trades. I love reading the trades (Variety, Backstage, etc) in the HOPES that I will see a familiar name or face. I usually love seeing that my friends and acquaintances are making things happen for themselves. This time was a little different and I am not sure why.

This time, I am jealous.

Not "grr, how dare you be happy and I am stuck in a miserable experience" jealous. It is just your run of the mill "man, have I made the right choices??" jealousy.

I do not begrudge them. I know that both of them made sacrifices to get where they are. Sacrifices that I was unwilling or unable to make myself. And I am absolutely THRILLED for them. I just can't help feeling a little sad that I am not where they are.

That said, Launch has been going shockingly well in recent months and I should be very proud to have gotten as far as I have since it started.

PLUS I have a Big Fat (National) Audition on Monday to keep my mind occupied.

PLUS I have "The Last 5 Years" opening this week which is proving to be one of the best shows (if not THE best) I have ever worked on.

There is just the slightest stinging sensation that this is not Broadway and I may never be interviewed for Diva Talk nor written up for being cast in (yet another) Big Regional Theatre production.

And I have to learn to be okay with that. At least for the time being.

Success is such a relative thing anyway. Had you told my 19 year old self that I would be doing some of the craziness I find myself in now, I would have said that was just wishful thinking. Where I am is a far cry from where I was or where I ever thought I would be.

Back then, I would have probably been jealous of where I am now. And jealousy gets you nowhere.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The (Relative) Calm Before the Storm

Sami has the next 3 days "off" (including today but she does have her day job today and tomorrow so don't get too excited). No rehearsal until Sunday though and then all Hell Week breaks loose.

Now a "normal" person would see this as an opportunity to: nap, take a mini-vacay, clean house, do laundry, grocery shop, go to the park with the kidlets, or any number of things that have absolutely NOTHING to do with the show.

When you are producing, however, days "off" are merely opportunities to get "show crap" done while the sun is still up (as opposed to 3 in the morning which IS normal). There are programs to create (and print), sets to paint, slips to buy, a disco ball to approximate, promotional marketing emails to send, book jackets to design on top of all of the decongestants to freebase, newsletters to get out, toddlers to wrangle and relationships to keep alive.

So I am spending my morning (in addition to writing this entry) trying to figure out how to get everything that 'needs' to get done DONE so that I can actually take Saturday OFF.

A breather. A day of actual rest and relaxation. A chance to let the voice regain its bearings before I throw that music back at it again.

So I will hope and pray that my cohorts will get their bios to me in time, Spencer's has the strobe light thingy we need, that my ridiculously old version of Publisher holds out and that JC Penny's has the Petti-Shorts in stock.

And then on the 'Sabbath,' Sami shall look on all she had created, smile and proclaim "this is good – let's nap."

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

A “method” to the madness

"You are so Meisner, it's ridiculous."

Herr Director might have been teasing when he spouted this little nugget at me last night but it did get my brain thinking about the various acting "methods" that are out there and what they mean (or don't mean) to me.

There are almost as many "methods" as there are actors: there is the aforementioned Meisner Technique (named after Sanford Meisner), The Method (based on the work of Stanislavski and Chekov at the Moscow Art Theatre and then "Americanized" by some of the US's finest teachers РStrasberg, Adler, etc) and various other named techniques. A whole industry has been built around the "teaching" of acting. A lot of people are making a lot of money by making actors feel like they have to learn THIS method because THAT method has been deemed wrong or pass̩.

And I know I may piss off some people, but I think a LOT performance teachers are downright dangerous.

I think that learning the "art and craft" of acting is a beautiful thing. I do. If I didn't . . . boy, would that make me a hypocrite since I 'teach' it!

HOWEVER, I think that the various acting methods are nothing more than tools to get to where you need to go. But that is all they are.


I believe that every person has it in him(or her)self to become an incredible actor. Each person has the capacity to create life on a stage. All they need is the guidance and belief that they CAN. Acting is hard work but it is also remarkably simple in some ways. (of course, there are those "stylized" forms of acting such as Kabuki but those fall into a separate category as far as I am concerned) The main thing to remember is that the goal of acting is to create a life on stage.

Life. The Art of Living.

What the various techniques teach is a way to create that life on stage. That is all. No one method is better than another because no one performer is exactly like another. What works for me may not work for you. The trick is to find what DOES work for you and THAT is where a good teacher comes in. A good teachers shows you all of the tools, what they look like, what the hazards are and then lets you play with the ones you think are shiniest. A good teacher (much like a good director) is a GUIDE - not a dictator.

Acting and performing are scary enough – we should have the safety net of a trusted guide and the tools to get us where we need to go.

And if that makes me "Meisner" then so be it. I guess that is what works for me – even if I wasn't aware of it.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Bragging Rights?

Herr Director told us tonight that he felt this show was ready for "off-Broadway." (this is NOT a Broadway type show so that is some HIGH praise!)

In my 30 some odd years as an actress, I have NEVER had a director tell me that I am doing work of that caliber. And I have to tell you – THAT FELT GREAT.

I have been VERY nervous about this show since we decided to do it almost 7 months ago. 7 months of "Am I Good Enough?" 7 months of "will anyone want to see it?" 7 months of "Should I get an understudy?"

And tonight, a man whose opinion I respect VERY much made me feel like a rock star.

He might have been blowing smoke up my tush (although he really isn't the type) but I don't care. I am on Cloud 9 and I don't care who knows it.

So take that all you doubters (self included)! Tonight Sami kicked the crap out of this show and there is NO going back from that.

Paying to Play

Yesterday, in preparation for the newsletter, I interviewed two groups of people. I interviewed Therese Diekhans (who will be my first Actor Profile) and also a group of community theatre performers (because I wanted their opinions on the types of questions I should ask for the Director Q&A).

What came out of those conversations that I found most interesting is the price we have to pay for being actors. Sometimes literally.

The community theatre actors had remarked that (among other things) they would like to know prior to auditions whether or not they would have to pay a fee to perform. I was incredulous. A fee to perform???? It turns out that some local community theatres (especially the ones further out from the "cities") charge fees to their performers to offset the cost of the productions. These range from call-it-as-they-see-it Performance Privileges Fee to ludicrous in their audacity Costume Fees.

I was at first flabbergasted but then became incensed. Theatre is hard work and I get pretty sick of people acting as if it is all fun and games. It is bad enough when "regular" people do it but when fellow theatre artists start treating it that way – well, it gets my goat. And then to try to profit off of newbies' desires to be in a show . . . well, the hair on the back of my neck stands up and colorful words start flying.

So this was all fresh in my mind when I met up with Therese.

Therese and I had done a staged reading a few years ago and I have been "following" her career ever since.

Therese became an Equity (union) actress just a few years ago (thanks to a children's show national tour) and has found that she is having a much harder time finding work ever since making the leap to Equity. So much so that she advises local actors to think hard before joining Equity in a market like ours.

So, basically, if you are a community theatre actor – sometimes you are expected to pay to play and if you are a professional actor – sometimes it just DOESN'T pay to play.

If you want to know more about Therese (plus a Director Q&A, audition tips and a Meet The Newbie feature) – please sign up for my free newsletter (see box to the right). First issue goes out this Saturday!!! :)

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Striking a Balance

The advantage to the life I have chosen is that, most of the time, I can work from home. The bad thing is that, most of the time, I have to work from home. This makes getting to spend time with the kidlets easier and keeps day care costs down to a dull roar but it also creates a dilemma most people don't have.

When do I get to stop working?

My work is always around me. My office-ette is located upstairs in our Great Room (which is our kitchen/dining room/living room combination) so if I feel like being anywhere other than the bedroom or the bathroom at the house – I am "at work." And I have workaholic tendencies.

Imagine being an alcoholic and you live in a pub. Yeah, it is kind of like that.

Now, don't get me wrong. I would NOT want to go back to the way it was with the First Batch. I had to work ridiculous hours just to make enough money for us to be broke. If I wanted to act at all (which was my sole source of sanity during an otherwise INSANE time), then I had to take my poor darlings with me. And I frequently did. But once I left work – Work was left behind. I was free to relax (as if that was something I have EVER been good at) and spend time with the kids and/or friends. Work needing to be done was not constantly watching me as I walked around the room trying to ignore it. Stacks of postcards were not snickering at me, demanding to be addressed and mailed and most certainly, my computer was used SOLELY for entertainment and word processing and not attached to my fingertips at all times.

I miss leaving work at work.

And the kicker is – it is only going to get worse. As I get better at marketing my writing and coaching services, the MORE I will be "working" and the less I will be "living" in our communal living space. This is both the goal and the fear.

I will make a concerted effort to do what all the time management books tell me to do – schedule ME time – but if in order to leave "work," I have to leave "home" - well, that seems to negate the whole idea of working from home in the first place, now doesn't it?

If only I could afford to quit work and make home home again.

Making a "scene"

Yesterday morning, I had an audition up in Seattle for an "interactive multimedia thing" (as The Agent called it) and as I stood out in the hallway, the elevator opened and a small group of women exited and walked passed me. Suddenly one of them stopped and turned to face me. She smiled and greeted me by name before stating how lovely it was to see me again and walked off.

It took me about half a second to register that she was the Artistic Director of one of the Big Theatres up in Seattle. Holy Crap! She knew me by name at a glance!

And I haven’t worked for her. Yet.

What I have done is send out a ridiculous amount of headshots and show promotions and I can only guess that THAT is the reason she recognizes my face. This tells me two things that I really needed to know: that Launch is starting to work AND that I do, in fact, look like my headshot. Both are excellent news.

THEN I ran into a local musician/actor/musical director that I HAVE had the great fortune of working with recently. Kisses and hugs later, we parted ways and swore we would see each other’s projects (which we probably won’t be able to but we will MEAN to).

When my name was called, I was delighted to discover that the person running auditions was my favorite local casting director – a very nice lady with a wicked sense of humor. She hugged me and we chatted a bit before I read my pieces. My audition was not the BEST it could have been but it was certainly one of the most fun auditions I have had in a long while.

As I was leaving the room, I ran into one of my favorite Seattle theatre people in the hallway. I apologized for missing his show and he gave me crap about it – a typical conversation between theatre types, it seems.

I left that experience feeling more a part of the local theatre crowd than I have since moving here.

Back in Pittsburgh at any audition or theatre event I would go to, inevitably I would run into a hand full of people I knew. That was the result of the 15 years I spent there auditioning, directing and producing. I felt very much a part of the theatre scene there and have very fond memories of it.

I look forward to becoming even more a part of the “scene” here.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

You always remember the first time

Tonight we had our first rehearsal with the orchestra. Well, technically, it was only 3/5 of the orchestra but it was exciting nonetheless. As first times tend to go, it was a little rough. This comes as no surprise since this was the very first time they had ever played together. Ever. And one of the musicians had not even gotten a copy of the CD so he was HEARING it for the first time AS he was trying to play.

Rather than make me worry about the fate of the show, I was STRUCK by how these amazingly talented people were working so hard on really tough music two weeks before opening night with very busy lives and/or ridiculous commute - all because I asked them to.

Yes, there is SOME money involved but even I know the amount is paltry compared to what they are worth.

Herr Director frequently makes references to the fact that a few years down the road we will all feel blessed and fortunate to have been a part of this show. I am already feeling that way. This people are sickeningly talented and I get to play with them.

Sometimes the theatre gods decide to be nice and have everything just kind of lay itself out at your feet as you need it. That has definitely been my experience with this show. It is all coming together exactly as it should. And even I am much more comfortable with the whole process than I thought I would be. Just imagine how good it is going to be once the audience shows up.

Two weeks till opening and I can not wait to show these people off.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

14 Days (or how I learned to love blogging and all the neuroses that it dissipates)

Hypocrisy is (according to Wikipedia - my source of all pseudo-knowledge) the act of pretending to have beliefs, opinions, virtues, feelings, qualities, or standards that one does not actually have.

Sami is a hypocrite.

I spend the better part of my days teaching prospective actors about all the beauty and talent that is within them. I show them ways to work past the fear and doubt that only serves to crowd out their creative genius. I scold (lovingly) and reprimand them (teasingly) for any cases of i-suck-itis that they might have developed.

And then I spend a ridiculous amount of my own time wallowing in fear and self-doubt.

And that, my dear beautiful and talented friends, is hypocrisy. And I should be ashamed of myself. I AM ashamed of myself and yet I struggle with that fear and self-doubt almost as often as I struggle to get my children to mind me. My psyche and the 2-year-old have a lot more in common than just runny noses.

The beauty of this blog (or any form of journaling – public or otherwise) is that I am confronted daily with the knowledge that my actions effect others and I have to be ever vigilant if I want that affect to be a positive one.

One of the beauties of my work is that I get to spend time with people new to the “business.” With people who are still giddy and enthusiastic enough to think the theatre is the Next Coming. People who have not been jaded. And I get to encourage and guide and act as an overgrown cheerleader.

How positive and effective a teacher can I be if I beat myself up for the very same things that I teach my “kids” are perfectly normal? Am I lying to them? Paying lip service to the methods I was taught not THAT many years ago? Is it all just wishful thinking?

Do I need a me?

As of yet, I have not found one (after many years of looking). What I have found is this. Writing daily about how my work effects my life and vice versa. Seeing the crazies on the “page” somehow makes the demons less frightening, the fears less insurmountable and the worries almost laughable. It allows me to take myself and my work just a little less seriously. It reminds me (as do my enthusiastic students) that what I do is SUPPOSED to be fun.

After all, they call it a PLAY for a reason.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Will act (or coach) for food

The “rent job” is ending in two weeks and Sami is in full on crisis mode.

For the past 10.5 months, I have been working with the US Census as a Partnership Assistant. It has been a positively kick-ass, perfect-for-me job as I got to work from home, would get assignments and would then be trusted to get them done on my own plus it paid decently. And it is about to be over.

Now what?

Normally I wouldn’t panic because I have always had my coaching students to fall back on. I have been an acting coach for over a decade now and have been fortunate that they always seemed to fall from the heavens just as I needed some extra fundage. But thanks to the awesome “real job” I have had for the past almost year, I have not had much time to coach nor advertise my coaching and therefore have next to no one lined up. Couple that with the toilet the economy has been swirling in and the prospects for new students seem as likely as my being asked to the Prom next spring.

But a girl can dream, can’t she?

In my panic-driven work frenzy today, my brain was working on all the ways I can increase my student base while still being able to help out my buds and somehow ending up ahead (financially speaking) in the process.  Then I remembered something I had actually learned in Real Estate training years ago; no one will come to you for your expert advice if they don’t know they need it.

Just a few weeks ago, I was coordinating auditions for GFS and I saw actor and actor making STUPID mistakes that potentially hurt their chances of getting cast before the audition even started. Are these people moronic divas? Probably not. Most likely they just don’t know any better.

That is where I come in.

I have decided to write a monthly newsletter (aimed mostly at “newbie” theatre artisans) that will address the whos, whats, whys, wheres and for-the-love-of-god-don’t-do-that’s of acting and auditioning. And it will be free.

Then how are you supposed to pay your rent, Sami, if you don’t charge for the newsletter?

Well, honestly, I am not sure. I hope that I generate enough interest in the newsletter that maybe someday it pays for itself. Maybe it will be just a form of advertising. Who knows? What I do know is that this is the most “right” any crazy idea I have ever had has felt. And I have had a few. So now I get to interview directors and actors, compile audition tips, gather some monologue choices and write the bejesus out of this bugger.

Now, if you will excuse me, I have to research how much great ideas are going for these days.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Sami is not getting sick.

Repeat after me. Sami is not getting sick.

No, seriously. Sami CAN NOT get sick. Say IT!

Thank you.  There is no way that I can do the vocal gymnastics required for this show if I have to freebase Sudafed just to get through it. Sorry, just ain’t happenin’.

I have been able to ward off the ickies for most of this year. This is quite an accomplishment when you small young cesspools . . . I mean, children at home.   And this past weekend the little darlings seemed to be competing for some kind of Snot Marathon.  Then poor Bruce decided to join in on the fun. Our house had become a veritable Petri dish of tiny wannabes clamoring for stage time.

So now that the fam is all starting to get better, of course,  I can feel the beginnings of the tickle in the throat, the pressure in the ears, the dryness behind the eyes.

Fortunately, I have always been able to hold off a cold for as long as possible. The Virus Gods have been very kind to me and have allowed massive infestations to simmer just below the surface long enough to get through tech and that ever important “oh crap the critics are here” period. I can’t tell you how many times the day after closing, my body has suddenly screeched to a halt, set fire to the kitchen and closed up shop.

This time doesn’t feel any different. The only real difference, of course, is my panic that this time I won’t be charmed – that this time I will come down with some wish-it-was-deadly form of bronchial pneumonia that will linger just until closing night and the only real symptom is a sudden lack of control over the vocal chords. I know this is just the paranoia talking but it is hard to feel confident when tiny phlegm bubbles threaten to wreak havoc with your big belty number.

So for the next few days I will be mainlining the multivitamins in the hope of keeping the sickies at bay. I might throw in a zinc lozenge for good measure. Hell, I might even gargle with cider vinegar as Herr Director suggested.

What I will NOT be doing is getting sick. Damn it.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Launch – Revisited

This morning I came to a harsh realization. I am probably never going to get to do Regional Theatre. Or a National Tour. This may not mean much to you but it came as a crushing blow to my currently shaky psyche.

Last year, when I decided to embark on “Launching” a professional acting career, I eagerly added almost 400 Regional Theatres and Touring Companies to my marketing database and email list. I signed up for audition page notifications for over 360 different theatres. ( is sheer BRILLIANCE) The plan was to try to market to every paying theatre out there in the country with the hopes that one would bite. I managed to get a few mass mailings out to the full list and had some nibbles and even an audition scheduled  (for Barter Theatre in Virginia).

Then life happened.

It is pretty difficult to tour the country when you are the mom of two small kids. It is next to impossible to do so when you are a single parent of said children. I could launch (no pun intended – probably) into all the reasons it SHOULD still be feasible but as things stand, it just isn’t. And yet every day those audition notices would come crowding my inbox with the hope that I could maybe do something about them.

And it was really starting to get to me.

So this morning I decided to stop torturing myself and I deleted all of the “out of area” theatres and casting directors. I sat and deliberated over my list, trying to justify keeping each listing but I just couldn’t. Oh, there were a few I just couldn’t bear to part with (Steppenwolf, Guthrie, Manhattan Theatre Club), but for the most part, I had to say good bye to that aspect of the dream. At least for the time being.

So, for now, I will focus on getting the attention of the amazing theatres that are in my backyard (Intiman, ACT, Seattle Repertory, etc.).  I will continue to market, self-promote, train,  submit and audition and audition and audition. I will just have to do it "at home."

And for now, home HAS to be where the heart is.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Whoever said theatre was all fun and games should be slapped.

Today, I spent 9 hours doing publicity crap for The Last 5 Years. 9 hours of press release writing, hunting down the contact info for the various Seattle/Tacoma publications and websites, filling out “Event Submission” forms and emailing various theatre companies in the area. 9 hours of writing the exact same information 25 different ways and staring at my teeny netbook screen until my eyes wanted to pop out of my head. 9 hours of the most boring, tedious work imaginable. All while tending to two sick kidlets and one sick-ish Bruce.

And it was all completely necessary.

The thing many people forget is that there is a whole other aspect to theatre. The audience gathering. Audiences don’t have special sensory perception that allows them to magically know that there is something entertaining and “important” happening at a certain venue.  They need to be notified somehow and that is a science (and a chore) in and of itself.

And so I spent the hottest day (so far) of the year crouched over a keyboard and now my brain is too mushy to come up with a witty blog entry for today after having spent the entire day “writing.” Maybe down the road, I won’t have to do the grunt work myself but this is how it is for the time being and so I shall make my best efforts to give the same focus and attention to the hunting and gathering as I do to the performing.  

After all, without an audience there is no point in doing the show in the first place.

Friday, August 13, 2010

The Kindess of Strangers

I fully believe that people’s true nature comes out during a time of crisis. I admit to being a pansy. When one of my kids fall, my first instinct is to freeze and stop breathing for a few seconds before common sense takes over and I run to them.

Earlier this week, I witnessed a 13-year-old boy get hit by one of those lifted, too-big-to-be-needed-in-Tacoma pick-up trucks. I had just looked up in time to see the driver’s side front of the truck slam into this boy and then screamed. And IMMEDIATELY looked away. 

(I have seen TWO people get completely CREAMED by vehicles and am in NO hurry to see that again). 

Fortunately, Bruce was more clear of mind and seeing what just happened, pulled to the side of the road and got out to check on him. Several people witnessed what happened and called 911. Bruce saw that the kid had moved to the sidewalk and came back to the car. 

I went over and sat next to the boy - who was looking stunned sitting there. It wasn’t until THAT moment that I realized how young this boy was. He was taller and heavily built and on first glance looked to be about 19. I asked him if he had anyone he wanted me to call and he glanced at me for a split second with tears in his eyes and a look of complete horror on his face and said trembling “can you call my mom?”

At that moment, this boy stopped being just any kid and became one of my own. I thought of all the times I begged Andy to watch where he was going as he crossed the street. I thought of all of the ridicule I got for being SO strict about not jaywalking.  We tried calling from my phone but could not get anyone to answer. We then tried again from his phone. The boy tried to explain to his mom what was going on but was crying so hard that he was having trouble getting the words out. I took the phone from his shaking hands and calmly tried to explain to his nearly-hysterical mother what had happened and where we were.

After speaking to the police – who had arrived by that point – about what we had seen, I walked back over to the boy. By then, his mom had arrived. She was pacing in disbelief. I walked over and introduced myself to her and she just grabbed me and gave me a huge hug. I burst into tears and apologized to her for not watching what happened – for launching into self-preservation mode and looking away. She just held on to me. I spent the next 15 minutes or so standing there with her and the police and paramedics explained what was going on. The entire time she looked at me for reassurance that it would be okay. I took her hand to steady her and just stood there. I stayed with her until she left with her son in the ambulance. I gave her a copy of my business card and told her to call me if they needed anything. Food, a ride home, anything.

And then we left.

I thought about that boy and his mother a lot over the next few days. Wondering if he was alright, if she had made it home, if they needed anything but not expecting to ever have answers.

She called me two days later. She seemed concerned that I wouldn’t remember who she was – not realizing that I had not been able to get her confused, terrified eyes out of my mind. She told me that she owned a local restaurant and would I please join her for lunch. I happily agreed and we made the arrangements.

I wasn’t sure what to expect. I didn’t know if she wanted to ask us to testify about what we saw. I didn’t know if she just wanted to hear again how her son – who had been walking with the light in the crosswalk – had been hit. I didn’t know.

What she wanted to do was thank us. She provided us with a lovely meal and wonderful conversation and several heart-felt embraces. She cuddled with my little ones and worked hard to remember their names.  I left her today thinking that she and I would probably become friends. This beautiful woman with a VERY lucky son (he only had a broken foot after all that) and an amazing restaurant.

This may not have been the best way to meet but it certainly cemented in our minds what kind of people we are. We are two moms in a big world that tries to hurt our babies and we will work together to make sure that doesn't happen. We both know that if nothing else – we can count on each other.

And at the end of the day isn’t THAT what being human is all about?

Thursday, August 12, 2010

When did THAT happen?

Today I found out that a previous boyfriend passed away. He and I had only dated a few months but had parted on very good terms. He was a lovely gentleman, a decent actor and an overall SEXY, silver-haired stallion.

I found out that he was gone via Facebook. I further discovered that he had died 4 years ago.

And I had heard nothing about it.

Now, in the world's defense, I had moved out of state in the years immediately preceding his passing but, in my mind, that doesn't excuse the fact that NONE of the dozens of friends we had in common felt the urge to mention it to me. Not one. In 4 years.

This isn't the first time to find out about a former flame's passing after the fact. I once found out about the death of an ex-boyfriend on CNN (he was a professional athlete). When I asked my friends about it, they all claimed to think I already knew.

But this one felt different somehow. This one felt like a punch to the gut.

And then to find out on Facebook . . .

Now I am NOT blaming the messenger here. Had she never posted about him - I still would not know about it at all. I have just been having some issues in recent days with Facebook being used as a notifier of Big News. Just last week, I found out that a dear friend was moving out of state soon. I had seen her just a few days prior and suddenly I see a Facebook status about packing and moving and I was thinking WTF?? Not too long ago, a friend canceled her party via a Facebook status update, which I never saw. Fortunately, we contacted her to find out what type of snacky foods she liked - otherwise we would have been parked in front of her house wondering if we had been Punk'd.

I love the seeming intimacy Facebook (and similar networking sites) creates. But this is a false intimacy if the only contact is through reading 1-2 sentence blurbs about a person's life. This is NOT the place to drop big bombshells or to change big plans (unless of course you are using the MESSAGING - not chat- feature, which I feel is as good as an email but not as good as a phone call or face-to-face talk).

It only takes a slighter longer amount of time to pick up the phone and call as it does to type up a few lines. Next time you feel the urge to drop Big News via a social networking site consider who the recipient might be and how they might react.

I'm just rambling now. My mind is flooded with the imagery of those few short months as I try to recreate this man in my mind one last time. I hope that when I "move on," someone has the heart to let you know so you don't have to read about it.

Unless you read about it in Entertainment Weekly. I am kind of okay with that idea.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Trust. Me?

I have trust issues. The reasons why are numerous and to delve more deeply about them would be to cause issues that no one needs right now so I shall refrain for the time being. An affect of the trust issue is that I tend to be a teeny bit control-freak-esque. Nothing ridiculous or pathological, just enough to be annoying and discussed behind my back at cast parties.

When feeling nervous or out of my element, the trust issues (and accompanying mania) tend to show up with an overnight bag and a toothbrush. So, of course, now with the whole musical thing happening (I might have mentioned this previously), my freak (let's call her Linda) has parked herself on my sofa and is eating all of my Frosted Mini-Wheats.

Cue the director - who has decided that he will single-handedly attempt what no person has been able to do before! Get Sami out of her head during a musical number. Tonight, we tackled what is probably my most difficult number (vocally speaking - it sits right around my 'break' and has to bounce back and forth from head to belt and back again). Linda, of course, was sitting in the audience spewing her typical venom and throwing things at the stage. What transpired was akin to a scene right out of the film "Star!" In that film (for those of you unaware), Julie Andrews plays legendary actress Gertrude Lawrence. There is a scene in the film where Lawrence has to sing a high note and she is STRESSED OUT about it (sound familiar?) so the director decides the best course of action is to fill the stage with so much business that Lawrence is too busy to worry about the note. We are talking a TRAPEZE.

Well, now my "scary" song has turned into one of the big comedic numbers in the show and I barely have time to breathe - much less worry and stress about a stupid high E. I must have been looking at him funny because he kept saying, "trust me."

I wanted to scream, to run, to question his sanity, to slide under the piano bench with my fingers in my ears humming to myself until he finally left me alone. But I didn't. I smiled meekly, nodded my head and tried to remember to breathe. And when it was all over - THREE attempts later - I received the first round of applause given during this show's process. And I didn't die.

So I will continue to trust, but if I see anyone installing a trapeze I am outta there.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

In defense of negativity.

I have been put on a diet. For 7 days in a row, I am not allowed to say anything negative. Period. And any time I am caught saying anything negative, I have to start the 7 days all over again the next day. So, before I launch into today’s blog I need to say one quick thing.

Starting over tomorrow!

Okay – now that THAT is out of the way . . .

Here is the thing. Sami (that would be me for the uninitiated to my tendency to self-refer in the person on the third) is a big, old neurotic mess. She knows this about herself. It is probably one of the reasons FOR the whole third person silliness because then she is taking a step back “out of herself” rather than taking full ownership of what is happening.

Okay. Taking ownership of what is about to be said.

I HATE singing. I hate the sound of my voice. I hate the way I can feel it in my throat even though I KNOW I am not suppose to. That I am just supposed to trust that it will go where it is supposed to go and not try to control it. I hate that I can’t smoothly transition from chest to head voice in spite of 20 YEARS of voice lessons. I hate the fact that I am pitchy.  I hate that I sound (in my head) like a 12 year old BOY when I sing. I hate that everybody tells me I sound “fine,” because you know what . . . Fine is not good enough. It never has been good enough for me and probably never will be.

Also, I don’t think that thinking any of that stuff is a bad thing.

Because I don’t let it stop me from doing it anyway. I think that my voice is substandard and yet keep doing it BECAUSE I am determined to get THERE. Determined to get to that place where I AM happy with it and I CAN feel comfortable with where it is and then – I will probably quit. I am hoping I never get THERE until the day before I die.

I totally understand and agree that negative thinking will get you nowhere in a hurry. I also feel equally as strongly that complacency will get you nowhere just as fast. My dissatisfaction with where I stand drives me to work harder, to tweak this and adjust that – getting me closer to the ever elusive THERE. I am NOT a great actor – but I strive to be. I am NOT a great singer – but I continue to work at it. I am NOT the great person I could be – but each day I follow the path that gets me a step or two closer to where she is.

When I tell myself that I don’t have it or that note was flat or that word was wrong, it is because if I DON’T, if I allow myself to sit on my laurels and think “screw it, I got this” then THAT is when everything will fall apart.

Because I am an inherently lazy person - without a goal, I flounder. Knowing and acknowledging where I am not – pushes me to where I should be.

And let me tell you – that is going to be a rockin’ place to be. Once I finally get there.

Desperate Times Call for Cardboard

We lost our babysitter. The reasons why and how are really not important (suffice it to say that the situation was HIGHLY annoying and leave it at that). The affect of all that annoyance, however, is that we currently don't have a consistent person to watch the kidlets while at rehearsal. In a "normal" theatre, this would not be a big deal. A huge stack of toys, a pile of snacky food and a well-intonated "Sit here and don't touch anything" is usually enough to buy a few uninterrupted rehearsal minutes. However, we are currently rehearsing in a big, empty, unfinished commercial space. While this is a much appreciated rehearsal venue, it also poses real danger to miniature humans who have not yet learned where not to put their fingers.

In walks The Bruce to the rescue. As you can see by the picture below, The Bruce cordoned off a space with rope and "walls" made from cardboard boxes and filled it with toys to keep the kidlets occupied. This worked shockingly well especially when accompanied by copious amounts of Cheetos.

In spite of the relative safety of the kidlets, I still found rehearsal to be extremely difficult. As I have said before, musicals are not my Happy Place and when my attentions are divided, it proves to be even more difficult. Plus, I am not the nicest person on the planet when I am stressed out so I was hyper-sensitive to the tone of my voice and my body language when dealing with the little ones (I mean, after all, none of this is their fault so why should they be subjected to the Wrath of Mommy) so I spent the majority of rehearsal in a "hypo-manic state" (as our musical director put it). This is certainly NOT conducive to an effective rehearsal process and we decided to end the evening early. Would it have been better to "call in Mommy?" Probably not, but was enough accomplished during rehearsal to have made the cardboard playpen worth it? Only time will tell, I suppose, but in the meantime, we are still mostly child-care-less and - it being summer and all our back-ups are off being normal teenagers - don't have a real viable alternative in the works. 3 weeks before opening is not a good time to have people bail on you but at the end of the day, the safety and care of the kids are most important, so cardboard walls to the rescue.

Now if only The Bruce could create a cardboard padded room . . . I would be all set.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

The latest obsession

Sami tends to get a little overzealous about new endeavors. She admits this freely. For example, she once decided that she would only write about herself in the third person – just to see if she could. She could. And did. For YEARS. She even had a newspaper column that ran for a few years in which if she made any kind of reference to herself, she did it third person. Currently, she is mocked for it relentlessly on Facebook because this is how she prefers to write status updates. It makes sense to her after all – the sentences begin with her name  - not I.

See? Overzealous.

The latest obsession is the new blog. Of course it is. Can’t just do something because it is fun. Have to go all crazy on it. Install a counter. Worry over the number of followers. Constantly pester friends by asking if they have read it – as if the friends have nothing better to do.

Because I am an actor (and therefore a little obsessed with the “why” of human behavior), I am trying to take a step back and think about why I am becoming obsessed with a 3 day old on-line diary. I could try to blame the cat (after all that is what The Bruce would do) but instead I have to look a bit deeper at the recent string of mini-obsessions.

South Beach Diet (again – quite successful last time it was attempted and isn’t really “needed” this time but it kept popping into the noggin so here we find ourselves.)

Negativity Diet (instigated by Herr Director but now pondered endlessly by yours truly as she overanalyzes just what exactly counts as negativity)

The Fashion Diet (inspired by a Yahoo news story about a group of people who wear only 6 items of clothing or less for a 30 day period – washing is allowed so no need for you to worry about that one too)

This may seem to you to be a string of non-connected ridiculousness but I suspect I know from whence this stems.

The Last 5 Years is a musical that I am producing and starring in that opens the beginning of September. In about 4 weeks.

And I am terrified.

I mean, the show is going very, very well, We are already doing full run throughs and are both mostly off-book (I get to do this show with the boyfriend aka The Bruce). This show could be huge for me career-wise and I know it. I have been working really hard to push myself out there and get people who make Big Casting Decisions to even know who I am and possibly care enough to come see a production I am in. And I am inviting them ALL. And I am terrified they will not show up and equally terrified that they will.

Musicals are not my strong suit. I am a decent singer (especially in a rock band type situation) but have always felt out of my league when it comes to musical theatre and here I am, in one of the toughest roles out there for a woman and I put myself there so if it crashes and burns – there is no one to blame but me.

Is it any wonder that rather than thinking about that, I choose to obsess over my Follower Count?

So if you could do Sami a solid and read her blog. Heck, you don’t even have to read the darn thing – just go to the page now and then so that the counter goes up a bit and she can stop futzing with it and start focusing on what is really scaring her.

Sami would really appreciate that and so would I.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Straddling the line

Most people, when asked what the difference is between “professional” theatre and community theatre, will likely go to the money factor. Professional theatre pays – community theatre doesn’t. Professional theatre is “real” theatre and community theatre is a hobby.  And this usually appeases the asker and the subject is then dropped.

It is just not that simple. Not for me at any rate.

There are those of us who tread the lines. We are not fully “professional” actors nor are we “merely” community ones. We bounce back and forth as opportunities present themselves. Familiar in both yet not truly “belonging” to either.

Professional theatre is at its very essence . . . work. It is a job. There is a paycheck and clocks to punch (and co-workers you WANT to punch). There are hard and fast deadlines and contract negotiations and a strict designation of who does what and when to whom and who is allowed to play where. This is true on stage, back stage, in the booth, in the dressing rooms and outside in the smoking area. People in professional theatre never stop “working.”  The very nature of being in the entertainment business means you are always on the lookout for your next job, your next paycheck, your next meal that does not somehow involve Ramen noodles. You always network and schmooze and try to get “face time.” Even when socializing. Go to any gathering where there are “professional” actors and/or techies present and the conversation usually goes something like this.

“Hey! I haven’t seen you in forever. What have you been up to?”
“Well, I just closed a show at the 5th and am starting rehearsals over at ArtWest in two weeks but then I have nothing lined up so I am auditioning at . . .”

In “real life,” people have conversations about . . . life. Not work. As a theatre professional EVERYONE is a possible lead on a job and is treated accordingly. For this reason it is VERY difficult for any kind of true intimacy to occur.

This is the main way in which community theatre differs in my opinion. Community theatre is a group of folks who may or may not know what the hell they are doing but are working together in the best way they know how to put up a show. The show HAS to happen and since no one else is there to do it, they pick up a screwdriver, hammer or light board and just do what needs to be done. Actors will sit backstage betweens scenes and mend a torn hemline. Assistant directors will suddenly mid-run find themselves on stage pushing a loaded down truck around. No one checks the union regulation of whether or not this is permitted. A job needs to be done and the person closest to the need gets stuck doing it – usually without too much complaining.

Because of this (or perhaps in spite of this) tremendous friendships are formed. Lifelong friendships. A battle has been fought and won and everyone made it through relatively intact. This is a cause for celebration.

This, in my opinion, is where the REAL theatre is.

This is all being brought to the forefront of my mind today because I just spent several hours with about two dozen community theatre warriors.  There were celebrations over a relative newbie getting a leading role in the next production but for the most part the conversations centered on friends, children, wine, hobbies, chocolate with bacon and, of course, sex. All the conversations were about the real tangible things that make live worth living.

There was next to no mentions of work, the finding or losing of work nor was anyone plugging their latest project.

Well almost no one. I was, of course. Then again, I am a professional actor at heart. Not a “real” one.

Friday, August 6, 2010

All right! Who broke it??

I think my funny is broken.

What remains to be seen is if the funny is permanently broken or if it is just a momentary lapse.

Last night, I had an audition for a show that I am producing. An adorable show. A very funny show. The kind of show you leave wondering what kind of pharmaceuticals the playwright was smoking in order to come up with it.

And I tanked the funny.

Oh, I was moving and touching and even almost burst into tears at one point. As far as an audition goes, I felt it was some of my finer work . . . had it been for a Big Serious Drama. Not for a comedy. Therein lies the issue. Where did the funny go?

Just a few years ago, funny was my go-to. I was notorious for big, broad, ridiculous comedy. I would go to great lengths for the laugh. I have been bald, naked, covered in body paint, thrown over shoulders, dressed in drag, covered in hay with blacked out teeth, you name it. If it was funny, I was game. I had even begun to wonder if I actually could ACT because it seemed ALL I could do was funny.

Then THIS year happened.

Suddenly, Sami was an "actress." All seriousness - all the time. Big, overwrought, pass-the-hanky ACTRESS. At first, it was pretty exciting. Could I manage to play a bitch without bursting into a giggle fit? Could I be poignant? Could I  . . .  cry on cue????

Last night as I was staring at the sides for a show I have now read several times, I just couldn't find the funny. Trust me, I looked. I found the underlying heartaches and discomforts and disappointments, but just could NOT find the funny. Finally I said "screw it" and just played what I saw.

And it fell flat.

Well, not FLAT but definitely not funny.

So now I am on a mission to refind my funny. It was such a HUGE part of who I am as a person and as a actress, I can't imagine moving forward without it. Imagine going through life without your favorite jammies or fuzzy slippers. You can do it, but your feet will get cold.

I like my feet warm.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

(Not So) Humble Beginnings

I know what you are thinking . . .

"Good GOD, do we really need another blog from some nobody actress who thinks she can write?"

I know that you are thinking it because as I am writing this - I am thinking the exact same thing. No, we really don't. Here's the thing though. My take on things. Ponder this (or don't) as you will.

Sami has to STOP verbal vomiting on Facebook.

That pretty much is what this experiment boils down to. As I approach the Big 4-0 in this ridiculous business and have, of late, taken a far more serious approach to my acting/theatre career, I have been discovering that I am the QUEEN of saying stupid crap on Facebook that inevitably bites me in the butt later. Whether I offend a director that I may or may not care about working with again or if my producing partner has (legitimate) fears about how my spewing makes us as a theatre company look to the rest of the world, my "need" to give my opinion about all things theatre has had repercussions.

"Well, yes, Sami, but people will read it here too. Ding dong."

That would be the HOPE at least. The main difference is HERE my oh-so-colorful opinions will only be read by those with at minimum a passing curiosity of what I have to say. NOT each of the nearly 1000 people who have deigned me quote-unquote interesting enough to "friend."

"Then why call it Mommy, the Actress?"

Because I am a: a Mommy. Of FIVE to be exact. And b: I am an actress. Being the one ALWAYS effects the other and I am eternally wondering if being both does not detrimentally effect each. Not that I can do a whole lot about it now - should have thought that one through previously - but it is still worth discussion in my relatively humble opinion.

So there you have it. More to follow. TRUST me on this one.