I went to Aruba.

You know how you always say, “MAN. I NEED a VACATION.”

Yeah.  I don’t say that.  Something is wrong with me.

When I hear people talk about vacations, I suddenly get tense.  My back gets all twisted in knots, my pulse accelerates, and I try to change the subject as quickly as possible.

Nope, I never had some traumatic experience on a family vacation.  Actually, I can count the number of REAL vacations I’ve ever had in my life on one hand.

The reason for me associating vacations with stress is this…All I can think about is how I won’t be able to get anything done!  And THEN I’ll come home and there will be SO much to do!  What makes anyone think they can go somewhere beautiful when there is SO MUCH WORK to be DONE?!

Let me set up the scene for you: the green wording represents my internal dialogue.  This is where the whole vacation thing all came up.

Dillon – Let’s go on vacation!

Casey- Oh.  Really?  (There has GOT to be a way out of this.  He doesn’t really mean it.  Maybe he’s just saying we need to try something different…like going out on Tuesday nights or eating leftovers or going on a nice walk or..something).

Dillon – Yeah.  When do you have some free time?

Casey – *staring blankly* (FREE TIME!? IS he CRAZY??  I don’t HAVE FREE TIME.  I’m an actor for God’s sakes. Back in college, David Alan Stern used to always say “You need a forty hour non-acting job to support your 20 hours a week of honing your craft and 20 hours a week of auditioning.”  Um..that’s an 80 hour work week!  Of which you only actually get paid 40 hours. Ew.)

Casey – Um. Later this year?  (this was early summer btw).

Dillon – OK. When?

Casey – How many days? (He’s going to make me pick a date. I can’t believe this is happening)

Dillon – two weeks?

Casey – Nope. (!!!!!)

Dillon – OK. How long?

Casey – Five..days?  (Maybe I should have said a week to sound more like a normal person.  But I wonder if I can make this a weekend thing instead…hmmm)

At this point Dillon throws around a bunch of dates until we settle upon a five day stretch in October.

Dillon – Where do you want to go?

Casey – I don’t know.  Where do you want to go? (Please don’t say a tropical place, please don’t say a tropical place.  What if all I can do is waste my time worrying about home?  Why do people want to go to tropical places anyway!?  Isn’t it kind of a mental torture?  IT IS NOT REAL LIFE!!  I refuse to go anywhere warm.  At least England or France has art and dirty cities and cloudy skies).

Dillon – How about the Caribbean?

Casey – Um. YEAH. COOL!  (I hope I sounded excited.)

Soon after we researched (THAT I can do) the best places to go, and after speaking to all of our traveler friends, we decided Aruba would be a good place to vacate..to.

To be honest, I couldn’t even get myself excited about the trip because i was so busy with work and other plans.  But finally the day arrived.  We shut off data to our phones and I didn’t check my email AT ALL the entire trip.  It was flipping gorgeous. We did nothing but walk on the beach and eat delicious food and drink pina coladas.  And something happened…I started to…relax.  I said things like “Wow Dillon my back isn’t all tense…and I didn’t even need to do yoga to feel that way!”

Sure it was an amazing trip and YES I realize I had the whole idea of vacations completely wrong.  But I think the best thing I got out of the trip is how I need to balance work with fun time.  Obviously my career is awesome and I get to be creative and well…have fun all the time.  But sometimes you need to rest and explore and travel and eat good food and try new things and NOT THINK to allow all that creativity to cultivate.

So guess what? I’m actually looking forward to my new plan of “I get one day a week to do no work and not check my email.” Oh. And my next vacation, too. 🙂

The view from our hotel room. You have my permission to be jealous.


 

Three actors and a prairie dog.

October 13, 2011 11pm

I’m sitting in an airport in Detroit.  My flight is delayed.  I’m tired and cold.  (Yes, my boyfriend was right, I should have packed a jacket.  FINE).  But I just had the most awesome trip.  So I won’t complain.

I think it’s very easy for anyone to lose sight of the big picture.  Sometimes we don’t get our way.  Sure, the day-to-day inconveniences of life can be annoying.

But wait..why am I even stuck in an airport to begin with?

I am here because I get to do what I love to do…for a living.  With such a nasty economy, I am especially lucky to do what I love.

Since the middle of September I have been slammed with a very busy schedule.  And it’s all been for acting or Artistic Director business.  How awesome is that?

I landed a small featured role in a film with some awesome actors (William Sadler, Ellen Albertini Dow to name only a couple).  One night of filming, the principal actors and myself didn’t wrap until 4:30 in the morning.  I drove home to CT, passed out for an hour, and then Dillon drove me to my film set in New Haven where I was directing, producing, and acting, for my first day of my new webseries, “Holding.”

On the way down, I was stressing out.  No sleep.  Not much planning due to my last minute booking, and well…low blood sugar.  Dillon was lucky he was still in one piece by the time I got out of the car.  I will admit, eating a granola bar suddenly made things seem not so bad either.  In any event, the car ride consisted of me trying to ground myself again.  I guess I was worried that things wouldn’t work out, and all of the insecurities I had kept at bay with planning and a ton of legwork…were suddenly creeping out.

Filming went great.  I worked with a wonderfully talented crew and cast of SAG and non-union actors.  Of course, I slept for almost 11 hours that night, but…who cares!?

Two years ago I was a mess. I had no idea where I was going.  I was doing too much for others and essentially nothing for myself. Before that, I had a streak of doing so well; enjoying every moment of all the amazing film sets and actors I had met (some of whom I had been admiring since childhood), when suddenly, I got lost in the details.  Worrying.  Wondering.  What – If? – ing.

Two years ago I would not have been able to handle the intensity of being given a direction on a major film set, taking a breath, and giving a top-notch performance.  Instead I would have worried if I would be good, worried about what everyone would think, worry about the big picture.

Not anymore.

Today is my birthday.  A lot of people said to me in the past week, “Oh no, you’re traveling on your birthday!  That sucks!”

It so does not suck.

Hanging out in a Starbucks in Oklahoma, Amie, one of my fellow actors on the trip asked me, “So what was best about your last year?”  A good question to ask!

This year, I finally grounded myself in all of my hard work since age 17 when I decided I wanted to be an actor.  I drowned out the negativity and flooded myself in the positive image others have always seen me in.  I stepped up to the plate that was always waiting for me.  I became the Artistic Director of Deana’s Educational Theater.  I wrote my own webseries.  I landed some amazing roles in theater and film.  I’m finally able to recognize my brand as an actor.

Today on my birthday I was in Oklahoma with two very talented and amazingly warm and funny actors. This week we brought an original work about cyberbullying to high schools. We chased Prairie Dogs, we hiked in the Wichita Mountains, we ate local OK food, we laughed our butts off.

This morning, they even had 130 students sing “Happy Birthday” to me.

On my birthday…what more could I possibly ask for?

Old friends and New Beginnings

This Labor Day weekend I watched a videotaped performance of a show I did last November called “Almost, Maine” with Valley Repertory Company.  It was a group I had never worked with before, with all new friends and actors.

 

Here we are: the cast of "Almost, Maine"

Watching that video got me thinking.  Not about my acting or anything, I can watch myself all day (Once you’ve done enough camera work, you get over it.  Watching yourself becomes more objective rather than “EWW I look so gross!” or “How do I sound like that!”).  OK maybe not all day.  But I realized that my life was in a completely different place on that stage than it was in the moment I was watching the video.

This weekend I was sitting next to the love of my life, surrounded by theatre friends I consider family, hanging out, drinking, eating and sort of marveling at the changes we’ve been through.

If you told me a year ago that this year I would direct a play, be a Production Assistant on major motion pictures, become the Artistic Director of a theater company, act in pieces I’ve always wanted to, write and create my own webseries, plus be able to share it all with someone who loves me and supports me for everything I am and do? Holy crap.

Last year I was having trouble facing the fact that I needed to drop people and activities from my life that were no longer of any use to me.  I was hurting in more ways than one, but I wouldn’t fully let myself come to that realization.  In fact, the only fun I was able to scrounge up last holiday season was the show, “Almost, Maine.”

So a few days after Thanksgiving, I hung out with my best friend Stephen and we walked around Hartford looking at the Christmas lights and bracing ourselves for another season of festivity / insanity.  I walked around that night and grounded myself in the fact that things kinda sucked.  But Stephen reminded me to “breathe” and I reminded myself that however big the next hurdle was, it would be over eventually.

Things did get better!  Especially this year when I opened up to others about my dreams in a practical way and FINALLY heeded the advice given to me by fellow theater friends, Jim and Mary-Ellen: “Remember, ask for help.  People want you to succeed!”  And sure enough, I’ve had the extreme privilege and honor to create art all year that is reflective of the visions I’ve wanted to execute.  Voila!

And I will say, it doesn’t only extend as far as artistic / theatre / film folks.  It’s the friends and family who just love me for who I am and urge me to keep moving forward.

For the first time I’m finally saying, “THIS WILL HAPPEN” as opposed to “Eh, it’s okay if it doesn’t happen.”

So.  THANK YOU to each and every one of you out there who has supported me. It means more than I can express.   And remember, there are people out there who want to help YOU pursue your dreams, no matter how crazy or “out there” they may seem.  And I’m one of them!

what I’m lovin’ these days.

Here’s a run-down of some stuff I’m loving these days. 

  • I waved to Vanilla Ice’s kids over facetime the other day.

    Vanilla Ice. In case you wondering, he still looks the same.
  • The last audition I went to went smoothly and involved producers attempting to say my name with an Irish accent.
  • Old friends.  It’s amazing how the people who have known you the longest always know: what to feed you (vegan burgers), what to say (yes i DID change my hair…again), how to shift the mood (laughing is the best medicine).
  • cleaning.  NO, not cleaning for the hell of it, but for the purpose of it.  I’m in the beginning of a huge transition in my life, and I find removing, dusting, and giving away “stuff” that is no longer needed anymore to be a very satisfying experience.

    um. I haven't been using these products at all for the cleaning I'm describing. But I fooled you for a second!
  • Breaks.  As you may have gleaned from previous entries, I am a workaholic.  I have been luxuriating this month in activities I don’t normally take a part in (thank you boyfriend and sister).  Day trips, beaches, kayaking.  It’s the small breaks that recharge you…”Less IS more!”  I’m learning, gang. I’m learning.

 

  • there's no "fun" in stress!

    True Blood.

  • I heard Adam Sandler improv during a scene and managed to keep myself together until “CUT” was yelled.  I love both Adam Sandler and myself for this.
  • I’m working with talented actor friends this month on two different films and I couldn’t be happier!

What are YOU lovin’ this month?  Throw down a couple items, I’d love to hear about it.  Cheers!

Kick ass by doing less.

You have to weed out the old to make room for the new.

Lately it seems as though the universe has been beating me over the head with this notion.  It keeps getting reaffirmed in my career, in my relationships, and in my everyday life.

I used to think “More is more.”  The idea of only working on one project at a time, staying home on the weekends every once in awhile, sleeping in, taking on LESS… I thought it all amounted to being an unproductive person. Boy was I wrong.

The only way to really get anything done, it seems, is to do only a couple of things at a time and to do them well.  I used to think I could do EVERYTHING and accomplish it with my own personal splash of excellence.  It’s taken me awhile, but I’ve finally realized that not only is that not entirely possible, but it wipes me out to be so busy and it’s not really conducive to keeping up with the crazy lifestyle I already have as it is.

So this summer, I came up with  a new resolution.  Except, it’s not really a resolution, but more of an extension of my NYR from January which was to “be more awesome.”  Ahem.  Let me cut to the chase.

I am doing less to accomplish bigger goals.

Phew. I said it.  For someone who is such an overachiever, this is one of the hardest things I’ve had to make myself do in a long time.   To move ahead, I really need to take big risks.  Risks are scary, but they are the only way to move ahead in this life.

So here’s my plan.  I’m only going to go for projects that mean something to me and are worthy of my time.  I’m going to enjoy life in between projects and take the time to “smell the flowers.” (And NOT beat myself up for chilling out once and awhile).  I’m going to ask for help when I need it. (So…hard!) 

This past weekend among the festivity and quality time spent with those close to me, I realized how lucky I am to be surrounded by people who love me and support what I do.  Sure, maybe a lot of my close friends live far away, and not all my family is close by. 

But it all came full circle for me recently when I found myself stuck in the middle of a painful interaction with someone and all I could keep thinking was, “This is negative!  I can’t relate to this person!  I don’t like this.”  And THAT my fellow blog-readers, is OKAY. 

I can’t waste my time on people, projects, and routines that are only going to keep me stuck in the mud. 

It’s time to clean out the closets, weed out the ol’ garden, put on a sparkling smile, and kick ass… one…step…at a time.

PS I would like to challenge you to do the same.

Inspiration to be BRILLIANT!

In college, playwright, professor and overall awesome person Michael Bradford used to say to us “You all are so lucky.  You get to do what you love EVERY. DAY. Most people in the real world don’t get to act, direct, or design every day. But you do.”  And we’d all sigh, and lament behind our desks, dressed in sweatpants and smart-ass responses.

Here’s the thing…he was right!  Of course, graduating from college is great, and being on your own and all is…great. ahem. BUT it’s true.  the emphasis in college is on the craft, not on the business.  I’ve definitely learned the business side on my own, but that’s not the point.  The point is, we were invited to be imaginative, creative, and taught to find inspiration from past events in our lives, people we met, and the environment surrounding us.

When you get out on your own, sometimes it’s trickier to be inspired on your own.

Recently I sat down with a professor from college and two of my classmates from my Acting Class.  We weren’t really getting together for any other reason than to catch up.  Thomas, Glen (my classmates), and I have done a pretty good job at staying in touch.  But Ms. Jean had a ton of questions for us. What were we doing?  How were our social lives?  Were we happy?  What was our focus?

We talked about acting, theatre, film, politics, love, everything really.  It was only a span of a couple hours, but something happened.  We became inspired.  It made me realize that a lot of us had probably taken a lot of the creative energy that we were always surrounded by for granted.  At the same time, it was wonderful to meet up with people I’ve known for a long time and just talk about what’s making us tick these days. 

Thomas, Ms. Jean, myself, and Glen

I walked away from the lunch feeling very good about how far I’ve come since I graduated, but also with a sense that I have a very long road ahead of me.  It’s exciting and scary, all wrapped up in one. 

A couple days later, I get a call from Glen, and it turns out that he and Thomas want me to help out with their next project.  I’m very excited, naturally.  And the word Glen used to describe the meeting of the four of us?

Inspiring.

No matter what you do, or what field you’re in, I challenge you to find ways to become more inspired.  Feel like you’re in a rut?  Maybe an adjustment is needed.  A new environment, a break, a new group of people, whatever it is, find ways to break up your routine. You may surprise yourself.

What inspires you, blog-readers?

How I got my “HELL YEAH” back.

So I have a renewed sense of HELL YEAH!

It’s come to me in a few different forms since last I blogged.  Let me break it down.

-Deana’s Educational Theatre. OK so I have always been grateful to be a part of this since I was hired into the company in 2008.  But 2011 in particular has been really important to me.  I have done many “Yellow Dress” shows, as many other actors in the company have as well, and I am amazed at the courage and strength of so many women I have met throughout New England this year.  They share their stories with me and others they trust to seek help, to feel better, etc.  To me, that is  the most joyful part of working for DET.  We help people to sift through their fears and stories to become stronger people, and to me, that is one of the best things you can do in life. SO HELL YEAH I love that job!  And HELL YEAH I am making a difference!

-DANCING.  Okay.  So  I haven’t had any formal training in about 5 years.  So when my boyfriend started suggested things we should try together, I was a little surprised when he suggested dancing. (Note: He’s in the army.  I KNOW he’s amazing, right?)  Looking back, I loved dancing in college.  We usually had three classes a week from 2 hours anywhere to 4 hours a day. It helped me relieve stress, feel confident, and of course, stay in shape!

To be honest, I wasn’t good at dancing at first.  I would see all the steps and freak out and try to count and my brain would fry and I would fall over my feet.  It literally got to the point where Christine, our dance instructor pulled me aside and said “CASEY. STOP thinking. Stop.  Just feel it.”  That was at the end of the year.  So when I came back Senior Year, I remembered her words, and I guess she was right. Muscle memory kicked in and finally I could dance without thinking.

Anyway, back to the present.  My old fears started kicking in.  But I couldn’t say no.  So I said, “PSH, sure boyfriend, let’s take lessons.”  Panic started simmering below the surface, but I held it at bay.  After the advice of another dance instructor, Miss Jean, I decided to do what she said…”Let Go, have fun and let loose, you’ll be fine!”

Well. We went to our first dance lesson with KATYA and oh my goodness whaddya know I knew what to do without really thinking about it.  She showed us the moves, and we were able to do them.

SO HELL YEAH I DO REMEMBER HOW TO DO…STUFF!…LIKE DANCE!  SO THERE…ME!

Back on set.  Not that I haven’t been on set. I just haven’t done background  in some crazy amount of months.  So when I saw all of my old friends (and new friends!) on set of “Here Comes the Boom,” I was so happy!  I love hearing about what everyone else is up to in life.

But on set this past week, I had some interesting moments of clarity and well..what I like to call “HELL YEAH” moments.  Here is a sampling:

One person said to me, “Casey.  Keep doing movies. Okay?” as we were walking outside after wrapping.  I fumbled with my glasses, shoved them on my face whilst walking to the shuttle and said, “Yeah, okay!”  And he said, “Just keep doing it. You’re gonna make it.”

Me, with a smug "Hell yeah" type face.

Totally out of the blue and it was just the gas I needed to feel even more empowered and ready to kick ass.

Another friend of mine was talking to me about auditions and the biz, etc.  And he said, “It doesn’t matter.  It never matters.  Everything you need to succeed is in you.  Don’t label yourself.” It was the strangest moment because I realized that even though I consider myself levelheaded and able to handle auditioning, I have still been in the mode lately of judging / grading myself with auditions.  NOT ANYMORE!  Another crystal clear moment for me.  He also said, “Remember, we’re all the same.  No one is better than you, we’re all equals.  You can do anything you want.”

Now these particular quotes may seem like the typical “Go get ’em, sista!” type quotes, but to me they meant a lot.  I really believe that I needed to hear these encouraging words this week.  Just what I need to keep pushing on.

In regards to my yellow jacket and purple sunglasses, my friend Jim Powers said to me, “Casey, you dress like a star.”

To that I say

HELLLLLLL YEAH!