journey of an actress

I have a degree. I have an audition binder. I have a headshot. All I need is a job.

Psych and My Own Weird Brand of Inspiration

I decided to take the day off from major labor, which as moms and/or artists we all know just means telling ourselves that we’re not working when we are. I’m currently obsessed with Psych, and it’s been on since 7 AM this morning (barring a one hour Sesame Street break).

I’m notorious for obsessing over television shows and/or actors. Full on, binge watching, imdbing (is that a verb? It is now), quoting crazy fan girl. Smallville, Supernatural, and now Psych.

The sad part about me watching television is that I cannot be a casual watcher. So even when I’m watching for leisure, I am analyzing the performances. And so I finally realized that there was more than a funny man behind James Roday, who plays Shawn Spencer on the show. There is a certain level of finesse in his comedy that had to be taught alongside what I ‘m sure are great instincts. I did some stalker-like digging, and found that he studied at New York University’s Experimental Theatre wing. He’s also a co-artistic director for his own theatre company, Red Dog Squadron. 

The point of all of that is that I forget so often that I need these days. I’ve been feeling so mired down in the technical pieces of running a theatre company (I’ve got to make this deposit; My entire pit orchestra just quit; We only have $50 in our bank account) that I am forgetting how to be an artist. I’ve also been feeling kind of… I don’t know if judged is the right word, but it’s close. What I do isn’t appreciated by many, but I have to remind myself that it is watched by everyone (unless you don’t own a television). So I’ve actively been trying to suppress being artist because I’m afraid of being labeled “weird” by others.

I think the reason I get so stalker-y about people I admire is because I’m desperate to know that there are people out in the world who are like me- who care deeply about the same things I care about.

I need to take more time to watch good actors in action. I need to take more time to remind myself that what we do and who we are is worthwhile. It rejuvenates me. I’m ready for tomorrow.

The World Will Know

I’ve just spent the better part of an hour looking at a couple incredible blogs with incredible stories of working moms (http://www.workingmomsbreak.com/  and  http://www.workingmomsagainstguilt.com). I’ve thought a lot about the story I would share about my experience with mommy guilt and almost decided not to, because others are obviously writing more eloquently than I, but I think I will anyway.

This journey into theatre has not been without its many bumps and bruises and complete meltdowns on my end (think “Julie and Julia” throwing a duck on the floor and laying next to the cabinet sobbing kind of meltdowns). For one thing, there is this nagging voice in every artist’s head that wants to know who you think you are. Why would you ever believe that you are good enough to engage in all that is creativity? And whether that comes from your upbringing that tells you to be humble or from the people in your master’s classes scoffing at you because you just asked why a Disney musical can’t be art. And then, just when you think you really and truly do not care at all, not a lick, about what other people think (which, by the way, is nonsense. Artists eat or starve based on what other people think), you have a child.

And it all starts over.

Never mind, momma, that you carried that child for nine months while working 8-10 hour days and weeping over what you thought would be lost dreams. Never mind that you labored for 24 hours and the epidural wore off and it took two hours of pushing with no pain meds to get that beautiful life out of you. Never mind that your child’s every need is fulfilled. No no no. You work full time in theatre and, without a doubt, your kid is going to be messed up on so many levels.

Did you know that there is a study out now that says that kids are more likely to be obese if the mom works outside the home? Also, they won’t be good readers. Also, they probably won’t think that you love them as much (just kidding, I made that up. But don’t lie, you’ve thought it too).

Now on top of it all, you have to worry that your kid is going to be labelled as “that weird theatre kid.” That,  god forbid, he might not like dirt or sports or muscle cars.

I know that I’ve talked a big talk before about learning empathy, and that being so important, but of course I still worry about him.

And I’m not really looking for moms to jump on board with me and say “you’re doing great! What a great mom you are!” Because I know that I’m doing the absolute best I can for my family. But I thought I would put the word out there and hope that just one working mom out there reads this and knows that she is not alone. We’re all in your corner, girl. You bear children, feed them, clothe them, bathe them, read to them, and tuck them in. And once they’re asleep, you write a rehearsal schedule, memorize lines, email potential sponsors, find replacements for the three people that dropped out of the cast, and write an agenda for the board meeting. You are a super hero. And, one day, the world will know!

“And the world will know, and the world will learn. And the world will wonder how we made the tables turn. And the world will see that we had to choose. That the things we do today will be tomorrow’s news. ” -Newsies

A Day in the Life

This has been a really, truly, crazy couple of weeks.

I always wonder why people think that kids go into the arts willy-nilly. I can almost guarantee that if they do, they will run as far away from the arts as possible as soon as they see the amount of work that it takes.

 Saturday was the yard sale fundraiser and also auditions for Joseph. I thought I would take my readers through a day in my life. This isn’t entirely typical, but I would say that my days get about this full in general, they just might not start quite so early.

A Day In the Life

5:30a Alarm goes off. I don’t know where I am or why I am doing what I am doing, but I somehow remember that I told myself before I went to sleep that 5:30 was the absolute latest that I could sleep. Yuck. I pull my hair back, brush my teeth, and put on makeup. No shower, because I would have had to get up at 5:00 to do that and there is no way. 

5:45a Begin loading all of the items that I forgot to load the night before into the truck: drinks, cups, signs, money box, misc. garage sale items…

6:20a Arrive at the yard sale. A friend of mine VERY generously donated the use of her garage and driveway for the sale. My driveway is so steep that it’s like Mt. Everest, so there was no way we were having it there. We begin unloading everything that’s left in the truck and pulling everything out of the garage and organizing.

6:40a I take the truck to a friend’s house and we load in some furniture and other large items to take back to the sale.

7:00a Coffee. Blessed, blessed coffee

7:30a Finally people start arriving at the sale. We spend the whole morning selling, rearranging, making lemonade, and chatting with prospective ticket buyers. It would seem like this would not be all that hard, but I’m an introvert, and so all of the talk utterly exhausts me.

11:00a Leave to take a shower.

12:15p Arrive back to eat hot dogs and chat about auditions and sell some more rummage. 

12:45p Leave for auditions at the church

1:00p Set up for auditions, run around in circles when there’s nothing else to do because there has to be something else to do, finally calm down once people start arriving

2:00p Listen to an hour and a half of auditions. Call people frantically to come audition because we don’t have enough people.

4:00p Eat. Talk about fundraising because we still don’t have enough money. There is never enough money.

5:30p Three more auditions. 

6:00p Meeting with kids chorus parents. There aren’t a ton of them, but I think I still managed to sufficiently confuse everyone.

6:30p Go out to a friend’s wedding reception at the park. It truly looked like a lot of fun, complete with the Kona Ice Truck, but at this point I have not stopped moving for 13 hours. So I could be at Disney World and my fun meter would be sitting at a solid 2. So we left about 30 minutes in (sorry, Emma!). 

7:15p Pick up the truck and trailer. Talk about fundraising some more.

8:00p Pick up my poor child who probably doesn’t even know who his mom is anymore. Talk to my father-in-law about fundraising.

8:30p Bath time for Mr. Noah. Jordan arrives home in time to take him to put his pj’s on and put him in bed. Which is a good thing, because I probably would have laid him in the crib in just a diaper. His hair doesn’t get brushed. This is evident at church the next day.

9:15p Go through emails, facebook, and to do lists while we watch 24. 

10:30p Sleep. Blessed, blessed sleep.

 

I wish I had some pictures to share with you, and on my next “Day in the Life” post I probably will. It just now occurred to me that one day I will want to look back on what I could accomplish in one day just based on necessity. And it will look great in my memoirs, no?

Late Ramblings on Independence Day

I’m not typically that patriotic of a person. I stand during the pledge and the anthem and I thank service people when I see them (and I can get up the courage, I am an introvert, after all). But there’s a flag in my house that I absolutely refuse to put outside because I am positive that I will forget it out there at night or in a storm and I don’t want people egging my house for my disrespect. So in the closet it stays.

Holidays have also never been huge for me. I usually forget my own birthday, so it’s really no surprise that I forget America’s birthday until the fireworks are shooting over my house. And even then, I’m pretty sure someone is shooting at me before I realize it’s the 4th.

I’m really more of the kind of person that randomly realizes throughout the year how blessed she is to be free and shoots up a prayer of thankfulness. That’s my brand of patriotism.

But yesterday I finally took some time to really think about how blessed I am, especially as an entrepreneurial women in theatre arts.

When I was little, no one had to instruct me on my dreams. It was clear that I wanted to be whatever was on tv next. A crimefighter, a doctor, an archeologist… whatever I could act out and pretend to be, that’s what I wanted. Whatever I could imagine the most vividly, that’s what I was doing. The world was open to me, and it was big and wide and I would make a difference.

I assumed that every little girl possessed those sorts of dreams.

In my applied theatre class last semester, the educational director from the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis came to speak on her trip to Africa. I can’t specifically remember the country, but she went to teach playwrighting to a group of young girls. These girls had been allowed to attend the school on the condition that they were not subjected to female circumcision. These girls’ dreams? Nurse or wife. That was it. That was all that was available to them and all that had been introduced to their minds. When they found out this teacher was a 50-something single woman, they pitied her deeply. Because how could she possibly be fulfilled without a husband?

The idea of a group of females coming together to create a theatre company would be unfathomable to them. Because it would literally be impossible and impractical where they are.

I’m so blessed to have begun something that I’ve dreamed about. And there will be challenges, and I would never discount the fact that, though we are miles ahead of that village in Africa, it’s still harder to build a company when you’re a woman. It’s more difficult to be taken seriously and, if you’re a mother, at every turn you are being second-guessed and judged because “where is your kid?” or “why would you bring your kid with you?”

But I’m still allowed to do it. I can still work hard and other women (and a couple men) can work hard beside me and we can accomplish this dream if we want to. There are no real societal restrains on us.

So, thanks, America. And thanks, Susan B. Anthony and all of the suffrage movement. We’re taking our freedom! And I hope we’re doing you proud!

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If you’re interested in the plight of women around the world, this is a great read. And remember, women hold up half the sky! http://www.halftheskymovement.org/

 

Theatre Entrepreneurship

Yesterday we set up a booth at the 4th of July Celebration in Jackson. It was a small, sad booth at first, but we got a table cloth, another table, and an umbrella and ending up making it look pretty snazzy.

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Melissa will be so thrilled I put this picture up. But look at our beautiful signage!

We didn’t make a ton of money (actually, not even enough to pay for our booth space), but we met a lot of people, got the word about Acting Out! into the wider community, and got a radio interview on a popular station! So I would call it a successful day.

Lately people have been wondering why I stay so busy. I have a kid, a non profit, and I teach at MBU. Aside from that, I’m the primary food-cooker and laundry-doer and house-cleaner (although my husband surprised me yesterday with a clean house! I love that man!). Well, the answer to this question is simple. I stay busy because we like to eat. And pay bills. We enjoy doing those things.

Right now I am not making money from Acting Out!, but it’s like building a business. I have to put the work in to see a paycheck.

Do people ask other entrepreneurs why they stay so busy? Or try to shame them into cutting their productivity in half? 

My theory is that people who work in the arts are looked upon as “not really working.” We’re just doing a hobby for money, so why not slow down?

I long for the day when people see my profession as worthwhile. When they start to understand that we’re not just playing pretend, we are pouring into people. We are seeing lives changed and hearts touched. How many careers are geared specifically toward seeing empathy fully realized and whose end goal is to fully commit yourself to another person’s problems? Where else can you explore life so fully and so free of consequence? We need theater to help us understand one another. My experience has been that people who engage in the arts often find it much easier to do so.

I consider my career to be mission work.

Besides that, telling someone that she is Juliet or watching the expression on a child’s face when they watch Snoopy tap dance… it is all priceless.

You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view- until you climb into his skin and walk around in it. -Atticus Finch “To Kill a Mockingbird”

Production Team Meetings and Realizing Life

We had our first production team meeting for Joseph last night at Cup ‘n Cork in Cape. I love meeting in that particular cafe, surrounded by wine, art, and music. It’s like a virtual breeding ground of creativity and I find I do most of my best work when I’m in a place that makes me feel “artsy.”
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The show is going to be great. I was completely stressed out before the meeting- I usually am before meetings. I act like someone on the team is going to see right through me and say, “You really don’t know what you’re doing, do you?” And then everyone else will agree and I’ll be left in Cup ‘n Cork with a wall of wine to tempt me.
But, fortunately, that never happens and the show rolls on. On to the next dream, the next attempt to get ourselves paid for our art, the next two months of crazy-ness and mind-numbing amounts of work. And we all love it.
On a side-note, I think that my last post had some people panicking about my self-worth as a parent. Just to clarify: I know that my son with be fine. He will have one non-traditional childhood, but it’s one that is uniquely Jordan and I. He will play with props and office supplies. He will know Shakespeare, Sondheim, and Williams. He will be able to quote “To be or not to be” by the time he’s 10. He will learn to talk, jump, and run in the midst of people dressed as Biblical characters, zombies, and Russian Jews. He will never be afraid to express himself because expressing yourself is looked upon with pride.
And that’s all aside from what he will learn from his choir director father, farmer grandpa, race car driver uncle, techie grandad, and missionary-to-be aunt.
My children will have a wealth of experiences from which to draw and I’m so proud of that. Maybe one day he will tell me that I made a mistake, but it’s the best I can do now. And he will know that he is loved and treasured and that we want him to experience all that life has to offer.
Our kid is only 18-months-old and he is already really, really living. And I’m so proud of that legacy.

 

“Do human beings ever realize life while they live it? Every, every minute?” Our Town

Fundraising

Today we are picking up donations for Acting Out!’s rummage sale to raise enough money to do Joseph.

I know I’ve said it before, but I’m sure I’ll say it again a million times. When I started this company I had no idea the amount of work I would do completely un-related to the actual show. Rummage sales, trivia nights, raffles, and craft fairs are all coming up before December in order to raise enough money to do all our shows. Plus a Kickstarter campaign which we will begin as soon as I can convince Amazon payments to work for us.

Fundraising used to be my least favorite part, but since we’ve begun I’ve realized that the deepest friendships I’m making in this group are forming as a result of these fundraising meetings and events.

I know that this is all a little more about logistics today and not nearly as entertaining, but I think it’s important to talk about all the bits and pieces that go together that eventually make a theatre company work.

Plus it’s hard to write anything very deep and awe-inspiring when Angelina Ballerina is playing in the background.

Acting vs Parenting

I totally fell off the “write every day” wagon yesterday. But I have a really good excuse. Jury. Duty.

What else needs to be said?

A few months ago I had a conversation with Deanna Jent (that was a name drop for anyone who cares, I think) about the difference between New York theatre professionals and St. Louis theatre professionals. She had just come off of a run of her new play, “Falling” a couple months before and she was talking about how a month or two before the show closed all the actors were worried about what their next gig would be. And how impossible it is to have a family and be a working actor in New York.

Deanna and I both agreed that we’re glad to be in St. Louis.

But as I watch my lack of good parenting skills unfold, sometimes I wonder if New York is just trying to keep kids who don’t know basic skills to a minimum. Maybe we actors are just not terribly cut out for parenting.

Case in point: The other day I was at a birthday party and my child started to have a mini-freak out because he was tired. So I took Jordan’s phone and immediately gave it to him with the PBS app on. I could tell we were getting a couple strange looks, so I loudly said, “TV is good for children!” And I was immediately met with awkward laughter, mumbles of “I don’t think so…” and one lady in particular who raised one eyebrow and looked at me like I literally had the lowest IQ of anyone in the parenting domain. Which is not true. I know that TV is not good for my kid. The thing is… sometimes (read: most of the time)… I just don’t care.

Oh my word. I’m overwhelmed with Pinterest-inspired guilt just reading that sentence.

On another, completely unrelated note, we’re going to the Muny today and I’m not altogether sure that we’ve found a place for Noah to hang out while we’re gone.

Also, my child likes to sing along with “Songs for a New World.” Which is, you know… the beginnings of being bullied right there, probably.

My husband and I have talked about how there are two different kinds of moms. There are moms who are “called” to be mothers. They are naturally awesome at it. They breastfeed until their kid is two, grow their own organic food, churn butter, make their shampoo, and their one-year-olds are saying three word sentences. Then there are moms like me. Moms that love their children, love being called “mom” by their children. But they freak out when someone else calls them “mom.” They have palpitations when people tell them that their life is over because it’s all about the kid now. They turn on the TV for some blessed peace and feed their kids dry cheerios in a bowl (in a bowl if they’re lucky) on the coffee table just so that they can sleep on the couch for just one more hour. They love their children more than anything, but they don’t quit their lives to raise them- they bring the children into their lives. My child is 18 months old and he’s already attended more rehearsals and concerts and shows than many kids will see by the time they graduate high school. And I’m proud of that accomplishment. 

My kids might just now be discovering words, but he is cultured, dang it.

And I hope that he will grow up watching a mom who did it. And, as a result, know that the other women in his life can also accomplish great things.

It might take us longer to learn letters, but we’ll be masters of empathy.

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Sometimes we watch TV with him.

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Processed meat: Part of a nutritious lunch

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Last month we planted flower seeds together. I think those are still on the back porch, but I’m really not sure since I’ve never watered them.

 

Friends and Fundraising

Yesterday I think my head almost blew off my shoulders. But it ended so well that I can’t even comprehend why I got so upset in the first place. I don’t know if you believe in God, but if you had been in my shoes the past few weeks, you would seriously be considering the existence of a Higher Power and His interest in you. Even the things that the world labels as “extras.”

I have jury duty tomorrow, which is part of what is making my head explode. I have so many things to do that I can’t even begin to know how it will get done and I will be sitting in a courthouse probably most of the day tomorrow. Also, the costume designer that I thought would probably be my best bet was… less than cooperative with me during our short phone call. So I decided that I might just have to go it alone.

Getting frustrated with someone and then just deciding I’ll do it myself is a major character flaw for me. Instead of calming down and just looking for someone else, I flip and all of a sudden I am director, music director, props master, and costume designer all at the same time. Which is not healthy. At. All.

So I took my chill pill (literally, I took an Advocare Clear Mood) and sat down with my son and watched the Avengers until my meeting started at 5:15.

Then, of course, “the girls” arrive and I realize that I have somehow been surrounded by people who have the exact resources that I need at every moment. All of a sudden I have a girl who can be a costumer. I have a girl who works front of house and her husband wants to design sets. I have an entire group of ladies who want to fundraise the pants off of this organization and make some money doing what we love to do. And, as I mentioned to them last night, I feel like I finally have a group of friends here in Jackson. Which is incredible, because theatre people are weird and hard to find in rural settings.

But, there we all were, talking about yard sales, craft fairs, lemonade stands, homemade deodorant, and ticket prices. I looked around and, all of a sudden, I was filled with hope again. I’m not in this alone. I don’t have to do everything all by myself. And, to top it all off, these girls are good at what they do!

The evening left me with ideas for the future, another to-do list (which I love, so that’s fine), and the promise of more meetings and get togethers and craft nights (which usually I hate, but for this cause and with these people? Yes. Just, yes.).

So much win happened last night. We’re going to do this. And one day, Acting Out! will be one of those places that people will talk about when they discuss theaters that thrive outside of NYC. We’re one of those places.

Joseph is Beginning

Today I’m officially starting the “Journey to Joseph.” This includes but is not limited to: organizing a garage sale, filling out my IRS 1023 form, begging for donations, finding a production team, and scrounging for money to put on the production. Things are about to get crazy up in here, y’all.

Add that to the fact that my teacher husband had to go back to work today (take that, teacher haters) and I’m alone with the kiddo all day and you have a recipe for definitely not getting anything done. At. All.

Also I think I only have one pair of underwear left, so I definitely have to do some laundry. Oh, and clean my house because I’m having a meeting here later and I want to look put together in some way, shape, or form.

In mommy-news, my totally adorable little 18-month-old decided two days ago that he would really like to talk. So we got “mama,” “dada,” “ci-ci (Short for aunt Chelsie),” “bear,” “hot,” “hat,” and “cool” all in the same day. It was like my reward for working 100+ hours on a show that only had one performance.