acting

Inspiration - "Why don't you put that on your Good Morning Missouri fucking wakeup broadcast?"

Last week, I mentioned that the past couple of months here in LA have been a bit of a slog. It's been difficult staying here for a variety of reasons, and I've even been thinking about moving back to New York - I'm not a "giving up" kind of a girl, but when most of my auditions here are self-tapes and I'm so much happier on the east coast, shouldn't I go back there for a while?

And then, the other day, I saw Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri.

Wow. What a masterclass in acting. What incredible performances. What a brilliantly told story, with each part of it unfolding perfectly. And I was reminded of why I'm here. Because this is what I want to be doing. And Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri casts out of Los Angeles.

Going back to New York is still something I'm considering. When I get the representation I want out here, if I'm still getting primarily self-taped auditions, then I may as well be in the place where I'm happier.

But I've got some specific things to take of first out here. And I'm going to stay and do them.

So this is my fairly short post about the importance of inspiration. I should be able to work without it. But every so often I have to be reminded why I'm doing the work in the first place. And this movie did it.

You should go see it. It is incredible.

Truth and the Pursuit of It - "If you're engaged in a fight with something, then it's not with me. It's with your own blindness." - The Crown

Yesterday, I had an epiphany.

To set the stage for it, I need to catch you up with how much the past few weeks have been. The place where I live is surrounded by massive, blazing wildfires. I finally got a serving job in LA, so I'll be making more money, which is pretty necessary. But until my first set of tips come in, money is still pretty tight for me. I got a callback for a really interesting play here, and while my confidence comes from within, it's nice to have that external validation that I am indeed a good actor, even if I'm not quite what they needed. It's the holiday season, which is one of my favorite times of year, and I am surrounded by cool new friends and great old friends and we're all having holiday parties. But I can't go home at all this year, and New York around the holidays is one of my all time favorite things, not to mention that I miss my family and friends there.

And, on top of and beyond all of that, last week a friend of mine from college died.

I want to take a moment here to remember her. Her name is Miriam. She and I worked together in the theater a whole lot, particularly with the Shakespeare group. She was always sweet and kind, she had this incredible zest for life, and this crazy amazing voice. We had fallen out of touch after graduating, but I would still see her on Facebook - she was an award winning screenwriter, and I admired the work that she was doing, and hoped that we'd maybe even get to work together one day. And it's shocking and upsetting to know that any chance we might've had at reconnecting at all is just gone now. People die every day, but the realities of it when it affects you are always surprising.

So yesterday, I was heading to an audition, and already felt like I wasn't going to get the role. I may be a good actor, but the character is a teenager and I knew I was auditioning with some actual 16 year olds. It's always good to practice audition technique when you can, but it felt like a lot of time to put towards this practice, and I was miserable, and there was nothing I could tell myself to make it feel better. All I could do was use the emotion - the character is supposed to be insecure anyway, so it's ultimately good, right? (For those of you who aren't actors, that doesn't actually help you feel better.)

The epiphany hit me like a freight train or, more fittingly, a speeding car: I don't like LA.

And that's okay.

There are people here who I care about a great deal. There are specific neighborhoods where it is pleasant to spend time. And I know I'll stay because the work I want to do is here. But as a whole, I just don't like it.

I didn't realize how hard I had been trying to convince myself that I do until I admitted that I don't. But now it feels like this incredible weight has been lifted from me. I don't like LA. And that's okay. And just acknowledging that truth makes everything so much easier and better.

No wonder we're all in pursuit of such obvious truth as artists. It's wonderful.

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.

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.

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.

"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. 

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.

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.

 

"You can take our official Twitter, but you'll never take our free time!" - Alt. US National Park Service on Twitter

So, uh, it's been a week.

We have a new president. And already shit has hit the fan, I've been to multiple protests, and the park rangers are going rogue??? Like, it's all terrible and incredible at the same time. My Facebook news feed has never been so full of politics, even during the presidential campaign.

And I'm not really sure how to move on from here. Because it feels somehow wrong to focus on anything that isn't political.

Like, intellectually, I get that it's all about balance. I can follow my acting dreams AND be effective politically - it only takes a few letters or phone calls to my senators and representatives, going to protests for an hour or two when necessary, and then I've covered all of my bases and can get back to editing my new short or planning how to put on a production of my favorite play.

But, for instance, as soon as the ACA is repealed, I'm going to lose my healthcare. And it feels wrong to be working towards a goal that doesn't involve me getting another kind of health insurance. How can I be creating stories when the NEA and Corporation for Public Broadcasting are being axed? Do I have the right to any of my Jewish heritage if I'm not constantly working to allow refugees in again from places like Syria? We say things like "never again" but we're also letting almost the exact same thing happen again there.

I guess I could argue that the most effective thing I could do is focus on my work, and if I ever get well known for it, use that status and platform to speak out. Right now I'm just another face in the crowd, but everyone knows it when celebrities join marches and movements. I'm not in acting for the celebrity, but I also wouldn't exactly be the first actor to put their opinion out there.

Somehow it feels a little hollow, though. And I'm not really sure how to get back to normal or if, honestly, I ever will. (Or, less melodramatically, if I will at all during this administration.)

Queens and The Crown - "Then... long live Queen Elizabeth." - The Crown

When I was a kid and all of my friends were dressing up, I wasn't really interested in pretending to be a princess.

Asked why, I said that it's because I want to actually be a queen.

I was never especially popular in elementary school.

It'd probably be fair to say that I've decided to start my post about personal, internal strength because I just finished watching The Crown. Oh my god. I want to be Claire Foy as Queen Elizabeth II when I grow up. John Lithgow as Churchill is a revelation. And Matt Smith made me almost sympathize with Prince Phillip's actions towards the end of the season. Not writing any spoilers here or anything, but sympathizing with that is almost impossible for me to do.

But there's also a real reason I bring that up, which is that one of the things I was most impressed by was the growth of Queen Elizabeth's personal strength over the course of the season. As she grows into being Elizabeth Regina (as opposed to Elizabeth Windsor) and learns when she can and cannot say no and put her foot down. What she can expect from the people around her, and when they have disappointed that. How the people around her aren't just doing a favor to a pretty but outdated institution, how she's a real person and leader who embodies something more eternal. In short, how she becomes a queen. Because it's exactly what I want to do.

Don't worry, I don't have any delusions about becoming literal royalty. But it's about the way she holds herself and the way she sees the world around her. That's what I strive for.

I mentioned going through all of the stuff in my childhood bedroom in my last post. And it was an incredibly intense experience. Partially because there was so much stuff, but also because it was the first time I was forced to really confront the question "what do I want?" I've always thought of myself as someone who is fairly flexible and willing to go along with the things that other people want because it generally leads to new experiences for me. That's still true. But I had to go through things and actively decide whether or not I wanted them. And then I had to decide if I really wanted them, or if I thought someone else wanted me to keep them. Or if it was representative of someone, but I didn't care that much about the thing itself, like old birthday cards. And it made me start considering those questions in every aspect of my life.

Over the past month, I've started standing up for myself and my beliefs more. Because I've decided that I don't want to keep taking bullshit. I've regained the discipline I've lost over the course of moving and traveling and everything. Because at the end of the day, I'm a full person, too. I'm here to help my friends, but they are also here to help me. If I don't ask people to do things for me, then I'll never advance. And it's always okay to at least ask. Because I am worthy of assistance and being served, not just serving others.

It's weird to realize that I didn't entirely believe that before. And I still struggle with it, too. But while I may not be The Queen, I am still a queen in my own life and my own right. And I ought to treat myself like one.

Politics and Peru - "South America! It's like America, but SOUTH!" - Up (2009)

I wrote out this whole long political post. I had been working on it for a while. And then I hit the wrong series of buttons on my keyboard, and it all deleted.

Which is okay, really. I haven't posted in a month, but I think you can all guess generally what my post was about if it was political. And frankly, I don't have anything new to say. It was mostly going to be an advocacy for using logic, even when it doesn't benefit the immediate point we're trying to make, because if we can't be simultaneously filled with humanity and logic, then our beliefs are based on nothing. (I don't know about your Facebook feeds, but I've noticed that a lot of the people using #notmypresident are the same ones who were pissed when President Elect Trump said "your president" during the debates about President Obama. Saying that President Elect Trump, who won based on rules that we agreed to beforehand, isn't our president is a glaringly obvious double standard.) So really, most of what my post was can be summed up with the Your Logical Fallacy Is website. (See also: Logical Fallacy Referee!)

So I guess I'll just do a quick catch up here from the past month instead! I meant to tell you guys at the end of October that I wouldn't be posting for a couple of weeks, but, if you read my last post, you'll understand why I was distracted.

The reason I knew in advance I wouldn't be posting for a couple of weeks, though, is that I went to Peru! BOOM! Surprises everywhere! I know, I know, I had just been to London. But I always wanted to see Machu Picchu. So I did.

 I really like ruins, you guys.

I really like ruins, you guys.

I've also moved over the course of the past month! Still in Manhattan, but now I'm in a new apartment in a new neighborhood. That involved having to go through all the stuff in my childhood bedroom and throw out/donate almost all of it, but the discussion about dealing with that is a post for another day.

I also went up to Boston to shoot the indie feature Tales From Shakespeare!

 You should check out that Tales From Shakespeare link to see why I'm such an angry bride. Just sayin'.

You should check out that Tales From Shakespeare link to see why I'm such an angry bride. Just sayin'.

In addition to shooting, Ingot to visit with friends I haven't seen in a while, and see my old college campus, and it lowkey highkey ripped my heart out. But, like, in a good way.

It feels weird to think about things that I'm doing instead of freaking out about how an anti-Semitic man who thinks that only property owners should vote is going to be the new chief strategist. Has anyone else noticed that? You'll be in the middle of something totally unrelated, and then you remember that we've elected someone supremely unqualified to the highest office in our country, and you wonder what the hell you're doing?

But also, life goes on, and we have to go on with it. I have to pay rent on this new apartment, after all. Keep calling your congresspeople. Keep protesting. Keep researching all of President Elect Trump's cabinet picks. But a month into it, this is the time to go to work. In every sense of the phrase.

Faith and Love

If you follow my blog at all regularly, you know that I believe in the importance of hard work. You know that I believe that doing the work is what gives you the edge over other people. That I believe that I'm not the most naturally talented actress out there, and I'm not the most well connected actress out there, but I am among the hardest working actresses out there, and that's what allows me to believe that I have a shot in the industry.

But lately, I've been thinking a lot about the path of least resistance, and how sometimes the universe will naturally guide you along your path, regardless of how hard you struggle for it.

Over the past week, I've had two interactions with two very close friends where they told me about what my friendship has meant to them, and how I affected their lives. And both times, it was in things I didn't even know I was doing. Or, more precisely, it was in times when I didn't think I was doing anything.

On a completely different note that still leads to the same thesis, last week I was in a casting class with a casting director who works primarily in film and TV. After I did the sides she had assigned me the first time, she told me that, from just listening to it, she loved my performance, and I had hit every note in the scene. But from watching me, I was doing too much. For my second take, I did nothing. And she loved it.

I believe in the power of hard work, but sometimes life doesn't have to be about work at all. And that is the hardest balance to find.

As I'm used to almost everything in your life happening because of me and the work that I've put in (aside from assistance I've received through the privilege into which I was born, like the color of my skin), it's incredibly difficult to trust that things will just happen on camera, or in my relationships. The subjective and the emotional is almost impossible to understand, making it hard to believe.

I guess I need a deeper study of faith in my life.

Is it Bragging if I'm Really Just Proud of Myself?

I was going to write a post about talking with people when you don't really have anything to say, but as I got into it, I quickly realized I didn't actually have all that much to say on the topic. ~Irony~

But there are a few quick announcements I want to throw out there for my Thursday post! Turns out, people think I'm a good actress, and they like casting me in things, and that's been especially true over the past couple of weeks.

First, I was cast in an NYU short called Ideal Versions of Us. In fact, I was cast in that, shot it, and, because it was shot in a three camera studio, the director finished with post incredibly quickly, so I already have it back! Here's the thing:

Second, the same day I was cast in Ideal Versions of Us, I was also cast in a short for the International Film School of New York called Acceptance, and I shot it the next week! I don't have that back yet, but I'll put it up as soon as I do.

Finally, remember how I mentioned last week that I had "rocked an audition earlier today"? The director agreed with me about that, and I've been cast in yet another short this summer called Burnout. That one is filled with all kinds of special effects, so believe you me, you are going to see plenty of pictures and things from it when we start shooting on Saturday.

Who says the summer is slow?

Gettin' Naked in the Movies - "This is not a porn film, but..." - A casting call about a month ago

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a blog post that referenced stripping in the title, and it got more hits than anything else I've written on this blog in ages. So I figured, why not give the people what they want?

Is it possible that you, my readers, were actually impressed by the fact that I was making movies and living the dream with spectacular castmates and crew, and that's why you all read it? Sure. But there aren't any updates on The Slightly Awkward First Date of John and Joanna right now, so I can't do more of that. (Check back here next week, though!)

So instead I'm just going to write about doing nudity in film! And why I don't do it.

(Hee. You see what I did there?)

About a year and a half ago, a couple of other actresses and I were brought in to a class for film students about how to direct actors at a prestigious university. The professor wanted to give these future film professionals an idea of what it's like to experience the industry from an actor's point of view, so we did a Q&A with them. And eventually, one of the students asked us about doing nudity, and what does and does not make us comfortable with it/when we were willing to do it. The other actresses in the Q&A both said that they didn't love doing it, but they're artists, so if it was really called for in the story, it was a good enough story, and they were respectfully treated, they were okay with it.

It's amazing how quickly an entire room of aspiring directors got angry at me when they looked to me for my response, and I said "Really? Because I don't do nudity. Not ever. Especially not for unpaid student films. Hell no."

I promptly found myself in a fight.

"But what if you need it to tell the story?" "We're all trying to make art here and we're supposed to collaborate and each give our all." "So you're saying that you never want to tell stories about relationships and sexuality?" "Don't you know how many roles you're losing out on if you won't do nudity?" "You know, I think it's kind of really beautiful, and you're being a little bit closed-minded about it."

They were really not happy that I had such a strong reaction against nudity. And none of them wanted to hear my self-branding reason ("My type is the girl-next-door, innocent and sweet. If there are any nude images of me out there, they will find their way onto the internet, and then that image of me will be ruined forever and I won't be cast-able,") or my business reason ("I mean, if Game of Thrones called tomorrow and said that they had a huge part for me with a huge salary to match, then I'd consider it, but you're asking me to give away a lot, for free, for your student project,") and they DEFINITELY didn't want to hear my artist/storyteller reason ("Besides, nudity is a crutch anyway. You absolutely never need it to tell your story, and 100% of the time you can find another way to show levels of intimacy, attraction, or whatever else.")

To be clear, I don't think any less of people who do, in fact, do nudity. I don't think it's a good business decision, but it's their body and they can do whatever they want with it. I'm also the kind of liberal hippie that says that we shouldn't be vilifying anyone in the sex industry either, though, and that natural bodies are nothing about which to be ashamed. All of these things are personal decisions, and we have to make the one that feels right to us.

But you know, a year and a half later, I don't feel like my career is in any worse of a place than it would be if I did do nudity. And I don't think I've lost anything by speaking my mind, even when those student directors didn't agree with me or want to hear it. I may not have anything against people who do nudity, be they actors or writer/directors who insist on it. But I do like winning fights!

Making it Happen!! - "This is legal! It's okay! This is totally legal!!" - Me, as I had to change my shirt in the middle of Sheep Meadow in Central Park

I've acted in films before. I've written films before. But I had never executive produced a film before this past weekend. Holy shit, you guys, I have such insane respect for producers and executive producers right now.

First off, huge ups to my cast and crew. Do you know what it's like to have friends come out on an uncomfortable, rainy weekend and work long days to create a short film that you wrote just to let some stuff out? Because I do. And they're all amazing. Ryan Fitzmartin, Thaddeus Bouska, Haley Bierman, Marcus Jones, Alex Spear, Nico Ferranti, Sara Bowie, Christopher Erlendson, Evan Dunbar, and Simon Diamond Cramer on the crew side, and my castmates Raja Burrows and Shane Tully. There is no film without any of them. Without them, there's just some chick (me) with a script (the second or third draft, not the good, final one) and a smartphone (my cheap one) saying "the shoddy production value will make it look artsy!" (It wouldn't.)

I don't want to say too much right now about what the film will look like since we're only just starting in on post-production. And I'm still low-key in shock that it actually happened. It's like I'm a real filmmaker or something!

But I wanted to let you all know that it's happening. The working title is The Slightly Awkward First Date of John and Joanna. (The title, too, is a work in progress.)

You guys, it was rainy on the second day but not the first which is problematic with continuity and we had problems with our sound equipment throughout and I was never sure that I'd be able to make all of the logistics like scheduling crew and getting craft services happen and I definitely nearly cried from stress the night before each day of shooting (and I never cry over anything in real life) and there is absolutely nothing I would rather have been doing this past weekend.

This post is becoming awfully #blessed and #grateful and I hate those kinds of social media posts, so I'm going to leave it here. I just couldn't let this week go by without mentioning it. I am the queen of making things happen, but if I am the queen then my friends here are the gods who gave me the divine right to do it.

(Does that make sense as a metaphor? I think that makes sense as a metaphor. I'm pretty sure that's the appropriate, high level of complimentary I want to be to them. That sounds like it makes sense for my metaphor, anyway.)