Saturday, November 3, 2012


Here's part two of playing some serious catch-up on this blog! Let us travel back to July of this year...

I am fortunate enough to have some seriously cool friends who scored the jobs of casting extras for CBGB: The Movie, which was filmed in Savannah, GA. Given the locale, and the fact that they are SCAD alumni, they treated their own very well by pulling extras and stand-ins from fellow SCAD-illites. Just goes to show you that knowing people/networking/keeping in touch is important!

This was my first time as an extra (or I think the friendly term is "background artist", but really, is anyone actually offended by "extra?"), and I can't talk about what I saw or heard on the set that pertains specifically to the film and for obvious reasons. Nobody likes a spoiler, especially not the people who worked so hard to create the film! What I can talk about is what it was like to be an extra. And I think it's ok to tell you that I watched Alan Rickman pick a wedgie.

First of all, when you submit your headshot and resume for extra work, you will probably hear nothing.  That is, until the night before they want you to be on set. Which can be a problem if you don't live in the area where they are filming or if, you know, you have that pesky thing called a job. Maybe because I knew the people casting extras, or maybe this would work out otherwise, I was able to ask them if they could use my boyfriend and myself for a couple days the next week. Turns out, 1970's punks were in high demand.

So, off we went! We threw all of our potentially 70's-looking clothing in a bag, borrowed a decently-running car, and took off to sweltering Savannah, where we crashed with my college roommate. The casting people called us again the night before to confirm our call time and give us details about not wearing make-up, wearing our best ideas for costumes to the set, etc. They also sent us directions to the studio via email the night before. If I remember correctly, our call time was approximately the butt crack of dawn.

Our time there went something like this: We arrived and were directed to the "extras holding area," where all the lovely background artists check in, change, eat, and sit around and wait. Ours was the big craft services tent outside in the mid-July Savannah heat. We filled out tax forms and stood in line to get costumes. A lot of people didn't bring anything, but it will make the process go much faster for you and everyone else if you follow directions, which in our case was to bring options and wear what we thought best suited the description we were given. Both Chris and I were approved for costumes while we were still in line and didn't need to get fitted. Hair and makeup also gets checked. Tweaking happens. Some of the guys were given really terrible wigs. I was airbrushed (butt-crack of dawn... dark circles happen). This is all a little crazy and there's people everywhere and everyone kind of just wants to see Alan Rickman. And when he comes to get his breakfast, you realize he has pajamas and bed head, just like everyone else.

And then you wait.


They're not going to tell the extras much about what is going on or when they will be needed, so we just sort of hung out. There were a lot of different kinds of people working as extras. Most of us were pretty young. Some were very awesome and I have kept in touch with them since. One guy was the most obnoxious person I have ever come across in my life.

Eventually, they will call some or all of the extras in. We were in a lot of large group scenes and I walked by a window with a partner to give the idea of people walking by on the street. The extras will be given directions and, once again, it just makes everything easier if they're followed. "Don't talk" kind of means "don't talk." They will pull you out of the scene and that's just no fun.

At one point, a terrific summer storm as only Savannah knows how to host blew through and the set was almost completely shut down to keep from attracting a lightning strike to the huge energy pull. There was a good deal of standing around in the dark, being very quiet. It also flooded the inside of the tent that served as the holding area. Very unpleasant for the poor people who left their belongings on the ground!

Honestly, that's really kind of it. Chris and I had a blast and from what I understood from my fellow background actors, this film was particularly good to its extras. We were fed and paid well for our time (this was a 75/8 contract, which is typical for extra work, meaning that you earn $75 for 8 hours on set). Extras brought in on our second day were there were given priority because we had traveled. We got to be around super famous people, which becomes strangely comfortable. I learned a lot about the on-goings on set and how the actors work. (For that reason, I think it's a good experience for actors to have. Take the opportunity to learn!) I got to reconnect with some people from college. And Chris and I got to go to the beach when we were done each day.

Ahh... Tybee Island. You are so good.
Unfortunately, no one is allowed to take pictures on set, so everyone will have to wait to see my vested, 70's self in the final product, which will be released in theatres next year. However, I will leave you with this gem, taken in a beach shop on the way to Tybee...
Oh, dear.
Next up... "Where's Our Alcove?!: Reflections on Moving to Chicago"

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Audition #10: Shakespeare Theatre Co. Fellowship

Before I really get into this, I want to say that there was an audition #9, which was for Ensemble Stage Co. in Blowing Rock, NC. I worked with this company a year ago on a production called Going To See the Elephant, which you can read about here. It was an audition I didn't even need to do. They know my work there and I wasn't even sure if I would be in the area for their season. I went because I wanted to be there with them. The feedback I was given by Gary is something I keep on my own little shelf to save for the days when I hate everything about acting, of which he reminded me that there would be plenty. So, yeah, I did a couple of pieces in a auditorium back in March or so, but that's not really what I took away from it and sometimes, after sharing everything as an actor, there are little things that you like to tuck away just for you. The ninth audition is one of those things.

Auditioning for the Shakespeare Theatre Company was similar in the sense that what I took away from the experience was not the audition itself. I traveled to New York and visited friends, saw the city, and went to a Broadway show. I remember all of that much more than the five minutes "in the room."

I think I wore a purple blazer and gray pants.
I think I did well with all my problem words with my dialect.
I think I joked excessively about how I brought too many head shots.

Maybe this says something about the memorability of my audition from the other side of the table. But you know what I do remember?

Having margaritas with Aurora after my audition at 11 am.
Going to Peter and the Starcatcher with Mike and Jenny.
Listening to a couple of NY policemen tell each other stories about threatening people with their guns.
Sitting on Aurora's roof with her and Martha Frances.
Unintentional hot yoga at Yoga To The People in a room without air conditioning.
Getting home and setting a date with my boyfriend to move to Chicago.

The trip inspired me and reminded me of what excites me and the plans that had somehow fallen out of practice up until that point. Here's what I wrote in my journal on the day of the audition.

June 19, 2012
Today was the much-anticipated audition day for the Shakespeare Theatre Co. of DC. I have been fretting over it for at least a month. I did Isabella from Measure for Measure and Hypatia from Misalliance. Although I've been nervous for weeks about this, a few days ago, all my nerves suddenly disappeared and I felt unusually confident (which, in turn, weirded me out). I'm not sure what clicked or why. I know and knew then that my pieces weren't and aren't perfect. For whatever reason, I just wasn't worried about it. I've always wondered if there was a point when I would just get used to auditioning. Maybe this is it? Or maybe I was able to direct my focus to the trip instead. Either way, I am pleased with my audition this morning. When I was done, he said it was a "very good audition" and he was pleased to have met me. That is worth being pleased about, even if I didn't get a callback. I got seen. I'm in New York. I'm reconnecting with Aurora and Martha Frances. Every time I make a trip like this and see people from my artistic journey, I re-realize just how important (and wonderful!) it is to nurture those relationships. Not just so I can have a place to crash in NYC, but for professional reasons and it's just so fulfilling to have friends that I can connect with on an artistic basis. And Aurora is down with post-audition margaritas at 11 am. F***ing awesome.
Being in the city is also really hitting home just how ready I am to move and to live this life. I'm ready to be busy and live in a place where there are things going on in general and for me as an actor. It is a vibrant place to be. 

Saturday, September 8, 2012

An Excused Absence

There are a lot of reasons why I haven't posted since March (ouch). I doubt any of those reasons make it very excusable, but if one does, it is that I have actually been doing stuff. "Stuff" being:

  • An audition for the Shakespeare Theatre Co. of DC in NYC
  • Two days on the set of the film CBGB in Savannah, GA as an extra
  • I moved to Chicago. NBD.
As eager as I am to get straight to details about living in Chicago as an actor (which I have noticed are seriously lacking on the internet), there is some good stuff in the other two experiences as well. Also, I've only been here a month, so maybe marketing my extensive wisdom about the Chicago actor's lifestyle is a little premature anyway. Therefore, my next posts will bring us up-to-date. 

It can be really easy to let something like this slip out of curriculum since the internet has such an easy time creating a sense of isolation. There's no real way to know if anyone is even reading this. Yes, I can look at the stats and even see what people searched for that led them here. But something tells me that "hot girls armpits" guy didn't stick around to actually read anything. A lot of the reason I came back, even just for this quick post, is that the internet has the redeeming factor of having venues for people, friends, to just drop me a line and say, "Hey, I enjoy your blog posts." Which they (you) do.

What I'm saying is that you are responsible for that underarm fetishist's continued disappointment.

No, I'm kidding. What I'm saying is thank you. I enjoy hearing from you. I enjoy being read. I'll try to be better about upkeep, knowing that yes, someone is reading this.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

What Baby Goats Can Teach Actors

It is the things we are most passionate about that make us want to bang our head against a wall.

I have lived on a farm all my life and, believe you me, it's the kind of work that makes you question why you are even doing it in the first place. It's hard. There's a lot of disappointment, like when some rodents get to your root vegetable crops or an opossum gets in the chicken lot and cleans house or when you bury the horse you've had since you were eight. And most jobs are chronic. No matter how many times you shovel, the horses still poop.

But we keep farming, out of the belief that it's crucial to who we are or the world around us. Or out of pure stubbornness. Or because we get those moments we live for, like after a hard afternoon of shoveling, my sweet horse Loretta rests her chin on my shoulder. Or when you open the barn door and are met with this...

Nothing is more perfect or wonderful to me as a farm girl than a healthy newborn baby goat. Within an hour of their birth, they can stand and feed themselves. Within days, they are jumping from objects twice their height. They have fantastically cute little noses. Honestly, they make me make tiny, high pitched noises. They make it worth all the fence repairs and tackling their mothers and aunties when they prey upon the garden.

Baby goats are the moments as an actor when you are reminded of why you do what you do. When you move an audience member in ways even they never expected. When you nail that performance. When you score that role. When your mentors tell you that they're proud of you. Those are baby goats. Treasure them. Soon they will grow up and start tearing down fences and eating arugula of their own.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Inspired by "Fearlessness"

I've been working on a bunch of applications lately, hoping to find an internship for my relocation to Chicago or further training opportunities. I've been calling it my "Application Bonanza." One of them required a one-page statement on something that inspires me. I wasn't really sure where I was going when I started writing this, but it ended up being an introspective piece that speaks on an idea that I, along with many actors, covet. Here it is.
In art and in life, I am inspired by fearlessness. Or, I should say, what is perceived as fearlessness, because I believe the truth of that concept lies in the willingness to face a fear, no matter how overwhelming it is. Every day as artists, we make a choice about how far out on the ledge we put ourselves and the composure we keep while there. In my eyes, fearlessness is a combination of these two elements as well as the confidence necessary to do it over and over again. I envy the actors that I hear described as 'fearless', knowing that my work in the past has been described as 'fearful'. I can't imagine that any human is completely devoid of trepidation when attempting to truthfully bare the character's emotions and desires within themselves and sometimes failing, so I have been observing myself and others for the key to being perceived as without fear, not only as an actor but also in everyday life.

I think of Josephine Baker, who was revolutionary because of her style of dancing and because of the fact that she was a black woman in the 1920's who was revered all over the world. Not only that, she became a major figure of the French resistance during World War II. In a time when her culture was still expected to keep their heads down, she was carrying resistance documents across boarders with what I'm sure was a fabulous and alluring air, but I can only imagine the heart-pounding paranoia she must have felt. She also integrated Carnegie Hall and was bisexual, all the while she had a pet cheetah named Chiquita. So much for keeping her head down. I'm inspired by her strong convictions, by her poise while keeping them, by her determination to see them through. In a word, I am inspired by her fearlessness.

I think of Eve Ensler, who was a theatre artist living in New York who wrote The Vagina Monologues, not for her own benefit, but to give a voice to women who are otherwise unheard. In doing so, she made herself face her own past and also opened a dialog about something that our culture—and many others—simply don't talk about. She talked about vaginas in public and she talked about them in first person, as if they were her own, which takes immense confidence. In doing so, she has put a spotlight on vaginas and violence against women, a spotlight which shines all over the world now. She continues to stare down her fears as she travels to countries and talks to women who have endured what most Americans can't imagine. Then she brings it home and describes it, even when it is not something the world wants to hear. I imagine how many times she must have thought about not doing the first production of The Vagina Monologues. (She even wrote “When I first read these monologues, my most pressing concern was being able to get the words out of my terrified mouth.”) I imagine her unease at revealing her own past and her own insecurities. And yet she went further out onto the ledge and with each new publication, she continues to push the envelope with confidence that betrays her own fear that she has entrusted to her followers.

I can think of many others, but my page is almost full. With them, as with Josephine Baker and Eve Ensler, I admire their ability to see through the fear they are met with with a confidence that fools boarder patrol and audiences alike. I aspire to that level of fearlessness—the combination of bravery and confidence—that makes great people and great actors. I work on it every day, when I keep myself from worrying about a flub in rehearsal or by refusing to wait by the phone after an audition, or by blatantly admitting to you, a stranger, what goes through my head when I hear someone call another actor 'fearless': envy, admiration, and determination.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


On Friday, I returned from a 12-day trip to England--a trip primarily made to watch my brother's graduation from Durham University. Of course, that was only one part of one day, so I did plenty of other things, including drinking lots of pints and eating lots of pub food.

I had lots of beautiful things to say to you about England. Words like 'brooding', and thoughts about how it is most certainly Shakespeare's country, even today. But I can't share the sentiments I had then with you now because I don't have them anymore.

We left Wales last Wednesday morning en route to London, with stops planned at Avebury to see the standing stone circle and at Salisbury to see a more famous bunch of rocks, Stonehenge. After a little navigational mayhem, we made it to the first destination. It was cold and misting heavily. While my hair had spoken to me that morning and said "rockabilly", it was quickly veering toward "tribble." (And I'm sorry if you got that joke without looking it up.) The weather made a perfect atmosphere for walking amongst the ancient circle.

It also seemed appropriate for what greeted us when we returned to our rental car. 

I remained relatively calm as I realized that my mother and I had been victimized. I was even pretty chill when I saw that my backpack was the only thing that was taken, but when I remembered that my acting journal was in my bag, I lost it.

I remember the day I bought my journal. My movement teacher, Martin, had given my class a lecture about how we should respect our journals and our reflections on our craft, how the spiral-bound notebooks and stapled notebook paper we'd been turning in wasn't good enough. He told us that when he moved to the east coast from California, it was the box of his journals that he was most concerned about. I went to my university bookstore and walked up to the sketchbooks. I knew immediately that it was mine. It was the last one, bright red on a black shelf, with big, empty pages, and a strong elastic around it to keep it closed. I bought it and stapled the pages that I had been turning in to Martin on the first page. The next time I turned my journal in to him, he wrote in it something along the lines of, "I love this book. It shows the importance of what's inside."

When I last had my journal, it had stickers inside the front cover, and the cover was peeling back on the edge where I'd bumped it somewhere. The elastic was loose and pointless. It was close to full. It is a classic case of not knowing what you have until it's gone. You'd better believe I realized what I lost when I walked up and down the road by the car park, literally sobbing, hoping to see it discarded in the ditch. The rockabilly makeup went to hell too. I felt like a fool for not protecting it, for thinking no one would take a bag full of things without any monetary value, for not listening to the signs that the world had given me. 

I cried and cried. I still cry a little. The police took notes and said they'd look for my "bits" but I know that somewhere in Avebury or nearby, the penmarks are melting away and the pages are giving way to pulp in the cold English rain. No police officer, no matter how charming, realizes that one of my "bits" was actually a huge piece of my understanding of myself and my craft. I feel as though I've gone backwards.

This post is partly mourning--literal mourning. It is also partly me asking you to think about what is valuable to you. I saw a dozen signs that day instructing me to not leave valuables in the car. I took that to mean my iPod and my wallet, which were with me, thinking no one would take a backpack with two American Theatre magazines, an extra pair of underwear, and a copy of the French Lieutenant's Woman. I would trade money for my journal any day.

We never got to Stonehenge. Pinched for time after taping a trash bag over the empty window and speaking to the police, we went straight to London. I had planned to copy all those beautiful words about Shakespeare's "brooding" country out of my journal. That's what I meant when I said I don't have them anymore. I only have fragments. I am re-defining the word "valuables" for myself. And maybe--hopefully--for some of you too.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Mottos for 2012

I hope all of my readers are having a wonderful holiday season (that includes you, person who found me by searching 'girls underarms and boobs'. Welcome to my acting blog.) and are feeling good about what's been accomplished in the past year. (Take a look at my post on creating an annual review.) For myself, I'm feeling frustrated when I look back at the past year. When I look at where I am now compared to where I was late December, 2010, I can't find anything that's really changed. There have been some great events, like working at Perry-Mansfield and doing my first professional show, but it still feels as though I haven't grown much. I'm still living with my mom. I feel stuck and incredibly unproductive, as much as I talk big about efficiency here. I should be taking advantage of this free time and living situation, but the reality is I haven't even opened the past two issues of American Theatre.

I'm not sure why I feel uninspired, but continuing to live at home is not helping. So by this time next year, I hope to look back on this post and see how much has changed this time around. Aside from the goals I set in my Year In Review post, I've also been coming upon themes/mottos for next year in my journaling (which I've been much better about--not perfect, mind you, but better).

JUST START--This was the first motto that came up when I was initially battling lack of motivation. It worked decently well, to the point that it became not about starting, but sticking with it in my second theme. At the moment, however, I may need to revisit this one.
COMMIT--If I start something, it often has a hard time transitioning into a regime. For example, it's been a week since I worked out. I need to work on the repetition essential to forming habits.
TAKE TIME TO ADVENTURE--I have friends with fabulous international jobs and, to be perfectly honest, I'm pretty jealous of them. I feel as though I am tied down by my career, that if I don't slave away at it constantly and currently, my time will expire. Au contraire. In many of the workshops and talk-backs I had the pleasure of attending in college, the speakers emphasized the idea that we have time. Not only that, but I believe that the best way to understand the lives we portray is to experience the life we are given.
DO ONE THING EVERY MONTH TO FEEL FABULOUS--I'm ready to leave the self-conscious, only moderately successful, poorly-dressed actor that I was in college behind me when I move. I want to give Chicago a version of me that looks and feels confident without compromising whatever eccentricities that are inherently me. My favorite blue cardigan with the hole in it will have to go. Every month, I will do one thing to make me feel a little less dorky and a little more polished.

Have a happy new year everyone! Hydrate today and stay safe tonight. Tomorrow, we (stop having Buffy the Vampire Slayer marathons with my cat and Netflix and) start anew.