One of the common conflict set-ups in literature is the Green World story. Instead of a man-against-man, man-against-nature, or man-against-himself set up, the Green World story is one wherein the protagonist goes somewhere new, spends some time, and comes back to his original life a changed person. Think of The Wizard of Oz - Dorothy is unhappy and restless at home, she goes to this magical land, and learns that home really is a wonderful place. Yes, there are other conflict structures there, too (Dorothy vs. the Wicked Witch), but if you look at the overarching structure of the whole thing, it's a Green World story. I think they also got the name "Green World" because the other place protagonists would often end up wherein they would find themselves or the resolution to their conflict was somewhere green - a forest instead of the city, that kind of thing.
I bring this up because this weekend felt a little bit like a Green World story to me. I was out in the suburbs shooting a film, up in almost Wisconsin. While not quite rural, it felt more rural than the area of Chicago where I live. There were bigger yards, more space between houses and buildings, and (of course), more green. I was working with people I'd not really worked with before, some of whom I met just a few minutes before we shot our scenes. But they were (are) all great people. Everyone pitching in to make sure the things that needed to happen, happened. And I think I can be proud of the work I did, too. My scenes were probably a little different than originally envisioned, but I think the net effect of my character will be appropriate. I think she will serve the function in the film that she is supposed to. She is very different from me, and different than other characters I've been playing lately, and it was fun to get to stretch some different muscles. And perhaps most importantly, I feel like I made friends with some great people and made some potentially important connections for my future career. If anyone involved in this production is reading this, thank you for that.
And then today, I drove home to my regular life again. Back to worrying about the Big Scary. Back to my friends and family. But I oddly feel stronger for the experience. It was validation that I can make a good impression on and get along with all sorts of people. It was validation that I do good work. It was validation that I can spend 36-ish hours straight with other people and survive, even with taking a bit of an introvert break. It was validation that I'm moving in the right direction.
So my own little Green World story in the course of a weekend. Wow, am I a theatre geek or what?
There is something big looming on the horizon for me. Some of you know what I am talking about and some of you don't. It has been an offline conversation so far and when the time is right, I will tell everyone online all about it. This is not that time (so if you know what I'm talking about, please keep the conversation offline).
The thing about something big looming on the horizon, though, is that in order to deal with the crippling fear associated with said thing, I have found lots of little things to keep my attention in the interim. Because then, before I know it, the big thing will be here and I'll have to deal with it and I won't have too much time to think about it so I won't spend too much time being scared of it, you know? It's like, if you're planning a wedding or something, you have to break it down into little, manageable bites because looking at the whole thing at once is just too overwhelming.
Well, one of my little things ended last night. I was working on a short play in a play festival that I absolutely adored. I loved the script, I loved the cast, I loved the writer and the director. I still do. But we have now been eliminated from the competition, so the project, this project, is very abruptly over. And I am remarkably sad about it. I am sad, in part, because it was a project that I loved and believed in so much, and in part because now, without this project as a distraction, I have to look at the big scary looming on the horizon. The big scary is that much closer now. It has been bumped up in priority on my to-do list. And that is terrifying.
So today is a little rough for me. I will miss this cast and crew immensely, even though I only got to work with some of them for a couple of days. They are lovely, brilliant, talented, caring, generous people and I am not done having them in my life. I'm not done having this script in my life, either. I hope it does get fully produced one day. Thank you to the writer for giving us such lovely words and such brilliant characters to play. Thank you to the director for letting me be part of this and for being so warm, welcoming, and encouraging. Thank you to my cast mates for just plain being brilliant. I love you guys.
Now I just have a movie to make and a big scary to face. Wish me luck!
When I was in college, I was in a short play about a man who buys five raffle tickets from five different women and ends up winning a donkey. To be honest, I don't remember the name of the play - we rehearsed for about a week and there was only one performance as part of (I believe) an Irish play festival. In any case, I played all five women. Since they come in one right after the other to sell him raffle tickets, we decided that my costume changes should happen on stage and be part of the show. Each change was accompanied by a different piece of music, and the woman playing the donkey would help me. For one of them, when I was changing out of a fat suit into a "geek" costume, the traditional stripper music was playing, so I used the coat rack my costumes were hanging on to, um, spice up the change. And for the actual performance, my grandmother was sitting in the front row. To sum up - I did a "stripper" routine on stage, changing from a fat suit to a "geek" costume, in front of my grandmother.
This is the thing about being a theatre person. You get to (have to) do things on stage that you would never do in your regular life. This, to me, is what is really fun about it.
I was thinking about this last night, too, as I was changing into my costume in the one, tiny dressing room available to the performers of all three pieces that were going up at the same time. In my piece alone, there are three men and three women (including me). So instantly, we have a unisex dressing room. This is not new to me - I think the last time I worked somewhere that had separate dressing rooms for men and women was in college. But clothes have to get changed, which means sometimes, you have to change in front of people, and sometimes those people are of the same gender as you and sometimes they are not. Last night, for example, I changed into my costume in front of a man I had only met the night before. And you know what? It was no big deal. We were chatting about things before I changed, we continued to chat while I changed, and the conversation continued after I was finished. There were no hoots or hollers. There were no disparaging looks or disdainful glances cast at my tummy or rear end. There was no sexual innuendo. We were both just actors preparing to go on stage and do a show together. No big deal.
The idea of changing clothes in front of other people being no big deal then sort of extrapolated itself into this brilliant body acceptance thing. Because I know that for some people, even some of my fellow actors, it still is a big deal. As a woman, I'm sure I'm not the only one who has worn a skirt so I can easily put my costume trousers on underneath it to prevent any potential flashing situations. I can see out of the corner of my eye sometimes how comfortable or uncomfortable other people are with this sort of odd situation - you need to change your clothes and there just happen to be fifteen other people in the room who also need to change their clothes and you'd all really like to just get changed so you can go home or go to the bar and have a post-show drink. And what I've learned is that while everyone is changing together, nobody is looking at anybody else. This is not the time or place for judgement. This is not the arena for body shaming. This is a group of people doing a job. Once we're in our costumes, there may be chat of "Oh my god, I look so old," or as my one cast mate put it last night, "You look like a drunk" (which I am supposed to). But what is brilliant about those comments is that each and every one of us is wearing the costume we are supposed to wear in order to put the story on stage that needs to be told. It's not about who has bigger boobs or tighter abs or flabby biceps. It is about exactly the right people looking exactly the right way to invite the audience into the world of the play in such a way that they feel like they've known these people living in this world forever.
This is what I love about theatre. A moment as mundane as dropping my pants in front of a man I met twenty-four hours earlier turned into a moment of "I look exactly the way I am supposed to right now." How awesome is that?
If there is one thing we have all learned from sci-fi movies, it is that evil begets evil. This is why they couldn't just blow up the thing in The Fifth Element. This is why the Doctor doesn't use guns. And if you want to pop back to reality for a minute, wasn't this why the machine gun was invented in the first place? In the hopes that such a terrible machine would be built that would make the threat of warfare so horrible that nobody would ever want to fight a war again?
But here we are in a society (in America, specifically), where every single morning, I wake up and listen to the news which is largely a tally of how many people were shot overnight - often kids caught in the crossfire, often in double digits over the weekend - followed by a story about how some people are suing because their applications to be able to carry concealed weapons in public were denied. In Chicago alone, forty people were shot this past weekend. Forty people. Even if these people did not die from their injuries, they will carry these scars with them for the rest of their lives. Who knows what lasting physical issues they may experience, and what sort of financial ruin may result from the hospital bills. And yet more and more people want the right to carry guns with them all of the time.
Am I alone in asking, "What the fuck?"
Evil begets evil. Gun violence begets gun violence. Someone is attacked at gunpoint, so he feels it necessary to carry one himself, but he accidentally shoots a bystander, who's family goes to get guns to protect themselves, and they end up shooting a small child in the head during "playtime," which scars the kid's brother, who finds a gang to support him in his loneliness and powerlessness and they give him a gun and he attacks someone at gunpoint. And the whole cycle starts over again. And those of us who are not at all interested in guns, don't want to own them, don't want to be near them, still have to hear the stories on the news every single day about how many people were shot, wounded, and killed.
I think you all know I don't like to get too political on this blog, but this one has been bothering me for a long time. The way to stop gun violence is not for us all to arm ourselves. We all know that even though the machine gun was created to try to prevent wars from ever happening again, the exact opposite happened. If we feel the way to protect ourselves from guns is to buy more guns, we're doing it wrong.
I will also say that I don't the solution is to get rid of all guns. I'm kind of glad the police have them when they need them, and the military. You know, the instances for which the Second Amendment was intended. But anyone would be hard pressed to convince me that it is necessary for, say, my coworkers to be able to keep guns in their desk drawers as they set about a harrowing day of balancing the company checkbook. Or that someone at a Cubs game absolutely must have a gun with them in the event that, what, a foul ball hits them in the face and they get mad at the pitcher? I don't think most of us need guns. And I think the more provisions are made to allow Joe Q. Public to have them, the more reports of tragic gun violence we will hear about on the news. I'm tired of those stories. Can we please talk about something else? Preferably because there were no overnight shootings to report? Please?
Sometimes asking for help is the best thing you can do. I do it on stage all the time; I love when my characters get to have a hint of desperation because it means they're trying to get something from the other person in the scene and everything becomes very focused. I have to remember to do that in real life, too.
I asked for help today. The response has been great so far and (fingers crossed) may get me out if this constant state of panic I've been living in.
Sometimes, asking for help is the best thing you can do.
The thing about working on a really great script is that the writer has already done most of the heavy lifting. The writer has mapped out where the conversation needs to go and how it is going to get there, usually in some sort of logical fashion. As an actor, you just get to figure out what kind of person would react that way, and then be that person.
There was a link to an article that I saw online last week (but didn't read) talking about why listening is the number one skill for an actor. I didn't read the article because this is something I already know and have studied quite a bit. It is essential for actors to hear the words their scene partner says and to hear how they are said so he or she can be fully present in the scene. Because what makes good acting good is when the audience is fooled into thinking that what is happening on stage is happening spontaneously for the very first time with no forethought or prior knowledge. You know, like the actual conversations you have with your friends and loved ones. You don't know what they are going to say, so you have to listen and then respond appropriately. Same thing applies on stage, except someone has already written down what the appropriate response is. Which you, as the actor, get to work backwards from to figure out who the character is.
I am very lucky to be working with a couple of very talented writers at the moment. The characters they have given me are fun, the conversations interesting and engaging, and the responses to my scene partners make sense, so my job is that much easier. One of them called me a "magic actor" because I learned the lines he wrote for me so quickly. I just have to thank him for writing a character who is a real person and behaves like an actual (though slightly off-kilter) person would.
Have I mentioned lately how much I love theatre? And how lucky I am to get to be in it? And what amazing people I have gotten to meet and work with because of it? I am thankful every day that theatre (and the other people who do theatre with me) is part of my life. Every day.
Sometimes it is the little things that make all the difference. The little things can save an otherwise horrid day, like when you get a hug from a loved one or a high five from a stranger. The little things can remind you why you do what you do, like when you share a laugh with a coworker. And the little things can scare the crap out of you, like when you set a deadline and take the step toward it that means there is no turning back.
At the moment, I am all about the little things because there are too many big things to think about all at the same time. Today, the little things are scary. So I'm doing other little things to try to make them less so. And having taken my little baby steps toward big, scary goals, I'm going to lie down and snuggle with my cat. Because sometimes it is the little things that make all the difference.
I read an article once that talked about how to talk to your kids and how to best show your support of them. They may have extrapolated it to include "how to show anyone you care about that you support them," or maybe I just extrapolated it in my own head. Anyway. The focus of the article was on saying things like, "I love watching you play football," instead of just saying "I love you." Yes, it is important to say "I love you." That part is not up for debate. But the point the article was trying to make is that by saying you enjoy their enjoyment of something they love, you are showing another level of support. Or some such thing like that.
The article said it much better than I just did. But all of this is to say that I heard the most wonderful words an actor can hear today and I want to acknowledge them. I was talking to one friend who remarked that one of her friends was, "like, in love with [me] as an actor." I have a fan. Someone who appreciates my work. Someone who enjoys watching me do what I love to do. Granted, I know my mom and several of my friends also enjoy watching me do what I love to do. But somehow, it was different coming from someone who has nothing to gain from enjoying my work beyond his own enjoyment. My friends and family are predisposed to like me, they're invested, so they are likely going to enjoy my performances because they like me as a person. This other "fan" is not predisposed to liking me. His assessment of my abilities as an actor are based solely on the work he has seen me do. And he liked it. I cannot begin to tell you how marvelous that feels.
So I feel good right now. Thank you to this person for enjoying my work, thank you to my friend for telling me, and thank you to all of you who have come to see a play or watched a film that I've done. Art that is not shared with people is still art. But art that is shared, recognized, and appreciated... It feels amazing.
In anticipation of Doctor Who returning to the air on August 23, I've been rewatching some of the Matt Smith era episodes - season 6, specifically. I skipped over season 5 because I already remembered that I enjoyed very little of what I saw in that season. And now I know I can skip season 6 moving forward as well, with the notable exception of The Doctor's Wife, which is an absolutely brilliant episode and one of the only reasons I kept watching the show. Kept watching new episodes, anyway. I have a lot of classic episodes still to go and I'm enjoying them.
Aside from the Doctor's dreadful hair by the end of season 6, I think I figured out what bothered me about the season. I think it was in season 6 that they decided they could do no wrong, so they could focus their energies on sound bites and screen captures instead of on stories and character development. There is a lot of talk about the Doctor reaching great heights and falling farther than he ever had before, but the execution of these events doesn't even come close to things experienced by previous Doctors. The Doctor drops off Amy and Rory and she lets him leave. At least four episodes start at some random point in time when the Doctor and his "companions" have not been together for some time, so much of the front end of the episode is spent in happy reunion. And many of the stories are so simple that viewers can either figure out what's going on in the first ten minutes (and then spend the rest of the episode wondering how the Doctor can be so thick as to not have figured it out yet), or the viewers spend the episode thinking it has to be more complicated than what it appears to be and they get to be disappointed when it isn't. There is a lot of time spent talking about things that are supposedly urgent, but very little sense of urgency when it comes to actually doing anything. The stakes for the season as a whole and each episode specifically just aren't high enough. And poor Rory is the only one who can be bothered to really invest himself in another character.
I realize this all sounds harsh and a lot of you probably disagree with my assessment. I know a lot of people liked Matt Smith as the Doctor. A lot of people find him quirky. A lot of people think he was darker than the other Doctors. Having just re-watched season 6, I have to disagree with both of those assessments. I find him detached and self-involved (not in the good way), stuck in a series of lackluster stories. Again, with the notable exception of The Doctor's Wife, which is delicious in part because it has a glimmer of genuine emotion in it. But all of this is to say, while there was a bright spot (maybe two) in an otherwise dull three years of Doctor Who, I cannot wait for August 23 when Peter Capaldi takes over in the lead role. Because all in all, I love the Doctor. I have since I met him, standing in a doorway with a bride looking at the birth of our planet. He deserves better. And I have faith that Capaldi can bring it.
Tomorrow, I get to make a movie and be in a play. I can't tell you a lot about the movie because I had to sign a non-disclosure agreement, but if you are curious and/or want to support the film, go here. The play is a lot of fun, too - interesting, inventive, playful.
So I'm having one of those days where I wonder why I can't have more days like tomorrow. Days where I just get to do what I love all day long. I know there are people out there who get to live like that. I hope one day, I'll be one of them. Someday.
Hamlet: The Series is going to be broadcast on Chicago's CAN-TV, channel 21, on Sunday nights at 7:00pm (and again on Monday mornings at 2:30am) starting August 3. Pretty sweet, huh?
I want to say thank you to the lovely people at CAN-TV for giving us this opportunity, and for being so helpful and encouraging along the way. And, of course, thank you to the director for allowing me to be part of the project in the first place. And all of you who helped support it through Kickstarter.
But yeah, I'm going to be on television. For twelve weeks. In a prime Sunday night time slot. Who would have thought that would happen?
So we all know I've been working on de-prioritizing the opinions some people have of me. It seems to work best when I'm not thinking about it and when I'm not dealing with those people. Avoidance as a cure for everything, right? Works in the short term, but not really a viable long-term solution.
My brain called me out on it last night. I had a dream that somehow, I got to play in the Women's World Cup and I had a brilliant assist to score a goal that (I think) won the game. If it had been a real game, I think the goal I assisted on happened about five minutes in and then the game was over, so technically, I don't know if it could be called a win since we didn't play a whole match. But in my dream, this one goal was a big deal and I helped make it happen and I was wearing my Green Lantern t-shirt when I did it, so the camera crew went through all of the footage they had taken from the Cup and found me in my Green Lantern t-shirt and made a video highlight reel about me that they put at the very top of the FIFA website, front and center. So in my dream, I was a big deal. But even in my dream, the persons who's opinions of me I am trying to de-prioritize were not proud of me. It barely even registered as a blip on their radar that I had done this amazing thing.
I think all of this means that a conversation will need to be had at some point. Because while avoidance may work in the short-term on a conscious level, I don't want my subconscious to be angry with me when I'm asleep. I'd sort of like to get this settled.
One of the greatest cinematic moments ever is when the Aborigines join in on the didgeridoo during "I Will Survive" in The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert. I don't care what anyone else says, that scene is pure magic.
What is fun about watching the movies that once inspired you is when you find that they still do. There is that element of "Oh, remember who I was when I first saw this and the dreams it gave me?" But when it can still hit you and make you think and feel new things, I think that is the mark of a good movie. And a good dream.
Here's hoping some of the dreams I dreamed back in 1994 come true some day.
And seriously, if you've not seen Priscilla, stop what you are doing and watch it right now. It is still absolutely brilliant.
For the past couple of days, my stomach has not been very happy. At first, I thought it was the kind of pain that occasionally makes me resent the fact that I'm female. Then I thought it was something I ate. Then it occurred to me that I've been doing crunches and leg raises every morning before I get up and I haven't really stretched the past couple of mornings after doing so. I'm hoping that's the real problem.
As much as I love Star Wars in general and as much as I love Yoda specifically, I feel the need to take issue with one of his Yoda-isms today. "Do, or do not; there is no try." Some will punctuate it differently, but the basic sentiment is there. You either accomplish something or fail at it; there is no middle ground. It is a great motivational quote. I think it needs a caveat.
I believe in trying. I believe in trying to do things (not trying AND doing things; that's just grammatically weird). And I believe that with trial comes failure. Maybe this is ingrained in me because I'm an artist, but there is so much rejection out there to be faced, so many failed attempts at greatness before success is tasted. But I think it is better to try and fail than to not try at all. Which is probably what Yoda was getting at, but I'm looking at a longer timeline here.
I'm trying some things just now. Some might say I'm "putting myself out there," which is a truly distasteful phrase. But I'm trying. I can not yet say that I am doing these things because they are in that in-between stage where I've put out some feelers but haven't heard back yet but have more feelers to put out. It feels like the measure of success or failure cannot be judged until the endeavor has reached it's conclusion and I have either reached my goals or given up on them after exhausting all other options. So right now, in this moment, I am neither doing nor doing not. I am trying.
And right now, in this moment, that is the best I can do. Wish me luck!
So my cat is still not enjoying getting goo in his ears twice a day, but he doesn't seem to hold it against me that I'm the one putting the goo in his ears. Which is good. Maybe part of him understands that the goo is ultimately a good thing.
What is weird about the whole situation, though, is an observation that is going to make me sound like a complete crackpot. If you have a pet, you might get it, so I hope some of you out there do. When you live with a companion animal, after a while, they stop looking like the animal they are and they just look like a friend and a member of the family. There are times when I have to remind myself that Owen is a cat and as such does things that are very cat-like, like chewing on the potato chip bag. It is almost like I forget he's a cat and just consider him a roommate who is much shorter than me and who speaks another language. But then something will happen that reminds me he's a cat and I feel incredibly silly making the observation that my cat is really good at being a cat. Does that make any sense to anyone?
But through this experience of having to put goo in my cat's ears twice a day, I am very much reminded that he is a cat. All the time. He doesn't look so much like my roommate at the moment; he looks like a cat. I find this somewhat bothersome. It might be because the fur around his ears needs a good cleaning, or that he was a little down the first day he had to be medicated, but I am very aware of his catness. Not to be confused with his Katnis, which isn't even a thing but does bring to mind the image of my cat with a bow and arrows which is kind of funny. Whatever.
Anyway. The long and the short of it is I will be glad when we're done with this ear goo. I think he will be, too. I'm ready to get my friend back.
On this exact day a few years ago, the world was made a better place because a certain woman was born into it. Granted, she didn't become a woman until sometime after her birth - that would have been really painful for her mother and you would have read about the freakish occurrence of a woman giving birth to an adult by now - but you know what I mean. A girl was born who became an amazing woman and the world is a better place for having her in it.
Happy birthday, Mom. Your kindness, generosity, love, and support blow me away. And for any of the rest of you out there wondering how to be a mom, mine is an excellent example to look up to.
I love you, Mom! Here is to many more years of love and laughter and delicious Thai food. And chocolate.
When I was a kid, we had the Fourth of July routine down. Wake up for the pancake breakfast on the Village Green. Go to the parade and collect as much candy as possible. Go to the fireworks display near the local pool. It was kind of a nice way to spend the day, with these three events in which to participate. None was so long that it bled into the others, so there was time to process each one before heading to the next.
This year, the big Fourth of July barbecue to which I have been invited is tomorrow. Today, I am prepping for it, doing laundry, and relaxing on my own. I might see a movie later, or I might not. I'm not sure yet. But what struck me about my day today is that I am spending Independence Day independently. We tend to think that to celebrate our country's existence that we have to surround ourselves with our fellow countrymen, grill some meat, and blow things up. In all truth, none of those things is really my bag - I prefer small groups of close friends, I don't eat meat, and I'm not a violent person (though I am a fan of fireworks). So what a sort of brilliant way for me to spend the day today. Doing the things that I have the right to do. Celebrating my freedom to be a little different from other people. And how lovely that I live in a country that allows me that freedom along with so many others.
So happy Fourth of July to everyone out there who chooses to celebrate it, in whatever way you choose to celebrate it. Though I would ask that whatever you are doing, be safe about it. Please don't blow each other up.
There is probably nothing more terrifying for a parent than when their child is sick. I do not have children, but I have a cat and he has a bit of an ear infection. He was a champ at the vet today, despite being scared out of his mind, and now I get to give him ear medicine twice a day.
When Owen first came to live with me, he had an eye infection, so I had to put drops in his eyes twice a day for the first few weeks that we were roommates. I don't know if you've ever medicated an animal on your own, but it is a challenge. Cats don't tend to like having things coming at their eyes. Cats don't tend to like having their ear pulled back so you can insert a tube with a topical cream in there. Neither of these are painful procedures, per se, just things cats would rather not have to do. And they let you know in very physical ways. Owen squirms and flattens his ears and shakes his head. I don't blame him - I would, too. And it kills me to have to hold him still while I give him medicine. I know he doesn't like it and I hate that I'm the one who has to do it. But I know he will be more comfortable when the ear infection goes away. He won't have to scratch at it so much and who knows what other discomfort it is causing him. I just wish I could explain that to him in a way that he could understand it.
So here is my public apology to my cat for the temporary discomfort I will have to inflict on you for a couple of weeks as we try to get rid of this ear infection. I love you and hope you know I'm just trying to help. And in the privacy of our own home, I will apologize with scritches on the head and treats after dinner.
I think what I really need to work on is my auditioning skill. Because once I have a character to work on, I am really freaking good at what I do. Really freaking good. Or I've spent a ridiculous amount of time working with and performing for people who don't know what a good actor is, but I'm kind of high after a super fun rehearsal so I'm going with I'm really freaking good at what I do.
The problem is, I don't get to work with amazing actors, brilliant directors, and inventive writers if I don't audition well. And I know I've given some terrible auditions in the recent past. Some decent ones, but some terrible ones. And a few that we're good enough to get me involved in a project, but perhaps in a capacity wherein the extent of my skill was not fully explored. I fault no one for that but me. If I knew how to walk into a room and show someone everything I can do in 30 seconds and still come off as a reasonable, creative, dedicated, reliable person who is fun to work with, I would. When you're starting from zero, though, that can be a tall order.
So I need to work on my auditioning skills. Because I've said it before and I know I'll say it again, I love theatre. I need to stay involved with it and the only way to do so in the capacity that is most fulfilling to me is to audition well enough to get cast in things.