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This is going to be short:
I was in Boulder the past week for some family things and I had the opportunity to get coffee with an old friend/teacher/mentor. He is an MMA fighter and one of my coaches from the days when I trained Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. And though our arts (theatre and martial) seem to be so very different in trade, we quickly discovered that the path to following your dreams, the path that strays from the typical school-job-family-death, the path that tests you every step of the way, and especially the path that hasn’t even been created yet is one that we share. It is one that is not easy. Paving the way, making your own road, is a lonely task until you realize that every dreamer is following the same journey. My fellow bloggers (Joe and Ben), this teacher and friend, myself, my parents who started new jobs after filing for Bankruptcy in the fall of last year, my sister who has gotten up again and again and again… we’re not so alone after all.
As he and I kept relating to each other, I discovered this sort of reassuring thought. We can take joy in the challenge knowing that we are not truly alone. And he went on to say: “I used to be so afraid to take the gun out of the holster because I was afraid I wasn’t going to hit my target. My target is so far away and I don’t even know if that dream even exists at all since I made it up. Its an end point but there can be even more past it and there is something equally great beside it that I have also yet to discover. So, every time I don’t take aim, I will miss it. I had to stop being afraid to even get my gun out of the holster just because I didn’t know where the bullet was going to land.” And – in fighting, in the performing arts, and even in personal life, if you don’t take that chance then you don’t move forward. If you don’t take any step on your path, then you remain in the same place. Frustrated. Watching others pass you.
I say this now because I am preparing for a pretty important musical audition. I typically don’t talk about my auditions or castings because… I am superstitious and I worry about boasting. But this one is all too relevant to this blog and some of you, our readers, may relate. I haven’t had a true voice lesson in years and I haven’t had a book of songs … ever. In New York, you pretty much, at some point or another, have to decide to join the musical theatre auditions or move to another city where Musicals aren’t the main machine. So, I decided this morning that I am going to do a song that I love, for an audition this afternoon, for a person that I love: myself. I HAVE to do this. Someone needs to light a fire under my ass and it isn’t going to be anyone other than myself. And I realized, while talking with this friend, that I was beginning to feel this fire again. Hearing him talk about his dreams and his path and his words of encouragement and his stories of defeat. Relating to that, finding inspiration in that… I am not ready for this audition. I probably shouldn’t go – in a wise, safe, guarded world, I wouldn’t. But, in this world, I have to go. For, if I never take that gun out of my holster, it will sit there forever and targets will continue to fade into the distance. That goal will become hazier and hazier until the path to it disappears altogether.
Nothing happens unless you make it happen.
(Side note – I decided to sing Drumming Song by Florence and the Machine because we listen to it EVERY SINGLE day at Urban Outfitters. Its a song I love, its pop/rock, and I know it like the back of my hand. Here is an instance where I am taking my situation of retail-hell and turning it into … a practical tool for my career.)
I’ll be at target practice :-p
1. MOVING TO GREENPOINT – WILLIAMSBURG
Today is the day, my good friends. I move – from the Upper East Side (New York’s quiet, family oriented, wealthy, primarily Jewish neighborhood wherein I have found solice in my Bikram Yoga studio/friends, my local vegan salad/sandwich/juice shop, and my Starbucks’ baristas who consistently ask me for my number, give me a discount, and know how to make a gal feel special and loved – also where I have miserably shared a studio with a veritable dipshit) to Greenpoint, Brooklyn! Listed as #5 in The New York Times on April 12, 2010 as one of the top 50 “Most Livable Neighborhoods,” in New York, Greenpoint is up and coming as a trendy place for young professionals and artists who are perhaps too poor for the more expensive East Village or Williamsburg real estate but too “scene” to move North to Wash. Heights, Harlem, or even the Bronx.
“…But Greg Pitts, 53, a ceramics instructor who moved to Greenpoint four
years ago, said he loved the working-class Polish character of the
neighborhood and had wearied of the noisy weekend stampedes of the
young, drunk and club-bound.
“It’s New York, so I guess I shouldn’t be complaining…”
The one thing that wont change will be the smells. The Upper East Side smells of urine. Why? Well, in addition to the homeless people who sleep on every street corner in every neighborhood in New York City, there is an abundant population of small, peppy dogs that adorn my blessed block. It always smells of urine. And, on days when I feel sluggish and just want to wear some oversized slouchy pants that drag ever-so-slightly on the ground below, it makes for a fun little ‘human frogger’ adventure, dodging sliding pools of yellow as the run downhill towards the street wondering if I can pass them before they trickle onto my pant legs and pass safely to my secured destination. More times that not, I win. As for “Little Poland” (my beloved Greenpoint):
“The wind turned, and a pungent blast of something chemical — nail polish
remover? — wafted by. “The smells are bad; you know, they worry me,”
said Ms. Aiuto, as Isaiah ran a few circles on the grass. “I guess a lot
of places in New York are not going to be great for your health.”
Moving in New York (er, moving in Brooklyn) is actually quite a lot easier than I had anticipated. I don’t have a lot of things but having a bed makes it very difficult. If you just have clothes, books, pots and pans (as a typical studio dweller or minimalist may only require), you can move slowly, over the course of days, via the trains, buses, and cabs – if you have the cash. I, however, have a bed. Its small, its a twin. If I weren’t so broke all the time, I’d just leave it or sell it and buy a new one at the Sleepy’s on my block in Greenpoint. Alas, this is my situation. So I give you two words of wisdom:
1) Man with a Van
Man with a Van is cheap and dependable. They are the best deal you can find if you need MOVERS (people to pack your things, carry them, load and unload, etc). I don’t need that – I took boxes from work and am a phenomenal packer if I do say so myself. But they have been recommended to me on more than one occasion. There are Men with Vans all over the country actually so just do a google search and call around. You should be good to go. In my situation, however, the BEST deal is UHAUL. To rent a 10 foot truck for a whole day is only $20. That is, to clarify, IF you pick up and drop off the truck in Brooklyn. Reboot the search and find a pick-up location in the City and the rate becomes $89/day. And, again, we are reminded as to why I 1) have to work four jobs to live here and 2) am moving to Greenpoint! You get the van/truck/whatever you’ve rented for as many hours as you specify and then you pay for miles (either $.99 or $1.79 depending on size of rental) at the end of the day. If you’re moving within the city or between the boroughs, this means not so many miles and a very very very reasonable moving deal. Its an incredible tip!
Upon moving, we discover many things need to be changed: cable, electric, billing address, address change in general, and maybe even your stage name? Oh wait… that’s just ME! Which leads me to my next order of business:
2. NAME CHANGES IN THE PERFORMING ARTS INDUSTRY (often referred to as “the STAGE NAME”)
It’s official. Your New York City contributor is no longer the oft mispronounced Emily Schmidt-Beuchat. From this time forward, I will be Emily Beuchat (and considering even Emily Beauchat). Your comments on this subject matter are GREATLY encouraged and appreciated.
But why this “sudden” change? Why this drop of a Schmidt? Where will the Schmidt go? Will it go peacefully?
According to our favorite resource these days, Wikipedia: “A performer will often take a stage name because his/her real name is considered unattractive, dull, unintentionally amusing or difficult to pronounce or spell, or because it has been used by another notable individual or because it projects an undesired image. Sometimes a performer adopts a name that is unusual or outlandish to attract attention. Other performers use a stage name in order to retain anonymity. The equivalent concept among writers is called a nom de plume or pen name, while the term ring name is used in professional wrestling.”
My fight name, if I were to quit acting all together and really pursue Brazilian Jiu Jitsu with some moxie/chutzpah and a smile, was and will always be “Emily Schmidt BOOM-shaka-laka” (and my song to enter the ring would be the theme song to JAWS… or Black Cat by Janet Jackson). But these are just thoughts I have late at night…
The stage name is a much more serious consideration. And quite controversial. With family names, especially with names less American sounding, it becomes a big question as to whether or not you are “selling out” to fit a certain type or mold in this industry. Let’s face it, the industry is rarely, if not never, going to come to you. Don’t be a sell out but also don’t give them hurdles to reach you. This being said, its completely a personal call whether or not someone changes his or her name for the sake of their career. I have chosen because of various conversations with my mother (the hippie/giver of the “Schmidt” and the hyphen to both my sister and myself) and her reasons are this:
- Schmidt-Beuchat is too complicated to say, spell, and remember. You need to have something that makes an impression (which this name does) but not because its too overwhelming. People remember my name but not as what it is but that it was long and interesting sounding. Contacting me, I can only imagine, has become a task in email rerouting hell.
- Schmidt-Beuchat sounds like a married name. The number one question I get at auditions is, “is this your married name?” So not only am I there, fragile in my auditioning state but I am in addition saddened and reminded of my state of alone-ness in this world as a strong, single lady.
- Beuchat is French and it means Beautiful Cat (Beu from Beau for handsome (m) and Chat for Cat (m)). Schmidt is German and makes me sound like a Nazi. And, according to my mother, in this industry filled with many powerful people of all backgrounds, it is not good to ever be associated with the Nazis.
Other reasons to change ones name, according to Wikipedia, are:
- To disguise a family connection (as in the case of Nicolas Cage who sought to hide his relation to the Coppola’s or Emilio Estevez who chose not to take his father’s professional name, Sheen).
- Guild and association rules: SAG, British Equity, and others have strict rules on having no duplicate names (often actors change their names simply by choosing one that isnt already being used professionally). For example, Michael J. Fox has his lovely J because Michael Fox was already a member of SAG. Or Terry O’Quinn (JOHN MOTHER F*ING LOCKE) is actually Terry Quinn but that name, too, is already in use.
- Involuntary Name Changes: sometimes agents choose for you… This is not something I would advise. I think, and this is just me, if you are going to change your name, do it out of necessity (association rules) or because YOU have chosen to. Don’t let your agent or someone TELL you that you wont succeed without it. If they’re blaming your NAME as the sole reason to your not being an A-list star, you may want to reconsider working with this person. This will only be the first of their long list of excuses.
- Ethnicity!!! or changing a name to disguise one’s heritage. Take Freddie Mercury, born “Farrokh Bulsara” to Parsi parents. At one time, Jews in Hollywood were encouraged to anglicize their names to avoid discrimination, and still happens today. In an extreme example, Margarita Carmen Cansino (an American Spanish actress) underwent electrology to change her hairline to more “Northern European appearance,” and renamed herself Rita Hayworth. … more on this controversy later…
- Ease of use – the AEA (actors equity association) advises performers to select a name that is easy for others to pronounce, spell, and remember.
- “Some performers while playing great attention to their skills and abilities give little thought to the difference that a well-thought-out name can make to their career. Often it is only after the realization that a poorly chosen name results in an undesired impression that a person or group decides on a different name.”
- Relevance to image – (more specific to the music world) – take for example; Sting, Slash, Sid Vicious, Necrobutcher, Rob Zombie, LADY GAGA – who is actually a complete character on stage and in her musical career than she is from her typical, personal self! Every member of the punk band The Ramones took the pseudonymous “Ramone” surname as part of their collective stage persona. And Norma Jeane Baker changed her name to the far more glamorous-sounding Marilyn Monroe.
- Euphony and ease of remembrance – pretty straight forward…
So, peacefully, my mother and I will bade my Schmidt farewell.
In further conversations with my boss at Theatre Communications Group / American Theatre Magazine (for which I am now the official/temporary PR person – funny how things unfold), Teresa Eyring commented that Emily Beuchat has a ring to it. Its very French. Americans love French things because we assume that there is always an element of culture there that we can never truly possess. Furthermore, she suggested I even change the spelling back to the original pre-americanized “Beauchat.”
This is a suggestion that I like… but I haven’t quite made up my mind about it. Beuchat is still very difficult to say and changing it to Beauchat would definitely clear up some pronunciation confusion. However, then I will really have CHANGED my name. And this leads me to more of the “controversy” in this subject;
How much of yourself are you willing to change in order to reach your dreams in this field?
Be careful how much of yourself you change in order to fit a mold or type. Often, the best and most successful actors are their own type or are already a certain niche. Let yourself fill a void rather than try to squeeze into an over crowded section of the industry. Your greatest talents and your uniqueness are your assets. However, in the case of Rita Hayworth, her alterations worked in her favor. SO, my only TRUE and sincere advice can be, again, to do it for you and not to let someone require it of you. Same goes for breast implants, any sort of facial plastic surgery, and other ventures with you which you may feel uncomfortable (porn and prostitution).
As far as stage names are concerned, think of it in this manner: the industry refers to them as “professional names.” If you separate the issue and look at it as “for use in a professional capacity” then the name change becomes less personal. Less controversial. Less offensive to your parents, friends, heritage (maybe).
To my friends, family, and landlords, I will continue to be the sweet, hyphenated, Emily Schmidt-Beuchat from Boulder, CO.
To my colleagues, casting directors, audiences, and THRONGS of adoring fans, I will now be Emily Beuchat (… BeAuchat pending).
(comments on this specific post are greatly encouraged and appreciated)
The second you begin to want something, really want something, is the moment you should look back and realize that this thing will not, now or ever, solve your problems. It is when we let go and allow the things that will happen or will not happen to come to fruition that we should realize that our problems and ourselves are under control. Not until this moment are we finally able to make dreams come to reality. Desperation, greed, obsessions… they are all born of the desire to heal one’s self and one’s situation. And this pattern repeats itself as we continue to lose control and allow our possessions and obsessions to control us. Our needs to be like others, or to be better than others, or to just be better than ourselves prevent us from specifically reaching these exact goals. When you realize and accept that you, already, are all of these things… these things happen much faster.
Brief respite of profound thoughts before I head off to my first day of rehearsal.
Things have changed for the better here in the sweaty sticky city. I am finally in a place of comfort and self-contentedness that would not have come without almost a year of struggle, depression, and flailing. My horrid, repeat HORRID living situation (on which I have been counting down the days to end since day 248) is almost over. We are at day: … let me check… 25! And I am rushing out the door to drop of a deposit and two application fees for a Brooklyn apt (3br) to share with two friends from work before I head to my first rehearsal for a small, non-union, PROFESSIONAL production of Medea.
Backup: I went home to Boulder, CO in mid April to reassess my life and decided to stay in New York City. I pontificated on this subject in a little Lauper dedicate bit entitled Time after Time. Lots of allegories to time.. it was lovely. Yet I digress. Since that decision, I have been able to see more clearly the light at the end of this years toxically suffocating tunnel. And that little light has given me hope. And I find now that, if you have one avenue of hope, one little light, one tiny alternate route: as long as you have options, you are never fully lost.
My little light is the end of this lease. If I haven’t articulated this enough: I am psyched to leave. Have I ever discussed my roommate? Leaving out names: hes disgusting. I write this as I look over to his bed across our shared studio and see the equivalent to a crime scene chalk body outline only in yellow on white (the sweat from his body outlining his skinny body onto his never washed, once white bedding).
I crawl through his trash and hair sheds to get to my half/corner of the room. We haven’t spoken in 4-6 months since the day I suggested we sublet and part ways and his father threatened to sue me if I tried to find a sublet for my half. I have stopped using the kitchen and the shower as their filth repulse me. I did one full, head to toe cleaning of both rooms before I went to Boulder in February and have sworn never to touch, dirty, nor clean either of those spaces/surfaces again. Its thoroughly passive aggressive and feels oh-so-right. He doesn’t understand the concept of sharing space and consistently puts his meat products on top of my vegan food in the refrigerator, bath products (including old razors, gallons of Tommy Bahama, a hair straightener?, all over body bronzing powder! and aqua net) on top of my things on the bathroom shelves, and refuses/refused to trade closets with me even though he chose the closet on my half of the room upon move in (so he literally has to step behind my divider screen to get to his shit – eliminating any chance of privacy a girl could hope for. Furthermore, he exhibits a nightly ritual I like to call: “midnight tranny trechno” wherein, between the hours of 2 and 7am, he listens to loud club music and cooks steaks (or eats rotisserie chickens off the kitchen floor???). The worst part of it all is that he is an artist (?). Rephrase: he is THAT actor. The actor that only does film, that has an agent but really just complains about how his agent doesnt get him work, and who thinks that art is a lovely sentiment but that partying and sucking up to celebrities’ children is the only way to make connections. Upon move in, he mocked my calling myself an ‘artist.’ Did I mention that he doesn’t know how to flush a toilet and throws his used toilet paper into the trash can? SAVE ME!
I don’t know if he has talent. I’ve never seen his work. He doesn’t get work … he also doesn’t leave his bed.
BUT we wish him well and no harmful thoughts :-p He would never harm me or my stuff and for that, I am grateful. I suppose.
As a result of the stress/tension/anxiety in this living situation, I have become incredibly ill. I stopped getting periods (for 8 months), I gained significant weight and became pretty unhappy. That is all changing. After a brief trip home to Indiana to visit the family on the farm and after two of my very best friends from CO moved to NYC – I finally don’t feel alone. Before, I had left my community and come to new york entirely by myself and felt that I was missing out on everything I had left behind. Now, everyone has dissipated and that community doesn’t exist anymore. We are all alone and, as a result, I feel that we are all back together again (for we are in the same situation). And there is comfort in that.
Once I found comfort, once I re-found myself, auditioning became much better. I had an audition for a small paying production of Medea (with a classical, movement based company). http://www.xoregos.com/ – I believe that I am chorus (a role I have played before at CU Boulder) but I may also have a small role as the Nurse. Either way, there is a lot of movement and a lot of tragedy involved and I cant be upset with either of those things. We find out specific casting today at our first rehearsal. I am very excited. I am being paid to act in New York City. The wheel has begun to roll. We open in mid July and have many benefit performances in CENTRAL PARK! More to follow on this subject since we haven’t really begun…
In addition, I had an incredible audition for a Children’s Theatre touring company based in Jersey. It was a last minute call in to audition so I went back to my old stand by pieces which weren’t necessarily appropriate for the genre but were strong pieces on their own. They loved my work (or at least said they did and then proceeded to have a 30 minute conversation with me about the beauty of Boulder, CO and how Flagstaff is both a road filled with danger and people have sex in parked cars). I don’t know if I will get cast – I haven’t heard anything yet – but I do know that I had a great audition and through no fault of mine would I not get cast. Its funny though. I went back to old pieces that I did for my BFA audition (when I was super comfortable in my own skin and KNEW what I deserved and what I was capable of), and earlier this year I went back to Bikram Yoga (a practice I abandoned in college when I got a boyfriend and began to lose myself because… truth be told… he really did make me happy enough all on his own). It is funny how sometimes we have to abandon who we are to realize we had it right all along. I am not saving up money to go to the Bikram Yoga teacher certification training. Hello Sally Mae! May we have a brief chat?
I am finally getting back on track. And I can SEE that track now because of that little light at the end of the tunnel. And it will get brighter. And I will get stronger. Who knows… maybe I’ll even get another boyfriend! :-p
… probably not
– E. Beuchat
How long has it been since I’ve written something for the website? How long has it been since I’ve done anything remotely related to this industry? How long has it been since I had that “moment” that reminds you why you’re in this industry at all?
A long time, my friends.
Lying in my bed I hear the clock tick,
and I think of you
caught up in circles of confusion —
is nothing new
As I listen to Cyndi Lauper’s classic (and my stepfather’s, God bless him, favorite song of all time), ‘Time After Time,” I am reminded of a few things. First, the high-top sporting, Meth addicted lady who sings Cyndi Lauper songs at the 53rd and Lex, E platform and occasionally in Union Square. She’s a combative one, that crazy. However, she really does sound like Cyndi Lauper and, for what its worth, its a good time listening to those good old 80’s ballads. She does some Madonna occasionally but it doesn’t carry the same fervor, unfortunately. But she’s tenacious.
Daily, I see her rocking her shit and/or arguing with some wind flutist who has swept under her radar and taken her territory. She’s aggressive but its almost as inspiring as it is heart wrenching. Here is this girl who works so much harder than I do at finding an opportunity to perform. She is there every damn day come rain or shine. Granted, I don’t think she has many other money-making opportunities because of the smack but she doesn’t sit back and say ‘woe is me, I have no opportunities to perform, no one will cast me.’ She MAKES her own Midtown Karaoke (as we will call it). I watch her and I contemplate: I am trained and I know that I love to perform but do I get up at the crack of dawn, carry my karaoke machine to the subway, and belt tunes for the compassion-less commuter? Do I even get up at the crack of dawn and crash Equity only auditions in the hopes that I will be seen at all anymore? At one point, I would have. As of late…something has changed. I don’t do these things. I also don’t do Meth – so thats the good news.
What has changed?
almost left behind
suitcases of memories,
Well, some time ago, ‘Time After Time’ held a different place in my life. It was part of the pre-show music for my last production at the University of Colorado. I was playing L’il Bit in Paula Vogel’s How I Learned to Drive (my DREAM role… one of many). And I would think of my loving Step Father and his weird adoration for this tacky tune and how he was my biggest fan in the world (instead of these days when I think of my Step Father’s incessant rant that, by my not becoming a Doctor, I am wasting a very powerful mind). And, from that moment on, I would always associate this song with preparing for that role: imagining the strength of that character’s relationship with her uncle, my relationships with family, with the people who raise you, shape you, mold you. For good and for bad. And, now that the show is closed and the reviews have been written, and the set has been struck – I associate that song with the feeling of sheer bliss. Accomplishment. Touching audiences. Impacting people. Breakthroughs. Growth. I grew in that production as an actor as much as I have grown as a person here in New York City these past 10 months. But, these days, “Time After Time” is slipping back into a distant memory. I used to be able to hear the song and have a physical reaction: immediately transferred to that feeling, that “moment” in time when an actor, an artist, realizes what its all about. I cant go into what it IS all about. That “moment.” That specific feeling. That’s like asking someone to describe what an orgasm feels like. Its different for everyone but at the same time, so indescribable.
I don’t remember that feeling anymore (the former, that is ;-p). I remember liking it. I remember loving it and I remember it being the reason I have dedicated my entire life up until this moment to pursuing a job that will provide me with that feeling. Up until this moment…
This is what I have been struggling with: when your passion and your “job” are the same thing… you are destined for sadness. Is this true? The security guard at my day-job/store says that that is a road to disappointment. We have deep conversations during my mind-numbing shifts at my oh-so-classy retail establishment. Another reason why I have taken a sabbatical from my theatrical career: the three day jobs I must work in order to be able to afford to live here and pursue acting are killing me softly with their song. And they further my thoughts of finding a more practical day job. Maybe I am wasting my intelligence. Maybe I should go back to school for Medicine (or for Bikram Yoga teacher training or Vegan Culinary school… more up my alley(s)). But that is me listening to everyone else. Listening to my step father
… listening to his own projections
… listening to my worries.
Listening to bills piling up and day jobs not making the cut.
Listening to self-imposed deadlines.
Listening to critics that don’t exist.
Trying to be everything to every one while being nothing to myself.
I should really just listen to 80s music and the meth-heads karaoke machine…
Sometimes you picture me–
I’m walking too far ahead
you’re calling to me, I can’t hear
what you’ve said
It is important to know thyself and be strong in one’s independence. It is just as important, for us social creatures, to have support. I moved here alone – no family, no friends, few contacts, and a dream shared by millions. I left everything behind. And I foolishly thought I had to cut my ties in order to isolate myself enough to see myself clearly. What I did instead was lose myself completely. This is when I stopped wanting to submit to auditions. I first took my break after the Graduate School auditions. I then decided to continue the break when I realized that I wasn’t pursuing my “dream” with the spirit and perserverence I normally with which I typically pursue dreams. That was when I realized: I dont know what I want. I am crazy when I KNOW what I want – nothing can stop me. I am the Cyndi Lauper girl! I have the gawl, I have the training and I have the talent – of this I am fully convinced. But do I have the heart? Or, MORE IMPORTANTLY, do I have more FEAR than HEART? What a scary question to have to ask yourself.
I have heard so many times that the majority of the people in this world are too afraid to follow their hearts… to follow their dreams. My step father followed a business model. He left it later in life when he was offered his dream job. The recession hit and he was fired. We filed for Bankruptcy two months after I moved to New York City to be an artist. No wonder he wants me to be a doctor. And how selfish did I feel? Moving to NYC to be an actor, to do what I love, to feel warm and gooey with my career that fulfills my ever waking spirit… How masturbatory “the arts” suddenly became. And how the pressure to succeed exponentially increased. The fear. The loss of heart. The loss of memory.
NOW HERE’S THE RUB:
Something I had would not let me forget what i had left behind. Music, for me, has been my tool for characterization. It helps me tap into a physical deposit of emotions and sense memory from with to draw intentions, characters, qualities, etc. Music can release L’il Bit, it can unveil Mayella Violet Ewell, and it can awaken the hard-ass bitch on the Subway who for sure as shit isn’t gonna give you money no matter how well you sing Cyndi Lauper because I, too, am a struggling performer. Music can also help me to find something ever so precious. In that same play, How I Learned to Drive, L’il Bit is told about a “fire in the heart.” My flame dwindled in the humid winter of this city. Cyndi Lauper, some self-discovery, some self-acceptance, some self-FORGIVENESS, have all led to me to vaguely recall that “moment” and to rekindle that fire.
In these past months I have learned so much. That no man is an island. I need a community. I need love. I have learned that if you push, you will be pushed back. That it is important to find strength, find balance, find a foundation before you take a step in any direction. And, if the world is not ready for you, its because its not the right time. Whether we like it or not, time is ALWAYS moving and to put a finite deadline on dreams, particularly dreams that are artistic in nature, is to chop down a tree before it can be climbed.
Then you say, go slow
I fall behind
The second hand unwinds
Now I have not decided if… this path I am on is where my heart is. But I have decided not to succumb to fear. Fear that I may fail if I decide that it is my passion after all. Or fear that I may have to abandon everything I’ve ever worked for and what people may “say.” I have decided to explore my options and to not rush my dreams. And not to rush my life. And to not rush my decisions. I HAVE however, after much deliberation and some auditions in Denver, CO while visiting family and assessing my life/goals/life in NYC, that I am going to stay in New York another year. I owe it to this city to give it a shot when I am not in a shitty, shared-studio, living situation and when I am not in a tremendous life-altering transition. I owe it a REAL chance. And I owe myself time, patience, forgiveness, love, compassion, understanding, and heart.
Life is already better in New York. I have made the commitment to stay and now I am beginning to settle much faster than before. I am beginning to maintain friendships and walk strongly on my own knowing that the friends and family I have at home are strong relationships that I carry with me. These boys I write this blog with, those crazies I train with at Jiu Jitsu, my entire BFA class, my mother, my sister, my Cyndi Lauper-loving step father.
if you fall I will catch you — I’ll be waiting
time after time
Well my lovely readers of PlaybillsvsPayingbills, I am back. And yes, I know, I keep prefacing every blog post with this same (or some variant thereof) sentence/claim: ‘I am sorry I was gone for x, y, and z but I promise that it wont happen again.’ The truth of the matter is that I keep avoiding posting and then I sit down and purge my built up blogs (4, 5, 6 in one day) and then I take another month off. This month, however, was a bit of a different case and it has to do with my second grad school audition (as the third did not happen due to a very serious case of food poisoning/stomach flu).
A very long while ago, I started a very weak and limited journal of my “Journey Through Grad School Auditions” thinking that it might be helpful to those who are curious. But, since choosing to write about it, I felt more and more pressured to actually do well at these auditions and have something to show for myself by the end of them. Now, I am not saying that I didnt take them seriously in the beginning but I was more so choosing to audition because I needed a goal and I wanted to learn more about the process so that, when I am REALLY ready and 100% positive that Grad School is what I want, then I would be prepared. However, with the blog and the family’s sudden enthusiasm with my possbile option to become a college professor (“real job”) after receiving a Masters Degree, the pressure was on. And of course, the majority of that pressure was self-imposed as is the case with all expectations.
Long story short, my second grad school audition didnt go well because it didnt happen. I got a serious case of food poisoning and spent three days with my head in a toilet (and, when not in the toilet, having some alone time/time off from work to dye my hair black – I find that when I am stuck in a point in my life where I feel trapped but I need a change, I change my hair). I would feel sad that I missed an audition, I would feel guilty for not giving you readers a third post on this subject, BUT I do not and it is because of this mantra that I have adopted from this experience: some things dont work out because they were never supposed to at that time. Dreams can last a lifetime. By putting expiration dates on our dreams, we set ourselves up for infinite disappointments.
With this said, I was getting more and more excited/nervous for my third and final grad school audition: Juilliard. Yale went fabulously (though not called back) but I decided to change up my pieces and go with more contrasting pieces that I felt were more “me.” I realize now that this was my first mistake. Shit happens and, as actors, we should be able to adapt and have a strong arsenal of materials BUT its also important to prepare. An actor prepares. My error was not in changing pieces but not preparing them as I ought to have. Now, without too much drabble and too many excuses, I was working a lot and I have no private space to rehearse (as, like a true starving artist, I share a studio with a very nocturnal individual), and I let those two things get in the way of what I ought to have been focusing on.
I dont think that you need a coach to audition for grad schools or even for URTAs and unified auditions of that sort. But you DO need to 1) choose appropriate materials that you LOVE and 2) prepare. I didnt do this for Juilliard. I was so focused on what would “get me in” instead of what “I am.” Lesson learned, Theatre Gods, lesson learned.
The Juilliard auditions were very different compared to the Yale auditions. It was a day long event beginning at 9am with a group warmup and then hours of auditions until the first round callbacks (first round of cuts). I HATE this type of audition because of this: you are forced to spend a large amount of time surrounded by actors preparing for his or her grad school audition. You are surrounded by 100+ young, very talented, beautiful, nervous, rehearsing, competitive, secretly jealous people who will be sizing you up, loud, weird, hilarious, interestng, focused, tired, trying to re-focus, warming up, eating, greeting, mingling, warming up again, etc. Did I mention that it is a long day?
I dont know specific steps for keeping focus because that is strictly I personal thing but FIND WHAT ALLOWS YOU TO FOCUS and let it keep you energized and in view of your goals. When you see other people reaching for your goals, you often lose balance. Its like, in Bikram Yoga: you have to spot yourself in the mirror. You look into your own eyes to give you energy. When you look at other people in the room or compare yourself to them (their postures, their clothes, their physique) you will lose your own energy and eventually, your balance and meditation.
So, I did not make the first round call backs. I know exactly why, too. Poor pieces with poor preparation. I knew it walking out of the room. I knew it halfway through my second piece when I stopped focusing on my intentions and starting thinking: this is BAD. This is just BAD ACTING. Babies fall constantly while learning to walk. Alas, I digress. This does not make me a bad actor. This means that I had a bad audition. The majority of people who go to grad schools audition many many many times. This shows drive, committment, and tenacity. It does not reflect desperation! And, more importantly, at the end of all of this, I realize now that I had lost sight of why I was doing these auditions in the first place. I experienced the process. I also decided that I DO want grad school and it wasnt until after I had these two auditions that I learned this. I had to do them, fail, and really embarass myself in order to realize what I truly want. You never learn what makes you happy, what you need, and what you want until you throw yourself head first and fully into something.
Sigh, grad school. This year is not the year. But Yale and Juilliard, you lovely schools, I will see you next year and maybe the year after that, and that, and that, and that, and….
So, I was looking at some comments/feedback/questions posted on some of our latest blogs entries and I thought to myself – why don’t I ask the community some questions? Is there any harm in a little dialogue? A little tete-a-tete? A little reparté between colleagues and peers? I THINK NOT!
My question for today is this (a response to Joe’s blog on ‘who you know’):
Say, for instance, you are an “introverted, ‘love of the craft,’ actor” (which I say with the most love as I am one of these actors who is perhaps less versed in the business portion of the industry), or BRAND SPANKING new to a community (like all PVP’s actors). How, then, does one NETWORK? Its a big, loaded word. But let’s discuss. Shall we? Because, I have no advice for this column and I have no links for this column either. I am as clueless as anyone when it comes to this category of the industry. Specifically, I find myself confronted with doubt in trusting other people who may or may not be able to help me and plagued with self-consciousness when asking strangers for favors/hand-outs/etc. My relationships are ones built over years and with much trust, respect, and compassion – these do not happen overnight at industry mixers and schmooze events. At least not for me. How can I know who to trust? How can I protect myself and surround myself with GOOD people while still putting myself out there where I need to be? What to do? Dear Abbey: Network-less in New York needs your help!!!
K, discuss amongst yourselves. And…. GO!
Brief Grad School Auditions UPDATE:
Audition 1 of the Grad School experience is complete. Two days ago, I took the Metro North Train to New Haven and performed my heart out for the Associate Department Chair at the Yale School of Drama. It was an amazing experience, if anything, riding a train above ground for the first time in many months. Feeling the sensation of sun on my face as I stared out at the scenery passing by and contemplated my monologues. My goal for all of these auditions is of course to get into the programs but, moreso, it is primarily to experience the grad-school-audition process (and figure out if it is where I want to be). My immediate goal for the entire day was not to cry or to make people laugh or to even get a callback: my goal was to be present. (Well, and not get lost on the train).
A well respected professor at CU Boulder once told me that Grad Schools are not looking for the perfect actors or the perfect auditioners, they are looking for someone with that special something in his or her energy, in his or her eyes. I interpret this as presence. I am present to learn, to perform, to work with you, to grow, and to take on the enormous task of joining a Masters program. Those were the thoughts in my mind when I walked into the very friendly room and inhaled before becoming Mayella Violet Ewell and Luciana (and again, as Hamlet, when they asked for my third piece).
I had prepared two pieces initially and then, on the train ride there, realized that my classical piece was not, in fact, in verse in the original folio versions, so I had to scrap that at the last minute and thank my BFA program for preparing me with at least 5 other classical monologues in my back pocket. Let is slide off. There are some problems, fiascos, moments where you can freak out and let them change your entire perspective on the day or you can breath in (let), breath out (go), and move on. Go with it. I chose the latter and everything went very smoothly.
New Haven is beautiful, by the way. It looks like Lodo in Denver and Boulder, CO had a genius love child and put it next to the sea. It is a place where I would love to live and never leave. I have realized from this tiny day trip that New York City is perhaps not my dream destination. I can stay here and, if I have to, I will stay here, but there are so many other places in this world where I can be happy. In addition (side note), I am planning a trip to India in the spring/summer to learn more about the world, myself, yoga/meditation (in Rishikesh), and get out of this city. New York is incredible but its hard to breath here. And for a girl who already has some respiratory problems, perhaps its not the best match.
I digress: the audition was wonderful! I was myself, I was present, and I feel incredible about the pieces that I presented. I dont think that they were the best contrast, I dont know if they were the most interesting pairings but I did them better than well and I have nothing to regret. There isnt a lot here that I can write about in terms of how to audition for grad schools or what to do right or wrong for your personal pursuits. All I can tell you is this:
They want to accept you. They want you to succeed. If you know this, if you believe this, then you WILL succeed. I succeeded. Unfortunately, they called back ONE PERSON from the entire day. They posted the “callback” list and we all, my entire group, rush to the callboard to read: ONE NAME. The Name. It was a dude, by the way. Perhaps I’d feel a bit more upset if it was one person and she was female. But he wasnt. The Name fell back behind the group (I think in a bit of terror for his life to be honest) and we all packed up our things to go our seperate ways. Congrats to him! Well done, sir. However, this, my friends, leads me back to the truth of this industry. Its very competitive and it doesnt make sense a lot of the time. There are no explanations for reasons why you weren’t selected for a role, an opportunity, or a job. But I will say this: from my half of the exchange, there was no reason why I wasnt called back. It was one of the schools reasons – perhaps I wasnt right for that year, perhaps they have enough girls, perhaps they think I am too young, or too precocious, or too brunette. These are things that I am. And these are things that will not change.
So, to you, Yale: next year awaits us both. If at first you dont succeed, try, try again!
I will admit that I am more than a bit frustrated with the world and the state of the industry right now as I feel that I am finally ready for the world… and now it doesnt seem ready for me. Since the New Year and my Bikram challenge, my recent focus, groundedness, and drive have allowed me to consistently put my best foot forward and feel 100% positive about my work (and the casting directors agree and give me incredible feedback and callbacks) and yet… still no bookings or schools. “They” say that opportunities are missed so that other opportunities can arise but I wonder what those will be since nothing seems to be working out. I am not giving up, of course. Two more schools/trials to go and we will see how NTC and Juilliard feel about me. All I know is that I feel great about me. I am just waiting, patiently, until they are ready to accept that I ain’t going nowhere.
I don’t know what has come over me but, my friends, I am happy. Couldn’t explain it further as I have no physical proof but – I am feeling good (minus the fever but thats only physical). Perhaps it is my recent dip back into the Bikram Yoga pool. Four years ago, I took a Bikram yoga class at least once a day, 7 days a week and I was in my body, in amazing shape, and taking care of myself. It has taken a four year absence from that stint for me to realize that I was where I needed to be all along. On New Years Eve, instead of strapping on stilettos and paying cover charges, I went to a moonlight, midnight Bikram class that ended on the New Year with a champagne toast. I knew no one but I have to say it was the best New Years Eve that I have ever had. I am healthy, I am living for me, and I am exactly where I want to be. That said, I have made some revelations:
~ Up until this point, my depression and poor luck in the auditioning realm has really only been a result of my not being in my body, not being focused, and not being okay with myself and where I was in the moment. If I wasnt in my body then where would I be? In my head! And that is the death of the actor!!! I needed to be okay with myself before I could be vulnerable and honest in an audition and on stage. I can say that I am now. Things are looking up. Its gonna be a tremendous year.
~ Find something that makes you happy that ISNT theatre.
I know, I know. I am a hypocrite. I will be the first to admit that for a long time theatre was my one and only love (with a brief repose during the Nathan years :-D). It still is my love and my greatest love. But now I have multiple loves for multiple things, people, and PLACES (yes, New York, welcome to my bossom, dear one). When you make your love into your career, you relinquish its ability to be both your love and your work at the same time (especially when pressed with difficult times and challenges). This is the root to my recent problems: my love/career were both gone from me when I moved here and of course I felt as if I had lost everything. I needed to do things for me, for my career, involving theatre, involving movement, creativity, learning, etc but that wasnt dependent upon casting or income. First step: 30 day Bikram challenge. I am now on day 9 and I feel fucking fantastic. I go every morning – much like Joe who commented on the benefit of early mornings in his most recent PvsP post. Love him! Its SO true. I am focused, I am working on myself and as a result, working on my career. I am in my body, out of my head, healthy, awake, and feeling like my old self again. Without which:
I never would have gotten the call back that I have today that I am rushing off to in t-26 minutes.
Wish me some broken appendages.
This will be brief but I thought I would share some advice I got from a very good friend (and actor currently attending graduate school at CALArts).
My graduate school auditions begin in two weeks. I still am deciding on pieces and need to hunker down and get working on them like a crazy person and yet, I am oddly calm. And I went to him, as he is in school currently, worrying that I wasn’t taking this seriously enough or that I ought to feel one way or another about the auditions. Everyone asks you: aren’t you nervous? Are you working like mad? And, I am neither nervous nor working like mad. The entire point of these auditions for me is to first and foremost, have the experience as I continue on the journey of finding and deciding if this is my “actors path.” Either way – my brilliant and beautiful friend told me something both accurate and ever-so-inspiring in the grander scheme of things. He said,
“There is no way you are supposed to feel. You just are what you are, you are where you are, and you will feel what you will feel.”
This advice is incredible for acting for the best performances, no matter how trained or prepared you may be, are nothing if not honest and present. And, in life, this advice goes even deeper.
Live in the moment.
So I have contemplated whether or not to blog about this particular subject because I don’t know what levels of public humiliation I can endure these days. But, as they say, once you have lost your reputation you can live quite freely. I hope to do just that. After only a few, long months, in the “Big Bad Apple,” I have decided to attempt getting back into the comforting bosom of education. I have decided to apply for MFA programs. Amend that thought: I have decided to apply for programs that I feel can offer me the specific training that I seek and need (but I am not applying to grad schools for the sake of grad schools). I am applying to programs that just happen to be grad schools.. if that makes any sense.
Let me try to clarify: I am applying to Juilliard, Yale and NTC (National Theatre Conservatory in Denver). I am not applying to any other schools because I don’t want to go to grad school. It is not the experience of going to any grad school just because it’s a grad school that I crave. I crave an in-depth and focused training that I feel I am finally ready for. I always wanted this conservatory style approach when I was going to undergrad but it didn’t want me. And now I know that I was not emotionally mature enough to devote my life and myself to the art of theatre. Now, I am. And if they still don’t want me… they WILL someday.
So, I am applying. In fact, I have applied. I am auditioning various weekends in January. The first is Yale and that is the BIG DADDY of all schools. If I got into Yale… well, lets not get our hopes up. Then is the NTC audition and the last is Juilliard (not an MFA program but, its fucking Juilliard so I am applying).
I need to focus on my auditions and what pieces I will be doing. This is the point I am at right now. Over the past weeks I have written my essay (artistic statement, statement of purpose, etc) for the various programs and thus another reason I have been absent from the blogospheres. Perhaps I will post this essay but that will take some balls for sure. Not today. Someday. … Er, we shall see. But: Auditioning.
1) contemporary comedic
This is where I have my first road block: what to do? I have some comedic monologues but they all seem so trivial and far too “easy.” I am looking at more Vogel because I love her and I have performed many of her shows. Perhaps a L’il Bit, black comedy or just stick with my Mineola Twins monologue on what it is Lesbians really DO in bed…
2) contemporary dramatic
Again, roadblock. In high school I really wanted to do a monologue from Beauty Queen of Lenane but the accent threw me. I still feel it is too wrong for grad school auditions but that is where I start my search. I have done some Shepard and though Savage in Limbo is way over done, I was thinking Curse of the Starving Class. Or perhaps I should just stick with The Goat by Edward Albee though I am far too young to play the role. Or maybe I should do a Native American piece like Rez Sisters. Or perhaps I should do something dealing with disability like Greta Good Time or Lie in the Mind. Gah. The clock is ticking.
3) classical comedic
Check. Done and done. Luciana from Comedy of Errors is lovely but I think I am going to go with Beatrice from Much Ado About Nothing. I did this show this summer with CSF and though I played Margaret, I feel that Beatrice is a genius lady and one with much humor, wit, physicality, and a bit of a lover/ingenue. Good times all around.
4) classical dramatic
Check. And surprisingly so: I was sure I would do Queen Margaret from Henry VI part 3. Alas, though I love the monologue, it is a masturbatory performance. I am far too young, no one knows the piece, and though I love luxuriating in the text and vocal transformations, it’s just not grabbing. Instead, I had an epiphany! I will do Hamlet. I played Hamlet in Hamlet this spring and I absolutely adore, and rock the socks out of, “What a piece of work is a man.” Now, advice time: typically I would say stay away from changing gender or doing something controversial just to be controversial. But, in this case, I have played the role so it isn’t completely self-indulgent for me to attempt something like Hamlet. And I play a lot of male roles and strong women. If you are a lover all the way or a villain or a clown, then maybe a Hamlet monologue isn’t for you.
Maybe I Like It This Way – Wild Party
(this is the one song that I know but, like Ben said, 85% rule. It’s good enough! And, truth be told, it’s very good)
Now why am I going on and on and on about this? Well, many of you are actors. Many of you are in school, just out of school or contemplating going back into school like myself. Ben is working as an actor in LA. Joe is studying improv as well as working as an actor in Chicago. I am… trying to work as an actor in NYC but I find that my path is different from that of Joe and Ben. I posted a while back on the thought that there are too many performers and artists these days who think that they deserve one thing or another because of what they have completed. That the industry owes them something. Well this is untrue. Art is about evolving and growing. There is never an end point or a point where you are owed anything. It is the TRUE actors, in my mind, who never stop learning. Ben is learning through doing (as he is so fortunate to be able to do), Joe is learning through doing, self reflecting, and, improv classes. I want to learn through intense and specific training with no outside distractions. My goals are also different. Ben is film. Joe is improv (and contemporary drama/comedy). I am classical work, contemporary drama, and maybe film in the future but… that would be a lovely cherry on top if it were to actually happen. And, in classical, big stage: I need training.
This is my journey. It is NOT a handbook or an essay on how-to-get-into-grad-school. I don’t know how to! I am trying, applying, auditioning, and seeing if they want me. Through the course of this journey, I will learn things and share them. And I may not get into any of these three programs – this year, anyway. But I will learn from this first try and try again. For, if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.