That would be me

That would be me

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Are We Sensing a Pattern Here??

Or Fitting a Square Peg into a Round Hole.

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

Shows SINCE Launch

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Sami's Cure for the Audition Jitters

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

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

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

Are you picking up on the sarcasm? Good.

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

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

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

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

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

And when I was done, I left. Confidently.

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

Friday, November 19, 2010

Performing with the Plague

Or The Show SOMETIMES Must Go On

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

Plagues and Launch do NOT mix.

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

So what is a girl to do?

She auditions and performs anyway.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Show Mustn’t ALWAYS Go On

Or sometimes there are more important things to do.

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

And she had to go alone.

Her husband stayed home because he had a show.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Even GOD takes a day off.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Torn Between Two Maybes

Feeling like a fool.

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

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

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

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

THIS situation is not normal.

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

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

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

Do you see my dilemma?

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

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

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

Sometimes a plan can ruin a good thing.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Well, how about that??

Or Sami loves surprises.

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

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

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

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

Plus I worried what on earth we would talk about.

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

It was effortless. At least on my end.

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Let the games begin

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

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

Say what? Vacillate the what?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Ah well. You win some. You phlegm some.

Monday, November 8, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

The Big Birthday Bash:

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

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

Launch 2.0:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Dreaded Question

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Singing . . . not so much.

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

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


Saturday, November 6, 2010

“Home” Hunting

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

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

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

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

So I am on the hunt for a new home.

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Taking Them Down a Notch by Taking It Up One.

Or What Happens When the Gods Fall

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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