That would be me

That would be me

Sunday, October 31, 2010

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

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

"How did it (the show) go?"

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

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

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

Because I just don't know.

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

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

So therefore, I don't know.

And I wish I did.

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

An Afternoon of Transit-ory Chaos

Well, at least my life is never boring.

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

Today took the cake however.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, October 25, 2010

Don’t Be a (S)Lacker

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

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

Right now, I am in collection mode.

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

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

So I muddle through.

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


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

What do you say to taking chances?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NO, I am here and I am staying here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Not A Cause for Celebration

But still a good thing to have done.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

Sociopathic? Because of my ACTING??? Seriously?

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

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

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

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

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

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

I MUST be crazy not to see the problem here.

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Did we get that on tape?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A girl can always hope.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

And the hits just keep on coming

At what point do you say No More?

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

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

But bullying was EXACTLY what it was.

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

Bullying is not just a playground activity.

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

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

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

I am not worth defending.

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

And I am having a VERY hard time with it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Living rooms should be for dancing.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Just you and I . . . restoring sanity

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

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

Typical Sami chaos.

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

Sami needs a break.

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

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

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

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

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