Frank the Bastard or Being Ready to Act When You Most (or least) Expect It

from "Frank the Bastard"
me as Mrs. Gast with hubby Mr. Eddie Gast

So on a balmy August day in 2011, I woke up at 7am, my eyes burning and my vision blurred. I had just slept for exactly one hour and I felt like a melting mass of protesting muscle.

You see, I had just been on set for over twelve hours the previous night, working on a film called “Frank the Bastard.” It was fun. It was creepy. I was working in scenes with talented actors like Lance Greene, Rachel Miner, William Sadler, Jennifer Engle, Chris Sarandon, etc. When I was wrapped at 4:20am, I didn’t even have the ability to fully let it sink in that I would need to be on set at 10am on the CT shoreline for my OWN project.

Fast forward to now and “Holding” is completely wrapped, has been in festivals, and just this past weekend, “Frank the Bastard” opened in select theaters and on itunes, which basically means, everywhere. This film was especially important for me because it made me realize a couple of things.

1) You just never know what can happen and

2) You just never know what can happen.

A scene with Lance Greene.
Me in scene with actor Lance Greene.

When we filmed this, I was not expecting to have multiple scenes, or close ups, or multiple days on set. I really thought I was just going to be on set for a day as basically background. Which leads me to my first point: You just never know. I was on set for multiple days, in scenes with actors like Ellen Albertini Dow, who asked if she could “act with me.” I was told there would be a close up of me witnessing the unraveling of my husband, Eddie Gast. And the shots, literally, just kept coming! The director, Brad Coley, pulled me aside afterwards and thanked me and said I was a “true actor.” It was the best feeling in the world and nothing I would have been prepared for if I hadn’t kept the open mind that just because I assumed my part was one way, didn’t mean that it wouldn’t be used for the overall story in another way.

After we wrapped on this film, I was so excited. But then, nothing happened. I didn’t hear about the film until there were rumors of it on the film festival circuit…

That is, until last week. I heard it would be released in theaters and luckily on itunes! Would my close up make the final cut?

IMG_1988

Ulitmately, the majority of my scenes were cut. And they weren’t MY scenes anyway. The parts that were there to serve the story were kept, and that’s all that matters anyway.

which leads me to my next point: You just never know!

So, what was my takeaway from this experience?

I love working in film. it is the best job in the world. Watching yourself in a film is only an inkling of the true joy spent on set for hours with extremely talented people, and finding the magic at 1am for a last minute closeup and rehearsing with the other principals with a kind and focused director who creates a perfect environment for an ensemble of characters. Nothing beats that feeling for me, and honestly, that is what it’s all about.

So, if you are an actor, and the next time you’re on set, keep an open mind. Whether you are the lead, a background actor, a stand in…be prepared, keep your ears open, and remember to play. Because you just never know what part you could play next.

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Persephone et al

I got cast in a mythology project, happening at the Windsor Art Center on the following dates / times:

Thursday, August 13th 8pm

Friday, August 14th 8pm

Saturday, August 15th 2pm & 8pm

The performance will run about an hour, along with a Q&A talkback with the cast.

Among some other supporting roles, my main role will be Persephone, which I am really excited about. In Greek mythology, Persephone is the Queen of the Underworld. We are working in an organic way on these pieces, with improvised dialogue, movement, and storytelling. Using the myths as the basis, we are keeping the original Epic themes alive, but spun into the fabric of the modern day.

From Mythologian.net
From Mythologian.net

I have always been fascinated by the epic Greek plays, particularly Iphegenia (I workshopped a piece in college), the Bacchae (I was a drum kit playing Dionysus in college), Antigone (yep played that too), and many others. Sacrifice, Feminism, family issues, man, it is all there! And I have always loved working in those realms. To me, it is the basis of all truly awesome theater.

Here’s an interesting thing that happened to me. In college, we had been working on a new adaptation of The Bacchae. I, along with two other women in my class, played Dionysus. The idea was s/he was sort of omnipresent and super powerful. The goddess in this case, of Sex, Wine, Creation and let us not forget, chaos. I had been working on my voice for weeks to project in the new Nafe Katter theater’s thrust stage. I wore leather pants, a corset, and had my hair pinned back. And then…something really..weird slash cool happened.

As I walked on stage, I felt myself get bigger. But not my body. I mean like, I felt like I was bigger THAN my body. I also felt this weird, surging energy (no, not butterflies) shoot through my legs. It almost felt like I might not be able to keep control of how well I would walk, which was vaguely nagging at me since I was waring 4 inch leather boots.

When I spoke, the words came out effortlessly, and my voice resonated much deeper and fuller than I had been TRYING in rehearsal. It did not sound like ME.

I felt high. Literally, emotionally, everything. I was sort of having this 360 degree view of of the room. It was exhilerating.

It was not until we finished and I went backstage that I felt a sort of swooning effect. It kind of freaked me out like…UM, what WAS that!?

Later on I spoke to some other actors from other classes and they didn’t even know it had been me on stage! And that was when I felt complete validation for my performance.

The other day someone said to me, “UGH, why would anyone starve themselves for a role? That’s so Hollywood.” And I immediately shot back that it was not, indeed, the case at all.

Actors want to be someone else. They want to feel the rush of experiencing something epic, catastrophic, euphoric, tragic, and if you can find that path by altering your appearance for a role, then you will. It’s because it literally feels different and in some cases is a short cut. Granted, it’s not always necessary, but I totally get it.

I live for those strange moments. To me, the stage is a sacred space and magic begins to flow as soon as the actor agrees to take part in something else. Call it channeling, connecting with a higher power, whatever.

It’s all Greek to me…..ha. I couldn’t resist.

Balancing Act

You know what phrase I cannot stand?

goodneighborconcierge.com
goodneighborconcierge.com

“Life – work balance.”

Does anyone truly know what the hell that means, anyway? I am sure if you google it right now you will come across a gazillion blog posts about it, as well as a lot of “ten steps to life-work balance” type content as well.

I’m going to go ahead and throw out a crazy idea..what if there is no such thing as life / work balance? I say there isn’t, and here’s why.

The entire assumption that a balance between life and work is needed implies that there is something wrong with you. As in, you either are spending too much or not enough time at work or home or vise-versa. Everyone’s looking for the “secret” to success. “What does it take to have it all?”  It also suggests that your life is compartmentalized. Um. Your life is just your life!

I think there’s a new way of looking at this all together. What if we just start accepting that parts of our lives are going to sometimes be more chaotic? That some of our time is spent having fun? that sometimes life gets outweighed by certain things more than others because hey, they good and the bad both happen when you least expect it and adjustments need to be made accordingly.

An example of things not going to plan.
An example of things not going to plan.

But just because something may be chaotic, or you might have had one too many GTs at the company picnic or didn’t get that gig yo uwanted..it doesn’t mean that you have to get riled up over it. Right? I know, easy for me to say.

To get more specific, in this world of acting and the entertainment business in general, there are a lot of misconceptions. Some common questions:

How can you drive that far?!

Is it really worth it?

Don’t you get sick of auditioning?

And the list goes on and on from there. I think that what happens to a lot of us is we try to fix problems.PROBLEMS. You know what I say? I say there are NO problems. I say

from pinterest
from pinterest

EXCUSES.

I can’t do this because I don’t have this

I can’t do that because I don’t have enough money

I can’t work out because I don’t have enough time

I don’t audition past the state line because it’s too time consuming.

But what do all of those things really even mean?!

I think there’s a whole lot of stress getting shoved around and mislabeled and overdiagnosed with medications and distractions when really, a lot of the time many of us are just afraid to live.

For example, I used to get (ok and sometimes still do) extremely stressed out when I looked at my schedule for the week (See Episode 2 of Holding) and didn’t understand how I was going to get from point A —–> Z without running on fumes or without failing miserably or whatever, really.

running on caffeine
running on caffeine

I am not saying that this is the same thing as overbooking yourself. That is something that needs to be determined on an individual basis and I am happy to explore that in another post because I have a classic case of burn out in my repertoire.

Anyway…

What’s the big deal? You got big dreams? Well, chances are you won’t have a lot of down time. There will be a lot of doing and trial and error. Sometimes you may have stretches of nothing on your schedule and that doesn’t mean anything bad either. It doesn’t mean that you are not perfecting the “work-life” balancing act. Cause guess what? It’s just some construct some uppity person with too many degrees decided was wrong with the overworked working class.

Start from where you are. Accept that you have chosen a life for yourself that is not always full of certainty. Hell, even if you have a stable job there is always going to be uncertainty. Live one day at a time. Then one moment. You can do it. You can get everything done that you set out to (IF that is what you really want to do!) Just believe.

And here’s my run down of Don’ts

Don’t judge:

that you haven’t gotten enough sleep

that you didn’t get that part / job / internship / contest

that you haven’t had a vacation in…ever?

Don’t listen

to people who tell you you are “doing too much” (they are probably just jealous or shocked or both)

DO:

Give yourself time to breathe every day.

Enjoy each moment

treat your life, work, and play all with the same integrity. It’s your life.  Compartmentalizing things physically and emotionally doesn’t work in the long run. Screw life / work balance. How about just living with integrity?

Let yourself be YOU. That’s all any of us can do anyway. 🙂