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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?

 

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Blackout

As a lighting designer, I hate blackouts. Most of the time I believe there's a more interesting way to transition between scenes or moments than complete darkness. Life is not usually so abrupt, and I feel that theatre should reflect that.

I did another weird, non-Millenial thing to do this past week. I deactivated my facebook account for the first time ever. Facebook asked me if I was sure I wanted to leave. It asked me why I wanted to leave, and suggested solutions to my reasons that didn't involve abandoning the website. It pointed out that I could come back at any time, and all my content would still be there. All I would have to do is log back in like normal. Essentially deactivating your facebok account hides your profile from others, but it doesn't actually destroy or delete anything.

Today I logged back into my facebook account, and it was indeed like I had never left. I had a backlog of notifications for groups I'm a member of, mostly alerts that strangers had posted photos in Gypsy Housing, actors attempting to sublet their apartments while at out-of-town gigs. I had message notifications for group chats, one among my roommates and one among my best friends, speculating about my unannounced absence. The social media world kept turning, with my profile just orbiting it in the shadows of internet space.

I use facebook as much if not more than the average 20-something; I'll admit I fill a fair amount of down time on the train or during slow periods at work with scrolling through my newsfeed. In this past year in particular I've been actively posting on a very frequent basis, engaging in heated discourse about the presidential race. Though there were points this week where I thought of sharing an article I read in the Times, or posting a guitar video update, nothing was important enough to restore me to the socialsphere. Last night though, as caucus and primary results came in for three democratic contests, I truly missed facebook for the first time. I missed sharing in the excitement or disappointment with my fellow activists and politically aware friends.

In this society, and particularly in this industry, social media is a marketing tool, even for individuals, for ourselves. Entertainers of any trade have to market themselves and create a brand, and that has never been more true than in the digital age where there is an overwhelming number of options available for anything you could imagine. I went to college before facebook was really popular for teenagers, so I didn't have to worry about potential colleges checking my profile, but now we are constantly warned about what future schools or employers might see on our hopefully-carefully-curated personal pages.

My facebook profile is private, with almost no information shared with non-friends, but even among my ever-growing friends list there is a large number of people identified as "oh we had a class together once in college" or "we did a production together that one summer," who are not quite strangers, but almost. They remain in my circles for "networking," because there is an unspoken rule that you never unfriend anyone in the business that you meet, lest that actor become a director casting friends or become famous and need background actors for their project.

So perhaps it is a risk to post political content on a regular basis, from a fairly biased point of view. But my biased point of view feels that being political and being an activist is part of who I am. The play that I'm writing absolutely has a political viewpoint to it, and I care about making work that speaks to our current society and current issues. So being political is a part of my brand. Just as my haircut and tattoos have barred me from ever being a generic, cookie-cutter actress, another brown-eyed, brunette pixie. I'm definitely a specific type, and I've embraced that about myself. I'm pretty sure of who I am and who I want to be, and I hope to create art that celebrates and integrates my personality rather than fitting me into a box that isn't who I am.

I took a break from facebook for a number of reasons, including wanting some space and time for myself without the constant gravitational pull of social media. Ultimately though, I find, I want to be there, branding or not, to share in the world's excitements and disappointments. To be a part of a national conversation, a movement, an idea. Many ideas. I'm just me being me, but as a part of something bigger.

A photo that I posted on Instagram, but never made it to facebook this week. #bangz

A photo that I posted on Instagram, but never made it to facebook this week. #bangz

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