Looking the Part

“This is a good shot of you.”

As the casting director flipped over my head shot to scan my resume, I sort of smirked to myself as I shifted my weight and listened politely.  After saying “thank you,” of course.

That particular shot was 11 years old. I had just gotten new shots done, but I hadn’t received the files yet, so I was using some older shots that most resemble my current look.

And I knew the actual head shot had nothing to do with anything.

—–

I have come to the conclusion that when people say you need to “look the part,” what they really mean is “be ready” and what they really mean by that is “be comfortable with being yourself.” When I say yourself, I assume you know I mean your BEST self, but YOU none the less.

There have been times when I have perfected “looking the part,” using 10485% of my classical acting background and training and costuming skills and come nowhere near getting the part.

There have been times when I was called in to audition just after arriving, with no time to look over lines, improvised when requested and gotten the part. (PS the only thing I remember about that particular day was that I had woken up and remained happy before and during my audition).

There have been times when my hair color was growing out, I hadn’t gotten a chance to work out in over a week, and my head shot was hanging on by a thread. It’s where I was. But I was comfortable and ready and I felt fantastic and I knew the sides inside and out. And I got the part.

I’m not recommending being a mess going into your audition. But I am recommending SHOWING UP in LIFE as your best self wherever that may be. Like, here’s a thought.

If you are in a rut with monologues or auditions or just not “feeling it” lately, take a break. Go do something (else) fun! Go out dancing! Meet up some friends and don’t talk about acting. Learn to crochet!

Last year I had to take some time to get some perspective, but when I really think about it, all it ever really is, is getting back to myself.

Cause it’s not really about the role. It’s about you playing the role. And life is really about you. YOU are the main character in your life. So, shouldn’t you look the part of you?

Slow Clap…Right? Nailed it.

casey-mcdougal-192-web
One of my new shots,  mid-laugh. Credit: David Noles Photography NYC

 

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Peach Vegan Nice Cream

Yesterday, during rehearsal, as I struggled to open the door to go outside (after the director warned us that it does get stuck), one of my fellow actors LOL’ed at me and the fact that I couldn’t open it. Clearly, he may not know me as well as many of you do. I am, in fact, a bit of a klutz. He said, “Did you even eat anything today?” Again, the fact that I am generally food motivated on a good day is something he has yet to learn about me.

He then went on to explain that was one of the reasons that he stopped eating raw vegan. Because he wasn’t “strong enough.” There is an overwhelmingly large majority of people out there who still believe that strength comes from the flesh of animals and the hormone and antibiotic laced pus-juice that also comes from animals. Hey, we all just wanna live, right man? You do you.

But in case you are scared of becoming vegan or want to know more about it, I suggest two sources. Rich Roll, an ultra endurance athlete, and Rawfully Kristina, both of whom eat in different vegan ways. I delve a bit into both worlds. For example, this morning I had veggie hashbrowns cooked in coconut oil with a side of multi grain bread with raw honey. For lunch I made about a cup of rice and sauteed it with some veggies and a homemade peanut soy sauce. Yum!

I am not weak. I am not anemic. In fact, most people don’t even REALIZE that anemia has more to do with a lack of fiber in the diet than it does with “animal protein.”

Anyway, the summertime is the perfect time to eat “lighter,” but still pack a punch with your meals with high-fiber, high-water, high-nutrient and high-flavor foods. As an actor, I find that eating at least one raw meal a day, especially when I am on the run, keeps my energy up infinitely higher than slamming several cups of coffee.

So, today, I thought I would share with you my latest obsession. Vegan Nice Cream.

Vegan Peach Nice Cream
Vegan Peach Nice Cream

Last year I won a 16 cup Cuisinart from William-Sonoma. Which was awesome. But lately I have been whipping up some bad ass vegan nice cream in it more than anything else really.

Vegan Peach Nice Cream:

1 1/2 frozen bananas

1 ripe and juicy peach

1/2 cup coconut or probiotic water

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 tablespoon cacao nibs

I think it goes without saying that all of the above ingredients should be organic!

So, take 1 frozen banana (I freeze mine in halves so they are easier to work with), throw it in the cuisinart, along with the vanilla extract. Add 1/4 cup of coconut or probiotic water. Blend. You may need to stop to push the chunks of banana down, but blend and blend and blend, for about a minute total.

When you open your food processor you will see something beautiful: A soft serve consistency of banana. This will be the base of the nice cream. Slide it into a bowl and set in the freezer.

Next, cut up your peach, the half frozen banana, the rest of the coconut water and blend and blend. It should take less time as it is not completely frozen. Next, pour it around the edges of the base of your nice cream.

You can then swirl it with a spoon in any way you desire! Top with cacao nibs!!

This is a light, easy, delicious, ZERO cholesterol, cruelty-free snack! You could also eat it for breakfast (as I have definitely done) for a great high-vibrational start to your day.

Hope this helps you think outside of the ice cream carton the next time you think of some summer treats.

Enjoy!

PS – I also broke a plate yesterday. Has nothing to do with my diet. Just sayin’.

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. 🙂

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?

“Be with those who help your being.”

Growing up, I always had a lot of friends. I was friends with “nerds,” with “Jocks,” with “bad” kids, with “Popular kids.” People just seemed so interesting to me. I think this served me a lot in my formative years because I was so tolerant of people in general. The thing is, when you are willing to attract all types, it means that you aren’t discerning who you draw into your life.

I’ve had amazing friends. I have had friends who were casual acquaintances who sometimes meant more to me than people I hung out with on a regular basis. I had “best friends” because they insisted. I had people who crossed the line so far I pretty much never spoke to them again.

I personally had to learn for myself that I didn’t need to be friends with everyone. It took me awhile to realize this. People would call me, take up my time on the phone and in coffee shops, complaining about this or that, slowly dampening my resolve and sunshiny attitude I had cultivated for the day. I felt that if only I could keep spewing positive messages, maybe a few of them would stick and I would be able to help people live better lives!

But here’s the truth: I deserved better than that and so do you. If you feel that you “owe” it to someone to be their friend, even if they make you unhappy or feel bad about yourself or the world, then they aren’t really your friend and you owe it to YOURSELF to make the best of where you are at and eventually let the friendship fade away.

The rewards are worth so much more. When I stopped caring so much about how I appeared to be for everyone else, I attracted people who were looking at life the way I wanted to. That’s a beautiful thing because a handful of strong people against a hundred whiny, unhappy people will always win.

If you are an artist or performer, then this applies doubly for you. The business is full of people who are racing to get ahead. Some people will use you. Some will try to freak you out. So when you find someone who wants to uphold you instead of compete with you, someone who wants you to succeed as much as they want to succeed themselves, STICK with those people!

Maybe you’re at a place where you feel that you are the negative one and your friends are no longer connecting with you. That’s okay too. It’s knowing where you are and realizing that you can always have your life be better: better job, better friends, better situation. But it all starts on the inside. Feeling better about yourself and looking at life with a sense of wonder will help everything else fall into place.

It doesn’t make you a bad person to want to be happy. Actually, it makes you a good person. Because when you are happy, so are the people around you. Eventually, the sour patch kids (cause everyone really IS sweet deep down..I like to think so anyway) will be inspired by your success.

This weekend I came across a Rumi poem that inspired me to write about this. Here it is:

Be with those who help your being.
Don’t sit with indifferent people, whose breath
comes out cold out of their mouths.
Not these visible forms, your work is deeper.

A chunk of dirt thrown in the air breaks to pieces.
If you don’t try to fly,
and so break yourself apart,
you will be broken open by death,
when it’s too late for all you could become.

Leaves get yellow. The tree puts out fresh roots
and makes them green.
Why are you so content with a love that turns you yellow?

-Rumi

Don’t settle. Be your best self. Have a great week, everyone.

Arts Education

“I’m not an actor, but okay, I’ll do it.”

This about sums up the attitude of the amazing teens I have been helping in the Film Institute program at CPBN. I am working with a teacher who is focusing on the overall organization, structure, and technical aspects of the class, while I am teaching specifically film acting.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from a group of teens at various levels of experience and interest in film production. I will say, I was pleasantly surprised by what they had to offer.

When I arrived at my first class to teach, I was understandably (I think anyway) nervous. I have worked with teens dozens of times, but they can be a  tough crowd. They aren’t quite adults yet, but most of the sunshiny everything is awesome attitude of children is starting to fade fast. They see through BS, but they are still optimistic. They WANT to see the best in themselves and others. I think it’s an honor to work with them.

Anyway, I show up and I figure, the best way to show you’re serious is to dive right in.  The first scene we had to film was a kidnapping scene, shot in noir style. So I had them “Run for their lives” with me around the entire floor of the building (yes, we did get yelled at, but I took the blame as such the responsible adult that I am..cough..) and do a bunch of exercises (I was actually out of breath before them) to get them INTO their bodies. Actors know what I mean by this, but if you don’t..there is a myth with people that acting is just in your face and how you say something. I wanted to shake this idea out of the kids as soon as possible. And just by doing something to get their minds off the actual scene, this was accomplished.

I was very impressed by how quickly they took notes and adjusted them into a scene.  This keeps happening! Every time we shoot something new, they jump right in. They are goofy, sure, and they talk in between scenes, but when we are rolling, EVERYONE is serious. If someone messes up, they don’t make fun of them. They encourage each other and each of them truly want to produce the best work they possibly can. And they LISTEN. Think about the last time an ADULT actually LISTENED to you.

When we aren’t filming, I have had the interesting opportunity to hear them discuss films with their  teacher, with complex ideas and terms that most adults don’t even understand.

I have spoken one on one with some of the students who have a passion for filmmaking and acting running through them. It’s strong and they want guidance and I hope to help them out the best way I can. It is too easy for parents, teachers, and authority figures to say “Be realistic! You can’t make money doing that! You can’t major in artistic pursuits! You need to have a better plan!” To that I say SCREW. THAT. These kids are still malleable and I hope that if anything, I can be cheering on the sidelines, encouraging them to keep the dream alive. The status quo is not a way to measure success.

This has been a really big wake up call. Many schools in the country are getting their funding cut from their schools. I attended a salon in Hartford a couple of years ago and was told that there were NO arts, music, or after school programs in Hartford Public Schools. Disgusting. I cannot BELIEVE this is reality. I was so lucky to be exposed to nearly every single after school activity and cultivate my creativity in a supportive environment.

I would just like to put it out there that if you have any power in any way to support high schools with arts programs, whether it’s music, drama, yearbook, WHATEVER! PLEASE remember…some of these kids don’t have any other way to express themselves. Some of them don’t even believe they can get into college. They need this, it is vital. Life is not just about math and science. It is about creativity and we can’t evolve as a society without it.