Monday, November 10, 2014


As artists, it's impossible to avoid the Voices in our heads. I don't mean, like, actual schizofrenia voices (though that may also happen occasionally for some), or the voice of God (I am too superstitions to actually say this doesn't happen but I will go out on a limb and say I am skeptical), or the voice of your mother telling you that she "told you so" about that whole thing you did (you know, the thing, with the stuff).

What I mean by the Voices in our heads are the Voices that tell us about who we are, what we're doing, and what we are not doing.

Sometimes friendly, sometimes fiendish, these Voices have many sources but one common result: confusion. It could begin with a note from an acting teacher that makes you question your mind/body connection (for me, it's the recurring problem of people thinking I am being a smart-ass when I am actually sincere. I blame my face). They could start with an argument with a friend that leaves you feeling isolated; a breakup that hurts way longer and deeper than you expected; a book that messes up your head; or even a discouraging casting breakdown like those featured on the brilliant new actress-run Tumblr Lady Parts, like this one: "[Seeking:] Ultimate fantasy woman of sexually frustrated college graduate. Sophisticated, stylish, sexy, intoxicating."

Any of these things (and more) can set off the Voices. Dialogue ensues:
Voice 1: This is some sexist bull$@*t. This isn't a part for a human. You're an actor. You portray humans. Move on.

Voice 2: What the hell is an ultimate fantasy woman? Am I an ultimate fantasy woman? Am I pretty?

Voice 3: Oh god not you again.
Voice 1: If I submit to this, does that mean I'm egotistical for thinking I'm a sophisticated, stylish, sexy, intoxicating fantasy woman? If I don't submit, am I letting the Man and patriarchy get me down? Stupid Man. Stupid patriarchy. Stupid infinite amount of breakdowns that make no sense.

Voice 3: Is this paid? Because we could really use money about now. Don't submit unless it's paid. Because we don't have time for games anymore, literally. Only submit if you can do the gig. Tick tock rent.

Voice 2: Ummm submitting doesn't mean you'll get it. Because woah there, cocky. Also, am I pretty?

Voice 1: You're supposed to be smarter than worrying about that. Great dramatic artist here, remember? Shakespeare. Devised physical theater. Focus!

Voice 2: Am I a fantasy woman?
Voice 1: Who am I to judge? What is fantasy? What is a real woman? What is reality, anyway? What is art? What is life? 

Voice 3: Blah blah blah blah blah pay your rent.

Oh, Voices. Usually they're trying to be helpful, trying to make choices, trying to help us grow. But Voices, whether from outside or in, can become quickly overwhelming and unhelpful. A big journey in the life of an artist is learning to discern the Voices from the really important questions.

My Voices usually ask me whether I'm doing enough (obviously not - no Oscar yet) and analyze and re-analyze what I've done (Three stars average rating on that thing I did? Why not four?). Sometimes, in the voices of my parents or friends trying to be helpful, the Voices ask what I am working on right now or whether I've considered changing my hair or my city or my life-plan, because that might be what tips the scale. They ask what I was thinking. Why I did that. Why didn't I do more.

Voices. Comparing us to other artists. Chiding us for being so slow, so picky, so unemployed, so over-scheduled or over-worked, or blah blah blah. Telling me to speak louder, or I won't be heard - faster, or I'll be passed over. I publish a poem and then agonize over whether the semicolon was the best choices. I update my reel and then hate what I did with that line about chinese food. And then a Voice whispers: what would Meryl Streep have done? Look at what friend X just did! Why aren't you mobilizing a documentary film team to cover the Ebola outbreak? And Facebook newsfeed-stalking, there's the healthy way to handle this!

Voices need to chill.

I remember one of my all-time favorite days of grad-school. It was in our second-year Voice class, exploring Linklater Technique. Taught by the amazing Susan Main, we had done everything from pretending we were mythic creatures together to laying on top of each other making odd honking, bubbling noises. But this one particularly powerful day, which sticks in my mind, Susan instructed us all to stand against the wall of our black-box studio in a line. Then, one by one, we each had to walk to the middle of the room, turn to face the group at the wall, stand still and make eye-contact with every single person in the class. Each moment of eye-contact with each person had to last for an entire breath: in, out.

In silence.

We were allowed no comment, from ourselves or others. If people messed up this part, Susan would make us start over. Eye contact. Breath. Silence. No movement, no comforting habits or dismissals. Just real eye-contact, for a full breath, with everybody else. One student burst into tears after, when Susan asked us what we had experienced. He had felt so exposed, so seen - and so uninteresting.

"You are enough," Susan said.

I'm not saying that we shouldn't work on our technique or honestly examine what we do with our time, skills, and talent. I'm not saying we shouldn't be prepared and trained and exhausted in pursuit of our art. I'm not saying we don't need to develop a thick skin and discernment to handle the chorus of Voices we'll deal with in our lives as artists. But I am saying that under and over the other Voices, whatever might be said about us or by us or around us, it all comes back to that simple truth that I learned (appropriately) in voice class: you are enough.

Our identity as artists doesn't stem from the last thing we did (how often have you been told that an actor is only as good as their current project?). Our identity as artists doesn't depend on interpretations or reviews. Those things are really, really nice. So is money. But those things are not the basis of our identity, whatever the Voices may whisper. And that's not what got us in this game. What got us in this game was who we are, and what we want to explore. Our core. Our self.

You are enough.

That is where the Voices rest and the artwork begins.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Bunk Bed Bonding in Quail Bell Magazine

Quail Bell Magazine has once again done me the honor of publishing me, this time a personal essay about my beloved roomie of three years, Tiffany. I've re-printed it below. Follow the link to check out my essay at Quail Bell Magazine, and please do roam about and enjoy their many other wonderful posts!!

Reflection: Why Community Matters Even to the Rugged Individual

Bunk Bed Bonding

For three years in my twenties I shared a bunk bed with my polar opposite.

Tiffany was a cheerleader in high school; I read Wuthering Heights and climbed trees by myself. She had never been kissed and still slept with stuffed animals; I was moving into our bunk bed specifically to break my habit of sleeping with men, as part of my intentional two-year dating sabbatical (but that’s another story).

Whenever I think about us sharing a bunk bed it makes me laugh, because we were truly and deeply the Odd Couple. She was a dancer and morning person who for the three years we lived together never once raised her voice, lost her temper, swore, or cried in front of anyone in the apartment—a real, classy, sweet-hearted lady. I was a cranky waitress who ranted about everything from theology to art, nailed blankets around my bottom bunk to create a dark cave to shut out light and human contact. I was famous among the roommates for my moody wine-and-foreign-film nights for one. She was known for her permanent smile, her love of coloring books and baking fat-free, home-baked muffins.

I usually shut people out; she usually hugged anyone that would hold still long enough. Our being bedfellows shouldn’t have worked. But not only did it work, it changed my perspective on community, intimacy, and family. Our whole apartment did, really, but Tiffany was the keystone.

Family is rather a fluid, theoretical concept for me. See, I am the black-sheep wandering child of two black-sheep wanderer children. My immediate family and I moved seven times before I was ten, and we were not in the military. I have a brother and sister I haven’t met. My parents divorced and my Dad moved to Thailand for a while, going on to live in four states and three countries. My brother graduated high school and moved across the state. When I went to college, I moved cross-country.
In a way, I think this splintering of family is an unavoidably American thing. First shedding the broader cultural community of country, creed, or background for the sake of rugged individualism, then taking that individualism and running with it until extended relatives, then immediate family, then spouses and even children part ways to dive into their own separate life paths, never to be at the Sunday dinner table together again.

Sharing a bunk bed with someone, much less any real intimate details of my life, was not in my vocabulary.

I remember when my amazing Mom took me to Italy to celebrate high school graduation. I remember a tour guide looking at me with consternation and confusion when I explained that I was about to move to New York City for college.

“But your mother is in California?” She said, her accent and eyebrows thick.

I nodded. “Yes, she’s in California.”

She stared, stricken. “Aren’t there colleges in California?”

It was hard to try to explain to a person from another culture that family was never the priority. Rugged individualism was. At least, it’s hard to explain that without sounding like a jerk.

It’s also hard to be a rugged individual in a bunk bed without being a jerk.

The first time I met Tiffany was when I went to see the apartment with all the girls. It was the first time most of us had met each other. Mutual friends (community) had connected us all, and on a hunch we decided that living together was a good idea. Yikes.

After agreeing to the move, I was worried that Tiffany was way too perky and sweet to be genuine. She, bless her, never admitted to worrying about my off-putting directness or alarming number of possessions. Somehow, we stuffed ourselves into a room together. A neighbor helped us build this bunk bed we’d ordered online. Tiffany took the top, and we never switched.

I rode that rugged individualist train until it broke down, waylaid by intimacy bandits. By the time I moved into that bunk bed with Tiffany, I had come through an existential crises of questioning every thing I’d ever told myself about who I was and wondering if the nomadic and self-focused life I’d led in New York City was really at all healthy. I was frustrated: If you’re a rugged individual who defines your identity through your actions and work rather than relationships, family, and community, what happens when your actions don’t seem effective? Or your individuality isn’t recognized externally? What if you’re a storyteller but there’s no one to tell stories to offstage, and you can’t get an audition?

This is like that dumb question ‘if a tree falls in the forest and no one is around, does it make a sound?’ There’s a simple way to answer this. Ask a rugged individualist, because they’re probably hanging out at the same spot in the forest where there’s no one else around. They’d love that spot. Oh wait, that’s right, you can’t ask a rugged individualist because if they see you coming, they’ll run away. They’re elusive, like Bigfoot. Ask me how I know.

Within weeks, Tiffany’s big blue eyes and disarming kindness had worn me down. I found myself whispering my dreams to her through the wooden slats and mattress separating our bunks. Though I was always hot, I found myself switching on the space heater after she’d gone to sleep because she was always cold but would never turn it on for herself out of consideration for me. Having someone go out of their way for me like that made me melt and made me want to step up. I hadn’t had anyone else to take care of or think of in a long time. Though she was always busy, Tiffany would find a night most weeks to invade my fortress of solitude and share a movie with me in the living room. While other roommates would typically accept my brusque dodging of personal questions, she’d fix those bright turquoise eyes on me and wait until I caved.

She made it feel like I was home.

I realize I’m not the first young adult in my generation to build a pseudo-family with roommates and friends. But when I think about it, about how that bunk bed changed my life and how Tiffany worked into my heart so thoroughly, I can’t help but see that the enormous impact she had on me as a direct correlation to the enormous vacuum that preceded her.

I’d built a lot of walls over my time in New York. It’s really hard to be vulnerable enough to be intimate with someone, anyone, when you know your relationship is probably just one stop in his or her transient life. But a culture and mindset of rugged individualism tends to ignore one fundamental characteristic of human nature: We are pack animals who need love. I need intimacy. I need to build families. And my life of self-focused ambition had forgotten something every good artist remembers. You can only create from yourself, from the wealth of your own life.

And people are my wealth.

Tiffany was really the one, I think, that refreshed that lesson for me as an adult. She started as a stranger and became my family, forcing me to recognize that ultimately every stranger is potential family. It was impossible to get away from her in a physical sense, and that led to a deep emotional intimacy I’ll never fully recover from – or want to live without again. By being the ying to my yang at a difficult and significant moment in my life, she showed me that distance and rugged individuality are no excuse for letting intimacy slip. Two strong magnets will snap together even across the kitchen table.

Now Tiffany is about to move to another hemisphere with a new husband, and the cycle of building community and family continues. I like to think Tiffany taught me to be in a family, reminding me to think outside my own defense mechanisms and share. She showed me the amazing difference between being my own audience and sharing stories with another vital being.

Our bunk bed is in two pieces now but I’ll always remember the original shape. While Tiffany's not immediately above me anymore to listen to my dreams, she’s got me in the habit of whispering again.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Bodies: Bizzarre and Baffling in Quail Bell Magazine

This piece of mine on bodies was originally published by Quail Bell Magazine on July 29th, 2014. They publish a mystical range of fiction and reality, check them out! I'm so excited to be a part of the Quail Bell Magazine community, and wanted to re-share the essay below. Enjoy!

Vishnu's Dream Machine

I hereby solemnly swear this is not another essay about body image and self-esteem. It’s more of an existential crisis and I definitely talk about death. Lately, my eyes somewhat glaze over when I see memes about “real” bodies, Photoshop, and beauty. Not because it’s not a thing, so much, as I think it just misses my real question about bodies, which is: What the *#!@ is this whole body thing all about, anyway? What is going on with bodies? Why do I have one? What is it? Whaaat?
My self-portrait created during rehearsals for The Body Stories.

Am I seriously the only adult that thinks it’s bizarre that we have bodies? I know babies know what I am talking about. Watching them constantly re-discovering things like fingers and faces is hilarious. Babies clearly don’t expect to encounter them, bodies: still getting used to them. Bodies baffle babies, and me along with them. 

Somewhere after that stage of life, though, people seem to stop questioning the body thing. Well, I haven’t stopped.

Kids for example definitely seem more accepting of bodies than babies. Sure, everybody poops, they say, I have a book about it. What’s the big deal? That’s just the way it works. And I am the weirdo grown-up left alone going, yeah, but whaaat? How weird is that, that everybody poops? Everybody?! Everybody POOPS! That’s so weird! We ALL do the SAME poop thing together, ONE BIG HUMAN POOP FAMILY!

It’s bizarre to me that human beings, for all our questions and art forms and inventions and winter Olympics and religions and dreams, boil down to creatures of bodies. As a friend recently put it, we just eat, poop, copulate, and die. For some (I’m looking at you, religion and popular culture and longing), this is a problem. The body thing isn’t enough the way it is, or it’s simply bad. Bodies become the obstacle between us and purity/eternity/beauty/glory/whatever-we-think-is-better, an obstacle between us and the way we think it ought to be. And yet we have to have a body because, well, we just do.

So our relationship with our body becomes complicated. We have to fix it. Discipline it. Starve its appetites, sometimes, or fence them in safely. But, dear god, we must control and dominate it lest it dominate us.

My question has always been: Aren’t our bodies…us? Isn’t our relationship with our bodies, fundamentally, a relationship with our very selves? And if yes, then why do I separate myself from my body, even in my own internal language about it? I mean I have to have a body to even have language, right? A brain to think, a tongue to say, fingers to type the question: Am I my body?

It’s very meta.

A dear friend, the amazing Larissa Dzegar, and I co-created a show together in New York City a few years back exploring questions about bodies. We called simply it "The Body Stories" because we’re creative like that. We asked a small group of performers to create 5-10 minute vignettes dramatizing their relationship with their bodies.

It was a pretty open-ended, fascinating process because I was really curious to see where other brains would take that general phrase “relationship with your body.” Of course, because the two guys and the one person not in their 20s in the cast ended up dropping out because of schedule conflicts, many of the pieces were about things you’d generally expect young women to focus on: insecurity about beauty, complex relationships with food and weight, desire to be desired.

I’d like to do the show again someday with a more diverse mix of ages, races and genders, but we still made some astounding discoveries as a group—the main one, for me, being that everybody struggles to accept their body, its limits, and its goodness. A good tagline for our show might have been “Bodies: can’t live with them, can’t live without them.” We’re stuck with what we’ve got, and our bodies play a fundamental role in our identities. Maybe not the most groundbreaking theatrical discovery, but it felt like a major accomplishment and affirmation to have this conversation with other artists and audience members and hear my own questions echoed back to me from other people.

Here I am, though, a couple years later, still asking the same questions. Because there might not be any answers.

It’s still bizarre to me that we all know the only way we exist on this planet is ONLY in a body, and yet we seem to be so bad at dealing with this fact all the way up from self-image through healthcare. I mean if you don’t have a body, you can’t be here. Bodies are like the white tie to get in planet earth’s members-only lounge. There’s probably a sign in earth’s driveway that says “No body? No service.” And we only get ONE body (as far as we can prove).

To me, I move to the mystical to try to understand the body thing. I can’t help myself; I was raised in a pretty conservative branch of Christianity, and much as I sometimes fight it that upbringing has permanently affected the way I think about most things—bodies and their hobbies in particular: reproduction, death, food, waste, pleasure, pain, disease, unfairness of size and health and strength and politics. We are our bodies, they exist for a while, then die: that is all we can know for certain. And yet I am constantly pushing past the known and asking myself, what does this all mean, this body thing? What is it? Why is it? How do we all handle it, share it, and yet live completely and only within the walls of our own cellular structure? What is my body?

Growing up, this was my main take-away about bodies from church: they’ll sin and suffer and die, but don’t panic, there’s a way to save yourself from your body of death. Through faith, you can have God’s spirit LITERALLY live inside you and your body becomes God’s temple. And when this body dies, we get a new one. A perfect one. God loves bodies! New permanent bodies for everyone*! (*Everybody who's Christian.)


Obviously this is a religious opinion, but let’s just think about that concept for a second, the body as God’s temple thing, because it still blows my mind with its simple beauty. It’s something like the mirror image of Hinduism where our world and bodies all exist only in Vishnu’s dream in his sleeping head, and therefore we are one with God because we exist in his mind—except that in the Christianity I grew up with our bodies are real and the dream of God’s presence is inside them. God is inside our bodies, or vice versa.

In any religion, belief in spirituality lifts our bodies from the physical to the holy, giving our experience on earth a multi-dementional, sci-fi feel with a very, very happy ending: union with God and a new kind of life after this body’s death. If our bodies could literally be God’s temple or God’s dream, every action and aspect of our physical life takes on the nature of devotion and worship. Even pooping is more special. And our earthly bodies become a sort of cocoon from which we will emerge after death even more beautiful and metaphysical than ever.

I gravitate toward this. It’s a beautiful, seductive idea, just as hell and damnation and cycles of suffering are ugly, scary, off-putting ideas. The main thing is, though, faith is faith and there’s no way to really know what are bodies are: spiritual vessels, or just material? They’re a mystery wrapped as a totally obvious, banal reality. Kids seem to get it. I don’t.

Recently, on a date, two of us stretched our bodies out on a blanket in Central Park under a shady tree and put one earbud each in one of our ears and listened together to a podcast about Alan Turing. (People, THIS is how to woo.) Turing was the genius British mathematician who basically cracked the Nazi code and accelerated the Allied Victory at the end of WWII. After an adventurous and brilliant career as a war hero, Turing was later arrested for homosexuality and chemically castrated by the very British Government he had served.

Turing, it turns out, was raised conservatively Christian much like I was. After watching his boyhood love die of consumption, Turing sought his lost love in prayers and clouds but never found him again. Turing eventually concluded this was because the boy was just gone, and that the Christian idea that humans are more than bodies and that we somehow exist after our bodies die was just a lot of rubbish. As an adult he had a sort of reverse conversion and became an atheist, a materialist, a man of science who decided that the material world and our physical bodies are what they are, and that is absolutely all there is to it beyond a shadow of a doubt.

Turing believed that our bodies were the machines of our existence, and that we are essentially conscious machines. Someday he believed humans could build machines that would achieve consciousness, as our equals. The idea rather comforted and set him free, and he went about using his impressive brain/body machine to create machines and codes that changed the world. Then he got arrested for giving his body the love lifestyle it craved, as homosexuality was still illegal in England. Once his own body was turned against him through forced injections of estrogen, Turing grew so depressed and unrecognizable to himself that he chose to end his own life. He bit into a cyanide-laced apple, just like Snow White in his favorite Disney cartoon. (Oddly, it made me feel better to know I am not the only one who has epiphanies about self, bodies, life and death while watching Disney cartoons – but more on that later.)
Is that what our body is, a machine? Turing’s concept of life as a straightforward material equation also attracts and comforts me. To have the experience of inhabiting the sophisticated, complex machine of a human body can be very exciting when it’s working well, and very scary when it’s not.

I’ll never be able to fully burst out of the cocoon of spiritualizing the human body the way that Turing did (I am a bit of a superstitious caterpillar), no matter that I’ve long since resigned my position as president of the Abstinence Club in High School (yes, that’s a real thing that I did) and now live the life of a sinful artist in New York City (sorry not sorry).

Don’t worry, though, spiritualizing the body isn’t all masturbation crosses and chemical castration; one of my favorite Christian saints, St. Francis of Assissi, had a very grounded and humorous view of the body and all the banalities and glories that go along with it. He famously referred to his body as “Brother Ass.” (By the way, children, St. Francis of Assissi, along with every spiritual leader that has ever existed including Jesus and Buddha and Joseph Smith, also pooped. I am quite sure of this.)

I wanted to escape my own “sister ass” for the longest time, but for no reason as profound or tragic as Turing’s government-ordered body hijacking. My body identity crisis was rather clich├ęd, I suppose: puberty and standard-issue Christian sexual repression. I felt like my body was in my way, holding me down, and pissing off God.

As if being 12 isn’t hard enough.

Disney’s Mulan came out when I was in junior high going through puberty. I don’t know if you remember Mulan or not but I had a sort of epiphany because of it. There’s that one song Mulan sings when she’s frustrated with the limitations of having a female body in her society. She looks at her reflection in a pool and sings, “When will my reflection show who I am inside?”

Well, I used to sing this to myself in the mirror, crying, because I felt like my body was something that I wasn’t, preventing me from being who I truly was. And I did this a lot. Yup...afraid so. I hated that when people saw me, they saw me as my body and not as my brain or soul. I wished I could just be a brain or soul and skip the body part because wouldn’t that be nice. Maybe then I could teleport, mind-read, and not have to wear a bra. I could be like the blue fuzzy light-ball Martian’s in Ray Bradbury’s “The Illustrated Man.” Pleeeease? Why not?!

I doubt I’m the only one who ever thought about that: I bet we all want to escape our bodies sometimes, whether for cosmetic or political or health reasons. But one particular day, when my preteen self was singing that particular Disney song to her naked reflection in the bathroom mirror, I suddenly realized that escaping my body would mean death.

Death is the only way out of this body.

Duh! That was the moment I really realized that my body will someday die, the light clicked on, and I faced my own mortality for the first conscious time. That moment changed my life and my relationship with my body. Not to say I instantly and forever looked on my body as only good, but I’ve certainly appreciated and enjoyed it more ever since. I now know my body is only mine temporarily, like a gift that will one day break.

And so when I wrote my own 5-10 minute vignette in "The Body Stories," I did an interpretive dance about puberty (like you do) and ventured peace between my body and my religious traditions and my current questions by writing it a love letter. I apologized for hating it and being mean to it. I told it I loved the way it felt, how much I enjoyed its ability to move and touch and taste and eat and have sex and sleep. And I concluded my love letter like this:

Dear Body, someday you will die, and I will miss you. When you leave me what will I be? Will I be at all? I am afraid to contemplate the absence of you, Body. It is another world, another side, a darkness that I can’t shine light through from here. Someday we will be separated, Body, and the part of me that wanted to escape you will escape. And maybe then I will know whether that part was you all along or someone else, me, or you alone, or us, or another. Until then, we are together. We are one person, you and I, Body, til death do us part. I am married to you in a union stronger than I will ever have with another, a stronger union than anyone can understand, until we are perhaps one. I am you, Body, and I will always wonder if you are also me. You will always be a wonder to me, never answered, only felt.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014


"Maybe your body is trying to tell you to slow down."

Oh, Willy. You're sweet.

Willy, everybody, is my friendly neighborhood healthcare provider who I suspect is several years younger than me. Yes, he insists I call him by his first name, and no, his name is not actually Willy. (Yay, insurance!)

Poor Willy and I have seen a lot of each other lately. It's getting stupid. We may have actually started to form some inside jokes. Today, when he told me to slow down, I retorted with my usual zippy vim:

"You don't come to New York to slow down, sir."

This made us both groan. And then cry. Or maybe that was just me.

The thing is, Willy has a point. (See what I did there?) My body is - often - usually - telling me to slow down. I went through three years of MFA training so that I could listen to my body, dammit. I hear you, Body. I do. It's magical to communicate with you and all but you just don't seem to understand that I am trying to ignore you on purpose.

I don't know about the rest of you artsy lot, but I've realized over the years that I have a rather addictive personality. I over-do things. It's never just one donut hole with me, oh no. Just ask anyone who has supped with me or seen my closet; boundless enthusiasm and terrible planning. (This is why none of my clothes match any of my other clothes.)

Fortunately, I've been pretty lucky. Mostly the things I binge on are pretty innocent so far: work, wine, the occasional guilty-pleasure Netflix marathons, secret late-night Freddie Mercury Google searches...

But I wonder, is this bingey thing that I do realllllly innocent? So I'm not doing drugs, that's good, but is it ok that I have a file on my computer for inspirational quotes I've downloaded in moments of lonely, wine-sodden weakness? (Goals ARE dreams with deadlines. Wow. How did I never see it before?) Can I really justify writing a blog entry after midnight on a Tuesday? Is it smart to expect my body to do well rehearsing two full-length non-union plays at the same time while working all my dayjobs, after five months of hiatus?

Or are my self-soothing/bingeing habits actually detracting from my discipline in creating better art?

I totally stole this from the internet.
Here's what I mean. Fellow actor buddies and I have talked about the famine/feast thing, how work seems to come all at once and then not at all. The pattern seems to be echoed in our personal lives. I'll have a flurry interesting work and my personal life will sort of (necessarily, I tell myself) go on pause. Then, I'll have months of no acting work and I'll burst from my social cocoon and it's all champagne and experimental jazz until the cows come home (ok more like it's all Yellowtail and Bon Jovi until I get a headache, whatever, who cares! life is NOW!). Then, repeat.

Know what I mean?

Thing is, as artists WE ARE THE ONES CREATING OUR WORK. So...

I must be the one setting this bizarre pace. That's my astoundingly deep insight into myself for the day. Maybe I've been approaching my artistic career more like a junkie looking for a fix and less like a journeyman, but storytelling isn't a substance I can hit. I have to make it from scratch. There's a really petulant impatience at the bottom of my decisions: an "I want my artistic fulfillment and I want it NOW!" sort of nonsense, like a big moody baby with grabby hands. And, since that is impossible and actually meaningless as a statement, I guess I've tried to fill in that hunger with things that are actually real. Like wine. Wine is super real. But not necessarily art.

I take that back. Wine is definitely art.

I don't know which comes fist, the instability, the addictive personality or the binging. But I am starting to wonder: wouldn't Willy and I both be happier if we never met again? Nothing personal, Willy.

Oh look, cheese and wine and more not sleeping. How nice. I'll have some.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Loco De Mayo


Steps of How Not to Sleep on (Potentially) Your Only Night Off in May
  • End the evening venting about professional and romantic feelings with your witty German actress buddy, because THAT will be uplifting for BOTH of you. It ALWAYS is. (Sorry Toni. You're great. I brought us down. My bad.)
  • It's now 8:30pm, sooo....go home. It's time.
  • Converse with roommates. Be momentarily uplifted because they rock. 
  • Realize the Mindy Project rocks. You watch and laugh together with your roommate LIKE A FAMILY OR SOMETHING until the show seems all too painfully familiar and you need distraction from the pain. 
  • Wait. You just said you're in pain from watching a sitcom? What's wrong with you. Goodness gracious.
  • Existential crisis.
  • You need distraction. You are thinking too deeply into things, so you should waste time on Facebook. 
  • Waste time on Facebook.
  • Be disgusted with yourself for wasting time on Facebook and decide to do something productive.
  • Be productive. In your brain right now, 'being productive' somehow means sending a thinly disguised needy email to your boss asking for positive feedback without overtly asking for positive feedback but really actually just asking for positive feedback. Because, let's face it, you are feeling needy.
  • Admit you're feeling needy. Try to channel your thoughts in more positive directions. End up thinking about all the lines you have yet to memorize and all the dayjob stuff you have yet to finish.
  • Briefly think about studying your lines, decide not to.
  • Reprimand yourself. 
  • That self-reprimand was harsh. Feel needy again.
  • Existential crisis 2.
  • Call your mother because you are feeling needy. She answers the phone by saying she just sat down and is taking her first bite of pizza. 
  • Feel guilty. Say goodnight. 
  • Feel needy. Feel guilty for feeling needy.
  • Roll your eyes at yourself.
  • Repeat.
  • Start to really wish you were eating pizza with your mother and get all nostalgic, then suddenly get really, really hungry. 
  • Once the hunger beats the nostalgia, remember that you had a cookie for dinner instead of dinner. Feel both proud of/disheartened by your choices and decide that although you deserve to eat again if you want, you have already brushed your teeth and having to do it again sounds too hard.
  • The time is now 11:00pm, somehow. Try to account for the last 2.5 hours. Fail.
  • Take a sleeping pill.
  • Turn out the lights.
  • Check your email on your phone in case your boss wrote something nice. Aw, he did! Feel less needy.
  • Now you can't stop thinking about pizza. Try to channel your thoughts in a more positive direction.
  • Existential crisis 2.1: over-analyze everything in your life. Decide that if you are thinking so much, it means you must care, and being able to care is good, right? So, that's good. Maybe you're okay, since you care. But then, caring about something doesn't necessarily mean it's important, does it? Maybe you're caring too much about things that don't matter? So, that's bad. Also, why are you thinking about this now? Is it urgent? No. Can you fix anything? No.
  • Self-reprimand 2: WHY AREN'T YOU OFF-BOOK FOR STUFF YET!?
  • Ask yourself: what pizza places are open right now?
  • Try to sleep.
  • Try to stop thinking about pizza.
  • Pizza.
  • Pizza on a bagel.
  • The leaning tower of pizza.
  • Pizza pizza.
  • Oh my god.
  • Try to distract yourself from pizza, because it's now 11:30pm and there is no cheap pizza available, probably. Do anything/everything to forget the crushing desire for pizza. 
  • Examine your freezer. There's no pizza. 
  • Eat some cheese with nothing.
  • Identify the solitary late-night scarfing of cheese with nothing as an allegory for your life. Realize that thought makes no sense.
  • Roll your eyes at yourself. Again.
  • Go to bed. Again.
  • Think about pizza. Again.
  • Remember that it's Cinco de Mayo. Think about Mexican food. 
  • Remember that you forgot to brush your teeth again.
  • Give up. On everything, maybe. Or maybe just on your immediate desires. Just give up.
  • Feel suddenly better. Have you moved past wanting? Wow, is this non-attachment?
  • Achieve enlightenment.
  • Fall asleep. Dream of pizza.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Lifetime Achievement Award

Oh hey there, blog. How are you. I know it's been a long time since I've paid any attention to you. I could say I had forgotten you were there, but that is a lie. I knew you were there all along, full of blank draft pages and unborn witticisms blinking back at me from the eternal, empty white screen. Blog, I know you were there, just waiting to link me with brave Readers, to help us share a moment in time. The thing is, I just didn't know what to say.

If we were lovers, dear blog, then I was definitely the neglectful, estranged, frustrated jerk who just up and disappeared one day without a word or warning, leaving you in the lurch and maybe wondering why. Yes, I've done that before - not to other blogs I mean, but to people. Several times, in fact. Whether or not they wondered, I don't know. But you could safely say that by now, at this point in my character, it's becoming a pattern.

I should say I am sorry I disappear but the fact is I am not sorry.

Sometimes it just takes me a long time to be honest with myself about what I want. But once I know, I know. The jerk part is that once I am honest with myself about what I want, I am selfish about it. Once I see clearly, I use the clarity to make a decision and rarely bother to explain that to others.  It's not that I don't care. It's that I have stuff to go do.

It turns out, I really needed a breather from you, blog, and from other things too. In November my streak of artistically satisfying plays ended and I had a sort of a personal heartbreak. A sort of disappearance of a hope, you might say. I say sort of because it was a long time coming and a long time on repeat, and nothing actually happened other than that I woke up one morning fully aware and OK with the fact that I didn't approve of my own nonsense anymore, that the thing I was hoping for had never actually been on the table, that it was time to vaporize and re-materialize somewhere else, hitch my wagon to another star. My Dad calls it a Moment of Truth, or the Five Minute Rule: it only takes five minutes to be honest, really actually honest with yourself. Not that it isn't a little scary and hard sometimes. But in November, I managed to do it.

November was when my brain switched gears.

I panicked a little. I skipped out for a bit on certain things, hoarding my new found clarity. I stopped submitting for auditions. I stopped blogging, basically. I cut down on sleeping. I started dating pretty much everybody in New York City. (Just kidding. Only a handful. I am not actually cut out to be a man-eater.) And, on a deeper note, I had yet another Acting Crisis that lasted all day every day for a few months there: why am I doing this? Am I even doing this? What do I want to do with this? What have I done with this, and what do I want to do next? And, most importantly, WHAT IS THIS THAT I AM DOING?

In graduate school when I had another whirlwind episode, prompted by another heartbreak, my roommate Treasure said that in the days where I would disappear (and I would sort of disappear, coming home to our apartment only every four or five days to change clothes), she pictured me riding around the city on the backs of fire trucks, howling at the moon.

Close enough.

This time, though, my howl reached heaven and my life actually changed. Through a super cool and bright actress I know, I got an actual writing job. I prayed for it. My mom prayed for it with me. We prayed together as I pressed the send button with my emailed application. And twenty minutes after I emailed in my writing sample, I was hired. I jumped up and down, I bounced off walls, I danced and hopped and squealed for several weeks like a cliche from a 90s high school movie. It was an actual turning point, a bolt from the blue, a gift from God.

I may have never mentioned this to you, blog, but I had a very specific dream when I was a little girl. My kindergarten teacher asked everyone what they wanted to be when they grew up, and I said, "My own boss." I wanted to write and act. Those were the only two jobs I ever wanted. I wanted to have lovers from every country in the world and eventually children from every country in the world. I think my logic was, why just pick one? It is hilarious and amazing and somewhat disturbing to suddenly step back from my life right now and realize that I am actually doing it. (No babies yet, though, please.)

I am actually doing it.

Sure, there are points I'd like to hit in my acting career that I feel very far away from. I'd like to get great representation, star in feature films, win an Oscar. Sure. There are points in my personal life and finances that are not the best they could be. If I live long enough I'd like to someday get married and have kids (this is very hard for me to admit) and maybe - maybe - even open a savings account. But you know what? I am actually doing the things that I dreamed of doing when I was 6. If I don't thank God every day, shame on me.

This week, I got to go visit my 81-year-old Dad in Texas. Our time together is always too short and we try to cram a year's worth of presence and intimacy into a few days, so it's always super intense. We go and sit in Carl's Jr. because he likes it and we drink decaf coffee and talk for hours. I told him how amazed and excited I am about the writing job, about my weird new attitude about acting that I haven't quite placed or defined, about how strong and lucky and perhaps almost empty I feel, in a way that seems good. Maybe open is a better word than empty. Maybe full is a better word than empty. Maybe empty and full are the same.

And my Dad looked at me and said what might be the most important thing that anyone has ever said to me: "When I go, I get to go knowing that I've left the world a better place because you are in it. Because of who you are, not just what you're doing, but because you are a point of light in the world."

So, blog, I just had to write again and say all that, to try to explain how the last months have given me moments and choices and gifts that changed me, and what was significant about them. Not everyone gets to hear words like that from their Dad. I really, truly wish they did. We need to know what we mean to people, what our lives can be. I am sharing this not because I want to rub it in peoples' faces or anything, but because I want people to know that you CAN say words like that, and that when you do, it makes someone's life. We have that power with each other. I want to share that you can disappear in a positive way, to transform and resurrect. That resurrection is real.

It turns out, life is pretty simple. I may never win an Oscar or really "make it" as an actor in terms of shiny money things, but I've made it. I may never be a New York Times bestselling author, but I have had my writing published and read by strangers who paid my rent for me. I may never actually have kids from all the countries in the world because that would be 196 children and that is just a totally stupid idea in retrospect. I may always be a little bit of a jerk sometimes, when I am hurt, because I am a human being and no matter how hard I try to do the right thing I will sometimes fail. Yet I see that I can try to do the right thing - I have that option to choose - and that is the important bit.

As far as I am concerned, my Dad just gave me the Lifetime Achievement Award. Even if I never accomplish anything else, I'm good.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Women in Film

Do you watch movies? Are you a human? Then this is important to look at.

Women comprise only 30% of speaking characters. And that's just actually dumb.

My vision is to be one of the people whose work can contribute to changing these statistics. Create, create, create! Not just because women are awesome and deserve fair treatment, but because art should tell the truth.