Viewing entries tagged
bravery

Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes

 
 

The first tarot card I drew this year was the same as the first card I drew last year: XIII - Death. Many see it as an ill omen, a foreboding warning to receive at any time. But I always interpret it, especially at the new year, as rebirth, clearing away the old to make room for the new. Maybe it's my strong connection to the phoenix, to the idea of rebirth, but death always leads to something new. When major arcana cards come up in a reading, they symbolize larger shifts are at work in your life. I've had a lot of major arcana coming up in my daily readings lately.

I wrote a post many months ago about the 16th and 17th cards of tarot's major arcana - The Tower, and The Star. The tower warns of impending change, often of a destructive or unwelcome nature. I said in that post that I already felt poised on the precipice of major change this year, and that was just in February. I was considering leaving some of my old jobs. I was considering leaving the country. Now it is mid-June, the eve of summer, and change has come for me, whether I like it or not. Two of my old jobs, places I have worked for four and six years, will be closing at the end of the summer, and a third is likely to have little work for me in the coming months. I will soon be very close to unemployed whether I like it or not.

I had forgotten that back in the dark days of winter, in the tumultuous weeks after my trip to Israel, that I was thinking of making big changes in my life. I got back into the routine of my day job and my night job, writing in free hours or on the occasional day off. I talked daily with my best friend about how much we missed Israel and how out of place we felt back in our regular lives, but it was still easy enough to walk through the years-old routine on the outside, even as tectonic shifts happened within. That is certainly the danger of a comfortable life, that in a routine we can become complacent. I have continued to push myself artistically in the months since that post, auditioning for plays, finishing my script, landing a gig. But I have continued to be safely housed in the familiar home of these jobs I've had for most of my adult life, almost all of the time since graduating.

This summer came with the prospect of change as I did not return to the New York Renaissance Faire this year, offering new freedom I've never had. In fact, this is their first weekend of camping for rehearsals, and I am comfortably holed up in an air-conditioned building all day, and will sleep in a real bed tonight. I'm focusing on the positive. But it seems now that the changes will keep coming as my familiar jobs disappear. An empty September yawns in front of me on my calendar. And so the free fall tumble of XVII - The Star comes sooner than expected. I don't know what life will look like, a couple months from now. I'm tempted, as ever, to drop everything and live abroad. I still miss Israel every day and think I'll end up there one day. Today I literally googled "how to move abroad" and "can I live in Berlin" among other queries. I also googled "how to find the perfect job," just as lofty an ambition.

I spent part of this morning looking for new work, laughing at the $9/hr postings I found for jobs in New York City, as if anyone can afford to work for $9 an hour. I recognize some people can't afford not to, but that's ridiculous. I suppose the one comfort is be the end of 2018 minimum wage in NYC will be $15 an hour. But honestly, being released from a multitude of hourly or shift pay jobs all at once seems like a sign that I shouldn't just settle into another one. There are some potential opportunities at box offices or other theatres where I could work, and maybe make comparable money to what I make now, doing similar jobs. However I think it's time to embrace the upcoming chaos, the unpredictable fall to an unknowable landing. Maybe this is the real shove to become a working artist, making my living as an actor or a playwright or a lighting designer. (Ideally all of those things.)

I started immediately looking for new jobs to fill the voids that will blossom as summer ends, but I'm tempted now, to let the ground remain far away for a while. I'm tempted to let this push/leap into underemployment be a gift. I will still have my nanny gig, and I'll be able to claim unemployment from the layoffs, leaving me unheard of amounts of time to audition, write, and collaborate with others. Times will be a bit lean, but I will be able to get by, especially if I work hard over the next couple months. It wouldn't be the first time I've made a fiscally questionably decision. (I can hear Suze Ormann yelling at me through the ether but I'm choosing not to listen, as I have so often done before.)

My last post was about doing scary things outside of my comfort zone. It would appear as though it's time to get uncomfortable. (Turn and face the strange.)

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?