Leaving, Going, Starting Somewhere New

Have you noticed that change in the air?

in rehearsal for my show that closed this weekend
in rehearsal for my show that closed this weekend

I don’t mean the end of the summer, though the coinciding seasonal change does emphasize it all the more.

The director of my show that just closed this weekend is moving to New Hampshire for a few big directing projects. Another one of my friends is starting a new job this week. Yet another is moving to Florida next month. Several more of my friends are moving cross country. I find it interesting that changes seem to happen in patterns and cycles with friends. Not only that, but this year in general I have noted more changes than usual from large numbers of people.

And me? I am starting a new job tomorrow at After School Arts Program, a non-profit in CT that provides arts education for all levels and ages. My skills as an actor, producer, production assistant, producer’s assistant, and leader, will all come in to play for this Program Manager position. I have been wanting for awhile to experience something new, learn something different, and meet new people who are passionate about the same things as I am.

It also means prioritizing my independent efforts with my consulting and producing businesses, and of course, acting. It means trusting myself enough to know that I know what is best for me at this time, despite what the outside world may think, say, or do.

photo by Michael C Daly
photo by Michael C Daly

This year has been the first time in my life that I have made decisions based on exactly where I want to be five years from today. There are plans, projects, and changes already in the works that are not ready to manifest yet, but I am pre-paving the way with my attention to where I am presently. I used to believe that thinking this way would feel limiting or keep me from experiencing opportunities as they arose, but that is simply not the case. I feel freer and more creative than I ever have and I am grateful for the chance to further develop my craft as I start on a new journey.

Endings are scary and fun and exciting and hard. Whether you are moving, starting a new job, breaking up with someone, or buying a new car…remember to take a look at the long view and pat yourself on the back for making it this far. Cause we don’t know what’s next and we don’t know who we’ll meet, but all we can do is know where we are today and keep our eyes, ears, and hearts open for the next adventure.

Have a thoughtful and fantastic fun-filled week!

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. 🙂

Fine Acting

Without going into specifics, I recently saw someone perform who accomplished that skill of Fine Acting. To me, it can’t exactly be defined in a textbook way, but there are specific ingredients that make it up.

I can tell you what it definitely is NOT: It is not LOUD. It is not SHOWY.

From what I have witnessed from most people who leave a theater or film who don’t normally interact with actors on a regular basis..people think acting means a big part, where someone is loud and yells their emotions. In film, if they have a lot of close ups, they must be good. Or if they are on stage and they are the loudest, they are the best. Not so much.

A performer who can stand there and suck you in by virtue of that charismatic, full, emotional quality of inner life and hold you there, often without many words, is someone who understands what it means to be a fine actor. it doesn’t mean “doing a lot of stuff” on stage.

I remember in college that sometimes our professors would throw water bottles or say things like “That was crap” by virtue of running out of different ways to cajole a performance out of a group of actors. They’d say things like “You guys, Acting is EASY. Just do it.”

And in many ways it is easy. But it takes a finesse to trust that all of the work, research, backstory, etc will be there on stage for you and come out as it needs to. It is much HARDER to make the emotion come out of you by yelling and contorting your body in all sort of actor-y ways in order to draw attention.

But my money is on the wo/man on stage who lifts the quality of the entire show up simply by being there and filling the empty space of the stage with something real. Even the other actors can’t help but be better in their performances because there is no denying it when an honest performance is staring you in the face.

As time goes on, I find myself feeling the need to express much more often my appreciation for work that is fine. It is fine not necessarily because it is uncommon, but because it’s elevated. It makes you work for it. It’s not so over-the-top, punch-you-in-the-face that you jump back in your seat.

Those moments where the audience leans in to meet the actor half-way..to me, those are the biggest successes.

When you see it, you know it. Not every show or film has it, but when it does, you won’t want to look away.

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.