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L'shanah Tovah

Sunset in Aruba, shutting the book on another day and another chapter.

Sunset in Aruba, shutting the book on another day and another chapter.


I was away on "vacation" last week, but since that vacation involved watching 2-5 kids between the ages of 6 and 10 for great portions of the time, I didn't do much relaxing. I've had a couple days off since I got back though, for better or worse, and have spent that time thinking a lot about the turning of calendar pages and turning of the leaves.

Friday was a new moon - a time for new beginnings and new intentions - and last night signaled the beginning of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. I don't know about you, but I've had a rough 2016 and I'm very ready to move on to a new year so I will happily welcome 5777 and bid adieu to the past. (Any year that begins with David Bowie dying can't possibly go well; I suppose I shouldn't be surprised.) I believe strongly in the energies of the universe, changes in the seasons and the calendar pages falling away as time passes and using those times to harness energy in our own lives. While autumn can be seen as a time of hunkering down for the hibernation of winter, it is also a time of preparation, which is a word that syncs up nicely with the start of a new moon cycle and a new year. What is there to prepare for? What do we want to manifest in our lives in the coming month or year?

I'm taking some time today to define what I want the near future to look like... It's been a very turbulent year, to say the least, with a lot of uncertainty and self-reflection beginning with my birthright trip in January and continuing into the present. It certainly feels like life is tossing me about right now and it's hard to find my footing in the storm. So I'm ready for the winds of change to pick a direction - they can keep blowing tempestuously, if I just knew which way to go!

So no big news to share today, folks, just wishing you all a happy, healthy, and sweet new year (or new moon, or new month). May we all find the sweetness we seek in the coming days, whether that's a job that leads to financial stability, a gig that is artistically fulfilling, a relationship that is inspiring, or something completely different!

Fear and Loathing (and Love)

This was going to be a letter to a pen pal, but the ideas got away from me as they sometimes do. So here is a musing in two parts, written before and after an audition this evening.

This letter finds me on a B train leaving Brooklyn, bound for an audition for a "folk musical" going up at the fringe this summer. I haven't auditioned for a musical in close to a decade, and I have never accompanied myself on guitar, or even played guitar in front of strangers before. I just started learning (read: teaching myself) guitar five months ago. I have not had a voice lesson in  years. I'm not quite sure what got into my head with this opportunity, or what on earth led these people to give me an appointment while in the meantime I've been ignored by a dozen outdoor Shakespeare productions to which I would be far more well-suited. (There's only YEARS of stage combat and experience improvising in Elizabethan language OUTSIDE, oh ALL DAY on my resume. I digress.) But the opportunity presented itself, and now the hour that was once two weeks away is minutes away instead. 

This face sums up how I felt before the audition, although I think I'm hiding the slight sense of nausea quite well. (A good haircut works wonders.)

This face sums up how I felt before the audition, although I think I'm hiding the slight sense of nausea quite well. (A good haircut works wonders.)


I guess I try to challenge myself to do scary things. For a while that was going to any audition, period, because I felt so out of practice. Now I've been to a few, and I've gotten some audition-free work that always boosts my confidence, so auditions don't seem like such a big deal. But this one, tonight, is a silly and terrifying endeavor. I'm excited to do something new and very far outside my comfort zone, and trying to focus on the positive growth this will engender rather than how utterly unqualified I feel for the gig. Honestly what I'm most excited to bring into the room is my rocker vibe, which gives me far more aesthetic confidence than I ever feel emotionally. But hey, the outside-in method works for my acting, so why not for my life?

It's funny how rock music and rock style have a carefully cultivated ease about them. Jam bands, like Zeppelin and the Dead, can play such tightly-rehearsed, intricate pieces and then let the middle of that become a long improvisation that comes out of a deep knowledge of music, an innate sense of rhythm and tempo, and a willingness to trust and at times follow their fellow musicians. That same mentality of focus and release is echoed in the clothes of the culture - an eye on aesthetic, but ultimately a prevailing sense of "I just threw this on because it's comfortable and I like it and fuck you." Or at least that's what I go for. Of course it's never that simple, but I've reached a point where I can throw on any combination of most of the clothes I own and still achieve the same general attitude. 

I'm quite proud of the look and accompanying attitude I've cultivated for myself over the years.  In the business of theatre you are constantly marketing yourself, and while everyone is "unique" and their own little snowflake, none of that matters if you suppress it all in the the audition room in hopes of fitting some mold you think in your mind the director wants. No. You want *me* in all my rock n roll weirdness, coolness, nerdy-ness. (Yes I have tattoos but one of them is dedicated to a children's book series I've loved since I was eight.)

I'm out of the audition now. The director had me do the monologue directly to her (and the three others in the room). It was way more fun that way. And then I played the song I'd practiced on the little toy guitar they had if you, like me, didn't want to schlep a guitar without a backpack case from Brooklyn to Columbia. The song went surprisingly well, for never having touched that guitar before and in spite of my insane nerves about playing at an audition in the first place. 

I was thinking, before I went into the room, about how massive the wall of anxiety is that I put between myself and that room. I kept reminding myself all I was doing was saying some words for a minute, living somebody else's life, and then I was going to play like 30 seconds of a song I know by heart and have been practicing for weeks. That's nothing. But the longer I sat outside the door, the more it built up in my head as a big moment, as if this were a make-or-break opportunity. Would doing the show be fun, and good experience, good exposure, and make me a little money? Sure. Absolutely. But would this one audition destroy all future performance prospects if I blew it? Of course not. So I reminded myself that the beauty of auditions is that the risk of an audition is always so much lower than the reward. Didn't nail it? Okay, go to another one tomorrow. You still have the monologue or the song ready to go. You didn't spend them; they're not "used up." Got the callback? Great! Got the show? Good for you! 

Once I got through that whole train of thought (they were running late and then took a break as soon as I got there, so I had quite a bit of time to think about all this), I wasn't so stressed. The audition would be what it would be. I had put in the work, and the work would support me. (That's one of those annoying things acting books and teachers always tell you but you never really believe until it just clicks one day, apparently four years after graduation.) I said my words; I played my song. Bonus points, the "redhead" I talked about in my monologue was present in the room (well, *a* redhead, is what I mean), and the director liked my song choice (yay) and, as I walked out, called after me, "I love your tattoo!" which is definitely a good sign since I can't do anything about it if ya don't like it (and I wouldn't want to). 

So now I wait. I think they're having callbacks Friday, for which I am completely unavailable between work and rehearsal, and I had to say so when they asked, but it was incredibly gratifying to say I had rehearsal. Oh, this is the life of a working actor. Right. 

I really liked the vibe of the directing team, and I would love to work with them and I'd love to play guitar in a show for real. I have loved learning guitar, and I would love to expand my abilities and talents and resume (and rock persona). But if that doesn't happen, it's okay. Tonight was exactly what I wanted it to be - a chance to do something "scary" and beyond my comfort zone and maybe my abilities but that I was going to do anyway. If I could do that, I can certainly walk into a room and just to a regular old monologue no problem. 

So hey, reader. Take a risk. Do something scary. Do something you don't think you're ready for, or that you "can't" do. There is nothing better than surprising yourself. 

A fortuitous draw for card of the day. Opportunity is knocking, will you answer?

A fortuitous draw for card of the day. Opportunity is knocking, will you answer?


Celebration Day

Last week was my birthday, another reminder of the passing years. Today is the four year anniversary of my graduation from NYU, the end of my "certain" future and the start of a long life staring into the unknown. 

NYU graduation at Yankee Stadium, May 16, 2012.

NYU graduation at Yankee Stadium, May 16, 2012.

My little brother (and only sibling) came to visit me at the beginning of May, the first time he and I have ever spent any time on our own together, despite both being post-undergrad-age at this point. It was remarkable to see how he has grown from the little kid it was impossible to take a picture with into a young man who has traveled to foreign countries and somehow, miraculously, is getting paid to go to grad school. I am so grateful to have spent even a few short days with him, living through adulthood with my second-oldest friend. (Sorry, Sam, Shannon was born before either of us.) He got to see what my day-to-day life is like, and I got to spend some time reliving my childhood as we spent hours on the couch playing video games. Thanks to a friend from college I even got to take him on stage at a Broadway show.

While he was visiting we had dinner with an old childhood friend of ours who lives in New York now, and I was reminded that night of the last time I had met up with him, last fall. At that time another childhood friend was visiting me, one who has now been married five years and had just signed a lease on a space to use as a photography studio for her business. Our friend, though three years younger than us, was moving into a midtown apartment with his girlfriend and working a job in a real estate office. Suddenly, I felt like the little kid at the grown ups table. I didn't have a significant other or a fancy apartment or a stable job or an impressive small business.

What I had to remind myself then, and sometimes still have to now, is that I am a college graduate and I am completely financially independent and have been for four years. That's my status quo, so I take it a little for granted sometimes, but that's a big deal for people of my generation who have been so greatly disadvantaged by the economic recession of our college and early post-college years. I pay all my bills on time, my apartment is clean, I save up money to travel. I remind myself I'm doing just fine.

The problem is I want more. I guess most people think they'll be further along than they are at any given time. And the thing is, if I didn't have this deep desire to create, to make and write and perform theatre, this life I'm living could be totally satisfactory. I like the people I work with, I love the kids I take care of, I like that I still have free time and (a little) extra money to enjoy a few of the things NYC has to offer, even if that's one rush ticket to one show once a month. There is nothing inherently wrong with my life. But this relates to my previous post, The Heartbreak of Dreaming, where I mused about the dangers of caring so much, wanting something bigger and better than the average reality. 

A friend of mine who I've called my "big brother" for a decade now, someone I met through the theatre I worked at back home, was in town a few weeks ago and we caught up briefly at his hotel. He asked me if I was happy. I hesitated to think about it. He said, "So you're not happy." I was reluctant to agree. Given all that I have in life I have no right not to be happy, I thought. If you had told high school me that a decade later I would have a huge apartment in Brooklyn, right by the park, that I would have visited a dozen countries by now, that I would be caring for two kids I love as if they were mine, and that I would be possessed by an idea for a play that would continue to not let me go for years, to me that would have been the dream. Now that I'm here and I've seen friends of mine accomplish so much more, I keep dreaming. 

I spent my birthday out of the city, on purpose, something I never thought I would do before I moved here. When I started college all I wanted was to spend my birthday in the city. The last eight years is a string of tickets and playbills from shows seen on my birthday, or photos from bars around the Village (RIP, Life Cafe). This year I spent a lazy day upstate in the woods and didn't stress about big plans. I spent the day and saw a show with my best friend, and we met up with just a few people for drinks after. No party, no cake, in fact I made it out of the bar without anyone singing Happy Birthday. I have bigger dreams but also simpler needs at twenty-six than I did at sixteen. There's a trade-off, I guess.

This post has been haunting me for weeks. I didn't know it would be this post, specifically, but I felt I needed to write something else since my weekly rhythm was disturbed by a trip to Florida to visit my grandmother. But I didn't know what to write. I didn't feel anything had changed, or anything new had happened since my last post. I felt stuck. Inspiration comes in waves, rather than a constant rain.

I did some background work on a film a couple weeks ago and tried to write about that, but I wasn't sure what to say. I had fun pretending to live in the 70s for a day, that's all. I've auditioned for a few things, completely blew a fight call and tried not to beat myself up about it. I skipped Faire callbacks and tried not to think about it. Already the pictures of faire friends having fun is getting to me a little, but I know it's time for me to move on and focus on my own projects.

At some point I said twenty-five was the year I stopped doing things I didn't want to do. I think twenty-six is the time to start doing things I want to do. Not sure how I'm going to be a rockstar by twenty-seven, but maybe it's better to wait on that one until twenty-eight anyway.