Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Back in the Saddle

Last week I did something I haven't done since the Fall of 2010 - I sat on the Production side of the stage for tech week.  One of my schools that I bring classes into recruited me to fix, finish and clean the choreography for their production of MY SON PINOCCHIO, JR. The original choreographer lives in Chicago and set most of the choreo in two days, meaning they needed someone on hand to finish and fix it all.  And there was a LOT of fixing to be done.

You see, just a few years back I was a maniac bouncing from project to project, and I went through MASSIVE burnout.  I took a break, got married, and then we made the surprise move to Wyoming.  Even though I had been teaching and performing since then, I had yet to end my direction/choreography hiatus.

It was interesting how, after taking a 3 1/2 year break, that I looked at the stressors differently.  It's like I could see what would be stressful and why, and managed to avoid owning any of that personally.  I used to dive in and take everything on my own shoulders.  Not healthy.  But it was kind of fun, and exactly the right situation for me to ease myself back in.

Not that I'm taking on a direction or choreography contract any time soon.

It's nice to know that I did indeed miss it, though.  And great to remember that I was indeed GOOD at it.

So, thanks for getting gulped down by that big whale, Pinocchio. It was fun to put on my old, worn out choreographer hat again for a little bit.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Red Carpet Anxiety

A few weeks back, I was privileged to attend the Orlando premiere of a feature film that I shot last June.  It's a locally produced project with pretty decent buzz being built around it - it will receive it's New York premiere this June, and after that will premiere in Atlanta, Los Angeles, Miami, and ever onward.  Because of the way the story is told, I feature prominently in the opening of all the trailers, and in the film itself.  I'm finally in a project that might receive some distribution, some recognition, some publicity.  Things that I can use to open more doors.

It's terrifying.  Well - not the possibilities of the project - the red carpet of it.  The schmoozing, the self marketing, all of it.

I'm an artist - I love to show up and do the work. I love the challenge of it, and in film, the particular challenge of doing it again and again and again. Finding ways to make it honest and truthful and powerful when you've already shot the same scene 20 times from three different angles.

But the reality of walking the red carpet? Terrifying.  That fear of being found wanting?  That maybe people will realize you're a fraud who just likes to play dress-up?  Borderline debilitating.  Being asked to make small talk with strangers? Scary.  For someone who calls herself an actor and prides herself on being able to transform into literally ANYTHING or ANYONE, I am a terrible faker in my personal life.  I hate it.

Nothing in my "training" has prepared me to dress myself and walk the red carpet and self promote and network.  Oh - the anxiety.  Maybe I'm the odd duck, but I didn't become an actor to be famous. I became an actor because I love to tell stories, and take people on a journey. Part of the job is to promote projects that you're in, though, and I just need to get on board.

I really had to work myself up to show up and walk the red carpet that night. I was terrified that I would stick out like a sore thumb, be overdressed or underdressed. Thank God I had Jason and Joyce with me to keep me steady.  With their support, I survived it.  I overcame my personal neuroses, and made it through.  No one called me out as a "faker".  Mark one for me on my personal scoreboard!

Next time it will be easier.

Man... I would kill for a stylist....

The Breaking Point Official Trailer from james on Vimeo.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Journey On

The blog has been quiet again - too quiet.

All I can say is that I'm trying to figure some things out.  Plan. Adjust. Move forward.  And it's left precious little time for reflection. If there's anything I need to do to maintain my empathy and humanity, it's reflection.

I'm a goer.  A doer.  Or I was.

And then we spent a year and a half on a ranch in Wyoming and everything changed.

I learned that I don't want to spend my life going Mach 10 with my hair on fire anymore.  These days time seems to be flying by on its own so fast that I'm afraid to wake up tomorrow because I might be 90 and have missed it.

It. That elusive "it".  Life? The journey?

I had a great conversation with an old college friend last week, he was in town performing with a National Tour, and I managed to snag him for a long overdue breakfast, eight years after graduation.  We were both "doers" in our class - there was no way we were going to get sidetracked, we were going to make it and get shit done. (Excuse my French).  We both graduated and worked our butts off.  He went to grad school, and I eventually landed back home in LA, where I worked and struggled until suddenly I met Jason, got married and moved to Wyoming.

Looking back on the last eight years, our time in Wyoming (and the winter in between our seasons there), is the absolute best of my memories.  Even though I worked harder than I ever have in my life.  Even though sometimes I was unbearably lonely and felt a bit lost.  The isolation up there - just me and Jason against it all - provided me with a lot of time for reflection.  And it was in that time that I had the lightbulb - I am NOT what I DO.  It is a part of me, but not the whole package, and I am selling myself short by trading only on what I do.

So yes - I am an actor, I am a teacher.  But I am also a bleeding heart, compassionate to a fault. I want to see and experience the entire world, to make each day count for something.  Now that I'm back in the rat race, it's easy to get swept back up in the "go, go, go".

Believe me - I consider myself fortunate that I am currently able to make my entire living in the arts that I love.  Even when some days suck.

So, back to that breakfast conversation...

This friend of mine is in a position that most actor friends I know would envy - he is on the Equity National Tour of a VERY famous and popular musical.  He knows that there are a million actors out there who would trade places with him in a heartbeat.  He only works 3 hours a day, or 6 on two show days, and the rest of the time he gets to explore the cities they find themselves in, or go to the gym, or sleep, or whatever his little heart wants.  Of course, this being my "doer" friend, he has in fingers in a million different projects to keep busy.

But the tradeoff is that he is not creatively fulfilled in any way. He does the show exactly as the actor before him and the one before that did it, with no freedom to create for himself. His creative fulfillment only comes from the side projects he has going.

To him, our life in Wyoming, and all the adventures that it allowed and have followed it sounds pretty awesome.

To me, his life on tour sounds pretty awesome.

The grass is always greener, right?

Which is why it's so important to have satisfying work in your life.  To value yourself for who you are and not what you do.

It's important to me to give back.  It's important that I have a creative outlet.  It's important that I take pride in what I do, but at the end of the day my value is not wrapped up in it.

Trying to divorce the vocation from the avocation is so tough.

We are a society that lives to work.  We work ourselves to the bone every day - for what?  For status?  Nice clothes, nice house, fancy car  - all things that are fleeting and do not contribute in any way to our true self value.  You can't take it with you.

So what CAN I take with me?  The satisfaction of a life well lived.  Of positively impacting as many lives as possible in whatever time I am given here.  Joy. Memories.

Too often moments of joy take back seat to the guilt that I should have done this, should have done that, I never accomplished this, I said I was going to become this.

I'm over it.  Done with it.  The career will come. That laundry can wait.  Let's go make a memory.

If I achieve those career dreams along the way, great! But at the end of it all, I won't beat myself up if it doesn't turn out the way I planned, because it was really all about the journey. I plan to keep living a damn good journey.

We're going to the Keys this weekend because we are young and alive and we CAN. Journey on.