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?

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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!

Kids these days, I tell ya what.

High schoolers are terrifying.

I mean, do you remember being a teenager and ushered into the auditorium and having to sit through some presentation or assembly?

There is an inherent skepticism on the individual level, that proliferates in a room of other teenagers.  “What can this adult possibly tell me about myself that I ALREADY KNOW!?”  Ahem.  Maybe it’s that whole, you-don’t-realize-until-you-get-older….thing, but I remember feeling that way, and the first time I ever stepped onstage as a “grown up” for 1100 students for a Deana’s Educational Theatre show, I was reminded of how my peers and I felt “back in the day” about required school assemblies.  It made me feel a little nauseated.

After being with DET for almost three years, I can attest that it’s not always easy to garner the attention of an entire class of teenagers but it is certainly not impossible.  And YES it varies from school to school, town to town, state to state.  Seriously.

So over the past few days, some members of the company and myself rehearsed and presented a new show that’s in development, to a couple of groups of teenagers. Talk about intimidating.  Classroom setting!  Digital Age!  Short attention span! 

I really felt out of place generation-wise when I saw a sign that had a big X over a photo of ear buds.  “In MY day, in MY high school we had CD players, not these teeny inconspicuous ipods.” 

But something rather miraculous (strong choice of word I know) happened.  They were engaged during the entire presentation.  And they had TONS of feedback!  The parts we thought they would find corny, they fully accepted.  And they pointed out issues that we hadn’t really thought about. 

It was then that I also realized that these kids respected us, and maybe some of them even looked up to us.   Many of them also cared very much about the issue we were trying to address (cyberbullying) and gave us detailed responses.  Definitely encouraging.

I guess I kind of fell for stereotypes about teenagers, even though I’ve already been one. LAME.  And I guess these kids were already ahead of ME because they were completely open, accepting, and willing to help us help them.

sniff.  That is all.