Faith, The Rehearsal Club, and Living the Dream…

It has been a long while since my last update.  My sincerest apologies – sometimes you need time to adjust and process and… shall we say, regroup?  Lots of productive things have been happening in all areas of my life, both professionally and personally. So let’s get right down to it.

Faith.

This is usually a touchy subject for most people.  Most actors figure that our art is a big enough religion to house, nourish, and fulfill us, right?

Wrong.  The reality, at least for me, is that it is not.  The business of “show business” has not been conducive to fulfilling me and nourishing me, not even housing me, as I believed and hoped it would.  This is partly due to childhood adolescence, partly due to the big, hard, knocks of the big, bad city, and partly due to a gradual misplacing of my faith and worship…  Oh don’t worry, I have not become some cloistered nun, although the thought most certainly crossed my mind…

It became apparent to me that there was something that I was missing.  Something beyond this delicious ambitious drive I’ve had for as long as I can remember.  And that is a reconnecting with the spiritual vibe that connects all things together, including my art.  As Alec Baldwin mentioned in his Arts Advocacy Day 2011 speech:

“… I think that, more importantly, there is – and I always play this card hesitantly because I don’t know if it plays very well in this town – but there’s a spiritual component to the cultural work that we’re asking this government to do.  I come from a business where we all know a great secret…  And that is, that when most people lay dying in their final moments on this earth, they don’t think about that fabulous bill their congressmen passed for them.  They think about that song, they think about that book, they think about that poem, they think about that scene from that movie, they think about that moment that man or  woman had in that musical, or dramatic play.  They think of dance, they think of the arts –  The arts are what is under the skin and what is in the soul and in the hearts of people in this country…”

By reconnecting spiritually, I am able to piece together the epiphany that I am a vessel of truth.  That the stories I tell are not for myself alone but for the world.  That the world benefits on a powerful spiritual level from what I have to offer…

Every day, I make it a point to visit a church or cathedral in the city, doesn’t matter which one.  I soak up the historical landmark with appreciation for the souls that built it reverently, and I spend an hour in silence meditating and writing my thoughts… I can’t tell you how peaceful and rejuvenating this process has been for me.

And so it is with great joy that I rejoin the world of social media with renewed faith and an even fuller heart than the one I had before.

The Rehearsal Club

I have the honor to announce that I have become the newest (and perhaps youngest) club member of the very famous, very historic Rehearsal Club.  This “club” was famous for housing aspiring actresses in New York since 1913.  It was also the inspiration for Edna Ferber’s play and film, Stage Door.

Last night, I had the privilege of meeting other club members and officers at the opening of Marymount Manhattan College’s production of the play itself.  It was a wonderful experience getting to know these women.  They made me feel so at home and were so excited to have me become a part of their sisterhood.

The play, although set in the 1930s, was an amazing reflection of the trials and tribulations actresses my age are still facing in their careers.  All the archetypes of actors, both male and female, still exist today.  Each character represents a similar story, experience, and struggle that me and my peers are dealing with.  The club was created in an effort to shelter and support women striving to launch their careers.

Because of my strong belief in the empowerment of women in the arts, I knew this would be an organization I would want to support.  I have been given the honor of joining these women in their efforts to market and fundraise their projects, and above all, preserve their legacy.  If you would like to support the Club and their current project, The Rehearsal Club Documentary, please click HERE to make a donation and help them realize their goal of a full length, 2-hour premiering of this historic documentary on PBS!

Living the Dream.

Life is getting really good.  I am excited to get to spend Thanksgiving at home in my Texan stomping grounds.  Seeing my friends and loved ones.  They are my rock.  Upon returning, I get to sing Handel’s Messiah at the Church of Transfiguration (a.k.a. The Little Church around the Corner) on Dec 13th!  Please come!

Thank you for reading this absurdly long post, but the fact that you still read should feel like a true accomplishment, don’tcha think?  Until next time!

Posted in acting, actors, adventure, art, career, casting, commitment, dreams, excitement, family, friends, home, love, New York City, play, singing, spirituality, Texas, theatre, Uncategorized, work, world, writing | 1 Comment

To laugh or not to laugh…. That is the question.

Actors can take themselves entirely too seriously at times.  I am not the first to admit this.  What can I say?  It’s “the craft” and all that.  There’s a fire in our hearts and our stomachs, and sometimes we even get a little defensive when people mock the trials and tribulations of the working actor.  Sometimes I, too, feel like grabbing my fellow actor by the arms so I can tell them, Get over yourself!  Return from artsy-fartsy land!  Laugh a little.  Have fun!  Get your hands dirty.  It’s all good, baby.  We already KNOW you’re God’s gift to theatre!  

I’ve always been that way though.  I’m always trying to make people laugh around me.  I cringe when people take themselves too seriously.  It’s not out of spite or intentional disrespect for how hard they are working, but out of the lack of joy in the work and in the relationships they are forming.  What we do is exciting and supposed to be fun.  So why do so many actors lose sight of that when it’s time to get a job?

Jokes are healing to me especially at auditions when emotions are high and egos are enormous.  Want to see a great comedy routine?  Come to an EPA audition and get there early — The characters and actor-types that show up can be fascinating to watch, but the type of actors that really make me laugh are the ones that tend to perform a one-person show called “I’m Going to Treat the Help Like Shit in Order to Hide How Badly I Want This Gig.”  Trust me, it’s a great show.

Maybe it’s just the way I was raised, but I always find it astounding at the lack of disrespect thrown around at auditions all to compensate for the plague of insecurity that is ravaging away at an actor’s psyche.  The opposite is just as painful to watch when an actor completely surrenders all their power in the situation, placing themselves at the “mercy” of the monitors (incredibly hardworking folks who help organize and run the auditions).  It just doesn’t work that way.  This is a job interview, yes, but it’s an opportunity to play and make kick ass choices.  We’ve only got two minutes in that little room, so why not go in there, be kind and gracious, and rock n roll?

Easier said than done, right?  This is stuff that I tell myself every time I go in to audition.  I’m here to have fun.  I’m excited to meet new people.  Look, there’s that smokin’ hot Irish actor over there… Anything getting in the way of you being who you are and being true to the story-telling, I make it my mission to try to let that all go.  Be you.  Be awesome.  And don’t forget to giggle.

Thanks for reading!

Posted in acting, actors, art, audition, career, casting, commitment, dreams, excitement, friends, love, nerves, New York City, news, play, Shakespeare, theatre, work | Leave a comment

Tiny tweaks, Shakespeare, and living with integrity…

Tiny Tweaks.

I am very excited.  Been waking up with a kick in my step lately.  Not sure if it’s because of the new (INSANE) workout regime, but I feel as if my testosterone levels have been pulsing through my veins, creating a feeling of power, confidence, and dominance inside of me.  It’s even affected my posture — I do a lot of writing in coffee shops and such and many times do not take into consideration how often I tend to hunch over while I’m working; however, lately I’ve felt extremely powerful and focused (to a certain degree) with new awareness about myself through tweaks and changes I’ve made to my body.  Check out one of my favorite TEDtalks by Amy Cuddy about changing your life just by changing your posture at the bottom of this post!

Shakespeare.

I’m also excited because I’ve been feeling extremely connected lately… particularly to friends and community members who have expressed passion and a hunger to take charge and continue working on the things we love doing.  Like my new Wednesday night routine… Myself and a few other actors have started getting together on hump days to work on Shakespeare.  We bring in text at whatever stage of development, do warm up exercises, talk about the characters and plays, and carefully, gently, and lovingly help one another break new ground in our craft.  It’s been really fun! 

Working on the Bard has also given me so much confidence in upcoming auditions and projects.  I am thrilled to be a part of a reading series (along with some very talented actor buddies) as part of the Instant Shakespeare Company.  This weekend I get to read Part 2 of Henry VI, followed by Part 3, and then I get to read the badass murder-ess in Richard III!

“I think you need to think about integrity…”

Integrity. in·teg·ri·ty /inˈtegritē/  Noun.

  1. The quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness.
  2. The state of being whole and undivided.

A friend gave me some super sound advice when I was going through a really rough patch. “I think you need to think about integrity,” she said. “That’s my new word… If you don’t have integrity in this situation, then you won’t come out on top.”  And she was right.

I’ve been experiencing a new phase of growth, as some recent challenges have forced me to redefine who I am and what I stand for.  I use the word “forced” because that’s exactly what happened.  I was in a crossroads where I had to choose whether to stay true to my path and drive the car that’s leading me towards all my goals and dreams, or to take a back seat, letting others drive MY car and resign myself to become like that of a wavering spirit, aimless, and (for lack of a better word) clueless.  I tried the backseat-approach temporarily… and needless to say… it just did not bode well.  Go figure.

Integrity has become my new word as well.  Also… being on top.  Oh, how I loooove being on top!  If you have Netflix, watch Penelope Cruz in Woman on Top and you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.  Sometimes you need a good kick in the ass to remind yourself of all your power and determination.  And yes, sacrifices will have to be made… because if someone or something is standing in the way of you and your dreams, they will have to go bye-bye.  Now that is living with integrity.

Thanks for reading!  I really enjoy your thoughts and feedback.  Also, feel free to stop by my twitter and Facebook Page so that we can stay connected!

As promised here’s the TEDtalk with Amy Cuddy: “Your body language shapes who you are.”  Enjoy!

Posted in acting, actors, adventure, art, audition, career, commitment, distraction, dreams, equality, excitement, friends, love, misadventure, New York City, play, Shakespeare, temptation, theatre, work, world | 2 Comments

Writing, Teaching, and Asking: Is Love the strongest choice?

New York summer breeze is here and blowing through my window, listening to my current favorite Pandora radio station (Lana Del Rey))) as I type this.  Like all good procrastinators, I’ve got so much to say and so little time to say it, so hear goes:

Writing.

I am a writing fiend these days, nourished by yet another creative aspect of myself.  Been working on a play and have had the amazing good fortune of attracting brave souls who are interested in venturing on a most thrilling and dangerous voyage with me… a journey into the wild and uncharted waters of my brain.  It’s one thing to get onstage as an actor, feeling out someone else’s thoughts and desires, and find ways to express their inner truth for the world to see… That is and will always be my first love.  But it is so thrilling to write out parts and create a new world to play in.  I hope to reveal more as the journey unfolds, but for now I am just so excited to be moving forward through such an amazing creative process.

Teaching.

Class started this week at ESPA at Primary Stages.  It’s a small intimate class, and I am so looking forward to assisting the lovely Michelle Bossy, Assoc. Artistic Dir. and learning as much as I can from her.  So thrilled to get to work on one of my favorite plays “Or,” by Liz Duffy Adams– The play is a wonderful comedy about Aphra Behn, just on the brink of becoming the world’s first female playwright– if she can do it despite the constant interruptions from all her lovers: actress Nell Gwynne – a sudden new love, her current lover King Charles II, and double-crossing ex-love – agent William Scot.  She has one night to finish writing the play that could make her career as a playwright and secure her financial independence…. I can so relate!  I had the good fortune of seeing a beautiful production of this starring dear friends of mine in the Houston theater community, and I fell absolutely in love with it.  So wonderful to see strong, passionate, and intelligent women portrayed onstage!  I can’t recommend it enough!

Is Love the strongest choice?

The subject of “love” and using it as a tactic to get what you want has arisen several times lately in my discussions with fellow actors.  When I’m onstage, I am always looking for the strongest choices I can make.  We sometimes make the mistake of throwing around phrases, such as, “Love him” or “Hate her”… While I very much believe that love is one of the most powerful emotions you can feel towards another person, neither love nor hate is truly an active word, and this can become confusing for an actor looking for ways to get what they want.  Then a conversation I had with an inspiring and talented  actor over dinner gave me further clarification:  She suggested that love is a symptom of finally getting what you want from someone, not the tactic itself.  The emotion of love exists as a result of achieving and acquiring what you want.  This suddenly made so much sense.  I love my mother as a result of all we have shared and continue to share.  You can use the emotion of love to color your experiences and interactions with another, but I question whether it’s the strongest choice or rather the most vibrant encompassing feeling you feel once you’ve gotten what you want from them.

Thoughts?  Thanks for reading. :)

Posted in acting, actors, adventure, career, excitement, family, New York City, play, relationships, theatre, work, writing | 2 Comments

Happiness, ambition, and great friends…

As I wait in the Non-Equity lounge for monitor to call my name, I thought this would be a great time to properly update you, my lovely readers, so you can get the skinny on what’s been going on with me on the acting grind.

Happiness.

I’ll give you the short and sweet version:  I am happy.  Happiness is not always easy to come by in this city.  You’ve gotta fight for it.  You’ve gotta focus on your target and fearlessly claim what’s yours…  I’m referring to the pursuit of happiness, which can be pretty freaking brutal in this town.  This is especially true of the life of an actor.  Many times our happiness lies in the pursuit of our ambitions… An appetite that, if not kept in check, has the capacity to overrun our lives with work.

Ambition.

Ambition took hold of me when I decided to enroll in two different acting classes: 1) A Scene-Study class at the Einhorn School of Performing Arts at Primary Stages under the enormously talented Denis Butkus (Much Ado About Nothing), and 2) a Shakespearean Monologue Class with the lovely and magnificent Claire Warden (Midsummer Nights Dream) at The Shakespeare Forum… To summarize in just a few words how beneficial these classes have been to me is difficult in and of itself.  It has been such a rewarding experience working with so many talented individuals and making the most amazing discoveries about myself and my process.  Immersing myself in both classical and contemporary text has been wonderful and has filled my belly full of stories, both wondrously inspiring and heartwrenchingly painful.

Great friends.

I’ve always prided myself on being such an independent spirit.  Never really needing to rely on anyone for anything.  Must’ve been a survival mechanism I picked up from living here.  But lately, I’ve let in a lot of love into my life in the form of wonderful friends.  They’ve always been there, but now they are pouring in and I’ve never felt so much relief.

I remain incredibly loyal to my UH alum friends, all who I shamelessly get drunk with every Thursday night.  From the start, they have continued to be so loving and supportive and I’m so happy I have them for family.  Also, the love and support I continue to get from my friends at The Shakespeare Forum has continued to thrive and I’m so happy to be united with others in our love of poetry.

One friend I have to acknowledge is Mechelle.  Mechelle is an actor who for the past several months has been my beloved accountability partner.  This means that we have been having meeting weekly, discussing career goals, and holding one another accountable to them.  This might sound boring to the untrained ear, but Mechelle has truly become one of my best friends here in the city as a result of our relationship.  I owe a lot of creative & emotional support to her for being there for me and vice versa.  To have someone become such an integral part of my life has been wonderful… I do not want to let her go!

Other friends have come from surprisingly wonderful places such as: my Mastermind group– I created this group after taking my business course for actors and thought it’d be a smart idea to find a way to keep in touch and stay active in our careers… The group is now comprised of 60-something actors, all who are seeking support and accountability.  Looking forward to setting up our first mixer “Cinco de Mayo” style!

Sorry for the long post this time! Please stay tuned for more and I’ll do my best to keep it short!

Posted in acting, actors, art, Astoria, audition, career, commitment, dreams, drinks, family, friends, home, love, New York City, play, relationships, work | 2 Comments

The Will to Power…

It never fails.  Right before rent is due, I am suddenly struck by lightning with ideas, creativity, and stress-induced deadlines.  Like this blog.  Shouldn’t be this way.  I actually enjoy musing over the chaos that is my line of work, but the reality is that the lifestyle here in New York rarely beckons me to stop, take time to pause, and recollect my thoughts.  I am like a well-oiled machine, constantly shifting gears and kicking the adrenaline (that is a fast-paced life already) up several notches…

Today I want to talk about the “will to power”… This was quoted several times last night while watching Tina Packer’s Women of Will – a “dramatic discourse” on the women of Shakespeare’s plays.  The discourse was part performance and part class as Ms. Packer would deconstruct the most famous of Shakespeare’s female characters with the help of actor Nigel Gore alongside her to play whatever male role she needed him to play.

The “will to power” is the idea that these women were constantly striving to gain power and rise as equals.  It’s possible, according to Packer, that Shakespeare was trying to express this himself throughout the course of his writing.  I found this possibility to be incredibly illuminating as it has been a long-standing tradition throughout the course of history that women’s voices end up becoming diminished, treated as lesser or of weaker value, or completely misunderstood in the story-telling.

This brought up some great questions about how we tell our stories and how stories are continuing to be told to others.  As a story-teller myself, I feel a sense of responsibility towards my audience, especially those of younger generations looking for models of character, particularly women, striving to achieve empowerment no matter what situation or conflict they come across.  Through the lens of a patriarchal society, the roles of women have been compartmentalized into different boxes.  We become one-dimensional, playing the role of Box No. 1, the virtuous virgin in one play, or Box No. 2, the easily-laid whore in another (pardon my bluntness).  These limitations have been troublesome and have created deep-seated confusion among women, and among men trying to understand women, as to who and what our roles are.

Even in contemporary plays, there seems to be a continuous confusion, almost an identity-crisis, as to what it means to be a woman.  A great example of this is a recent observation I made while in a scene-study class focusing on 21st Century text.  The class is predominantly female with the exception of 2-3 males, and each week we have to find a scene from a new play.  As we pair off with our classmates, it is of no surprise that there is a high demand for scenes between two women, yet low supply.  What is surprising is that what few scenes are written for women to play usually center around women who are sexually confused,  who are jealous of what the other woman has, and who betray one another in a sexual frenzy…  This isn’t to say that there aren’t examples of this in real life.  But this is not the whole story.

I was so fascinated by this idea of the “will to power”… As an actor, I am constantly asking myself as I delve into a role is: “Where is my power?” “How do I get it?” “What can I do to convince this other person to help me achieve power?”  It’s a complete paradigm shift from assuming the role of the fallen woman, that things are “done unto me” and that I have no choice, no alternative, no logical reasoning, but to “take it”… to the realization that I hold way more cards than I thought possible.  That I have so much more at stake, and that my life, my wits, and my passions have a higher price.  That I am actually one of the most powerful players in this game we call life.

I so enjoyed this discourse and it’s continued to reinforce my belief and passions towards telling empowering messages about women even as they are undergoing disempowering circumstances.  If you are in New York, please take a look at Women of Will.  It’s so good to see classic stories with as rich a language as Shakespeare shed new light and reflect truths about ourselves.

Check out the link to the trailer below.

“Women of Will”‘s Tina Packer Offers a Dazzling Look at Shakespeare’s Leading Ladies

Posted in acting, actors, art, equality, New York City, play, prostitutes, sex | Leave a comment

Wedding bells and Finding community…

I have missed my blog-posting deadline a couple of times in the new year, but I am back!  Do forgive me!

I just got back from my Southern stomping grounds to watch my beautiful cousin get married, where I had the honor and the privilege of singing for her big day.  It almost did not happen as there were snow storms and I.D. issues working against me.  But by the grace of someone’s God I made it through and got to spend the most wonderful weekend celebrating a momentous occasion in my family’s life.  On the day of the wedding, I was scheduled to have a pre-wedding rehearsal with the church’s musical director, and little did I know that I would be singing out high above the pews from the back of the church alongside a massive organ piano.  No microphones, no nothing.  Just sing out, Louise!  And thank Buddha, it came out lovely!

I’m back in the Big Apple now and want to talk about finding community . . .

After spending a brief and incredibly rewarding weekend with loved ones, I have been thinking a lot about what it means to create your own family.  As an artist, finding proper support in a large and hectic city is invaluable.  So much of what we do as actors require us to act alone (i.e. examine internally so we can properly express it externally, come up with our own business-marketing skills, go out to auditions, nurse ourselves to better health when we don’t get the job), and yet so much of our preparation is about paving the way to work onstage in communion with others . . .

The story-telling business is not one of lawyers or stockbrokers who shelve their feelings behind suits and ties.  We don’t do that in this business . . . or at least we try not to.  We have to develop thick skins that can withstand rejection of countless job prospects, yet be open and available to express some of our deepest and most fragile parts of ourselves to a room full of strangers.  Finding a community that has the courage and the graciousness to support you in your best and worst moments can be like finding a needle in haystack.  How do you find it in such a fast-paced town?  And once you feel you may have struck gold . . . how do you keep it?

Sometimes it feels a lot like dating.  You’re looking for the right fit.  You’re putting yourself out there.  You’re making an investment in a relationship that will hopefully come to fruition.  But all relationships take time, patience, and require a willing and giving heart.  And while we can make fast acquaintances on Facebook, developing trust, comradery, and alliances that last, however, are little more complicated.  People change and so will you.  That first taste of splendor and budding attraction will burst and then fade.  We need community to continue to grow as artists in bettering our skills and viewpoints.  But how do we do it in a city that is constantly changing, barely allowing you moments of stillness and oneness with another?

The trick is to figure out how to withstand the test of time.  That could mean showing up every week to see what’s what and let the group know you’re there.  They say that showing up is half the battle anyway, don’t they?  And that could also mean going off and finding your own way for a bit.  Go run with the wolves, and come back and share what you’ve learned.  You’re no good to your “family” unless you’ve done all the emotional work on your self first.  While you may feel like the awkward newbie cub to the pack, remember that all the other wolves were once cubs just like you.

The point is that you come back.  Don’t stop sharing your gifts.  Make the most of a good thing.  Always focus on the positive aspects of the relationship and the people in that community.  Time will tell if the bonds of fellowship are meant to last or not.  And if it’s just not working out . . . well then . . . f*** em!  lol (that last bit is a joke) ;-p

Thanks for reading!  Would love to get your feedback on this subject!

Posted in acting, actors, audition, career, casting, commitment, family, home, love, New York City, play, relationships, theatre, work, world | 2 Comments