accidental

Today I spoke with a friend of mine who I literally hadn’t spoken to in almost two years. But like with any good friend, solid friend, or as my friend Liz and I say, “Life Friends,” time is of no consequence. We talked about many things, but one thing we did talk about was accidents.

Accidents are usually defined as something that happens that wasn’t expected, that didn’t turn out so great. Other times it is used in place of a coincidence. In my personal experience with accidents, they usually happen at a time when so much is going on, it sort of acts of a punctuation or bridge to clarity. Not always fun, but almost always a wake up call.

My friend and I had both been involved in accidents this winter that could have turned out deadly, to be blunt. Both of our cars were totaled. The situations were very different, but what stuck out to me in both cases was that we were both extremely present, reacted with grace, and somehow managed to end up safe and unharmed.

For me, the accident made me think a lot about taking care of myself. I was very lucky to have been in a safe car and even though it was  snowing and so cold I couldn’t feel my toes and the cop was a jerk and it was the icing on my already stressful, dealing-with-a-big-life-change kind of day, I felt a sense of “Okay. Got it. Time to let go of worrying, appreciate what I have, and look out for myself first.”

I met up with a friend for lunch who told me that any time she has ever experienced a motor vehicle accident, she was going through some major work emotionally and psychologically. When big life events happen, I can’t help but look at the big picture of my life and sort of find a thread of how it all ties together.

Most of the time, it’s hard to see it when you’re in it. Other times, a piece of clarity comes out right away. Usually when your life is on the line, you drop a lot of BS.

That’s been something I have had to remind myself a lot in the last month. So much worry and agonizing and pain is only JUST that. It only serves as a distraction from the fact of your beautiful life.

One could say that the people I have been reconnecting with, the people who have left my life, these are all coincidences or accidents. But they aren’t. The fact that I spoke to my friend who is on the other side of the country, living his dream, happy with his career and girlfriend, is not an accident. For me, over on the east coast on this sunny, wintry day, which happens to be a new moon, it underlines a lot of what has been going in in my life.

I had put some dreams on ice for awhile, and now, I’m coming out of a deep hibernation and surrounding myself with people who are pure and full of love and who believe in me and what I do. I feel things thawing out and I feel like myself again.

Also not an accident is the fact that his past week, I have had someone every day tell me I look great and I seem well and that I am even happier than normal. That is a result of events, reflection, and action. No holding back. Just being in the moment. Just waking up to each day and realizing how special it is.

I stopped by the grocery store and was having a really hard time getting a bunch of cilantro in a bag. I looked up and saw a man doing the same thing with one arm, but he did it quickly and easily. The irony of my frustration was not lost on me and I took a moment to take a deep breath and be grateful. Not an accident.

At the store I saw a military acquaintance. He was in line and  I thought about how hard it would have been to see him even a month ago. But instead, I walked on by, grateful that I am in a new place and soon will have a completely different environment and way of life.

Each moment of our day is not an accident. Oftentimes, the pieces that are unplanned are the opportunities to be reminded of what we have and who we are becoming. Today reminded me that I am stronger and bigger than anything I have been through. I had my moments of stress like everyone else, but all I had to do was take a step away, breathe, and be grateful. Now is all we really have.

In Review

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It is a balmy 50 degrees the day after Christmas. It hasn’t been a white one, but I am perfectly content with that. The afterglow of the holiday is still lingering in my house and I am grateful for the opportunity to have my family spend time here over food, drink, games, and stories.

This year in a word has been: unexpected. I could not have predicted the events if I had tried.

Coming off the whirlwind of 2014 with travel around the world, production planning, awards ceremonies, and film premieres, I was left feeling shocked, happy, and a bit unsure of my next step. So, I spent the majority of last winter writing up a storm while trapped inside due to the stormy weather outdoors and did a lot of thinking. Those who know me well may say perhaps too much thinking.

So for me, 2015 was a lot about boiling everything down to the essence of why I was doing art in the first place. It wasn’t until I decided to give up trying to perfect the search of the next “career move” that it found me in a series of fortunate synchronous events.

I made a drastic choice that left a lot of my family and friends scratching their heads. And I couldn’t explain why, but I knew that this year, if I did something completely new and different and perhaps off the course, I would find what I was looking for. I couldn’t explain how I knew this, but I did.

I was right. It took some pain this year and it took some tears, but I arrived at a fresh perspective in my acting work. Right near the end of the year, I landed a wonderful role in a feature film I was able to work on with old friends in the industry, as well as new friends whose work I had admired on the big screen from a young age. Around the time I booked this job, I suddenly had this familiar sense of clarity that I honestly don’t think I have had so viscerally since I first graduated college, determined to make a go of this whole acting business.

I know what to do now because I know how to listen to myself. 2015 was about scraping away the gunk, shaking off the old, unplugging from beliefs and throwing out the same stories to get back to the whole point of performing and bringing joy into other people’s lives by virtue of what I do.

My January 2016 is already booked solid with work. This fall, right after my birthday, I gave myself the best gift of all: the gift of yes and no, determined by no one else but me. I am only going to work on projects that make my heart race with excitement. I am going to work with people who respect my time and want to create beautiful collaborations together. I want to share my creative talents to make the world a healthier and more fun place to be.

You know that Tolkien line, “Not all who wander are lost”? That’s exactly how I feel. I knew I needed to wander a bit to get back to where I was always headed in the first place. I highly recommend wandering, and letting go of the need to control everything. Because once you do, only the important pieces of your life stay in place. The things that are holding you back and holding you down will simply fall away.

Business people might tell you “organization and planning is key” to any successful venture, but I would argue that things need to get messy first. Sign up for that class you always wanted to. Go for a walk. Go drive somewhere and get lost. Once you have struggled a bit, you’ll come back to your office or studio and look at everything in a new light. You’ll know what to throw away, what to keep, and more importantly, what organization principles will work best for you.

Biggest lesson of 2015?

Joy should be easy. And your work should be your joy.

PS. If you haven’t read this book yet, do it. It’s a game changer. But go take a hike first 🙂

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.

Reflections

Marsha Howard Karp and me, holding the illustrious Marsha Karp statuette of awesome.
Marsha Howard Karp and me, holding the illustrious Marsha Karp statuette of awesome.

Yesterday I was lucky enough to be a guest on “Cameras Rolling,” Marsha Howard Karp’s talk show where she interviews entertainers about how they make their careers work.

On the gorgeous spring day, I was happy to reflect upon what the past couple of years have been like for me. I often tell friends and family who are feeling stuck..”Think back to where you were five years ago to this day. Did you have any idea that this was where you’d be?” I had a moment of deep gratitude yesterday morning as we talked about the industry, the challenges, and the beautiful moments that come out of it. I was grateful for my perseverance. If I had told myself five years ago that this was where I’d be, I don’t think I’d believe it.

Of course, this is all a journey and we each need to take one moment at a time. But I think taking a step back every now and then is a great way to keep it all in perspective and to remind yourself that you’re doing all right. In fact, you’re doing great. I witnessed my own path yesterday and realized it’s always been there We just need to pay attention to what rings true for us, and not necessarily everyone else.

Where were you five years ago, and what have you discovered about yourself since then?

#blizzardof2015

The storm has passed, as they say.  Yes, there was a lot of snow. BUT:

-we didn’t lose power

-we were warm

-we had food      (I would like to say I did NOT buy bread and milk..for the record).

And ya know what? Yes, I did have to shovel myself out of my house and it did take a long time. But after the kind of weather and terrible conditions the country has been faced with over the past several years, this really wasn’t so bad.

Last night I left the light on in my bedroom so I would know if the power went out if I woke up during the night. It never went out! I was so relieved. In the morning, the house was still warm and I knew there would be coffee. Oh yes, lots of coffee.

It was actually one of the more productive days I’ve had in the past week! I had three phone meetings, got some writing done, made new plans, even got booked for more work! All without ever leaving the comfort of my home, except to shovel outside. It’s past 11 right now and I am exhausted but it’s a lovely exhausted. The kind where you feel good knowing that the day was awesome.

Even though New England cold generally makes me cringe in anticipation and I am normally freezing throughout the year as it is, I was so grateful for this snowstorm. Because it reminded me of all of those lovely luxuries I have on a daily basis that I admit to taking for granted here and there.

From the pellet stove to the lights, computer (that’s a whole another blog post), warm food (and tea. and hot cocoa), there is so much to be grateful for before I even leave the house in the morning.

So some people are all “this storm was weak!” and I’m all “Super happy it wasn’t any worse”

Also, CL&P trimmed all the trees on my street two weeks ago so that helped.

I just hope you all are warm and safe and feeling appreciative for what you have on this snowy evening.

To the kids: I know a lot of you already have school canceled tomorrow. So. Enjoy that.

To my film people out in LA: Yeah, well. I have nothing to say to you.

Have a warm and safe week everyone.

Control

Lately I have had to come up against the topic of control.  The word means different things to different people, but ultimately, everyone wants control of their own lives. Sometimes that includes control of others, resources, and of course that can escalate from an esoteric idea of control to a full blown crisis.

When you think about it though, we don’t really control very much. When you wake up in the morning, you don’t know what the weather is going to be outside. You don’t know if someone is going to punch you in the face before you even have your first cup of coffee. You go through the day and you can’t predict your workflow or how people are always going to treat you. We all know that we CAN control HOW we deal with the situations that are dealt us. We can be the victim. We can change our attitudes. We can look at the transient nature of life and decide to embrace it.

But what about other people? Think about the people who you live with. Think about your family. Your spouse. Your boyfriend. Now think back to the last twenty four hours. When was the last time you tried to control someone?

I know that most of you are probably recoiling at the thought. “Hrrmffph! I would NEVER try to control someone else.” Oh yeah? Really?

Really.

Here’s where things get dicey when it comes to control. You are in full control of the choices you make and how you want to live your life. Even if you aren’t “100% there yet” you still have control of the direction your life is going. So what happens when we bump into someone saying, doing, or simply EXISTING in a way we don’t like? Usually most of us don’t go around angrily kicking each other or screaming so loud we spit on each other at business meetings. No, instead, it’s usually quite subtle.

Someone parks in your spot. When someone uses your bathroom, they put the toilet paper on the “wrong” way. Someone does something you would never do. Someone engages in behavior that bothers you.

So you comment on the parking spot. You argue about the right way to stick the toilet paper roll on the hook. (or whatever). You suggest to someone that they might want to approach life “a little differently.” You make passive aggressive comments about someone’s diet or exercise or lack thereof.

When we lack control in a situation, we generally as humans try to find ways to correct it. BUT WHY?! Why do we want and feel that we have a need to control a situation or person or place or thing?

Control makes us feel like we matter.

I’m guilty of this as much as the other person. When I was younger it was a lot worse. My budding type A personality would not settle for anything less than an A, and the solution was usually just work harder for better results. That sufficed for a long time. But that doesn’t always work. Feeling in control is great, but what about when you think you are in control and an outcome is created that is less than desirable?

I have found that when I am at my happiest is when I let go of control. It is tempting to attempt to control people and situations in our lives, but in reality we can’t really do that. If we just let go of the idea that we can make others do what we want through sheer will power, a burden is instantly lifted.

          business

                 I appreciate quotes like these because it’s a reminder that not only do you not have to justify yourself to others, but the same applies for others and yourself. Just because you are a family member or best friend or spouse of someone, does not mean that you can run their lives. Telling and suggesting someone what to do may seem like a harmless thing, but over time, it causes more harm than good.

                Instead, worry about yourself. Put your best energy out there. LIVE YOUR DREAM. Set the example. Because when others are ready for change, they will feel and be pulled towards the impact you are creating. But it’s when they are ready. And some people will fall out of your life. But the ones who really matter will stick around. And new people will keep coming.

                This applies to the entertainment industry as well. So many people think that worrying about a role or a project and how it will be perceived will actually control the outcome. In reality it just ties you in knots and keeps you from focusing on your joy and the present moment. So put yourself out there. Be in control of your emotions and what you project. But as for the rest?

Let-it-Go_0

                I needed to remind myself of this today. So I thought I would remind you too. Remember, we can’t control anyone or anything except for who we are in the world. And that’s the best and only type of control we should ever really want. Because when you take care of yourself, everything else falls into place.

“Autumn…the y…

“Autumn…the year’s last, loveliest smile.” – William Cullen Bryant

This quote is how I feel these days, especially with wrapping up and beginning new projects that are slated to be presented within the next month.  I am busy with class, editing, rehearsals, applying for an important internship for next year, working on getting “Holding” out to all of you, writing, and I just feel so grateful to have this beautiful season in which to complete it all.

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!

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.

family

Some of my favorite memories growing up include me standing in my grandmother’s kitchen with the rest of my extended family crowded around the kitchen table as I did improvised sketches, sang songs, and used different voices with a stuffed animal lovingly named “Mooey” as my captive audience laughed so hard tears were rolling down their faces.

Looking back as an actor, this scene makes perfect sense to me, and one might say “Oh, well you were just destined to be an actor.” At the time I would have scoffed at the idea.  As a child and all through my teenage years, I just always enjoyed making the people I loved laugh and well…I enjoyed being showered with attention.

At the time I didn’t realize I was “improvising” or “engaging an audience.” I just knew that I was doing something that I loved.

Here I am holding a frog. For attention.

I remember in high school my sophomore or junior year I was after school in drama club and instead of rehearsing we were going to try something new.  Apparently, we were going to do improv. “EW. What the HELL is improv?” I thought…sullenly, to myself. “I’m gonna sit here and avoid going up.”

Well, I watched a few fellow students go up there and basically with a set of circumstances, run a scene off the cuff, by the seat of their pants.  Our drama teacher turned, looked at me, and said, “Okay, Casey, get up there.”  I felt so stereotypically nervous and unwilling, but I begrudgingly stood up and slowly made my way to the front of the room.

I did a scene. I reacted, I said things and people were laughing.  They were laughing a lot.  I was confused.  I was just doing what I thought was natural and would make sense to keep the scene going as well as interesting.  My drama club advisor pulled me aside and looked me deeply (melodramatically would be a better word) and said, “Yes. Bring more of THAT to the stage.” WHAT? Bring more of WHAT to the stage?

It wasn’t until later on in my college years, training as a professional actor, that I realized that I was good at improvisation.  I was good at being funny?  It took me awhile to grasp the idea.  Comedy always seemed to be something one had to work at really hard. “Comedy is SO much harder than drama,” I was always told.  Oh.

Actually, I would say it’s taken me awhile to grasp still.  In January, I went to a showcase audition for 10 different agencies and 7 of the 10 feedback forms said things like “funny!” “Cute!” “great comedic timing.” I still can’t believe that within a 5 minute window of performing commercial copy, singing a parodied song, speaking in french, and using a character voice, they were able to size me up into the word FUNNY. Okay, I guess that is kind of an interesting, dare I say funny? combination of elements to bring into an audition room, but I guess it’s taken me awhile to know something about myself that has always been apparent to others who I have known me for a long time. Or…five minutes.

But where would I have been without my family?  I was only able to do improv and sing and be goofy and imaginative because I had people around me who have always supported me and laughed and made me feel like I was doing something right.  I just didn’t have a name for it.

Eric Hill, who used to be the director of our theatre program at UCONN always used to say , “You’re either an actor or you’re not.”  That might be true, and maybe I would have discovered this artistic talent in other ways, but I believe that the building blocks all began with my family.

Even my sister used to make music videos, shorts, and fake commercials with me growing up when we were bored.  Obviously, she had some sort of faith in me, or at the very least thought I was somewhat amusing growing up.  Right?  Not just because I’m the older sister, right? RIGHT?

I even made a video with her on top of the Empire State Building on Monday.  Hopefully that’s not illegal. Guess we’ll find out.

Anyway, Thanks Family.  At least YOU guys think I’m funny. Or pretend that I am.