Sexual Assault and Hollywood

I feel like I should write a post about all of the sexual harassment "scandals" rocketing through Hollywood (and now also politics and on to pretty much every other industry) over the past several weeks. I'm just not really sure what exactly I have to say about it.

Anything I could possibly write in this blog post should be fairly obvious. Duh you shouldn't rape people. Respect women; we're people, too. Let's also not touch men without their consent while we're at it. Like, duh. There's no hot take to be had. There are shades of gray like there are in everything - there's a huge difference between Harvey Weinstein and Senator Al Franken - but so long as you have the minimal amount of awareness and respect for your fellow humans, acknowledge when you fuck up, and do your best to make it right when it happens, there generally shouldn't be a problem. Let's all work together to destroy rape culture. No shit, Sherlock.

But on a more personal note, it's the first thing that's ever made me nervous about being an actor. I've known my whole life that I'm going to struggle a little financially, that I'll never have job security, and that if I do "make it," I'll be objectified in tabloids. It's not exactly a part of the career that I enjoy/am looking forward to, but I knew what I was getting myself into with that and I'm okay with it. I did not think I was signing myself up to, more likely than not, get sexually assaulted.

Another obvious statement: I don't want to get raped. And it's discomforting to realize I've put myself in a place where it could easily happen. If my previous experience with harassment has been any indicator, no one will step in to help - the only one who would be able to stop it is me. So many abusers are being dragged into the court of public opinion, but not a whole lot is being done to change the "old boys club" culture and mindset, and there are very few recourses available if someone in a position of power does decide to put me in the casting couch scenario. If/When that happens, I will be forced to choose between my self-respect and my dreams.

It feels like a variant on the trolley problem in ethics. I can do nothing, and let someone take advantage of me, or I can walk out and potentially wreck my career, the only thing I've ever really wanted.

To be honest, if/when that happens, I genuinely have no idea what I'll choose.

It should be more comforting that people are beginning to actually believe women as they describe being assaulted and by whom. But, while I support each of these incredible people coming forward 1000%, it's way more terrifying than comforting. It's just another stark reminder that so many people I've spent so much of my life admiring are actually monsters. And who am I if I've spent all this time wanting to be them, or at least be around them?

Destroying Personal Limitations - "The limit does not exist!" - Mean Girls

Well. It's been an eventful month. I was in an off Broadway showcase back in New York. Two weeks later, there was an attack in Tribeca. The Weinstein scandal hit, and then so many other people have been shown to be abusive as well. Halloween. Personal technological problems (all of my electronics are dying all at once help).

Obviously, some of these are bigger and more relevant than others. Those are the ones that take more time to think about and really consider. The growing number of sexual harassment accusations in Hollywood is one of them. I'm gonna make a post about that soon, because I have Thoughts and Things I Want to Say. But the situation is still unfolding, and it's so sensitive that it deserves a measured, well-considered response. But don't worry. It's coming. (Pun, while morbid and in bad taste, intended.)

Instead, I'm writing about something lighter today. It's the showcase I did of Taking Wing: Legends of Emimencia in mid-October, and how it showed me that, even though I have self-esteem coming out of every inch of me, I still put limitations on myself that don't exist outside of my mind.

I hadn't done musical theater since college. Then I was brought on to this show relatively early, and didn't entirely know it would be a musical. I knew music would be involved, but when I got an email asking me to send the composer/lyricist my vocal type, that was a bit of a surprise.

And then I walked into my first rehearsal. I was handed the book for the show, some sheet music, the music director played the music for the opening song, we said the words together in rhythm, and then he said, "Okay, go." And he just played the song and we had to sing it perfectly with him and I had never done that before but the cool thing was... I did it. I just made it happen.

The show overall was insanely fun - it's children's theatre, after all, why wouldn't it be? - and I got to meet so many lovely, interesting, funny, dedicated people through doing it. I couldn't have had a better excuse to go back to New York. And it was a whirlwind two weeks in terms of personal growth. Just like I would expect NYC to be.

(I'm not trying to turn this into an essay about how great New York is. It's already great. It doesn't need yet another essay on the subject for that. But just so long as I'm mentioning the city, it seems like a good time to say, once again, how much I love it.)

Now, here's to more projects ahead full of destroying the limitations that I only believe exist.

Yom Kippur, Judaism, and Me - "No. It's the holiest day of the year." - Transparent

As a not especially religious Jew, I know I don't have to fast on Yom Kippur. Except I know that it is absolutely the right thing for me to do.

Let's keep in mind that I am really not observant. I didn't go to services today, yesterday, or on Rosh Hashanah, or on any of the Days of Awe in between. Or frankly any at all for the past several years. I think nothing of working on Shabbat. I barely celebrate most holidays. Honestly, even though today is both Shabbat AND Yom Kippur, making it especially holy, I'm still going to an audition this afternoon.

But for whatever reason, it's still deeply meaningful to me that I am Jewish. And Yom Kippur along with Rosh Hashanah are the most important holidays of them all. So I ate apples and honey last week, and today I am fasting until 7:39pm and thinking about what it is I have to atone for.

To be honest, I'm not sure about most of my atonement. I'm sure I've hurt people in the past year because we all do. Humans mess up sometimes. But, like, everyone else, it's always unintentional, so if someone doesn't tell me that I hurt them, I probably don't know that I did.

I could do the thing that some of my Jewish friends do where they make a Facebook status asking people they've hurt to come forward and tell them so they can apologize. But that always seems like such a bullshit, empty gesture to me. Why would anyone ever come forward with an old grievance? Assuming we're all mature adults, the wronged party should've already moved on by now. And it passes off all the work of atonement on to the people they've already hurt. That's not what it's supposed to be about.

Fasting reminds me that atonement isn't about apologizing for individual sins. Obviously, when I do think of specific people I've hurt, or specific things I've done, I want to do what has to be done to make it right. And if someone does want to come to me and tell me how I've hurt them, I hope they feel free to do so. But the lessons of atonement are about realizing what problematic behaviors we employ, and how to change ourselves so we don't continue to do them in the future. It's about constant personal improvement so we are worthy of being sealed in the Book of Life for another year.

I know that I can be judgmental. I know that I can be selfish and greedy. I know that I am willing to flat out use people sometimes to get what I want. I know that I am deeply impatient. I know that it is difficult for me to let things go, even when it's harmful to me to keep holding on to them. These are the things that I'm thinking about today while atoning. And over the course of 5778, I'm going to work on making myself better in each of these areas. I still won't be perfect. I'm still human. But the whole point is that I'm aware and I'm trying. It's all any person or any god could ask.

Finally, I'm not eating today by choice. But it's not an option for people in Puerto Rico. I'm sure you're all aware and doing what you can for hurricane relief, but if you can, please give. And give again. This is a pretty good charity through which to do it: https://hispanicfederation.org/donate

Good Things and How Did I Get Them?? - "Small daily improvements are the key to staggering long-term results." - Jeff Olson

I'm a pretty determined, stubborn person. And I am very, very good at getting things done - I'm good at pushing until it happens. So usually, when I hear people talking about submitting to the flow of the universe and how the path of least resistance is usually the best one, I think it's bullshit.

I also hate to admit when I'm wrong.

So it's a struggle for me to acknowledge that there are a few areas of my life where I just haven't been able to aim my focus over the past month or so, and suddenly each of those areas is going really well.

I decided that I needed to put more energy into making money, and I'm going on auditions almost daily. I decided that it's not even like I know that many people in LA so instead of being social, I would catch up on movies and TV I want to watch, and now I have so many social plans that I have multiple people trying to do things with me on any given weekend night.

Do you know how frustrating it is to know that there is nothing I can do to make this happen in other areas of my life, or to ensure that this keeps happening?

There's a certain point where some of these things come from habits that I maintain, and all I have to do is continue with those habits and the good things will keep coming. I read a couple of books a while ago called The Power of Habit and The Slight Edge, which were about basically that concept. Good things don't come from one big positive action. They come from little positive actions taken every day.

But there's also a certain point where I can't be making these people like me. I'm a lovely human, but no one is everyone's cup of tea.

So I suppose, for now, all I can do is be grateful I have these good things and auditions and people, and keep up the good habits that allowed me to get them in the first place.

Somehow, that doesn't feel like enough for the good things that are coming into my life. But I don't know what else to do other than appreciate them.

Happiness, Depression, and Creating Art - "I needed color." - Jim Carrey

In my sophomore year of college, one of my exes was dating one of my friends, and I wasn't jealous, per se, but it wasn't something I had experienced before and it was weird. I spent a lot of that first semester feeling lonely, unwanted, and just generally sad.

When I was an underclassman, I also made a lot of vague, passive-aggressive Facebook statuses. What do we call it when it's subtweeting but on Facebook? Because it was that. I did that. But at one point I made some angsty status about my sadness at least good fodder for my artistry as an actress and a writer, and one of my friends - an actress I deeply respect - commented on it, saying that she does her best work when she's at her happiest.

Especially since my last post about how hard the first month in LA has been, I've been thinking a lot about happiness and depression and the art that comes out of it.

I've considered all of the great artists who experienced incredible pain, to the point of taking their own lives. Robin Williams (it's the anniversary of his death today, too), Phillip Seymour Hoffman, and Heath Ledger, for example. They all created art that has brought us incredible joy and meaning, even though they were also in excruciating pain.

I also think about awards show speeches, though. I know, I know, awards shows don't really matter, they don't represent the things that "real people" actually watch, and all that other crap. But I also love them, because you get to see peoples' dreams coming true. And in almost every thank you speech, the honoree talks about the people that they love, and the support they feel from them. These are people who have blessed lives in many ways, and while we can all point to examples of celebrities who have various demons made public, I think it's also fair to say that many of the most successful ones can and do lead happy lives, and they also make joyful and meaningful art.

And maybe it's just a combination of both? I watched this short documentary about Jim Carrey and his work as a painter where he talks about how he used art to take him out of a depressive place and into a much happier one.

For myself, I know working on my art has been much more difficult over the past month. Part of it is also that I don't have a structure for doing it, or a place to share it. But I've also just been sad, and that makes it so much harder for me to work, even if it's the work that I love and enjoy doing. Even in the evenings, time I would usually spend writing, or researching, or watching new movies and television, I've instead been binging episodes of shows I've already seen multiple times. They're comfortable, and I just can't make myself want to do anything else.

I'm not sure how to get out of it or change it. Maybe I just need a group to help me out? If I were to join a scene study class, I would be forced to work, after all. And it's definitely possible I'm thinking about it the wrong way around - maybe it's not that I need to be happy to work, but I need to work to be happy. My life is always at it's best when I have the most stuff going on, after all. That's money that I don't have, though. So I'm not really sure what the next step would be. I'm sure I'll figure it out, or I'll start getting more work in films as I stay here longer. Something will change. It has to. Everything has been so in flux in my life, it doesn't make sense that this could be the one thing that would stagnate.

And, I have to say, I have gotten such an appreciation for those who deal with mental illness. It's been exhausting for me, and my experience is just a month of high but normal levels of stress from moving. I've always known that mental illness = bad, but if it's been this difficult for me, I can't imagine what it's like for people who experience it on a chronic level. I consider myself to be a fairly strong woman, but they have a strength that I will never know.

Stress and Relief - “It’s a good idea always to do something relaxing prior to making an important decision in your life.” - Paulo Coelho

If I never have to contact a utility company again, it will be too soon.

Almost a month ago I flew out to LA with a one month sublet in West Hollywood and some very simple goals in mind. II was going to find a job and a permanent home, and then once I was settled, I could start taking acting classes out here, look for LA representation, et cetera.

God, what a stupid plan.

Don't get me wrong, I did it. I found some temp work, and this week I have an interview at a restaurant I'm excited about. And I just signed the lease and set up utilities for my new home in North Hollywood. I definitely made it happen.

But this past month has been one of the most stressful, depressing months of my life.

It might have been that way regardless. I just left my home and the greatest city in the world to come to a place where I have friends whom I love and cherish, but it's not the same as the roots I had there. The job hunt is always stressful. The apartment hunt is always stressful. Trying to find an owner who will let you lease an apartment when you don't have a job is even more stressful. And I did it while seeing things happen with my support system in New York and knowing I would've been a part of it had I stayed. I've been homesick like I've never experienced before in my life, and even though I'm known for my consistently positive outlook, I've found that almost impossible to maintain. I'm used to the vast majority of days being good days for me, but I've found myself counting the good days here because they've been so much rarer.

Partway through, I definitely realized that what I should've done was get a longer, but still short-term sublet. Like, three months or so. That way I could take the time to find a day job - the right day job - and not worry about being able to tell landlords that I'm employed. Take the time to explore the neighborhoods of LA. And let my roommates get out here so we could do the house search together, instead of insisting that I could do it all myself.

But especially over the past week and a half or so, I've had way more good days. I started really reaching out to and connecting with my friends here. My birthday was amazing, filled with friends whom I love. I've started auditioning for real, because the idea that I had about not focusing on acting was dumb. It's the whole reason I came out here in the first place. And once I move in and start getting paid, my whole life will be way less stressful.

And I can't wait until my new roommates get out here, too! We'll all be starting our new lives together, and they're such awesome, quality humans.

There is a friend in New York with whom I've had extensive conversations about happiness. What does it mean to be happy? How do we feel things? Can we detach ourselves from emotions? Can we do so selectively? Can you understand happiness without feeling sadness or other dark emotions? I can't say any one of us absolutely knows the answer to any/all of those, but I'm pretty sure I'm at least going to appreciate my upcoming happiness much more for knowing how stressful not having the things I'm about to have can be.

The Seminar Post - "Thanks, SpongeBob. I'll alert the New York Times."

I knew that moving across the country would be hard at first. Like, I knew that. But there's a huge difference between intellectually understanding it and really feeling it. This past week in LA has been hard, man.

But instead of thinking about how difficult it is, I want to talk about one of the things that made me happiest before I left: Seminar!

You guys, I am so proud of this show. And it is entirely because of the incredible cast and crew.

Rachel Goodgal is an incredible director. She had this incredible eye for finding exactly what was missing from a scene, or knowing what to change about our set or blocking to change the feeling of the entire moment for the better. And best of all, she's so good at directing actors, probably because she is one herself! She never tells us how to feel

James Horgan played Leonard, and you never would've guessed that this was his first play. He was so cool and cunning and so different from how I originally pictured Leonard. In my initial concept for the show, Leonard would've been much snarkier, more emotional, and openly sexual. But he is proof positive that being open to the unexpected can only make a creative project better.

Conversely, there is no point at which I could ever have pictured anyone other than Justin Andrew Davis playing Douglas. He does pretentious and overly intellectual so well, but the thing that makes it so good isn't the wry humor that comes with it. It's that he's such a kind, thoughtful, and compassionate person just as a human, and that comes through in his performances as well giving them this beautiful layer of depth you otherwise would never see.

I was so excited to get to work with Wesley Cady as Izzy. She's one of my oldest friends, and she's getting her MFA from Wayne State, but this is the first time we've ever done a creative project together! She's so natural on stage - there are few actors who don't feel the need to do something, but she just is. She just sits there and listens and that makes her absolutely mesmerizing.

Last but not at all least is Christopher Erlendson as Martin. Firstly, the show wouldn't have happened without him. There were several times when I had issues finding a venue and other important things and I seriously considered dropping the project. He's the one who kept finding solutions to problems I thought were impossible. I couldn't be more grateful that he did. And he was an extraordinary Martin. There was one night where we spent hours in rehearsal just discussing character and relationships; I've never seen anyone so devoted to a project as he is to everything he chooses to join. (He has a couple of shows coming up, too! Check out the new production of A Kreutzer Sonata at The Secret Theatre in New York in August! And then Magic? later this year!)

I also want to give a shout out to The Artist Co-op, who so graciously let us use their space! It was the perfect location for this particular production - immersive and creative - and their whole set up both ingenious and genuinely useful for artists.

There are many things about producing a show that are really, deeply frustrating. But this experience was the best reminder that it can be so worth it.

Travelling Across the Country - "To what extent do you know that I'm moving to LA?" - Me, lately, a whole lot.

Yesterday I flew to Los Angeles. Now I'm here.

Over the course of the day I fluctuated from being deeply excited to explore a new city to not wanting to ever leave New York to being determined to make this happen to wondering why the hell I was doing this to myself to desperately wanting to produce something and act in it here so I can find my fellow People Who Do Things. And I would go through all of those within the span of five minutes.

There's a difference between intellectually knowing that my friends in New York are still going to care about me and not feel like I decided to just leave them, and actually emotionally believing it. And I don't know how to convince them that they're still important to me when they already know it.

Also, New York is so important to me. It's my hometown, it's the "concrete jungle where dreams are made." I've discovered who I am there, I've fallen in love there, both with the people and the city. I picked my major in college because of just one street in Manhattan! (Okay, maybe it's not just Broadway, but New York is THE place to be for theatre in the US.) It's shaped every aspect of who I am. How could I possibly leave it?

But I've barely been here twelve hours and LA has already so fully welcomed me. I had several wonderful friends who I knew from before who couldn't possibly make it more clear how excited they are for me to be here. I had to promise a few of them to text as soon as the plane landed, and I'm so psyched to see them. In my Lyft on the way to my apartment, I had the most lovely conversation with my driver and fellow passengers. My roommate in my first sublet here is kind and friendly and so, so helpful. I already have social plans for tomorrow (since today is all about recovery from flying and jet lag) and people are going out of their way to invite me to events and direct me towards people and resources that could be useful. So many actresses come to LA, and I am absolutely the freshest off the plane, and it feels unfair that so many people should be wanting to help me, but I love and appreciate it nonetheless!

And LA is so beautiful. The weather here is perfect. LA people kept warning me as I was arriving that I'm coming into a heat wave, but it's just heat without the intense humidity, and it's kind of lovely. And I get to take advantage of it, because there's a pool?? In my apartment building??? It's amazing to me.

It's still hard to know that, unless I get an East Coast gig or a major audition for me comes up there and I can't self-tape for it, I probably won't be back in New York for six months. I have a thing about never letting people see me cry in real life, but I couldn't stop myself when I was in the plane and it was taking off. Good thing I had a window seat so only the girl in my row knew I was doing it.

When Seminar went up this past Saturday (!!) (More on that soon!) the rest of the cast gave me flowers after the show for my last performance in New York.

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We went out for drinks afterwards, and I was overwhelmed by the feeling, the wondering how I could ever leave New York.

I can't wait to have the same feeling about LA.

"So, what's it gonna be? Do you want to be a writer... or not?" - Seminar

I'm in a play on Saturday! Yay!

It's Seminar, by Theresa Rebeck. I'll be playing Kate. You can still get tickets at seminartac.brownpapertickets.com

There are a few interesting things about this show. One is the discussion of how feminist it is. You all know by now that I'm pretty feminist, and I think this play agrees with the feminism that I believe in. But there's also a pretty easy argument that it is, in fact, anti-feminist. I'll go into that more in a different post. For now, though, no spoilers! You'll just have to come see the show and then discuss it with me afterwards.

More than that, though, is the level to which I've been able to discuss acting, performance, writing, and art with artists whom I respect and admire by working with them in this show. I know actors always talk about how much we learn in every show/film/whatever. But this is a play all about what it means to reveal yourself, to be vulnerable, and to be an artist. And here I've gotten to be surrounded by thoughtful, deliberate people and discuss what that means both within the context of the show and in our own lives.

And last night I had a wonderful experience with my Martin, Christopher Erlendson, where we spent hours going in depth about character, how Martin sees everyone else in the show, what it means to play emotions and how to do it. And I realized what a special place we're at in our careers, where we've found people who are really that good - the people we're going to "come up" with as we move through the ranks - and we have the time to sit down and really decide what acting means to us. Emotions. The human condition. Relationships and what it is to connect with another human being.

I've seen stories from people who "made it" and then later on in life looked back and their favorite part was their early careers where they didn't have the money they made later on, but they had everything in front of them, and I always used to look at those and be like "yeah, but career and financial security would be nice." But now I think I get it? I don't have the benefit of that length of experience yet, but I realized that I'm at that place in my career, and I'm so grateful to have such cool people with whom I get to go through it.

Anyway, come see Seminar this Saturday! I promise it'll be a cool show. 

Processing Life Events

So, several life changing things have happened to me and the people around me this month.

-I left my day job.
-I found a place to live in LA, meaning that my move over there is Really Happening.
-One of my close friends from middle school got married.
-A friend of mine took me to the Tony's.

From a year and a half long dream fulfilled (I liked my day job well enough, but it's not like I ever wanted to stay a server) to a childhood dream fulfilled (I wenT TO THE TONY'S OH MY GOD), it's been an intense month. And I'm still processing pieces of it.

For instance, my friend getting married. She and her girlfriend have been together for years, so it wasn't really a surprise to anyone. But it was still so wonderful to have a day that's all about them and their happiness. You know how there's always that one bridesmaid who is up by the altar just sobbing with happy tears? Guess who has two thumbs and was the bridesmaid that did that?? THIS GIRL. But it's also made me think a lot about what it is that I want in my personal, romantic life. Casual dating just isn't doing it for me. So what comes next? What is it that I want? What are the steps I would have to take to achieve that, and are there any that I can actually do? I don't know.

My feelings about moving to LA also keep fluctuating wildly on a literally minute-to-minute basis. I can't wait to explore a new city, and see what else there is for me on the other side of the country. I love film, and I'm about to be in a city that is absolutely dedicated to it. And I've gotten very comfortable in New York; too comfortable, I think, and I want to always be outside of my comfort zone. But also... how am I supposed to leave New York? Amy Poehler talks about "finding your tribe" in Yes, Please, and I'm well aware that I have finally really found mine only now as I'm about to leave. I have people here I love both working with and also just being around. And now I'm supposed to leave them? I'm aware that it's not forever and we'll still be friends and they'll still think of me for their work and everything, the same way I'll think of them. But I can't believe that I have to start all over again. I know I would have to do it eventually anyway. That doesn't make it fun.

Anyway, the point is, it's been one hell of a month. I've loved it. But oh man, there is so much to feel and I don't know how to process all of it just yet. Good thing I'm going somewhere where I won't have much of a social life so I'll have time to myself to do just that, huh?

On a separate topic, but still important, I'm doing one more show before I leave New York!

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Come see Seminar on Saturday the 1st at 8pm at The Artist Co-op! It's a script in hand reading, and I'll be playing Kate (along with having produced it). You can get tickets at seminartac.brownpapertickets.com. I'm sure I'll write more about this one soon, too!

Food and Sleep, Even When It's Gross - "Well, I haven't died yet." - Me, to my coworkers, upon eating unfinished food

Here's a dirty little secret about me working in a restaurant. When someone doesn't finish their food, if there's a lot of it left or they don't seem especially sick or disgusting, I take it into the back kitchen and finish it myself.

For a while recently, I didn't get to do that as much. I either had shifts where people just finished their own food, or there was a child at the table who had put their mouth on everything, or service was too busy and I didn't have the time to stop and eat the remainder of that croque madame. I found myself hating everyone by the end of each shift, and I just kept thinking that I had too many obnoxious, entitled tables in a row, or that my ability to continue in the service industry was just being worn out.

And then last week I was closing the restaurant, and it was almost the end of the night, and the chef let us have what remained of our tuna tartare special because we were about to close the kitchen and it's not like he could've saved it for another service. And upon eating it, my mood just shot right up. I was so happy by the end of the night. I had never thought I'm the kind of person to get hangry before, but there it was, proof positive that food will always make me feel better.

I know I've written about self-care on this blog before, but sometimes it's not treating yourself to something expensive or taking a day to do at-home spa treatments. Sometimes it's just the most obvious things that we forget, like making sure we're eating enough, and getting enough sleep.

Multiple times over the past couple of weeks, I've slept past my alarm. And it's not the worst thing in the world because I do so much of my actor/producer work from home, and I never slept in so much that I was late for a shift at the day job. But because of that, I kept forgoing the one day a week I just turn off my alarm and sleep as late as I need to. And for the past couple of weeks, I've spent every day in a fog of fatigue.

Last night, I decided that if I kept sleeping through my alarm and still continued to wake up tired, maybe there was an issue, and I should just let myself get the sleep I need. So I turned off my alarm for today.

I slept ten and a half hours. And woke up at 1pm. That's not a sustainable sleep schedule. But oh my god, I feel so good and rested right now. I feel eager for the day ahead of me, not exhausted at the thought that I can't come back to bed for a whole day.

And I think the general moral of these experiences here is that self-care isn't about doing something nice for yourself. It's about doing something necessary for yourself. And sometimes that does mean an extra dessert, or buying something that's purely pretty. But that's just an add-on to making sure you're taking care of your basic needs as a human.

I have to admit, I feel a little embarrassed that I forgot that.

Times Square Accident and How We See It

I meant to write about editing my reel together today, and then a car drove straight into pedestrians at Times Square, and it made me think about how we feel about and react to things around us.

Because I heard the news and barely reacted at all.

Before I knew it was a drunk driver, I got a little upset that someone tried to attack MY NEW YORK again. And I was - and still am - sad for the person who died and their friends/family. I hope that the people who were injured heal easily and swiftly. But that's all a little in the background since I don't know any of them. And I'm not sure to what extent that's terrifying, or is it just normal human psychology?

We hear so many stories of people getting hurt and dying every day. We can't possibly grieve them all. We couldn't get on with our own lives if we did. Is that mindset compassion fatigue, or a normal coping mechanism?

The other thing about that which scares me is that later on today, I was hanging out with my brother (he just got home for the summer from his sophomore year of college!) and we were watching Star Trek: The Next Generation, and the episode we watched made me cry.

Real people being injured did next to nothing for me, but a fictional girl dying on a TV show made me lose my shit.

Now, there are some obvious differences. I can see the people crying on Star Trek. Even if they're not real, they're characters that I'm very familiar with, so it feels like I know them. It's personal. And all I've seen about the events in Times Square today are a couple of headlines from the New York Times. I don't think I know anyone who was involved. But isn't it supposed to be part of human empathy that we can feel for people we don't know when tragedies befall them?

I genuinely don't have any answers to this. Is it a problem that is unique to the modern era since, with modern technology, we can hear more than ever about terrible things around the world, and we're simply overwhelmed? But humans have heard about and committed atrocities throughout all of history and moved on with their lives. I don't really know. But both as a human and as an actor who is supposed to feel, observe, and tell the stories of human emotion, it's something I couldn't not think about today.

I hope you and your loved ones are all alright.

Magic?, Measure for Measure, and the Tribeca Film Festival - "Farewell. Nope. The mayor is a drunkard as well, tell him I said so!" - Lucia, Measure for Measure

Going into the last half of April, there was a part of me that thought I'd be able to find time to keep up this blog while also being in Magic?, Measure for Measure, and working the Tribeca Film Festival. That was straight up a bald-faced lie to myself.

So now instead, let's review!

The Tribeca Film Festival is one of my absolute favorite things, but this year it just flew past me. I only got to see five films, and I just barely eked in the minimum number of shifts. But I always love being around the energy of the festival. There's always a feeling like new and exciting things are happening there - it's not about having the films that are going to win Academy Awards, but telling stories and using media that represent the future of storytelling.

Also, I got to experience VR for the first time there this year. IT'S SO COOL. I don't think it's a replacement for cinema as we know it. But what a weird and interesting experience to slip a headset on over your eyes, and look around underneath the ice in Antarctica.

Definitely did not attend opening night of the festival, though. That's because it was the same night as the performance of Magic? at Dixon Place!

Photo credit: Mo Rabbani

Photo credit: Mo Rabbani

What a ride of a show. Going from being cast to putting the show up in less than three weeks? It was so insanely intense. And it never could've worked without my talented, giving castmates, and more than that, our dedicated director, Chris Erlendson. I already wrote about how great they all on my last post. Even if that was a month ago. But it deserves repeating again. And again. And again.

The cool thing about this show was how much everyone was willing to give to make it work. When you do a show with a certain level of intensity - you especially see this in high school and collegiate theater, or touring companies - everyone in the cast and crew becomes family. You just spend too much time together not to. And it's interesting to me that we were able to attain that even though we did the show so quickly. Maybe it's because our lives revolved around each other so much for that time. When all day every day is devoted to the same group of people, maybe you're just bound to get that connection, even if that experience only happens for a relatively short length of time.

And then after the Tribeca Film Festival, I was in Measure for Measure! This one was just a ton of fun, and it reminded me so much why I enjoy playing comic characters.

Photo credit: Dylan Lopez

Photo credit: Dylan Lopez

I played Lucia (genderbend of the original character Lucio) and what a character arc that story has, man. She's funny, and she's part of the comic relief of the show, but she's not just a dumb delinquent meant to amuse the "common people" in the cheap seats back in Shakespeare's day. She has a point of view of what Deputy Angelo is doing in Vienna, and she is very deliberate at every turn in how she chooses to stick it to the man. She does it with a smile on her face and a clever insult on her tongue, but she does it well. It turns out that the man gets to stick it back to her in the end. (Shakespeare did have a thing about the innate goodness of nobility. I guess you have to when they're the ones paying your bills.) But she's an interesting, fun, crafty character, and it means the world to me that our brilliant dramaturg and director Jenna Schlags entrusted me with her. If it had been up to me, I would've thought of myself as more of an Isabella. But I so, so prefer having been Lucia. She's a character that's going to stick with me for a long time.

And what's coming up next? I don't know, man. I'm gonna try to stick one more show in there before the move to LA, I think. Because if Magic? taught me anything, it's that you can easily do a show in two weeks! Or, if not easily, you can at least do it. So I'm going to see what can be done. It's part of the spirit I love so much of New York.

Almost, Maine and Magic?

I cried on Monday. It was pretty great.

If you saw my post last week, then you know I produced and acted in Almost, Maine by John Cariani at the TBG Studio Theatre on the 10th! And it was exactly every actor/producer's dream. A big, responsive audience! A smooth show! And we raised $762 for the ACLU!!

But more than that, I'm so proud and grateful for the people I had doing the show with me, and I just want to take the time here to talk about how dedicated, thoughtful, and thorough they all were for this project. My director, Charlotte Grady, 100% made this show what it is. I may have handled the logistics, but she thought of so many things that go into putting on a show that I never considered, and without her, I don't even want to think about what it would've looked like. Speaking of the look, Ana-Sofia Meneses is a brilliant costume designer. At our very first meeting, she came in with several lookboards of ideas of what the characters and ensemble should look like, from the Norman Rockwell-ian to the idea of us all being seen through a frosted pane of glass like you would find in northern Maine, with pops of strawberry red for love. And, of course, the look wouldn't have been complete without Shannon Kavanaugh who has an eye not just for beautiful painting, but also making sure everything is cohesive and on-theme. Plus, when we got to the show date, she was happy to do whatever needed to be done backstage just to make sure the show went off without a hitch. And, of course, absolutely nothing on stage could've happened without the technical help of Claire Fishman. When we were in college together, I was part of a meeting where I saw several directors fighting over who got to have her as the stage manager for their show. And now I got to have her in mine! (And, I have to say, I'm exceptionally proud that we were able to come together as easily as we did and be an all-female production team.)

And then, of course, there's our brilliant cast. There were eighteen of us, so I don't have the space to talk about each one of them individually. But suffice it to say that they brought this play that I love so much to life, and they were totally willing to jump in, heart and soul, and give their time, energy, and thoughtfulness to this production, and I'm just so over the top proud and honored.

Valeria Avina
Arielle Beth
Adrian Burke
Jon Butts
Noah Chen
Dan DeCarlo
Therese Dizon
Raul Hernandez
Daniel Kemper
Corrie Legge
Chanelle McCoy
Uki Pavlovic
Rahmell Peebles
Marjay Smith
Chance Wall
Jenny Ward
Patryce Williams
Hannah Yi

And now, after this, it's on to the next show... which is literally this Wednesday.

It's called Magic? and it's a one-act told entirely in rhyme! The director and co-writer, Chris Erlendson, compared it to the way Shakespeare's works are written. And I promptly teased him for comparing himself to Shakespeare. The other co-writer is Yaakov Bressler, and Hannah Yi is gonna be acting with me in this, too!

But actually though, it's a clever, funny, sweet show. I'm psyched to be a part of it. I have my own theme music. It's that cool. And, for a variety of reasons, we had to pull it together in about two and a half weeks. But guys, I swear to god, we're doing it. Come out to Dixon Place this Wednesday at 7:30. It's gonna be incredible. (See how that's a link? It's a link to where you can buy tickets online!)

"But Emma, I'm a visual learner, how do I KNOW it's gonna be-"

VOILA! A promo video. Now you can be absolutely certain it's worth seeing.

Almost Maine and Being American - "The sentimental person thinks things will last - the romantic person has a desperate confidence they won't." - F. Scott Fitzgerald

I've been thinking a lot about what it is to be an American lately. On one hand, yikes. On the other hand, maybe I've just watched too much Aaron Sorkin, but I so deeply believe in what America can be.

(I know, I made a post like this at the beginning of July. Bear with me. It ends up differently, I promise!)

Beyond ridiculous, it would be foolish, ignorant, and pointless to ignore the atrocities that the United States has committed. We are definitely the country of modern day mass incarceration and an incredibly racist "war on drugs." The Japanese internment camps. Sandy Hook. The genocide of the Native Americans. The fact that we're built on the back of slavery. The whitewashing of Asian narratives like Ghost in the Shell and Death Note. And how I literally just got the NY Times notification that the Republicans changed Senate rules to block a filibuster of a Supreme Court nominee, despite having blocked President Obama's nomination of Merrick Garland.

We're just also a country that's full of people who are trying to do better. For all that we're a country of civil rights abuses, we're also a country of people protesting them and really believing they can change. We're the country of Alexander Hamilton and Lin-Manuel Miranda. We're the country of the American Dream, which never quite seems to die since we all do keep feeling hope for the future; eight and a half years ago, Barack Obama won the presidency because he tapped into that. We're the first responders who ran into the Twin Towers as they were burning to save as many people as they could.

It might be more accurate to say that I believe in the idea of America more than the reality of America. Because, like I said before, yikes. I don't even want to go into the current administration and how terrible everything surrounding it is.

I just think that the idea of America is something beautiful and worth striving towards, and I see that we do on a regular basis.

In that vein is why I'm producing a staged reading of Almost, Maine by John Cariani this Monday!

(See? I told you this would be different from my annual post around the Fourth of July!)

Almost, Maine is a play about everyday people in this average small town dealing with love and the human condition. What my brilliant director, Charlotte Grady, and I have done is assemble as diverse a cast with people of as many different skin colors, nationalities, and religions as we could. Because, despite our backgrounds and how we look, we're all Americans, and we're far more alike than we are different.

Which is, I think, the whole point.

Also, all the money we raise is going to go to the ACLU. Because they are just such a huge part of the solution.

If you're interested in seeing it, you should get your tickets now! They're on sale at almostmainetbg.brownpapertickets.com. (I'm also acting in it, if that helps!)

There's also an option there if you can't make it but just want to donate to the ACLU through us.

Because we're not in a great place right now. But I genuinely do believe that we can do better.

An Open Letter About Compliments from Someone Who Hates Open Letters

To the friend who complimented me at Starbucks last week,

You complimented me on my confidence, and I don't think you know how nice that was. It was really, really nice. It was instantly-make-it-into-the-top-five-best-compliments-I've-ever-received nice, right up there with "your face reminds me of sunshine," "you magical, sparkly unicorn of glory," and "I'm pretty sure anyone in this cast would do you sober" (back before I believed that I'm beautiful). You said my level of confidence is substantiated and refreshing, and I felt myself blush, waved my hands, said it was mostly bluster when I display it, and came back with a compliment for you.

A couple of hours later, I realized that it seemed like I had just blown off what you said, and then said something nice because you said something nice first. And I don't know if you saw it that way, or if you've thought of this interaction at all since. Which is a major part of the reason I'm putting this in a blog post as opposed to just saying it to you. #awkward. But I wanted to put it out there because, at the very least, I've been thinking about it a lot for the past week.

It was such a lovely thing to say because my confidence is something I've been working hard on over the past few years, and I'm proud of it. I get compliments about my looks on a semi-regular basis, and they're all very kind, but they're usually about the accident of my genetics. They're easy to graciously accept because they don't involve any kind of major insight on the part of the person giving them. It's always appreciated, but it's not like I did any work to grow my eyes.

But my confidence is still something I struggle with every day. Most days I have good days with it now. I do believe that I'm pretty, and I like what I see when I look in the mirror. I know that I'm intelligent, and I keep reading books and seeking out friends (like you!) who stimulate and challenge me to keep growing. I understand that I'm funny because I make smart people laugh.

There's a huge difference, though, between intellectually getting all of this and emotionally accepting it.

When I first started auditioning after college, I was quiet and polite. Absolutely nothing about me stood out. And I was only okay as an actress. So I really wasn't getting anywhere. I got my first callback after an audition where I had already been having a good day, so that followed me in to the audition room, and I realized that, if I don't show my personality, then I'll never be cast in anything. And if they don't like my personality? Well, that was a major worry of mine, but if I don't show anything I'll also never be cast, so it was a risk I was literally forced to take.

But I was into such nerdy stuff and spent most of my grade school life being liked, but rarely as much more than an acquaintance, that I didn't think anyone would really like me. I've had to pretend that I'm not terrified to show who I am for years now. And I've gotten better at it, to the point where I almost never have a problem anymore. But it's always there in the background, the only part of me in which I assume "real adults" are interested. I have to fight it every day, and It's a source of great pride for me that, most of the time, I win and can be my ridiculous, vivacious, pun-loving self.

So when you saw past my obvious positive attributes to compliment something truly meaningful to me, I just didn't know how to handle it. It's not often that anyone feels really seen, but there in that Starbucks, I felt under the spotlight, far more so than I have ever been on stage or screen, in the best possible way.

This whole post is my long, complicated, deeply-over-intellectualized way of saying thank you. The original interaction may not have meant much to you. This may be a way over the top form of thanks. I honestly don't know.

But it was really sweet, and even if it was just an everyday conversation to you, it meant the world to me. It's something I really care about, and I love that you saw it and believe in it, too. So thank you.

You da best.

Emma

Know Thyself - γνῶθι σεαυτόν

So self-image is weird. Not just self-image, but the way we behave that confirms or denies that is weird. And the way that other people confirm or deny that for us, and how we choose to see it.

I know so many people who say that they're actors, but they haven't gone on auditions in months, and they certainly don't create any work for themselves. But they will insist over and over again when they go to the movies or watch an episode of a TV show that they really like that they can't wait to be there themselves. And I compare them to friends of mine who don't consider themselves to be in the industry, but make theater just for fun, and it's incredible. And they're clearly doing the work, which becomes obvious in how their shows are happening now. (Check out Measure for Measure by one of these friends on May 5th and 6th! I'll be in it, too!)

Or there's also, you know, me. (It is my blog, after all.) I consider myself a fairly attractive person. I'm not Keira Knightley, but I'm pretty. And my friends seem to agree. I posted this photo that a friend took on a commercial shoot on Facebook and Instagram

and had friends commenting about how cool it was that I was there, and how good I looked. I appreciate that, and it was very sweet of them. But then I look at my romantic life, and I'm what a romcom would call "unlucky in love." Most of that is by choice, because I'd rather be working on my career, but, like, damn. And it's the kind of thing that makes me question whether, in this area, I'm like the people who say that they're actors but are so oblivious as to not realize they haven't worked in years.

I think self-awareness is important. I think it's good that I know that, at least in part, I made this post so I could fish for compliments and show off the above photo. I think it's okay to ask for those things. But also, sometimes, I think I may need to reevaluate my worldview and self-view, and that's a weird thing to do.

"Yeah, we're going on a date next week! It's gonna be KILLER." - Confessions of a Teenage Cannibal

In early January, I was the lead in what will possibly be my favorite short film of the year. The thing that I loved so much about this was how easy it was to make. We had a camera with only a couple of different lenses, two lights, and a boom mic.

And a fantastic script along with clever and organized directors.

And they're in high school.

Two days ago, I got the footage back. Check out Confessions of a Teenage Cannibal!

Right now I'm also in a beautiful little one act at Manhattan Repertory Theater called A Kreutzer Sonata. It touches on issues that are important to me, and it does it in a simple but elegant way. It's not overloaded with fancy effects or weird schtick. It just tells the story of a college freshman trying to reconcile his orthodox Judaism with a secular world with exactly as many props, characters, sound effects, et cetera as it needs. And, similarly to Confessions of a Teenage Cannibal, it's minimalist, but excellent.

It's making me think of what it takes to "just do it" and create art, whether it's theater or film. It doesn't take a ton of money, or fancy tools, because in both examples, we didn't have much of them.

Is it offensive to techies if I say it's the script, performance, and direction? Because things like costume design, art direction, all of the "below the line" categories are important, absolutely. But they can all be excellent, and lead to a terrible film or show. (Suicide Squad is, for instance, an Academy Award winning film for makeup design, even though it was critically panned.) But if you have a good story and you tell it well, then I think it doesn't matter as much how good it looks.

By no means am I trying to say that everything else is unnecessary. It is difficult, if not impossible, to act in a vacuum without any props, for instance. And if I had a dollar for every time a director told me that he doesn't especially care what I wear, I'd have enough money to hire a proper costume designer who would change the whole way I carry myself with the way I'm dressed.

But what I am saying is that anyone who thinks that you need a ton of money to be able to make things studio-quality is full of it. And if you have a good story, then you should just do it, because it's definitely doable, regardless of your budget!

Moral Gray Areas

So there's a project I was a part of that was absolutely full to the brim of microaggressions towards a group of people of which I consider myself a member, and I'm not sure to what extent I should've stood up against it.

Early enough in your career as an actor, you can't say that you're "too good" for any project that wants to cast you. You don't want to come off as aloof, rude, or difficult to work with. And the vast majority of people involved with that project are lovely people who recognized that there were times when the script was uncomfortable, and we're still in touch and work together.

But yikes at that script.

What should I have done? I'm not exactly a "name" actor, so I would've been pretty easily replaced. It's easy to write off an uncooperative actor as a diva, so I don't think my leaving would have started any serious conversations about the topic. And if I'm willing to break my word in business and leave after having committed to the project, then why should they listen to what I have to say in any other arena?

What about staying on but talking to the director or producer about it? I guess I could've done that, but I get the feeling that I either would've been insulting the director/producer and their taste/morals or I'd be a diva again. Maybe that feeling is unfounded. I honestly don't know. Neither the director and producer are malicious or selfish people. But I've been so thoroughly taught not to make those kinds of waves that it was barely a thing I considered. (And if I hated the script so much, then why had I agreed to be a part of the project?)

I won't leave you in suspense - what I did do was stay. I vented my feelings with some of the cast and crew who I knew agreed with me, but I did it. I gave my face, time, and talents to the production. I felt icky about it, but I did my job.

I'm still not sure if that was the right thing to do. I'm not sure if I should've stood up for what's morally right there and called the writer out on his shit, or if it was better to just get what I could out of that project and move on.

We all love moral gray areas when it comes to our favorite characters on screen and stage, but it doesn't seem to feel as good when it's in real life.

 

"Women will never be able to relax about their bodies the way that men can." - Kristen Schaal

Yesterday this guy I know and I were teasing each other. Totally in fun, he said that I "better" do something. I don't even remember what. And I asked him "I better do it or what?" since it's not like he can make me do anything. And still totally joking, he said "Or I'm gonna grab you by the pussy."

So I looked him square in the eye and said "If you want to grab a handful of blood, that's up to you."

And upon realizing that meant that I'm on my period, he freaked out. I wonder why it's okay for him to have made a joke about rape, but it's disgusting when I bring up something that happens to half of all humans.

Yup, this is one of those posts where I am a strident feminist.

I'm not going to try to convince anyone why rape jokes are bad over the internet. There are plenty of well-written articles about that from more informed people than me. But just, can we, as a culture, get over the idea that a menstruating is disgusting? It happens to everyone born with female anatomy. If there are four random people with uteruses (uterusi? uterusae?) in a room, odds are that one of them will be bleeding on any given day. The feminine hygiene industry is massive.

And yet, for a quarter of my life between ages 13 and, roughly, 50, the natural things my body does is considered disgusting. Like, more so than the idea of molesting it.

I can't say I know what to do about it. It's hardly like this one post is going to reach 3.5 billion men and affect them the way I wish it could.

But if anyone ever wonders why I'm a feminist, shit like this is it. How a friend of mine, someone who is a lovely human and "one of the good ones," whatever that means, can still have this so deeply internalized is beyond me.

It's just - wait for it - bloody ridiculous.

EDIT/UPDATE: I just discovered Carmen Esposito. If you know who she is, you know which bit I just discovered.