Saturday, December 17, 2011

Be Jolly

Today I wake up in south Texas, basically Mexico, to the sound of Fox News blaring on the other side of the wall my bedroom shares with my Dad's flatscreen TV.  It has been a whirlwind week of all-nighters, packing, working, and wrapping things up in New York in preparation for the holidays.  I've been to see three movies and multiple friends and survived a night of the worst bar pick-up lines ever ("Have you ever solved a Rubicks cube?").  I've worn 4-inch heels to LaGuardia airport at 3:30am to catch my flight.  I've lucked out and used my empty row on the airplane to stretch out horizontally for the entire trip.  And I've just started to relax.  Shuffling groggily into the living room, I have just enough time to put on the tea kettle and yawn at the Republican debate recap on the tube when my Dad says, "I thought this morning we could talk about what you can do to fix your auditions so that you start getting what you want out of them."

Ah, Dad.  No one else can quite pull off the confront-you-with-heavy-business-before-you've-even-brushed-your-teeth-in-the-morning conversations like you.  No one can reheat bean soup for breakfast with a shot of ketchup because George Burns said it's good like you.  No one can hone in on what I'm trying to avoid but shouldn't the way you do.  No one can actually comprehend and talk about show business without being in it like you.  I love you, Dad.

As they say in The Godfather, "This is the business we have chosen."  It's not that I want to un-choose my path in life.  It's that every year right around Christmas I like to slow down, step back, reassess, and rethink my business.  I like to step away for a week or two, drink a lot of eggnog, and watch westerns.  I like to pretend that there's no work to do or music to face.  I like to recap my year, pat myself on the back, and not think about it.  But my Dad never really lets me stop, and for that I am very grateful because, ultimately, I don't want to stop.  My Dad has a gift for helping me combine my rest and recuperation with reinforcement, whether I like it or not.  "What can you do to book your auditions?" he asks, relentless, over our breakfast of ketchup soup.  George Burns was right.  Reheated soup is great with a shot of ketchup.  Who knew?

There are several things we come up with.  Have vision and clarity.  Know who you are.  Do your own thing.  Have a point of view.  Do something dazzling.  Make a big choice.  Walk in the room with positive energy.  Be genuine.  But my favorite thing we come to is simple.  It's something my Dad has been telling me since day 1 of my life: "Just be Jeanne Joe."  And have fun!

The truth is in life, in art, in acting, in business, the most valuable resource a person has is their own self.  It's what makes great performers amazing: they are who they are, and they work from there, and no one else can do what they do.  This is so simple, and sometimes so hard to remember in the midst of trudging up the mountain of your goals.  It's so easy to get derailed, discouraged, diverted into thinking patterns or behaviors that diminish and dilute your chutzpah.  It's so easy for me to forget to enjoy myself as I go about this crazy adventure of being an actress.  But that's what matters most!  AND it's what will make it all work, in the end.  These two words are the key...  

enjoy yourself.

Last night we're watching The Aviator and Dad turns to me and says, "Do you think you can do what Cate Blanchett does?" It's funny that he picks her as the measure to hold myself up against, as she is one of my all-time acting heroes.  When she performed Streetcar Named Desire at BAM a couple years ago, I shelled out almost an entire week's income for tickets to the special benefit show with a cast/member mixer gala.  After trying on, tearing off, accessorizing, and re-imagining multiple outfits, I took a day off work and wore my Gucci shoes (yes, I have a pair of Gucci shoes, don't ask how I got them - no one was hurt and that's what's important).  At the gala over the intoxicating post-show buzz and live New Orleans jazz, my date Shirin Tinati dared me to go talk to Ms. Blanchett.  Yes, it's true, Cate Blanchett was only ten feet away from us surrounded by bodyguards and BAM big-wigs, glowing with a super-human radiance that defies description.  All I had to do was put one Gucci heel in front of the other, look her in the eye, and form words.

Ahh!  I couldn't do it!  That's how in love with her I am.  Even her skin seems more expressive than ordinary skin.  Do I think I can do what she does?  How could Dad know to ask me that?  It's a moment of truth.  It's a soul-searching look in the mirror of my mind.  I think for a minute and reply, "I don't know if I can do what she does, but I can do what I do."

Dad smacked his hands together.  "Great answer."

The best way to refresh and revitalize my career and my self over this break is to remember this simple truth: I can do what I do.  Enjoy.  Myself.  Be me.  Have fun.  This is the business I have chosen, and I am thankful for a full and fun year.  When the going gets tough, I am thankful I have my Dad and my own inner voice to remind me of the simple truths.  Why focus on what I haven't done yet?  I get to do plenty of cool things, like this video I'll post below by Kings in the Back Row.

So, gentle reader, I share all of this with you today because I was in need of a pep talk and perhaps this will encourage you as well.  Whether your dream is to act, write, work, parent, love, farm, or drive a truck, your greatest asset (and sometimes your only one) is yourself.   What can I do to book my auditions?  Be myself.  What can I do to achieve my goals?  Be myself.  What can I do to enjoy my life?  Be myself.  It's that simple.  Yay for Christmas!  Yay for Dads!  Yay for reminders of what I knew all along.  Yay for us, gentle reader, as we take the time this holiday season (and beyond) to enjoy ourselves.  Let's get out there and get jolly!

Departures - KBR LAB from Kings in the Back Row on Vimeo.