Sunday, November 30, 2014

November 30 - Ebb and Flow

So much happened when I first got to New York that here I am, three months in, spending a weekend wherein I barely left my apartment and kind of loving it. Though I do have to admit to a bit of trepidation that goes along with an unproductive weekend. I feel like I need to be doing things, planning things, finding the next project so I don't have too much down time.

The thing is this: I know what my next projects can be, even if I am not cast in another show right away. And I have made connections in the past three months that will lead to more auditions in the future. And if we know anything about me, it is that I don't stay idle very long.

So after two days of not doing much, today I applied for a half-dozen auditions, I moved my car for street cleaning, updated my theatrical resume, and I logged into the Healthcare Marketplace to update my information for next year. There are things to do, things to be done, and there is plenty of time in which to do them. So for the time being, I'm going to resume my Gilmore Girls marathon (I'm in season six which is almost as terrible as I remember it being the first time around) and enjoy a little bit of non-frantic time. Because tech week starts up on Tuesday and then we're full on into the holiday season wherein I have a trip home to plan on top of everything else.

A little down time is good for me every now and again.

Oh, and I've been here three months. Three months in New York. Wow. More on that later.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

November 29 - Vanity

I do not, in general, consider myself a vain person. Granted, I do have recurring nightmares about all of my teeth falling out which some dream guides say is a vanity dream, but I don't think I'm terribly vain. I'm pretty low maintenance. I'll wear whatever the costume designer asks me to in shows. Whatever. 

My weakness, though, is eyeliner. See, while I am not the vain sort, I am the sort that remembers hurtful things that were said to me in the past for a ridiculously long time, and I am also the sort to whom a lot of hurtful things were said. Especially in junior high and high school. Teenage girls can be awful. One of the recurring comments made to me during those fragile, formative years was that I should smile more because otherwise, I look comatose. This was before I discovered makeup. It wasn't just one off-hand comment; I was told on several occasions by several different people that I have what the kids these days would call Resting Comatose Face. Their suggestion was that I smile more. Not being big on smiling then, I just walked around very self-conscious, knowing I looked half dead all the time. Such a lovely way to spend one's teens. 

But then, in college, one of my friends showed me how to wear everyday make up. Granted, what she showed me included things like concealer, which did nothing to conceal the mountain range I had on my face at the time, but it also included eyeliner and mascara. These two simple tools transformed my face and bam! All of a sudden, I was pretty. Nobody told me I looked comatose anymore. Simple as that. Eyeliner plus mascara equalled no more comments on my resting face status. So I wear eyeliner and mascara pretty much all the time now. They have become my comfortable place. 

People notice when I don't wear them, though. I've had people go so far as to ask me if I'm feeling all right if they see me without the eyeliner and mascara. Resting Comatose Face. Easily remedied with eyeliner and mascara. Poof!

Yesterday, I did not put on eyeliner or mascara. I was having a quiet day, wherein I did very little. I had not planned on leaving my apartment at all except to do laundry, but come evening, I wanted a snack so I ventured out. I went to the store without eyeliner or mascara on. I bought a soda and some chips and even chatted with the shopkeeper for a moment about how miserable it was that his heat wasn't working, but how nice that it hadn't snowed. And nobody looked at me funny or told me I look comatose. 

I'm not saying I'm a no-make-up convert now or anything. I like how I look when my eyes are highlighted - they are very pretty eyes. But it was good for me to step out of my comfort zone and find that even when stripped of the tiny bit of vanity that I have, I am still okay. 

Friday, November 28, 2014

Thursday, November 27, 2014

November 27 - Thanksgiving

My list of things to be thankful for is a little overwhelming this year. 

Perhaps more than in any other year, I am thankful for how small the world has become by the advent of more and more ways to communicate. I'm not going to lie - moving to New York and leaving my friends and family was hard, and it continues to be hard to not get to see them as often as I would like. But being able to call or email or text or Skype takes a little bit of the sting away. I am so thankful that I can do all of those things, and that my friends and family choose to stay in touch with me via those methods, too. Otherwise, I think I'd be lost out here. 

Which is a nice segue into saying I am thankful for my family and friends. Both old friends and new ones, and friends I have been able to reconnect with recently. I would not call myself a people person, but I have found some amazing people and am so fortunate to have them in my life. 

I am thankful for the incredible luck I've had in New York, getting cast in three fun shows with so many talented and generous artists. I am thankful for my temp job, too, because even though it's not my chosen career, it has kept me fed and housed. I am thankful that I have somewhere to live that is warm enough and where Owen has become comfortable. 

Mostly, I am just plain thankful this year. It's been quite a ride and I'm doing well with everything. I'm trying to take it all in and enjoy the fact that I get to be alive to experience these things. "Yes I'm definitely going to hell/But I'll have all the best stories to tell." Here's to a year full of brilliant stories to tell, and many more to come. 

Happy Thanksgiving! Be safe and have fun. 

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

November 26 - Recommendation

See Sleep No More. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200. See Sleep No More

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

November 25 - Anxiety

For the first time in perhaps my entire life, I will not be spending Thanksgiving with my family. There was one Thanksgiving where I went to a boyfriend's family's gathering when I was in college, but I'm pretty sure I still went to my family's gathering that year, too. This year, I will still be in New York. So that's a thing. 

I won't be alone, though. One of my friends from Chicago has family out here and invited me to go to their gathering, which is very kind and generous, I think. But it's freaking me out. I can feel the panic attacks brewing already. I nearly started crying in the grocery store, worried that what I would be able to bring would be insufficient, that I'll be a social dud that day, that my friend's family will think me crazy and odd and awkward and that will reflect poorly on him. Not to mention, as a vegan, I can be a weird Thanksgiving guest. 

I think I have to remember what Thanksgiving is about, though, in order to get past that. I have a brilliant family who love me and miss me. I have fantastic friends who open their homes and lives to invite me in. I live in an exciting city where I have been so fortunate as I pursue my dreams. So even if I'm a social dud at this gathering, I have a lot to be thankful for and a lot going for me. I have somewhere to be, which in and of itself is a big deal. 

Anxiety doesn't have to be the enemy. It can be a reminder that there is something I need to think through and examine my feelings about. I'd still be happier if I didn't have to deal with it, though. Someday. 

Monday, November 24, 2014

November 24 - Tired and Sad

For the most part, I have done a good job of remaining positive while living in New York. I'm viewing challenges as adventures and keeping my hopes up with the knowledge that the minor annoyances will change eventually. My mantra has become, "It's an adventure," and while that might sound dismissive in certain situations, I mean it. Living in New York is an adventure for me and in a weird way, I'm trying to acknowledge and enjoy all of the ups and downs of being here.

Today, I am failing at being positive. Today, I am tired and sad and I need to just be tired and sad for a day. The tired and sad won't go away just because I want them to; I need them to run their course.

So today, I am tired and sad because my mom went back to Chicago after we had a really lovely weekend together. As much as I love being in New York, it's hard to be this far away from my dearest friend.

Today, I am tired and sad because the second of the three shows in which I was cast closed over the weekend and I am going to miss working on that project and with those people.

Today, I am tired and sad because I didn't sleep last night and had to get up very early this morning before making it in to work.

Today, I am tired and sad because of minor annoyances with projects at work and the fact that the annoyances reared their ugly heads today when I was already tired and sad to begin with.

Today, I am tired and sad because my throat has been hurting for two days and I would really rather not be getting sick just now.

Today, I am tired and sad because it is beautiful outside and I have to be at work all day.

Today, I am tired and sad because I know I won't really get to rest until tomorrow night. Maybe.

So if you see me today and I am grumpy, it is because I am letting the tired and sad run their course. If you would like to avoid me so as to not deal with the tired and sad and grumpy, I completely understand. If you would like to give me a hug, I'd be okay with that, too.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Saturday, November 22, 2014

November 22 - Telegram

Spent the day with Mom. Stop. 
Had an impromptu cider tasting. Stop. 
Experienced sensory overload at a giant fabric store. Stop. 
Closed a show. Stop. 

Great day all around. And maybe tomorrow, I'll write sentences. 

Friday, November 21, 2014

Thursday, November 20, 2014

November 20 - Transgender Day of Remembrance

Today is Transgender Day of Remembrance. The day was "set aside to memorialize those who were killed due to anti-transgender hatred or prejudice. The event is held in November to honor Rita Hester, whose murder on November 28th, 1998 kicked off the “Remembering Our Dead” web project and a San Francisco candlelight vigil in 1999. Rita Hester’s murder — like most anti-transgender murder cases — has yet to be solved," as described on the Transgender Day of Remembrance website.

Prior to moving to New York, I don't think I had ever met a transgender person before. It is quite possible that I had but was just unaware of it. I can now say, though, that I have met several and am friends with a few and honestly, I think my life is richer for having met them. Then again, I like diversity. And sure, I like some of the transgender people I've met better than others, but that is true of cisgender people as well. (For those of you who don't know, "cisgender" refers to people who identify with the gender they were born into - the opposite of transgender, which refers to people who identify with a gender other than the one they were born into. Don't feel bad if you didn't know that term - I didn't. Anyway.)

I know I have been bullied in my lifetime for certain aspects of my person over which I have no control - the paleness of my skin, my acne, my hair, my ass, my intelligence, my nerdiness. I have to say, though, that after reading about TDoR and hearing the stories of my transgender friends, I feel extremely lucky that I have never had to fear for my life if I talk about any of those things in public. One might think in today's society, those who fall under the transgender umbrella would find more acceptance than they do. There are hundreds of transgender people every year who are beaten, disowned, maimed, mutilated, and killed just for being who they know themselves to be. I don't get that. I don't understand why anyone thinks they have the right to harm someone else because of what genitalia that person has or had. What business is it of theirs?

I am not being very eloquent in my call for acceptance here. I think Hank Green did a much better job of it. There are a million trillion different boxes into which people can fit, and every one of them is beautiful. I hope one day we can all appreciate the beauty in and around those boxes. In the meantime, if we could all just take a moment of silence in honor of those whose boxes were deemed unworthy, unfit, abhorrent, or unnatural. To all of those people, I'm sorry for what happened to you. I will do what I can to make the world in which my nieces live a little more accepting, a little more loving, a little more understanding, so hopefully others will not have to pay the price you did.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

November 19 - Lucky

There are a lot of interesting characters on the subway in New York. Last night, there was a very drunk man seductively eating a lollipop, which he then put in his hand, and then his pocket, so that he could fall asleep. My hand felt empathetically sticky on his behalf. Sitting next to him was a man who looked like the last guy I tried dating, who kept trying to covertly sneak a glance at me, and then made a sort of show out of getting a dollar out of his wallet to give to a musician playing his guitar on the train. I, of course, was standing near the doors with my steamer. As one does.

The thing that hit me last night is that each of these people has a reason for being on the train at ten o'clock at night. I, admittedly, don't understand the people with infants and toddlers on the train at eleven o'clock or midnight, but every single person on the train has a reason for being there. They're all going somewhere, coming from somewhere, avoiding something, anticipating something. They all have a story, and for anywhere between two minutes and an hour, our stories intersect when we all find ourselves riding the same train together in the same direction.

What also hit me last night was how lucky I am to be living my story. I was on the train at ten o'clock last night coming home from the theatre. I had my steamer with me because I'm the helpful sort who wanted to make our costumes look less wrinkly, and the best night to take the steamer back home was last night because I wouldn't have to move my car for street cleaning once I made it back to my neighborhood. And before getting on the train, I was part of a lovely production where I got to work with some people who I have really come to adore in the last month and a half, and we were lucky enough to get a standing ovation from some of the audience members. We touched lives last night. We made people feel things and we started conversations and we validated those who were in need of some validation. And after doing all of that, and after taking some pictures so that the work done on this show can hopefully help people get more work on future shows, I found myself on the train with the very drunk lollipop guy, the guitarist, the guy who looked like an ex, and a whole host of other people. I wondered, how many of them were on their way home from touching someone's life and making that person feel good about him or herself? Maybe a lot. Maybe none. But I found myself feeling very lucky to have had the evening I had.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

November 18 - Kindness

Is a kind act performed in the hopes someone else will see it and be impressed by it still a kind act? If the desired audience misses the act, though the act still occurs, is it still a kind act? Is the kindness strengthened or diminished by the presence of an audience?

Monday, November 17, 2014

November 17 - Goals

I know I'm not the first to say this, but the important thing in achieving long term goals is to stay at it. To think every day about what you can do to reach the goal. Be it research or networking or whatever, something every day should move you toward your goals. 

I read today and fell in love again with what I was reading. I had some new insights that will make my project more fun, I think. There is still a lot to do, but I got a start. A real start. Now to make sure I take the next step, too. And the next. And the next...

Sunday, November 16, 2014

November 16 - Laundry

I went to a laundromat today to do my laundry, in the hopes of getting more quarters with which I could later do my laundry in the machines in my apartment building. And this has turned, believe it or not, into a very depressing experience. The place is tiny, hard to find an available machine, I was told I couldn't use a cart, and they use cards, not coins, to pay for washing and drying. But at least I'm not using up my stash of quarters that I have at home, and my clothes will be clean, so not a total waste I guess. And the whole process shouldn't take more than an hour, I would hope. 

This is just a reminder to me that I need to fix my banking situation here so I can have easy access to rolls of quarters whenever I need them. Ah, the simple things in life, that will hopefully be significantly different someday...

Saturday, November 15, 2014

November 15 - Question

Honest question: what inspires you to explore new art? As in, what makes you see a new play or listen to a band you've not heard before or makes you go to a museum or gallery you've not been to? Or if you don't do those things, why not?

I'm gathering informal research and would like to know. Thanks!

Friday, November 14, 2014

November 14 - Long-Term

As an absolute last minute thing, I got to see a friend of mine yesterday who I have not seen in at least six years. A lot has happened for both of us in that time, so there was a lot of catching up to do. One thing I found really nice about our conversation, though, was that it wasn't entirely past-focused. We talked about the present and the future just as much if not more than all of the things we had missed.

Side note: one other thing I really love about talking with this friend is that we have actual conversations. I find myself in situations quite often where I ask someone about their life or opinions or goals or whatever and they don't then turn around and ask questions back. I don't know if that is an introvert/extrovert thing, or a product of our society wherein we're so focused on what we're doing that we don't invest very much in those around us, or if I'm really so dull that people just don't want to know, but it's a thing that happens. Which leaves me feeling like I'm in either a one-sided conversation or a one-sided relationship, or it forces me to be more extroverted and just tell people the things I think they should know about me instead of waiting for them to ask and as an introvert, I hate having to tell people things. I'd much rather that they ask so I don't sound like I'm bragging. But with this friend, he asked about my life as much as I asked about his. We talked through ideas and celebrated each other's successes and empathized with each other's sadnesses. It was a true conversation. For that and for many other reasons, I will always love this man.

Back on topic: one of the things we talked about in terms of future plans on my side of things is an idea I had a little while ago for a video series. He was very encouraging and thinks my idea is a good one. We even added a little whimsy to it, which might help attract a larger audience. But I find myself thinking more and more about it today. It is a project that is personal to me, something I would like to learn more about and then share with others, something I think I could have a lot of fun doing. And it is something I could do on my own. I've been submitting to the odd audition announcement here and there and have not been getting invited in to read, and I'm feeling like my luck in getting three shows right off the bat upon arriving in New York might be wearing thin. Not that I'll never get cast again, but it could be a little while before my next show. So maybe it is time to start working, really working, on this longer-term project. I like long-term projects. It's something I can really dive into and devote time and energy to, and the more time I spend in pre-production, the better the videos will be. Which is good because finding a space to shoot videos given my current living situation could prove challenging.

Anyway. Much love to my friend, and thank you for giving me a little kick in the pants to keep moving toward my goals.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

November 13 - Guinness

Guinness is not a vegan beer. They use isinglass as a claifying agent, and isinglass is made of animal bone. Loads of beers and wines use it and true, devout vegans will avoid those beers and wines. For the first eleven and a half years of my veganism, I avoided Guinness, too, despite loving it deeply. Except on St. Patrick's Day - I would allow myself one Guinness since I am more Irish than I am vegan. It seemed fair - one beer a year in exchange for no animal products ever any other day of the year. I know vegans who eat honey because it is their weakness; Guinness was my weakness. 

And then my best guy friend and I went to Dublin, Ireland and toured the Guinness storehouse. I learned that the Guinness company was one of the first to offer paid vacation time, because they realized that people were happier when they got to spend some time with their families (or at least away from work). If a Guinness factory worker died, the company would pay for the funeral and then offer his widow, if he had one) a job at the factory so she wouldn't have to worry about being able to support herself or her kids. And Mr. Guinness signed a 900-year lease on the land wherein the storehouse now stands, in part because he believed that's where the best beer-making water was, but also in part to prevent the business, the industry, and the jobs from leaving Dublin. He wanted to do something good for his community, so he built a beer factory that treated it's workers well and promised to not leave for a really, really, really long time. That, to me, is admirable. That is the sort of company that I, as a human and as an Irishwoman, would like to support. 

So I drink Guinness now from time to time. Not all of the time, but more often than once a year. I figure, I gave a lot of thought to making the switch to veganism, and if, after careful deliberation, one product fits with all of my ethical principles except for my veganism, it's okay to bend the rules. Because as Einstein said, "The important thing is to not stop questioning."


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

November 12 - Alone

I saw the National Theatre's production of Coriolanus last night, or a screening thereof, to be precise. I had tried to see an actual performance of it when I was in London last winter, but it was completely sold out. After seeing the screening, I'm thinking maybe it's a good thing that I didn't see it in person because I may not have been able to speak for a couple of days afterward. It was very well done, and very intense.

In preparation for seeing the show, though, I read up on it in my Shakespeare books, and then read the text of the play so I would have an idea of what was going on and who was who. I don't always do that, but as this is a Shakespearean play with which I was not previously familiar, I thought it might be good to do so. My research told me that of all of Shakespeare's play, this one uses the word "alone" the most. At least, I think that is what I have read. And there is a very large through line of the title character doing things alone, and feeling that he is alone in lots of things. For those of you who don't know the story and are not opposed to spoilers, I'll fill you in a bit.

Caius Martius (sometimes spelled Caius Marcius) is a super-charged war fighting machine. The play takes place in Italy when the country wasn't really a country yet, but was a group of warring city states, Rome being one of them. Rome hadn't yet become the central seat of power, and wasn't the great Roman Empire we've all come to know and love, so there was a lot of political uproar going on, pretty much all the time, with lots of little wars and battles between these various city states. So at the start of the play, the Romans are pissed that corn is so expensive and they're ready to riot about it, until Menenius calms them down by telling them that really, the government gets the corn and distributes it to the people who then don't have to distribute it any further, so really, the government isn't all that bad. Then Martius shows up in a pissy mood, says some angry things to the peasants that essentially amount to, "You're peasants, so shut your yaps," and everyone gets all pissed off again. Good going, Martius. So they all decide that they need to fight the Volscians to get their corn, and several of them tromp off to do so. The wall around the Volscian camp is really tall, though, so only Martius is able to scale it and get inside to fight the Volscians. He single-handedly wins that battle, including a nice fight with his arch-rival Aufidus. Drenched in blood, Martius returns to Rome, where is given the battle garland (think: game ball) and everyone is happy. So happy, in fact, at his no-loss war record that they give him the title of Coriolanus. But that's not enough. I think it is Menenius, and maybe another mostly-good-dude-and-mostly-friend-of-Martius named Cominius, who decide that since Coriolanus is a good military guy, he'd also make a great politician. Because that's how that works. Coriolanus begrudgingly goes through the motions necessary to gain the people's voices so he can become consul (think: Senate hearings vetting a Supreme Court candidate, but with a toga) and is voted consul. No sooner has he left the room, though, than the two jealous tribunes (appointed to be the voices of the people) point out that Coriolanus had a stick up his butt the whole time and decide he should be overthrown and the votes that made him consul don't count. The people agree. Coriolanus shows up to do his consul type things, and all hell breaks loose as the people tell him he's not the consul. He throws a fit, says some things that he probably shouldn't, and everyone leaves in a snit. Menenius tells Coriolanus to apologize, which he begrudgingly agrees to do when his mother tells him it's okay to do so. Did I mention that Coriolanus has a bit of a Norman Bates obsession with his mom? But she's still alive. Think of her kind of as his puppetmaster. She wants him to be the greatest everything that ever was. She's kind of awesome and terrifying as a character. Anyway. Coriolanus goes back to the Senate ready to stay calm and apologize, but the two jealous tribunes are kind of prepped to either have the people kill him or banish him, and in their rage, they banish him. The mom is pissed. Coriolanus says some tearful goodbyes and leaves Rome, and leaves his mom, wife and son behind. He goes off to find, of all people, Aufidus, his arch-enemy, who he now wants to join up with so they can conquer Rome together since Rome was so horrible as to banish him. Aufidus says okay, and they build a fantastic war machine together. In the interim, Cominius comes to see Coriolanus/Martius, who refuses to see him. Menenius comes to see Coriolanus/Martius, who refuses to see him. And Rome starts to panic because now they know that Coriolanus/Martius is going to attack and in all likelihood, will devastate Rome. Finally, Coriolanus/Martius' mom, wife and son go to see him, and the mom makes a very impassioned speech about why he shouldn't destroy Rome, but should instead broker a peace between Rome and the Volscians. Puppetmaster wins and Coriolans/Martius says okay, he'll broker a peace. He sends his mom, wife and son back to Rome with the good news, at which point, Aufidus and his men promptly kill Coriolanus/Martius for being a traitor and the play ends.

This a very brief synopsis, mind you.

Getting back to the point I wanted to make before the synopsis, though, there is a lot in this play about doing things alone. Coriolanus fights the Volscians alone. He, alone, slaughters them. He, alone, has garnered all of these military victories. Alone, he is chosen to rule and represent Rome. Alone he asks for votes. Alone, he is cast out. Alone, he begs Aufidus for an alliance. Alone, he chooses to broker a peace. Alone, he dies. And in the way it was staged in this particular production, when Coriolanus is killed, his mother shows up on another part of the stage, with rose petals raining down on her, so you can see her face as she learns of her son's death. And the way it was played, she knew it was her fault he was killed. Had she not convinced him to broker that peace, he would still be alive. It was heartbreaking. Seriously, if you can find the production online somewhere, rent it or buy it or find some way to see it because it is very well done.

But as one who has spent so much of her life being ridiculously self-reliant, this might have been exactly the wrong show for me to see at this point in my emotional development. Coriolanus, arrogant as he is, is doing just fine in his solitude. He has a wife and a family and the best battle record of anyone in Rome. It is not until he starts to trust other people that things go haywire. He doesn't want to be consul, but he does it to please others. And then at the end, when he finally gives in and lets himself have a family, lets himself truly care about those who care about him, he is killed. This would seem to reinforce the idea that solitude isn't such a bad thing; it's other people who will screw you over the in the long run.

Yesterday, I wore the wrong shoes. My feet were killing me before I even got to work and I knew I wouldn't get home until after eleven o'clock at night. And as I was trying to figure out how to fix this problem, one of the women I work with offered to lend me a spare pair of sneakers she had under her desk for the day. I felt weird doing it, but then I remembered that a) my feet really hurt and b) people like being able to help other people, so I borrowed her shoes. And I found myself nearly bowled over by this simple act of kindness from someone I've only known for two months. It reminded me that self-reliance is great up to a certain point, but that help from others can be a glorious thing. And then I saw Coriolanus. You see my problem now?

So it's something I'm still working on. I do know that playing the character of Coriolanus' mom is in my future, or at least I hope it is. Though maybe I need to get past the place where I so strongly identify with Coriolanus' self-reliance first. Maybe I need to play him.

What? Stranger things have happened.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

November 11 - Step It Up

Moving to New York was one step in getting me closer to my dreams. Things are progressing, but I still have a long way to go. 

Time to step it up. 

Monday, November 10, 2014

November 10 - Cooking

I realize that I really have no right to complain about anything because things in my life in general are really good right now. That said, I'm going to complain about one minor thing anyway.

I miss cooking.

Especially this time of year, I love making a vat of jambalaya, or some soups, and storing them away for easy lunches and dinners throughout the week. There is something about taking the time to prepare one's own nourishment that is quite satisfying. But because of the craziness of my schedule and the smallness of my kitchen and the fact that I share a kitchen with three other people who are all omnivores, I've not cooked. I've not done anything more exciting than heat up soup since I got to New York. And I miss it.

I'm not malnourished, don't worry. I'm still eating healthy and in reasonable amounts. I just miss making some of the comfort foods I've grown accustomed to this time of year.

On the up side, where I live now is not where I will be living a year from now. My first apartment in New York is not my forever apartment here. So I can add to my list of things that I want in my next apartment, "a bigger refrigerator" so I'm able to cook and store food for myself from time to time. Probably along with "fewer roommates." I miss living alone, too.

Anyway. Things to look forward to.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

November 9 - Opening

This was opening weekend of my second show in New York. I have loved working on this one, and really hope I get to stay in touch with and work with these people again. It's been a very rewarding experience. 

We had a couple of hiccups, which was to be expected. But we were also fortunate enough to have the playwright in the audience both last night and tonight, and she was over the moon with how it came together. I think that's a good barometer by which to judge the outcome of a rehearsal process - if the playwright is so pleased that she wishes she could be there for every performance, I think we must be doing something right. 

And now I'm going to eat a giant salad and go to bed at a decent hour. Such is the theatre life. 

Saturday, November 08, 2014

November 8 - Grateful

Real quick, 'cuz I'm out and about with friends. 

I am so fortunate to be living the life that I live. Please don't let me ever forget that. 

Friday, November 07, 2014

November 7 - Memorization

Most actors will likely tell you that their least favorite thing to do is memorize their lines. They'll complain that it is boring and tedious and say that there are a million things they would rather do than memorize lines. I'm not here to debate that - memorization is boring, tedious work. It is so necessary, though. Acting 101: Memorize your lines as quickly as you can so you can get the script out of your hand and start playing around with the character and your scene partner.

Now, that is not to say that the script is the enemy. The script in its entirety is your best friend in the whole wide world. I know some actors who only pay attention to their lines and maybe a cue word, and it works for some, but not always for others. I think it's helpful to know that my scene partner has a giant monologue before my next line, so just in case they say my cue word more than once, I know that they still have a ways to go before it's my turn to speak. So hang onto your script until you're comfortable being without it.

I also know that I memorize things quickly - we've talked about this before - and people ask me how I go about doing so. So today, I'm going to walk you through my basic memorization process as best I can in case you would like to give it a shot.

  • Step 1: Read the script. The entire script. Look for your lines, yes, but also pay attention to the story, the arc, the other characters. Get an idea of what the entire show is about.
  • Step 2: Read the script. Again. At least one more time. If you want to, on this read you can highlight your lines as you get to them. I know some people also like to highlight their stage directions; generally speaking, I don't. Often times, I don't even read them. The stage directions in a published script are often the stage directions from the first production of the show, which likely had a different set or stage configuration than what you'll have, or your director has a different vision than that director did, so your stage directions will likely not match what is printed in the script. If there is something that is important to advancing the plot, or that directly affects someone else's lines, highlight that, yes. For example, if the stage direction says, "They kiss," and is followed by the line, "Why did you kiss me?" chances are, the kiss will be kept in the production. So highlight that if you want, but you don't have to.
  • Step 3: Read the script. This time, say your lines out loud when you come to them. This step is important so that you can hear what you sound like saying those words out loud. You can also make note of any words that are particularly difficult to say, that you don't know how to pronounce, or that you don't know what they mean. If, in this step, you want to focus on only the scenes you're in, that's okay. I think it's a good idea to have read the entire script more than once before you really start diving into it, though.
  • Step 4: Start building a character. This does not have to be the finished product, or the final version of the character you will be playing. But by this time, having read the script (or your scenes) at least three times, you should start to have an idea about some of the choices you'd like to make. You can even write down a list of questions about the character that you may want to think about later or ask the director about. Think about your character's history. Think about why the character is in this specific place on this specific day. Think about how the character feels about the other people in each scene and in the play. Figure out who this person is.
    • Be careful about making decisions about your relationships with other characters without talking to those other actors first. If there is information you should both know (i.e. we've been dating for three years and have talked about marriage but are not engaged), that's a discussion item. You can make your own choices for your own character (i.e. even though you've talked about marriage, you know in your heart you'll never propose), but you can't make choices for someone else's character without discussing it with them first. Nor can they make choices for you.
  • Step 5: Read the script. The entire thing. See if any of the answers to the questions you wrote down exist elsewhere in the script or if they really do need to be asked.
  • Step 6: Read the script out loud, preferably with your scene partner in rehearsal. Sometimes, this step has to be skipped or edited down because of time constraints in the rehearsal process. But I think it is a good idea to read the script, while looking at the actual words written in the script, with the rest of the cast. You'll get an idea of who their characters are, how they will be played, and what sort of shape the scenes will start to take.
  • Step 7: Read the script. On your own, but maybe in chunks. Look at a line or two and see if you can remember what they are without looking at the script. If you have big monologues and need to focus on a sentence or two at a time, do that. Get the words down in the right order so that you can say your lines without looking at the script.
    • Try to remember the words in the right order without any particular emotional inflection. If you get too used to being extremely angry on a certain line and then the director suggests you try it with more self-pity and less anger, it can throw you. If you remember the words just as words in a sentence, sentences in a paragraph, then you can put whatever emotions and inflections you want onto them later.
  • Step 8: Read the script. Cover your lines and read your scene partner's lines to find your cues. Figure out what it is in what your partner is saying to you that makes you say what you're about to say next. For example, let's say you know you have two lines that are, "Does ginger ale remove blueberry stains?" and "They're right here, where they always are." Your scene partner says, "Why can I never find my glasses when I need them?" Which of those two lines of yours is the more appropriate response? If you said the second one, congratulations, you're on your way to passing Acting 101. 
    • Caveat: there are certain playwrights or certain scenes wherein the proper response to the question above would be the one about removing blueberry stains, but that goes back to your character building exercises. Is your character anti-social? Is your character petulant? Does your character have a compulsive need to clean things that is more important than anything else, or a crippling fear of blueberry stains? If so, the the ginger ale response would be the right one. Which is to say, if you find yourself getting stuck in the same place over and over again in your memorization, chances are your character development needs a little bit of tweaking. What kind of person would say the thing you're supposed to say next? Be that person. There is no shame in stepping back to reevaluate.
  • Step 9: Rehearse. By this time, you know your character, you know your lines, you know your cues, so all there is left to do is rehearse the scene with your fellow actors. This also means that if your scene partner skips a line, you can pick up the scene where it goes from the line they gave you, not from the line you thought you were supposed to say next.
    • This includes saying the lines as often as you can. When you're walking down the street, recite your monologues. When you're in the shower, see if you can say your lines in order. That kind of thing. If you get away from them too long, you'll forget them.
This is called "doing your homework." Notice a theme?

Ideally, all of this would happen within the first couple of days following the initial read-through. If you're really lucky and can get the script before the first read-through, I'd recommend spending time on steps 1-5 before the read through, and steps 4-9 in the days thereafter. Because then you can spend the rest of the rehearsal time working the scenes. Working moments. Exploring emotional depths. Learning dance routines or fight choreography as necessary. And since you'll get to do all of that without your script in hand, the lovely phenomenon called "muscle memory" can kick in and by opening night, you'll just be so used to saying your lines with your scene partner that if the venue you're working in floods and you have to perform in the street with different costumes, you won't be so thrown that you can't perform.

Memorization is tedious and boring, yes. But it is a necessary first step in performance. First step. Which means it should be done as quickly as possible, not saved until the night before opening. Acting is about so much more than memorizing and blurting out lines, but it is hard to get to all of that other stuff until the lines are memorized. So do everyone in your production a favor and learn your lines as quickly as you can.

I hope this was helpful. I'll get of my soapbox now.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

November 5 - Breathing

In the constant duality of my life, I find myself focusing too much attention on things that don't really matter in the long run at the moment. It's hard to not think about these things, and fret over them a bit, because I'm the sort of person who likes to do things right. The sort of person who doesn't like to let others down. But in the grand scheme of things, I think I need to learn to pick my battles better. I've been doing so well with staying positive and moving forward with my life, I don't want to fall back into angry, stressed-out patterns.

"Everything will be fine in the end, and if it is not fine, it is because it is not the end."

Or something to that effect.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

November 4 - Haiku

Putting costumes on
Someone cuts them off again
Miss Match aesthetic

Monday, November 03, 2014

November 3 - More on Smart

More on being smart:

Often times, when one displays above average intelligence, those around them tend to think the intelligent person knows everything. This could be, in part, because a lot of intelligent people know a lot of things and take immense pleasure in letting others know that they know a lot of things. I think some of it boils down to the transitive property, too: If Person A knows a lot about cars, then Person A must know a lot about my car, so I can ask Person A questions about my car.

Intelligence does not equal infallibility.

It is very possible that Person A knows things about your car specifically, but knowledge about one thing does not necessarily translate into knowledge about something else. Even something related. I, for instance, know a lot about Doctor Who as it has been laid out in a television series, but I know nothing of the comic books, novellas, or radio plays or another media in which Doctor Who stories have been disseminated. I'm not opposed to knowing that stuff, I just haven't learned it yet. Which means that when I'm arguing Doctor Who with someone, I am arguing from the viewpoint of one who has just watched the show (several times) and there may be gaps in my knowledge base because of things that happened in the Whoniverse outside of the television show.

In general, I am the first to admit when I am wrong. Though I do like to get into Devil's Advocate type discussions with my best guy friend when I get flustered by being wrong. Every now and again, though, I find myself in a situation where someone expects me to know something that I would have no real reason to know, and my hypothetical answer becomes the go-to-answer and when it is then proven to be the wrong answer, then I feel like a heel for having to admit I was wrong. Because I would like to think that a) my general ignorance on a certain topic should be known within that circle or b) that when I gave my hypothetical answer, I mentioned that it was hypothetical. It's possible that I didn't, though, and we get a better look at exactly how not-infallible I really am.

I sometimes think I should downplay my general intelligence so that those around me don't start to automatically assume that I know things I would have no real way of knowing. If I'm not the reliable one that everyone can turn to, my imperfections show less. Maybe the better coping mechanism would be to embrace and/or flaunt my intellectual imperfections more.

Sunday, November 02, 2014

November 2 - Friends

As much as I have complained in the past about how awful some of my friends were in junior high, I have to say that in the grand scheme of things, I think I have been extraordinarily lucky in finding the group of friends I have found in my life. Even the people who I don't hang out with as much as I did with my little core group (who I miss terribly) - they're really exceptional human beings. Intelligent, funny, generous, loving, accepting people. I am honestly a better person for knowing them. 

I say this today because I got to have dinner with a Chicago friend who was in town to run the marathon and it was lovely. We talked about his family and my shows and the state of schools and all kinds of things over a burger (him, not me) and a pint. We haven't seen each other in months, but it was as if we hang out regularly. I love that. 

Granted, I'd love to see my friends more frequently than I do. Even before I moved to New York, I felt guilty passing up social engagements for theatre things or because I needed introvert time. Now that I'm here, I realize just how precious those "nights where nothing really happens, yeah, but everything goes down" are and I am trying to relish them when I have them. I would also love to be able to take some sort of credit for attracting so many wonderful people in to my life, but maybe it is they who attracted me. Who knows?

Whichever way it worked, I'm glad it worked. I'm so lucky to have the friends I have. Thank you, guys, for enriching my life. I hope I can come close to doing the same for you someday. 

Saturday, November 01, 2014

November 1 - Down Time

With all the craziness that has been going on in my life since I arrived in New York City two months ago, I've not had much time to just do nothing. Today is a do nothing day. Well, not nothing - I'm seeing a friend of mine in a show, and I went to the grocery store and swept all of the common space floors in the apartment. I got baking soda and vinegar to try to un-slow the bathtub drain. I got cat food. But my time today is largely un-structured. And I realized that I don't know how to just be in this apartment yet. I'm very good with alone time - we all know this. But I haven't quite settled into just living in my apartment yet. I'm usually there for about seven hours at a time. Just long enough to sleep, shower, and head out to the next thing. I've not had a day where I didn't have to do a half-dozen things. But my things that should be in storage are. The auditions currently listed are for shows that take place while I'm performing in Romeo and Juliet. I've got this temp job for probably four more months, so I don't need to be looking for work. I honestly couldn't figure out what to do with myself today. So I watched some television and cleaned and spent time with my cat. Now I'm going to see a show. 

I should work on learning to just live in this space I'm sharing with three other people. It may not be a permanent situation, but it could be a useful skill in the future.