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

 

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. 🙂

What’s in a label?

Definition of label: a word or phrase indicating that what follows belongs in a particular category or classification: The following definition has the label“Archit.”.

Okay, so there are a few definitions of the word label. I find the definition above to be one of the more dangerous.

Usually, when we are at parties or networking events or meeting someone for the first time, we get the question, “What do you do?” The funny thing is, more often than not we answer with a title, rather than what we actually do. I’m a lawyer. I’m an actor. I’m a construction worker. I’m a librarian. I’m an artist.

Titles, labels, and status have become so important in our society that we rarely open with what we do. “I work in law. I perform. I build houses. I run a library. I create.” How much more interesting do you think conversation would be if we answered in verbs? I myself have run into this dilemma multiple times. If i answer that I’m an actor, I know I will get a, “Whoa, cool” or a “Oh…isn’t that cute.” or “How do you do that?”

I went to a #RespectHERHustle conference last year and Lynn Bardowski encouraged the entrepreneurs to begin answering the question, “What do you do?” or “What does your company do?” with a vision and mission statement instead. This immediately takes the pressure and worry of you and instead focuses on what you accomplish. And shouldn’t that be what this is all about anyway?

Do we all only do one thing? Not really. Some of us are daughters, mothers, fathers, teachers, bankers, accountants, soldiers, leaders…The world isn’t as black and white as attempt to make it out to be. And why is that? Why do we feel the need to constantly seek validation from OTHERS by picking one thing and being defined by it?

I know I am asking a lot of actual questions here. But I think it’s important for us to remember that we are never one thing. And that’s okay.

Some people stick to one discipline because it makes them happy. Others want to stretch in other ways because one discipline doesn’t make them happy enough. When I allowed myself to write, produce, direct, along with being an actor, I felt even more fulfilled. But it wasn’t that easy. Especially when I first realized I wanted to run my own company too, the thought terrified me. Not so much the thought of starting something new, but the idea that I could be leaving something behind. It took me some time to realize that I wasn’t leaving anything behind at all. I was using what I had learned up until that point to expand into something new.

Acting is one of my many passions. To me, it just feels right. But I have always been the type of person that enjoys having a few fires burning so I can jump back and forth between things and be stimulated in new ways. My mom reminded me to think about when I was a teenager. I was interested in so many things. I loved learning. I didn’t rush myself to decide what I wanted to do with my life, but when I knew it was the performing arts, I latched on and didn’t let go. It’s important to have that kind of focus to grow. But it’s also important to know when it’s time to transform and learn something new on top of it.

My unsolicited advice is this: Don’t hang onto a label because you are scared of what you will lose if you no longer choose to be defined by it. Think about what you will gain.

Labels take up a lot of time. We label monetary gain and loss, weight, time, family, professions, cars, places we live, statistics…it doesn’t end. So why don’t we all just give ourselves a break and instead of judging what we do, go out there and keep chasing what makes us happy?

I wish you a label-free day! (Seriously..the next time someone asks you what you do, tell them what you do. See how it goes!)

My vision board from 2013

My vision board from 2013

I just wanted to share my vision board from last year. It was the first time I had ever done anything like this. My in-laws and myself went out and bought about 20 magazines (plus I had quite a few Hollywood Reporters, Entertainment Weekly, etc) and we just clipped away and glued whatever we were drawn to.

The weird thing is, I don’t even know WHY I put some images on my vision board. But somehow every single image on this board resonated with something that happened to me in 2013.

SOME Examples (I could go on for days):
Savannah – no idea, NO idea why I put this up here. But the film I was in, East of Acadia, (starring William Sadler, Christopher Sarandon, Rachel Milner) ended up going to the Savannah Film Festival in October.

Thich Nhat Hanh – always admired this guy’s teachings. My mom and I got a random opportunity to go see him in New York in September, so we did! Always wanted to see him live!

Yellow Rose – This is so weird, I thought I put it on my board because it was pretty. NOPE. It ended up having a huge symbolic significance for me when I was going through an extremely difficult time. If you ever ride in my car you will notice I have a dried yellow rose in the dash.

Cameras, Lights: Well, I thought this one was obvious. I’m in the entertainment industry, I produced my own web series..But nope, the universe took it a notch further. I ended up learning how to edit in 2013. And getting accepted to the Cannes Film Festival (I think I can attribute most of the glamorous images to that)

A fresh start, images of houses with fireplaces and high ceilings: Dillon and I finally got our fresh start as newlyweds. Got a home with all of the things I had wanted, and didn’t realize at the time: pellet stove, cathedral ceilings, etc. Most importantly, a sanctuary.

Oh HA the oscar statue. Well I guess I can’t say my piece until after the SAG Awards are over, but I did do lots of screenings…in various places like the Academy Screening Room in NYC in 2013. wink wink.

Anyway, I am writing this to hopefully inspire some of you to create your own vision boards. Yes, have some goals in mind. But just snip through some images in magazines and stick some things on a poster board, EVEN IF you have no idea why. Because like me, you may be surprised by the end of 2014 with what you draw to yourself.

PS I recommend not sharing your current vision board online because you don’t want to be affected by what other people say and think about it, positive or negative. My new one is currently hanging above my desk, and I am totally pumped for the year ahead of me.

HAPPY DREAMING, y’all!