Sometimes you read something that rings like a bell to your soul -- direct from the Source.
"At any age, rebellion can make us feel ostracized from the group, turning us into the so-called black sheep of our family or community. But the black sheep are the artists, visionaries and healers of our culture, because they are the ones willing to call into question those places which feel stale, obsolete, or without integrity. The black sheep stirs up the good kind of trouble. Her very life is a confrontation with all that has been assumed as tradition. Her being different serves to bring the family or group to consciousness where it has been living too long in the dark. As the idiom implies, she is the wayward one in the flock. Her life’s destiny is to stand apart. But paradoxically, it’s only when she honours that apartness that she finally fits in."
Read this article for more of the good stuff -- from Your Rebellion is Necessary by Toko-pa Turner.
Many of us tend to err on the side of being people pleasers. I don't have to explain this. If you are a "good girl" (perhaps not PC now but this was the jargon when I was growing up) you should care about what people think about you and you should work on making sure that you are doing all you can to make sure you are well-liked. A dear friend just yesterday told me a story about her father -- how he told her the most important thing was "to have people like you." So how then do we reconcile this with our other side, the wild side -- the personality trait of an artist/rebel?
Be wild and free, fellow theatre-makers. Break 'em! <3
Some actors get really annoyed by this question. And yes -- it is the most basic of elements in terms of what we as actors do to prepare for a role. But considering most normal folks don't even memorize phone numbers anymore -- when you think about memorizing 70+ pages of text -- it is a legit question! How do we do it? The real answer -- each of us has our own techniques. I am currently in the prep-phase for an upcoming show and I am looking down the pipeline of my 2019-2020 season and I have some biggies ahead of me this season! So this topic is on my mind...For real.
How I do it: I read the play multiple times a day when I am in memorization mode. Who has the time to do that? Well, you make the time. And yes, I read the whole play. Not just my lines. What I think maybe the average person doesn't consider is that I also have to memorize my cue (the lines my partner say before my lines begin -- so I know when to talk). We have a joke in the biz, "your line, your line, my line..." I hate this joke. And it is perhaps why some people have a hard time memorizing their lines. If you read the play many times you begin to see the underlying reasoning and logic in character's needs so the text is incredibly logical (most texts...lol). If someone asks you that particular question then of course your response would be ...your line. But that really does require active listening and getting inside the head of your character -- which gets us into whole other aspects of the craft...I digress...Simply: I read the play over and over. If I have monologues I work them over and over. Then --because very thankfully I married the perfect partner for me -- my husband holds book for me and corrects me word perfect. Put in the time...Many days/hours and cups of coffee later and viola! The words are in your head. Pro tip: I take a pencil and literally point to each word of my lines as I am reading to keep me from skimming over the text. I believe that is why some actors paraphrase. You read what your mind thinks is written on the page and then you memorize that. Once you have it - keep at it and place a clean white page over top your lines as you read to make sure you are not tempted to cheat! Read the cue and say your line. Checking to make sure you are word perfect. We try. We really try to get every syllable correct.
Sidebar: Don't learn your lines in the rhythm that you "think" you are going to say the line. It stumps you from being able to freely play with your scene partner. Just learn the text cold. This is a trap. Don't do it. And DON'T count how many lines you have. It is a waste of time -- you could be using that time to read the play. Nobody cares how may lines you have and if you do then you might not be doing this for the right reasons...just saying.
Other practices: There are loads of apps out on the market for this exact purpose. We Rehearse and Rehearsal Pro are all used pretty widely -- it is a matter of personal preference. I have heard other people who use Scene Partner but I don't even know if it is still on the market.
Old school: the philosophy sort of used to be that you would learn your text once you knew the blocking. The idea being that you could connect the text to where you are in time and space and that your muscle memory would help you cement the lines. I believe this is true. My personal practice (when all things are right with the universe) I like to hold my book so I can jot down my blocking the first day of blocking -- but I already know my text. Then by day 2 on those scenes I can be book-free and available to play with my scene partners. My style. Everyone is different. And sometimes I don't have the luxury to play this way --for whatever reasons --but it is the best way I have found to play.
I just watched this wild documentary on Netflix called Memory Games all about the US and World Championship for Memory...Very different than what we do but super interesting. They talk about memory vaults or memory castles and creating stories as a way to memorize abstract numbers or names... I can't even begin to imagine that this technique would be applicable for actors but who knows -- all of our brains operate differently.
One last note -- I personally continue to read the play even during the course of the run. I come to the theatre early and walk the stage and say the words. Most of the contracts I work are 8 show weeks. But for some theatres whose schedules are shorter work weeks they practice a brush-up rehearsal either mid-week or require you to come in early as a cast on the show night to begin the week with a speed-thru or walk thru of the lines...just so everyone's brains are clicking together.
How do you memorize your text? Would love to hear what works for you. <3
...I continue to take the road less traveled.
First off --not the beginning of my adventures in blogging but since I have not posted in OVER 4 YEARS and A LOT of shit has happened professionally and personally-- I am going to start at the top (and if you really give a damn you can go back at look at the archive).
This is harder than I remembered. I have written an entire piece and erased it already a couple of times now. Why? Well quite frankly I can't really write honestly about some of this jazz. What I really want to say -- I don't have the balls for just yet.
So you are an actor? yeah. We are out here. We are working. We exist. And you don't know recognize my face and I like it that way frankly. We consider this AS MAKING IT! We are not "waiting for our big break." We are DOING the work. I am a huge fan of Stephen McKinley Henderson (most folks wouldn't know his name either but you probably know his work). He was asked on the red carpet what advice he would give his 20 year old self. He said, "I would say THE WORK is enough. If you are doing it differently in Toledo than you are doing it on Broadway -- you don't deserve to do it either place." Words I truly live by.
I have often asked myself -- why isn't there a blog written about acting and the work BY regional theatre actors?And now as I sit here with my coffee and Nina Simone singing in the background, I am beginning to pick up a clear answer to that question. Nina tells me -- We are bound. We are bound in all kinds of ways. The politics of the industry. The politics of institutions. The politics of our community. And people seem to enjoy getting bent at all kinds of things these days - so I am bound to write something that royally pisses someone off... It's not all sunshine-glamour and glitter-rainbows out here for a player, friends. And those of us in the trenches know it. This is an unforgiving business even for those of us who are the lucky privileged few who work consistently enough for health care coverage. And those poor souls who are in purgatory in the audition-hell-circle-just-trying-to-book-a-gig...#bless. (1st insider tip -- an actor who works enough to get healthcare coverage year after year makes up a VERY small percent of our union members). From Actors Equity Association re: our coverage --In order to qualify, you must have at least 11 weeks of covered employment in any 12 calendar months “accumulation period” to qualify for 6 months of coverage. If you attain 19, or more, weeks of covered employment in an accumulation period, you may qualify for 12 months of coverage. This is rehearsal and performance weeks.
Dry as hell but grown up shit...That equals approx 3 shows a season for those counting. And while you can't read it on a program bio -- that is steep for most actors. The odds are not in our favor. There are only a few thousand contracts out there season to season and millions of actors in America. My hubs and I are proud to say we have been in that small quadrant of artists who have worked enough for consistent coverage for many years now. So we are working actors. I'm qualified to discuss this stuff. In a world where all have opinions, I am actually an expert witness with a track record to prove it. Why do I sound like a candidate running for office?
I will say this now. I am going to stay diligent and keep this bad boy up. I will discuss my work in the room. I will discuss my prep process. I will try to examine what is happening in American Theatre during the reign of the Orange King. I will talk about actor life in NYC vs. life in the regions and why we made the choice to live outside of the city... I will attempt to unravel what an ensemble means and how it affects the work...I will try to be brave and tell you like I see it. Thanks for reading and for sharing with fellow travelers. <3
Holy Hell. Has it really been almost 6 months since I posted last? So here are the highlights in pics, videos and haikus...
Emma in New York,
China, Berlin and Sydney
London and counting...
Toys in the Attic by Lillian Hellman
Oct 2 - 18, 2016
We drive 2 hours
For 5 minutes in the room
2 hours back home.
It is 3am
A Video Submission
Is never worth this.
Good time management
Is impossible for us
With multiple gigs.
Personal life stuff
Is always more important
than a play, correct?
Grief is like a tidal wave
Ebb and flow and breathe.
There are things every professional actor needs when approaching a script in preparation for rehearsal:
2) quiet time
4) an open mind
I read somewhere that the first time you read a play, you should turn off your cell phone, lock the door, light candles, find the perfect music for the mood and play it on a low volume, and take it slow. Yes, the first time you read a play. Because the first time is your first encounter to the words, the storyline, the characters, the dramatic climax, the resolution, the take-away. The first time is special. You never get a second chance at the first time. Create a ritual for yourself. I wish I could tell you I had some elaborate ceremony but I don't. Yet.
What I do have is a ritual for rehearsifying...
For Table Work:
I like to arrive early. I like to have a coffee. I like to have more pencils than I would need. I like to have the box of AEA-provided-Kleenex within arms reach. I like to have a cup of water at my station. I like to have my glasses whether I really need them or not. I like to have my homework. I like to have the set design in front of me. And I like to wear my shawl. And after receiving these snazzy socks as a gift from a friend, I would like to wear these on "first days" for ever after.
I LOVE rehearsal. I can't get enough of rehearsal. I love the room. I love the spike tape. I love the bowls of mints and couch drops. I love how some Stage Managers bring doughnuts. I love how some interns bring homemade baked goods. I love the chance to work with old friends. I love the chance to make new friends. I love how in rehearsal you can steal the opportunity to watch, in awe, the other artists in the room. I love to chance to laugh at ourselves. I love great direction. I love smart actors. I love insightful playwrights. I love working on a play with my husband - playing my husband. I love shared vocabulary. I love mining for gold. I love taking a chance. I love experimentation. I love falling on my face. I love sharing a breath with my scene partner. I love the discovery. I LOVE the imagination, I <love> the frustration, I LOVE the creation.
Happy 2015, all! It has been awhile since I have written due to hectic schedules and feeling uninspired to write for one reason or another -- or when I was inspired I had the overwhelming feeling that I could not possibly write about THAT topic...for fear of...one reason or another...Even though I wrote it and hit delete. One day. One day I will have the balls for it. Ah but...Life is overall pretty great here in our world. Bren opened and closed a show since last post. I was involved with a workshop/reading of a wonderful new play that will have a full production in the spring. We both taught some acting classes for kids on the spectrum. And I had to turn down a couple national commercial opportunities due to other commitments. (!) ...What a wacky, wonderful world. We are happy to be sharing some time with some very close artist friends who we only see a couple of times a year. We are starting the New Year off right! I am kicking it off with a raw plant diet and feeling good despite the fact that my jaws hurt from all the chewing...Try it and you will understand. Getting down to my fighting weight. Perhaps more on that topic later in the weeks ahead. For now I want to talk about something more pressing.
Almost a year ago, a director/theatre educator/friend invited us to come and visit a school for consideration in their grad program. Neither Bren nor I have an MFA. How we are surviving in this industry without one is a miracle but we are none the less. While extremely flattered for the opportunity and impressed with the program, we ultimately came to the conclusion that it was not the right thing for us at the time. This friend shined a light on something that I have been mulling over off and on for this past year, and here right at the beginning of the new year, it has reared its ugly head again...He shared an insight with me regarding something that I noticed over the years and continue to struggle with -- the IMPOSTER SYNDROME. I had never heard of this until I confessed to him that I was clearly not qualified and was feeling insecure about heading back into the classroom after so many years since undergrad. Maybe I was not a good enough actor to be there. He giggled as only he can, and wryly said "Oh you have the imposter syndrome too." I have since learned that many artists -- particularly women or artists of color have this same condition and anyone else who tends to be an over-achiever/perfectionist-- although I guess clinically it is not a "condition" per se. Do you know this thing? Do you have it? Ok, let me explain this and see if it sounds familiar...
You go into an audition. You do the monologue/cold read/scene. Pretty good. You get a callback. Pretty good. You book. YES! Wonderful. You immediately feel like you can't do it because as soon as you start rehearsals the director/other actors/producer/EVERYONE will discover that you can't act.
You are working a project. Things are going well. People involved are happy with the work. All is good. Deadlines are approaching. You are doing the work. It hits you in the shower or at 3am in the morning -- this is about to de-rail......You begin to get the sinking feeling that SOMEHOW you have managed to trick EVERYONE into thinking that you know what you are doing in spite of the fact that you have no idea and that you are sure you are going to fuck it all up. It is just a matter of time. Yeah, they like you now, you SEEM to be doing a good job but just you wait...just you wait, Henry Higgins....
You book on-camera work. You are so EXCITED! Big paycheck ahead. The universe provides! While learning the lines you realize that you are not very good at acting on-camera -- actually do you know how to act at all? You don't know what the hell you are doing...Why did they even cast me? How did I slip past them? I think I have to call in sick...I may cry. Like ugly cry. There is no way I can do this...
Well, you get the idea...This is the dreaded Imposter Syndrome...It is awful. Wait -- let me clarify something here. To have the Imposter Syndrome you actually have to be pretty good at said profession -- whether it be acting or accounting or business or whatever. You have to ACTUALLY have a successful career. You CAN'T really have a history of screwing things up...Then you really WOULD be an Imposter/Con/Shyster. You have to have a pretty good track record to anyone observing from the outside -- viewing your body of work from the outside...
But the observers don't know because they have been tricked by you. They have all been tricked. Just because you have good reviews, have never been fired from a gig or even a jobby-job for that matter, just because other artists seem to respect you and think your work is pretty solid (do they really think that? )...You seem to be booking consistently but...It is just luck. Statistics. Chance. Some people are just lucky and land on their feet, right? Ok, now I think you get the point...It can't be because you are talented or smart or capable or worthy... You see yourself as an imposter that is sure to be found out at any moment. With every new gig, I fear they will find out I have no talent.
"The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt. "~Sylvia Plath
I want to get rid of my Imposter. I don't need him. He no longer serves me. I think he needs a name. I attempted to name him from one of those stupid- ass quizzes that are going around the web NAME YOUR MONSTER. "Lethal Child" doesn't seem quite right. He is certainly not a child and while a royal pain-in-the-ass is not lethal by any means...More like an "Earl" or "Ramone." Maybe a "Fester" or maybe he is a she... -- "Yuca-mama" seems fitting in that she is a mythical South American river snake monster that eats everything she comes near... Maybe Yuca-Mama? Yuca-Mama, your days are numbered...I'm coming for YOU in 2015. Watch out...
Last night we were at a film festival with some dear friends and just as the lights went down, a tall man with a crazy, big, curly mop of hair, who seemed strikingly familiar, sat down right next to my husband, who also usually has crazy, big, curly hair. But not right now thanks. Gigs are good...I digress. I was transfixed on the wonderful film that we watched and the time flew by. It was fabulous. And I don't think I took my eyes off the screen the entire film. As the lights came up, I was busy drying my eyes and trying to look as if I had not been crying for the last 1/3 of the film. The man was gone and frankly I was busy thinking about finding a hanky in my handbag.
Flash forward to an after-party. We pushed our way through the crowd to get our signature drink and found a happy spot beyond the fray talking with some fascinating documentary film makers wearing Converse sneakers. Loved those guys. I looked up and there is the guy with the hair. How do I know you? Our friends remind me -- he is the star and director of a striking short film I LOVE that just so happened to win an Oscar a couple of years ago. He walks up to us, begins to chat and I loose my mind. I am no longer an actor or professional, I am a stupid fan. Before I can muster an intelligent conversation, he takes his cube of cheese and smiles politely, finishes talking to our friends and moves through the crowd, chatting it up with the sponsors, other fans & potential investors. I have no clear recollection of what exactly I said. I do know that I didn't mention that I was an actor or that my husband is an actor or anything remotely like that... Funny. Sidebar: Do you know the play Anton in Show Business? "Never ask an out of work actor what's next." I do think I asked him what was next. He luckily had future projects to talk about....On the to the next project, the "Hunt" continues. This morning Bren pulled up the Youtube of him receiving the Oscar. Surreal. At the end of the day, just another industry guy looking for support for his work. Albeit an Oscar- winning industry guy. Something is strangely reassuring about that. We are all in the same boat - well maybe not the same boats -- different sizes and models but all boats...
I often think about that quote about artists...Supposedly Queen Victoria is responsible for --
"Beware of artists. They mix with all classes of society and are therefore the most dangerous."
Today it has been swirling around and around in my mind. I can't imagine a group of people who have access in quite the same way as artists do. I think about my life in just the last couple of weeks and the truth of this statement is staggering. We know so many influential movers and shakers in a variety of fields (law, city, county, finance, real estate and business) and they know us by name-- I have been in conversations with many of them in just the last few weeks. I have had conversations with the fellows on the street and on their bikes who I see regularly downtown asking how their days are going. I started my acting class for kids on the autism spectrum where we open pretend presents and climb around in imaginary jungles. I was at a party last night where we people watched botox, high heels and evening gowns while I stood in my second-hand shoes talking to an Oscar-winner. We are surely lucky to be on this wild ride. Life is indeed strange and mysterious.
This is not a big earth shattering post...I burned the side of my hand this morning while cooking up some omelets for us...but it was a very hot skillet and I got the side of my thumb pretty good (bad). And what did I do? I went old school and went straight out to the porch and cut me a stem off my aloe vera plant.
First let me say, if you don't have a pot of this growing in your home then go out and buy one ASAP. They are happy little plants that are hearty and easy to grow. And they multiply like crazy. This little guy in the lower right of the picture was left out in the sunshine for too long and we just knew he was done for! Not true! We brought him inside for a couple weeks...watered him and put him close to some of our other healthy plants and look how healthy he is now! (Look I don't have kids or pets due to our nomadic lifestyle...I love plants. Don't judge...)
So if your grandmother never showed you how to use aloe straight from the plant, it goes like this. The old wives tale is -- the plant will tell you which stem it is offering. Never take the biggest one or the smallest one. Take a moment to look and you will see which one to take. With sharp scissors make a clean cut on your plant. At this point you want to make sure the area for application on your skin is clean and dry. You need to open up the stem and get the "goodie" out. We always just use our nails to open the plant up. Working from the small part of the stem downward to our cut, just open it up. I flatten the stem out flat - sort of creating a surface with the gel exposed and apply the gel right on to the affected area. Some people sort of squish it out of the stem like a tube of toothpaste. Whatever works for you. The goal is just to get a good amount of gel on the burn. It is going to be runny and sort of gross but just go with it. It is worth it. Viola'!
So what is so special about aloe? Well turns out it was given as a burial gift the Egyptian Pharaohs and was referred to as the plant of immortality...many people even drink the stuff for weight loss and other health benies. Depending on what you read it is either really good for you or could cause cancer...This is why we need to teach critical thinking in school....You decide for yourself...You can learn more about that here or read this interesting article here. Drinking it is not for me...boogers...
#stayhealthy #healthyactors #aleoiloveyou
I'm a southern gal with liberal politics who has worked my ass off and sacrificed a lot in order to be a working regional theatre actor. There are lots of working actors who are out here grinding without begin famous. And we consider that we have already MADE it. I really like to tell stories and solve the puzzle of the text. I LOVE untangling scripts and unlocking characters. I really give a damn about the planet and am an avid gardener. I love to get my hands dirty. I am completely fascinated by fellow journey(man) actors and how we survive and thrive. Ballin' on a budget, Baby. http://www.rachelburttram.com/