Tag Archive | acting

When did I become so afraid?

How many times have you heard a story begin “When I was in college…” among the thirty-something set? We seem to draw upon that just-out-of-reach chapter in our lives to desperately try to understand how we ended up in our current situation. What was it I wanted to be again? What was I passionate about? What did I do when I was fearless? Of course that’s not everyone’s recollection of their college years, but for me, I was fearless.

Recently I’ve been infiltrated by a foreign emotion when it comes to my ability as an artist, namely an actor. I could call it insecurity or self-consciousness. It started out as doubt. I’ve been insanely insecure about many other things throughout my life, but never my ability as an artist. I could boil the rest down to two fears. Being fat, and being a loner.

I hate the word fat. Almost as much as I hate chubby, plus-size, and lately the patronizing overuse of the word curvy. The unfiltered kids who would tease me in grade school just went straight to fat. My trying-to-be-polite “friends” thought chubby would be less upsetting. I’ll never forget the girl who sat next to me in 4th grade calling me “pleasantly plump.” This is no doubt something she’d overheard at her mother’s weekly Weight Watchers meeting. The women’s clothing section at Macy’s obviously feels that plus-size is somehow comforting. And now the overdue positive body image movement has appropriated the word curvy to describe any woman larger than a size 12. To me they’re all touchy, but that’s largely my own madness. They all push the same button. The same weak spot on my soul that reduces me back to that 10 year old girl on the playground crying at the edge of the field where no one will see me because Thad just made fun of my fat stomach while playing foursquare. Yes I kind of want you to feel sorry for me. Whatever though. I’m over it. I really am. Over the past 10 years I’ve worked so hard to get over my body image issues and can proudly say that for the most part, I have. Not that I love myself all the time, I just don’t really care that much anymore. Yes I wear a size 10 and sometimes 12. Yes I’m too heavy for my husband to comfortably whisk me off my feet while we’re walking barefoot on the beach. Yes I have a huge butt. Whatever. Over it. The point is, these things do leave weak spots that become susceptible to other insecurities. I think that’s what’s happened.

Oh, I also said I was insecure about being a loner. Totally true. I possess this completely irreconcilable set of traits where I love spending time by myself and at the same time am totally pained to be without a set of friends. I enjoy being alone, but I don’t want to be a loner. I like being by myself, but I long to be part of a group. Classic Gemini. Someday I need to accept one or the other. I can’t have it both ways, and for now the struggle makes me feel sort of crazy and sad. But this topic is a post for another day. For right now I just have to put my finger on how my weak spots have been invaded by an insecurity of something totally foreign to me, my artistry.

Fat loneliness being the only thing that truly ever kept me up at night, I somehow always maintained a strong faith in my ability as an actor. I don’t know why. It’s an easy thing to be insecure about, but I was immune. I was never cocky. Humility is not the same thing as insecurity. I was humble, but confident. Ruminating on this for several weeks now, I’ve come to the conclusion that it was because I was doing it all the time.

Last year was the first in 18 years that I did not do a play. Seriously. That dawned on me recently and I about died. How depressing, and weird. Save the two or three years that competitive baton twirling replaced theatre as my extracurricular activity, I’ve always been in plays, even as a kid. Plays at school, plays at River City Theatre Company (youth theatre), or plays in adult community theatres, I was always acting. A funny thing happens when you’re doing something all the time. You don’t have much time to doubt it. You can feel frustrated and shaky, maybe challenged and even overwhelmed, but not deep-seated insecurity. That is the kryptonite that prevents you from even being able to get on the stage.

So flash forward now to 2014 and I audition, and I audition, and I audition, and I audition, and for the first time in forever I do not get cast in anything. Whoa. Unlike before, I am not asking you to feel sorry for me about this one. When I made this observation to a friend of mine his response was, that’s amazing. Not the response I was expecting because I saw it as a negative. He reminded me that I could just as easily see it as a positive that I had been fortunate enough to ALWAYS be practicing my craft and playing from the time I was 11. So yeah, that turned me on my feet real quick. I’m grateful. I’ve lived a charmed actor life.

But gratitude doesn’t dismiss the detriment NOT acting is having on my spirit. To use the phrase I began this article with, when I was in college, I was acting every day all day. I was fortunate enough to go to an amazing acting conservatory program at an amazing university (BU pride forever baby!), where literally everyday from 9:00 am in the morning to 9:00 pm at night I was stretching my creative muscle. I was moving around like an earthworm in movement class. I was playing status exercises in scene class. I was thrown into an existential crisis discussing Plato’s takedown of the arts. Is he right? Oh my God. Is art too far removed from the truth? I was learning about what my body could do for itself in Alexander technique. I was getting to know my voice. I was discovering my knack for German, Scottish, English dialects. I was in London! Acting! I was living my absolute dream studying theatre in my favorite city in the entire world. Who has time for doubt when DOING all the time? Not me.

Then graduation comes and goes. You move on. The real world hits. Bills hit. College loans can’t be deferred any longer. Cars need to be bought. More loans. You decide between a soul-sucking restaurant job and a stable 9:00-5:00. You pick the 9:00-5:00 to spare your soul but consequently put a huge barrier in your way to auditioning. However you do leave the evenings open to continue to do theatre. You join a theatre company. Yay. You audition and get cast sometimes. Yay. You audition other times and don’t get cast. Poo. Then one year, 7 years later, you audition again and again and again and you don’t get cast in anything and you’ve been working your 9:00-5:00 job to pay off the college loans you took out to get a degree that you’re not using and you’re so tired by the time you get home that you veg out on the couch watching other people act on your TV instead of figuring out why you’re not. And you wake up one day and you’re 30 and you realize that although you’re happy and you actually like your 9:00-5:00 job and you’re married to a wonderful man and you love your apartment and your car that you’re still trying to pay off, and your priorities have changed a bit, you realize that despite all of that, you’re not acting. You really thought you’d be acting. You were fearless. And not acting has made you bad at acting. And you’ve never been worried about being bad at acting in your entire life. And so how do you reconcile the fact that you’re no longer afraid of being fat or being a loner but you are terrified of being a bad actor.

I’m pretty sure the answer is simple. Just start acting again, right? Easy. Except it’s kind of not. It feels like there are limited opportunities to act. The trick is to take what you can get and take it seriously. The other night a friend of mine was having a very informal reading in his apartment of a pilot he wrote. They needed readers. Normally I would say no, because I’d rather go home and veg out on the couch and watch other people act. But I thought about my struggle of late and said, you know, this is an opportunity to act. Even though it’s going to be very casual and you’ll be among friends, it’s an opportunity to read words that someone else wrote and try to bring them to life. So I said yes. And I had a great time. Yes we just sat casually in his living room drinking ginger tea while we read. Yes it was a room full of female actors even though most of the characters were men. Yes it was super casual. But it was fun and I acted. So there.

This is what I need to do. Not because I need a career as an actor. I’m not sure that’s my fate. A career is beside the point. What I do know is that I need to be acting. Because acting is what turned the fearless switch on when I was 11 years old.  Acting is what made my fear of being a fat loner tolerable. Acting is fun. Acting is the very core of my imagination. I have to be acting. To not have done a play in the past 12 months has felt like a part of me is trapped. My wings have been bound. I guess it’s sort of an addiction. I can’t shake it. No matter how much I turn to writing more seriously than acting. No matter how much I paint, or twirl baton, or practice the guitar, or run. All of those things are great, but nothing is as fulfilling to my very soul as playing make believe with someone else’s words. My acting fuels all other artistic pursuits. Like a shark that stops moving forward, if I stop acting my imagination dies and I can kiss goodbye to writing, painting, or whatever else.

It’s like those new Ben & Jerry’s Core ice cream flavors. Acting is my chocolate fudge core. (You can kinda see how I ended up a chubby kid, huh?)

Do any of you feel this way too? I know it’s hard to be working professionally all the time but we have to keep working out. We have to get to the creative gym. When I was in college (there’s that phrase again), we had this weekly event called Locals. It was a lifesaver. Freshmen at BU are not allowed to audition for any of the mainstage shows. It’s wise. You spend the first year getting acclimated to college, acclimated to the conservatory environment. You learn before you apply. But the professors acknowledged the importance of casual pressure-free application. So they started this thing called Locals. Every Monday afternoon the entire Freshmen class of theatre students, as well as some professors and upperclassmen, would gather in one of the larger classrooms and just do stuff. People would get up and perform whatever they’d been working on. Sometimes you’d get a scene partner and spend the week working on a scene you always wanted to do and then you’d perform it at Locals. Maybe you’d sing songs, dance, play an instrument, or tell a story. It was an exercise in fearlessness. No one was expected to be perfect; everyone was expected to be brave. It was fantastic. I miss Locals.

This got me thinking. I’m a part of this large community of artists at Theatre of NOTE not unlike my community of artists in college. All talented, supportive, top-notch types who don’t get to act often enough. Wouldn’t it be great to have Locals? I don’t think we could organize it every week, but what about once a month? Wouldn’t it be fantastic to have a safe space where you could just work on stuff?

A friend of mine, Bill, started something similar to this called The Creative Fete. It was very Locals-esque. From what I understand it has since been somewhat dissolved and that makes me sad.

I’m just putting it out there to gauge interest. What do you think LA theatre nerds? Do you want to play? Because the 11 year old I once knew is looking me in the face and asking with a snarky expression, “When did you become so afraid?”

self-pity, and why it has no place in the universe

I’ve had a few people ask me, why the crap-tasticness alluded to in my in last post? Well, it’s really been a series of things but in a vague nutshell, I’ve just been feeling rejected and dejected lately. I’ve failed a few auditions of late that I really really really wanted to nail, and that hurts. The rejections have spun me into a spiral of self-pity wherein I’ve reacquainted with my adolescent self who tends to repeat in her head “I’m just not that girl.”  Over and over again I keep bombarding myself: “I’m not that girl, I”m not that girl.” I’ve been listening on repeat to both “On my Own” from Les Mis and “I’m Not That Girl” from Wicked, punishing myself and making me believe that there’s just something wrong with me.

You know what I mean; that girl. The girl that seems to get everything she wants. The girl that is on the top of everyone’s radar. The girl that everyone loves. The girl that always wins. I don’t feel like I’ve ever been that girl and I guess I can’t help it if I’ve always wondered what it felt like. I’ve always been really good at being that girl’s best friend.

Then I woke up a few days ago and the universe decided it was sick of my griping. Side note: I totally believe in signs. I believe in serendipity. I don’t care if you think I’m crazy, I think that the universe sends us signs and messages all the time that perhaps don’t necessarily mean anything on their own, but are up to US to translate into meaning and inspiration. I really believe that. So, there I am at work, pitying myself, and all of a sudden, out of the blue, I get called in to audition for a major network television show. The timing was impeccable. I was immediately transported to cloud 9. This was exactly what I needed at that moment. Not only did I get the audition, but the role was perfect for me. A quirky, charactery, fun, yet still somehow plain college student, and the role called for a lot of crying. Perfect! It was like the universe was A) reminding me why I moved to Los Angeles, which was not to do theatre and B) reminding me to accept who I am, and what parts I’m good at playing. So what if I’m not the prom queen, the cheerleader, the typical ingenue, that girl. I am damn good at being me. I’m damn good at being a little bit weird, a little bit off-beat, a best friend, a girl on the sidelines who surprises everyone, a deep feeler, a deep thinker. These are my traits. These are who I am. And if I want to succeed as an actor, I need to embrace that, and do it better than anyone else. Eponine is way more interesting than Cosette anyway.

The next day I got a call to tell me that the part I was to audition for on the major network television show had been written out of the script so I didn’t need to come in to audition after all. Disappointed? Of course, but you know what, ultimately I did not care! It wasn’t just the prospect of doing the show that rejuvenated me (though of course that would have been awesome!), it was the little reminder from the universe of where I should focus my energy. For that, I was so grateful. Thank you universe. Thank you awesome casting directors for believing in me at the exact right time I needed someone to believe. How did you know? 

I’m not really sure there is such a thing as That Girl. I don’t think the universe bestows anyone with any special preference over another. I think that all there is, is our responsibility to figure out who we are, and to embrace it with all our might. I think people who possess that can’t help but succeed. Can’t help but become That Girl. 

Since I no longer had an audition, I had a little extra time on my hands and decided to get some froyo. On the way out of the mall, I saw a very special shirt in the window of Foot Locker. I bought it without thinking twice, and wore it last night on a rejuvenating and powerful 3 mile run. If this wasn’t a sign from the universe, I don’t know what is:

confessions of a competitive crazy turkey trot loser

I have a confession to make. While this may seem shocking and completely out of character for someone so seemingly laid back and sunny, I am one of the most competitive people you will ever meet. This applies to games of charades, sporting events, auditions, appearances, career goals and on and on, but I’m getting ahead of myself. I intended to write a quick anecdote about last week’s turkey trot in Huntington Beach and I’m divulging down a rather personal path into my psyche and the nature of competitiveness. Ah what the hell, I think I need to write about it.

Why are we competitive? And by we I mean most humans walking the earth. We compete for love. Men compete for women, women compete for men, men compete for men and women compete for women. We all do it.

We compete for attention. Siblings compete for attention from their parents. Co-workers compete for attention from their bosses. Politicians compete for attention from the public. Students compete for attention from their teachers. Attention must be a high priority for us humans. Why?

We compete for money. We compete to find the lowest price. We compete for that coveted raise or promotion. We compete with our peers for student loans. The entire economic structure of our society competes to take our dollar and make us feel like “wow, we got a great deal” in doing so.

We compete for the glory. Sports teams compete to be the champion. Colleges compete to be the best university in the country, whatever that means. Olympians compete for the medal. Countries compete to be the first on the moon. All for the glory, the bragging rights, the intangible right to simply proclaim “we are the best.”

I don’t know about you, but it seems to me that every aspect of competition has a major through line, ego. Now I don’t mean that in a derogatory sense, I really don’t. I’m certainly not foolish enough to believe that we should obliterate our egos in order to be one with the world. Ego is very important and very healthy, when it’s in check. So what am I getting at here? I’m trying to tell you in a very round about way that I have a very hard time keeping my ego in check.

I’m not conceited. I’m not full of myself. I’m not a bragger or someone who in any way thinks I’m better than you. On the contrary. I sway more to the neurotic. I’m down on myself a lot. I have an inferiority complex. I’m always certain that someone can do a better job than me. I fight those traps far more than I fight any state of what is commonly understood as egotistical. And yet I constantly feel the tug of my ego, pulling down on me, wanting to be fed.  Why? To counteract the affects of my neuroses of course. Sound crazy? That’s why it’s called neurotic! It’s totally loony. My default state seems to be that of insecurity and inferiority, so the ego inside tries to yank me in the other direction to get me out of the trenches. I guess I should thank my ego for that. It’s only trying to help. Trying to save me from drowning. And it has. I have allowed my ego to want things and desire to excel, and it truly has kept me from completely self-destructing. The problem is my ego seems to be a bit of a voracious beast. It just wants more. A balanced state between self-loathing and cocky doesn’t seem to be enough for my little ego. It wants it all. Perhaps it feels that it deserves payback for dragging my id out of the mud so many times. I guess I can’t blame it. So how does this manifest? In many ways over the years.

Scrabble. Taboo. Charades. Monolopy. Sounds silly but there was a time in my life, mostly around high school, that I played a board game as if my life depended on it. I played dirty. I played hard. And if I didn’t win, it got ugly. Don’t even think about being on my team unless you are willing to focus and take the game. I have managed to assuage this into a mild version of healthy competition over the years. I can now play a game of Scrabble without raising my voice to a 10 because some imbecile keeps questioning my perfectly acceptable words. Qi is a word! Get over it! Don’t be afraid. I’m much better now. Anyone for game night?

Sports. I’ve never been a big sports buff. It took me almost 3 decades for someone to finally explain to me in an understandable way how football works. (Thanks Danielle Ross for the lipstick metaphor). I collected baseball cards as a kid but I’m not sure why as I didn’t really follow the sport. I had quite a collection though. I finally got heavy into baseball once I went to college. You can’t avoid it when you live in Red Sox Nation. Being a mile down the street from Fenway when the Red Sox won the World Series will forever be one of the most incredible memories I have. So grateful I got to experience that. But I digress. There is one team that has always lit the competitive fire within me. One team that got me standing up and screaming at the TV as the adrenaline raised to an unhealthy level in my veins. That team is my Sacramento Kings. I will never, NEVER be a Lakers fan. I will never forget how they stole the championship from us back in ’02. The Kings taught me about useless competition at an early age. I say useless only in relation to its importance in the world. For as hyped up as I would get when the Kings won a game, you’d think the life of a nation or the well-being of a group of hostages was at stake. In relation to what it’s actually worth for the Kings to win a game, which is nothing, it’s useless. And yes I said winning is not worth anything. It’s really not. It’s not worth money except to the players and owners who will get a huge bump next season. It’s certainly not worth your money. It’s not worth anything intellectual or spiritual. What is it worth? Pride I guess. Pride that your team is the best. It’s a feeling that elevates. Makes us feel like winners. Our team won. My team. I, me, mine. Ego boost. I really hope that I don’t sound like I’m making a judgement about this. That is not my intention. I still love my Sacramento Kings, my Red Sox, and now that I understand football I can actually start to understand what the 49ers are doing and not just like them because I’m from the area.  I love sports. I just find it interesting how much energy we put into them considering the return is quite minimal.

What else am I competitive about? Career. This is a hard one for me to talk about. It’s incredibly personal and I’m not too good about being super personal on this blog. The drive to succeed in my career runs very deep and has many dark and complicated layers. I’ll just scratch the surface for you. I constantly fall into the trap of thinking that other people’s successes equal my failures. It’s absurd I know, and I fight and I fight it, but it’s so hard. Whenever I hear that someone booked something or just shot something awesome or got a new agent, etc. I feel a strong pang in my chest. What is that pang anyway? I suppose it’s jealousy, insecurity, envy, greed. How many deadly sins did I just name?

This goes both ways. Let me preface this by saying that I hate myself for what I’m about to admit. I am a terrible terrible terrible person, but I’m only human. Let me also say that this is a dirty shameful little secret of a feeling that I have almost completely grown out of, but still haunts me at times. Ok here goes. Sometimes, when something doesn’t work out for someone the way they’d hoped in regards to the entertainment industry, I feel this satisfying sense of schadenfreude. I’m terrible! God I hate myself for even saying it but I think I’m trying to spell it out for you, put it out in public, in the hopes that it will completely go away. I must not be the only person who ever felt that way or else the Germans wouldn’t have invented a word for it. Perhaps it’s just Germans that subscribe to such a horrible feeling. I attribute the ability to grow out of this horrible state to a few of my favorite things: love, running, and the general perspective and growth that comes with simply growing up.

Someone that I look up to very much subscribes to the opposite position. She is always proclaiming how happy she is to see people succeed, because it means she lives in a world where success is possible. That sentiment strikes such a strong chord with me. It’s not something that necessarily comes naturally, but I want it to. So I repeat it, like a mantra. Every time someone gets something, a part, an agent, a career, that I don’t, I remind myself that it has nothing to do with me and that their success just means that success is indeed possible. The success of others bodes well for all of us if we look at it the right way.

So why have I felt all of these awful feelings? I’m insightful and introspective enough to realize that it has nothing to do with “them” and everything to do with me. Misery loves company, and since I consider myself to be a miserable failure some of the time, I feel satisfaction when others fail with me. Sick sick sick. Every horrible thought that enters my head stems from my own insecurity that I’m not good enough, or maybe even not good at all. Thus, again, my ego comes along and tries to compensate, tries to save the day. Tries to find a way to make me feel like I’m the best, the prettiest, the most talented, the most interesting, the smartest. I’ve finally started to find enough balance and perspective in my life to know in my heart that no one is any of those things. If there is anything that my industry thrives on it’s uniqueness. The most interesting actors capitalize on their own brilliant uniqueness, and I’ve come to know that to compare myself and judge myself by others’ accomplishments cannibalizes that necessary trait. Slowly but surely I am becoming truly and deeply happy for others’ success, because it does indeed mean that success is possible.

So what does this have to do with running? Gosh at this point nothing! I’ve gone down the rabbit hole and it seems silly to come back up to talk about running, but I wanna. I want to tell you all about the Cause Life Turkey Trot. Because cooking for three days straight for a Thanksgiving feast of 16 people is not enough for me, and because I’m crazy, I felt it necessary to run a 10k the morning of Thanksgiving before preparing for the big day. Did I mention that I can be a bit of an over-achiever sometimes? The great thing about being madly in love is that, with my feminine wiles and irresistible charm, I managed to successfully rope Brad into doing it with me. So we woke up at 6:00 am and trudged down to Huntington Beach to run a sunrise 10k. The only other official race I’ve ever run is the Disneyland Half Marathon which as I’ve mentioned before is an intimate race with me and 20,000 of my closest friends. I assumed that most races would be on a somewhat large scale. I didn’t expect the Turkey Trot to hit those numbers but I figured about 1,000 at least. Uh uh. We get to the starting line and there couldn’t have been more than 100 people there. I suddenly think about the running shirt I almost wore to this race. Thank God I didn’t:

please god

Thinking about this shirt that I wore in the Disneyland Half Marathon, it occurred to me that in this particular 10k there very well could be NO ONE behind me to read this. The shirt was never meant to be true! This was a pretty serious group of runners and I knew we’d be towards the back. For the first mile I feel good. The pros had run ahead but we still have about 20-30 people behind us that I know I can lick.  What does not occur to me is that this is a 5k/10k race. In other words, about half of the people running are going to turn around at a mile and a half and only the die-hards are here to do the full 10k. Few minutes later and we hit the 5k turnaround. It starts to get quiet, too quiet. I turn around to take a look and there is no one behind us! Everyone who is slower than us did the 5k, i.e. we were in last place for the 10k! This is not happening. My competitive streak kicks in. I will NOT be last. Brad meanwhile, totally doesn’t care. He’s giggling at me and enjoying our leisurely morning run. To be honest I think he is more interested in watching the pro surfers than finishing the run. Huntington Beach is a world destination for surfing so I can’t blame him. It just highlights how Brad is the opposite of me in so many ways. He’s so laid back and hardly competitive at all. He thinks it’s hilarious how worked up I can get. I, in the moment, do not feel there is anything to laugh about. I will NOT be last!I really push myself the last 2 miles, a bit too hard. I’ve got a long long long day of cooking staring at me in the face and I do not have time to get sick or exhausted from running. Brad tries to remind me of this but I can’t see reason. Once we finally pass a couple of people with bibs on their shirts I slow down a bit, knowing we won’t cross the finish line dead last.

Races are fun. I love running because it is generally not competitive, which is good for me. When I go for a jog alone or with Brad, the only person I’m competing against is myself, and that is exactly the life lesson I need. Not to sound obnoxious but running has really helped me to zen me out and create balance in my life. It has taught me to focus my energy on the strength within myself. Obsessing over what others do or do not accomplish diffuses what I’m capable of and drains my potential. In learning to harness what I’m capable of, I truly do feel joy when I see others do the same. Because that’s why we’re all here right? To realize our potential? And no one can do that for us. No one can find mine, and I can’t find yours. And certainly no one can take mine from me, and I can’t steal anyone elses’s, so what’s the point in being jealous? All we can do is support each other’s journeys. I guess I’m not such a horrible person after all. I’m growing. Every now and then though I have to admit it’s pretty to fun to whip out the old competitive streak and run a race. The only finish time that matters is still my own personal finish time, but it sure feels good to pass people every now and then. Now that I’m growing out of the neurotic psycho Gemini I once was, I find myself smiling at the folks who finished before me and cheering on those who finish after. Healthy competition. I rarely run races, but that little ego of mine has saved my life so many times, I think it’s ok to throw a treat her way every now and then.