Tuesday, September 28, 2010
When the To is longer than you can Do.
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
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
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.
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 wayOR
- 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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
$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.
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
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.
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
When the nerves get the better of you, DO something.
A casting director from one of the Big Seattle Theatres has reservations to see The Last 5 Years. AND she have them on a day that only had 2 reservations. Hers!
So what does Sami do?
Well, panics (of course).
Think about it. An audience of two – ONE of which is a VIP – would NOT make for a very relaxed Sami during performance. First of all, since she does NOT currently know what the casting director looks like, if there are only two audience members Sami could probably guess quickly WHO that CD is and would NOT be able to focus since her brain would be too busy trying to see if sad CD was having a good time. SECONDLY, if there are only two people in the audience then how would the CD know just how funny Sami can be (since there would be no one else there to laugh at the silly bits). Third, Holy Crap – Launch is working . . . NOW WHAT????
Clearly an audience of two just won't do.
So Sami sprung into action – like the producing super hero that she is.
We offered 2 for 1 tickets for that performance, offered some free tickets at Seattle Comp Tickets, gave some tickets away on Facebook and plugged the living daylights out of that show.
And now we have at least an audience of 18 and Sami can live with that.
NOW. If only she can live THROUGH it.
Tuesday, September 7, 2010
When one fantastic week is followed by another.
Last week, I felt invincible (mostly). The opening weekend went great, I felt VERY good about several auditions and my kids were well behaved (again . . . mostly). The relationship is continuing to be the best of my life. The move to Seattle is progressing. Life seemed to be just about where I want it to be. Now, I will admit that everything is not perfect. Too many things are "up in the air" and there are some really tough decisions that need to be made but overall, life is pretty doggone great.
Surely this lucky streak can't continue, I thought.
Then I got cast in my THIRD dream role this year AND got a call from one of the Big Seattle Theatres that their casting director is coming to see "The Last 5 Years" this weekend. Holy Crap!!
And it is only Tuesday!
Well, I am not sure if the lucky streak will go on indefinitely, but I am certainly enjoying it while I have it.
Monday, September 6, 2010
One month ago, I started a new endeavor which is slowly changing my life for the better.
August was a month of changes. First there was the clothing diet which slowly downsized and simplified my wardrobe (and also taught me how to change my attitude towards clothing).
Then came the rehearsals (and subsequent performances) of "The Last 5 Years." This is teaching me to get out of my head when singing and worry less about how "pretty" it sounds and more about WHY the song exists in the first place.
Finally, I started this blog – which is surprisingly having the greatest effect of all. Based solely on the momentum created by this blog, I have: started the Actors and Auditioners Newsletter, started submitting query letters to magazines, submitted a book query to a publisher and have begun writing daily again. That last one is the biggie. I used to write daily. For years. I have fallen out of the habit in recent years but since I have developed an audience with this – I have someone to be accountable to. This motivates me so I am getting 'er done.
And I thank you for it.
Writing for you (and for me) is a habit I have no plans of breaking.
Sunday, September 5, 2010
Who needs an audience filled with strangers, when you can have one filled with friends!
Last night, we had the benefit show for Gold From Straw in Tacoma. We figured that we would have a pretty decent turn out (since that is MUCH closer to home) but did not expect the outpouring of love that greeted us.
To be perfectly frank, I was the most nervous about last night's show. When you go to a show where you don't know anyone in the cast there is always a different expectation than when you see one that friends are involved in. If you just go to a "stranger" show, there is no expectation on you to like it. You can go in and just feel about it any old way because you have no one to answer to. It just isn't the same when you go support friends. You hope and pray your friends don't suck; that you will be able to find SOMETHING nice to say in case they do. That the production surprises you in some way. When friends come to see YOU in a show, there is that expectation on you as well. They hope you don't stink (or they hope you DO which is a different issue entirely).
Last night, I could feel crossed fingers and support the moment I came on stage. I could just tell that those people were in the audience out of love, to support me and The Bruce in our ridiculously frightening experiment. They sent love to our orchestra. They laughed, applauded, oohed and aaahed and went with us the whole way. It felt like they were in the show with us.
It was completely emotional and overwhelming.
Thank you, dear friends, so much for coming out and wishing us well. You will never know just how much that meant to us.
Love and all that jazz!
Saturday, September 4, 2010
–noun, plural -er·ies.
1. brave spirit or conduct; courage; valor.
—Can be confused: bravery, bravado, bravura.
1. intrepidity, fearlessness, boldness, daring, prowess, heroism, pluck, spirit, audacity, nerve, mettle, spunk.
Last night, I did one of the scariest things I have ever done in my life. Last night, we opened our production of "The Last 5 Years" which is a two-person musical with one of the harder scores in the musical theatre canon. And somehow I lived through it.
So what is the big deal about that?
I have spent the better part of my life TERRIFIED of singing. I don't mean that it makes me nervous. I mean that there are days I would rather jump off of the Aurora Bridge than open my mouth and try to squeak out something resembling a tune without the benefit of other voices or earplugs to drown me out.
I HATE the sound of my voice. Hate it. It is one of the few things that I am still an over-sensitive, neurotic adolescent girl about. My voice. And even more than I hate my voice, I hate the FACT that I hate my voice and how it just FREEZES me during auditions and performances.
So I had to do something about it.
I have taken voice lessons for about 20 years. I have been in about 25 musicals (mostly as ensemble). I used to be in bands, sing karaoke, perform singing telegrams, anything I could think of to get over the fear. I figured if I could sing Happy Birthday while wearing a banana suit, then I could handle a musical theatre audition, right?
Granted, I have been much LESS crazy than I used to be. It has been a few years since puking immediately before or after (or unfortunately DURING) a singing audition. I managed to be able to sing a song loud enough to actually be heard over the piano. But still, my chest would tighten and sheer panic would set in.
I turn the Big 4-0 in a few months and did NOT want to go into "official adulthood" with childish fears holding me back. Time to take action.
I am an actress so I figured if I could find a show that was more about the "acting" and less about the "singing," then maybe – just maybe, I could finally get the hell over myself. In a fortunate turn of events, I found myself with access to a free performance space and I thought, "that's it. This is my sign." I actually decided ON THE SPOT to do the hardest show I could think of (that still fell within my singing range but was just rangy enough to make me work for it).
I asked a dear friend (who is an amazing singer) to please do the show with me. In a leap of faith (having never even heard me sing NOR heard the show!), he agreed and we were on our way.
We compiled a group of people that I trusted to completely fail in front of. We secured rights. We promoted the living daylights out of it (mostly to ensure that I didn't chicken out last minute). And we rehearsed.
I am pretty sure than my team was scared, at first, of how I would handle things. I would be physically shaking during music rehearsals; I begged to not have to perform promotional "pre-production" shows. Even my voice teacher seemed less than confident in my ability to "pull it off."
But as rehearsals progressed, I found my "voice" and found all the reasons FOR what the character was saying. It became less about hitting that E and more about WHY she was flipping out at that moment. I am not saying the singing aspect became less scary, but it did become less important.
Going into tech week, I knew my words and I knew I knew my notes (even if I wasn't completely sure I was always on pitch). Mostly I knew WHY my character was going through things and that became my complete focus.
So last night, at opening, I sat backstage before we started (the 10 minute hold for the audience did NOT help matters) with my stomach acids rising and tried NOT to focus on the fact that I was about to have 7 solos and 2 duets in front of people. People who PAID to hear me sing.
And it wasn't terrible.
I think the stomach acids and nerves did a little number on the voice and I did not quite hit the notes the way I wanted to, but it didn't kill me. The Gods of Musical Theatre didn't smite me on the spot for having the audacity to try to play with their ball. I adjusted and got through it.
Of course, afterwards, I stood backstage in TEARS fearing I had destroyed the show and wasted everyone's time. I hesitantly went out into the theatre (after changing and pulling myself together) and was greeted by an audience member who just stood and stared at me. In complete tears.
"Are you okay?" I asked.
"It was just so real," she replied and asked for a hug – she needed assurance that I was okay. She was so caught up in the emotion of what I had just done that it overwhelmed her. I held her and realized that she didn't care that I had to mix that note rather than belt it or that I may have been just under this note. She loved the show and it had touched her.
And isn't THAT the point?
So, am I "over myself?" Hell, no.
Does it matter that I am not vocally perfect? Not anymore.
Friday, September 3, 2010
Do you ever have one of those days that seem to just go wrong from the second you wake up? You stub your toe on the bed, slip in the shower, and bite your tongue instead of your Corn Flakes. You know . . . THAT kind of day?
Well, yesterday was NOT that kind of day.
Yesterday was the kind of day you hope for but know that the odds are against you.
Yesterday was a day of multiple "Big Deal" events.
First off, I had a Non-Equity General Audition for one of the Seattle Big Regional Theatres. They hold them every other month but you are only permitted to attend twice a year. I actually kicked off Launch last year on October 1 with one of these auditions. That one went fairly well, ending with a "nice job" and that was about it.
THIS audition was a completely different story.
When I walked into the room, the auditor looked at me as though she was pretty sure she knew me (I am hoping that is because I am memorable and NOT because I send TOO many postcards with career updates). We had a brief conversation about how we "might have known each other" and then I did my two pieces.
I felt pretty strong about my pieces. I had not "over-rehearsed" HOW I was going to do them. Rather I decided to try to just learn the words inside and out and to focus on WHAT I was saying and just let the body do what it does naturally. As I was doing them, I recall feeling how easily they seemed to be flowing. There was none of that normal "I am auditioning" tension. I was just and my words and we seemed to be moving along in perfect harmony.
After I was done, the auditor was smiling and we had a great talk about how much she loved my pieces and wonder why more actresses didn't choose ones like them. The words "wonderful, very nice, specific" sprouted up quite a bit. She then went on to say that while this season was fully cast but that NEXT season would be announced in a few weeks and I would "probably be hearing from them."
Now, I have been doing this long enough to know that her saying that may not actually lead to anything. I don't care. Those words were exactly what I needed to get out of that audition. Everything else is gravy.
But wait!! There's more!
Then I get a phone call from an audition that I had earlier in the week – even though I was NOT available for the callbacks, the director decided to have ADDITIONAL callbacks so that he could see me again. Woot!! He even scheduled the auditions around my ridiculously busy weekend.
Last night we had our Preview performance for "The Last 5 Years." Small but wonderfully receptive audience that absolutely roared with applause at the end of the show.
As far as Sami the Actress goes – days just don't get much better than that.
Opening Night Tonight! Let's see if the awesome continues.
Thursday, September 2, 2010
For years, I saw clothes that were the "wrong" size. Clothes that made me feel too fat, too tall, too dumpy, too trampy, too old, too young, too . . .
These feelings were particularly strong when I am in the process of gaining weight (as in for baby-making) or losing weight or being all gross and pre-menstral. If it is true that "clothes make the man," then I feel it is just as true that "clothes can un-hinge a woman."
They're just clothes, right? How can clothes make you feel anything?
Well, of COURSE, it isn't my Ann Taylor Loft obsession that is to blame for the frequent breakdowns of my fashion psyche. Nor can I fault my ever-expanding collection of 'layering tanks' for the fact that I can never find something to wear that will alter my unfortunate self-image. It is just than in a vain (get it? Vain?? Never mind) attempt at appeasing the Bad Self Esteem monster, I had acquired a ridiculous amount of clothes. PLUS I was terrified to purge the ones I had outgrown/shrunk out of in the hope/fear that I might be "that size" again.
About 6 weeks ago, I was reading an article about a movement called Six Items or Less. The idea was that people all over the world limited their clothing choices for an entire month to six items. (This did NOT include pajamas, workout clothes or underthings). The "creators" stated it was a way to get back to basics and to curb consumerism.
Whatever it was supposed to be about – I just thought it was a cool experiment.
I was extremely intrigued about the idea but decided to "sit on it" for a bit. I tend to get really "excited" about things but then the next shiny toy catches my eye and that initial excitement fades pretty quickly. This one, however, stuck with me. The Bruce would walk into our bedroom and catch me staring at the clothes in my closet. As I would fold laundry, I would think "do I really need this?" I would joke about which 6 I would pick if I were to do it.
It just wouldn't leave my head. So I clearly had to do it.
Much like making the decision to do was tough, the paring down of my wardrobe to the 6 items was also challenging. A lot of people who did the diet previously stuck to an all black wardrobe but I am not all "all-black all the time" kind of girl so I did NOT want to do that. I pared it down to 10 pretty easily. It was those last 4 pieces that took about a day and a half of deliberation to finally settle on. Because of my job, I had to make sure that any clothing I had would be audition/callback appropriate. This one caused me no end of grief. Finally I went to the website sixitemsorless.com and found out that "work uniforms" did not count against your 6 items. Perfect! I grabbed a simple brown jersey dress, called it my "audition uniform," decided on the brown versus cream colored slacks and we were off.
A huge initial benefit that I found was as I was paring down to the 6 items, I also purged everything from my closet that no longer fit. I am currently a size 10 and I had clothes in my closet that were size 18!!! Before even starting the diet, I had cut my wardrobe almost in half!
The actual diet itself was shockingly easy to follow. For the first three weeks, I took pictures every day to document. Then, honestly, I got bored with the pictures. I had already documented every possible combination and didn't see the point of continuing to do that. PLUS, we got REALLY busy and I would forget.
Some clothing combinations worked better than others and I bought some belts to try to spruce things up but that only lasted about a week or so. In the end, what seemed to work best for me was the simple top/bottom with no real accessories to speak of. I am not a "jewelry" girl so that seems to work just fine and I didn't feel like I was putting on a costume.
As the month was nearing its end, I was more and more convinced that I could pare down my "regular" wardrobe even more. In the end, I cut back to about 4 of "everything." 4 jeans, 4 tanks, 4 t-shirts (long and short), 4 sweaters, etc. I kept more pants than I originally planned but I have toddlers who like to share their lunches with my lap so that seemed reasonable to me.
The best part?
Right now, I look in my closet and all I see (other than about 50 empty hangers) are clothes. Just cloth and thread and buttons and zippers. Nothing more.
|The Diet Menu|
|What is left of the wardrobe|