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.

"Come on brain, think of things." - Lin-Manuel Miranda

I'm gonna be honest with you guys. I have no idea what to write about today.

There's the ever-relevant topic of politics, but that's already been talked to death, and I don't know what I could say to make people more politically active other than "do it". So that's pretty boring.

I've been thinking a lot lately as I organize a fundraiser staged reading of Almost Maine for the ACLU about how hard it is to do things and how many details there are to something that seems like it would be simple. But I've already written about discipline, and beyond that it's just kind of complaining about the hard work it takes to do something that I love.

I just finished a new short film called Lesbihonest, and I don't know that I'm allowed to post it online for everyone to see. I've been submitting it to contests and festivals, and I know that sometimes there are rules about not publishing your entries before they screen there or are rejected. But there's nothing interesting to anybody else about me posting on Instagram about having to look up rules and regulations.

Valentine's Day was this week, and since I'm single, I spent it mostly reveling in self-love and love for my friends. I used things that made my face all soft and pretty, and I ate chocolate, and got myself a smoothie, and went through Insta liking my friends' couple photos. But nothing, like, special happened.

I dunno, guys. I think it's just interesting how you can do a ton of things over the course of a week, and when someone asks what you've been up to, the answer has to be "nothing." Like when we actors post a regular selfie on social media with the caption "Super excited for projects in the works!" because we're not allowed to post anything more concrete, or our content isn't social media-ready yet. We want to share how hard we've been working and we want validation for all the little things we've done, but we don't have anything real to share yet.

The real MVP of that is Lin-Manuel Miranda. He spent seven years writing Hamilton. Damn.

So, in conclusion for this post, I want to be super clear. I was grasping at straws. I couldn't think of a single real topic for this week. And I still humble-bragged about my production of Almost Maine and Lesbihonest, along with comparing myself to Lin-Manuel Miranda. The self-love thing on Valentine's Day clearly worked.

I hope you all have had a productive week, even if you also can't figure out anything to really say about it!

Funny Vines and the Rabbit Hole - "Brevity is the soul of wit." - Oscar Wilde

I have been falling all the way down a Vine compilation rabbit hole, you guys.

It's been making me think of the Oscar Wilde quote and how people can tell all of these stories in just six seconds. And what that means for people who want to tell feature-length stories.

The first time I watched through the first video, I started literally crying from laughter. And then I went to YouTube and started finding others like the second. And there's a certain point where I already have knowledge that some of those videos relied on. Whether it was some of the basics of the New Testament, or what the theme from The X-Files means, the humor relied on a shared cultural knowledge that the story didn't have to set up, only reference. And, granted, some Vines are funny because of the same thing that makes America's Funniest Home Videos funny - it's people failing to do relatively basic things in an extreme way, which isn't always useful for storytelling.

But, like, if people can tell stories that good in only six seconds, how the hell does anyone ever expand stories into, like, an hour and a half movie??

Well, there's setting up information. A feature length film can't just used the Grand Theft Auto "wasted" screen, it has to have scenes that set up what it means, and why it's bad. So I guess there's exposition. And you typically tell a more complex story in a feature, one with subplots, which doesn't really fit into a Vine. So there's that.

I just can't help thinking, though, that writing a feature is more like writing a bajillion features, cutting them all down to their core, and then finding convenient ways to stick them together into the semblance of a larger story.

Bridesmaids, for instance. (Spoilers ahead? Kinda?) It's about a girl who is the Maid of Honor at her best friend's wedding. But it's also about her falling in love with a guy. And it's also about her falling out of love with another guy. And it's about her repairing her relationship with her best friend. And it's about her sabotaging her "competition" for her best friend. And it's about her becoming friends with that other girl. And it's about all of them going to Las Vegas. And it's about all of them getting on a plane to go to Las Vegas. And it's about all of them being able to afford nice flights on the plane to Las Vegas except for her. And it's about how she gets sick on flights. And it's about what a sick, nervous, jealous person does while on a flight. And it's about how a sick, nervous, jealous person on a flight tries to get into first class. Et cetera.

Each of those are full stories on their own, and they get combined in such a way that they tell the story of Bridesmaids. I haven't even gone into the scenes with trying on dresses, or the wedding itself, or the bridal shower, or most of the movie.

It's probably not exactly revolutionary that every story can be broken up into smaller stories. An acting teacher once described analyzing a script as being like looking at a fractal pattern.

28ce50fcf2a54a2810831e08ab5bc830.jpg

You can analyze the design, but if you start to look at any one particular piece of it, then you'll see the same complete design.

I'm just astounded by how good these Viners are at telling their stories in the short form. And, like, imagine if we got a bunch of them together to tell a feature length story.

I also can't help but realize how ridiculous it is that I've gone on for this long about the virtues of the short form. This is probs how most of the bad feature length projects happen.

"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.)

"I have no more campaigns to run. I know because I won both of them." - President Obama

I'm sure you've seen tons of writings, from thinkpieces to long-ass Facebook statuses, about how much President Obama has meant to people around the country and the world. And while I love him, what he represents, and most of what he's accomplished, too, I don't think I have anything particularly new or interesting to say about it. And, frankly, I don't think we need some white girl like me chiming in about his place in civil rights history. But he was funny, cool, and classy. And I'm going to miss him.

Sure, times like this are when the artist thrives, and now more than ever we need a mirror held up to society, and creative works are the way it's going to happen (even if Trump does get rid of the NEA). But we would've had conflict and societal problems if Hillary had won, too. Art would've been just fine, because making it is what we do. So I feel like that's not really a benefit, honestly.

But instead of being sad, I guess I'm just going to keep doing it, anyway. I guess I still have hope that, at some point, it will eventually get better.

Short post today, guys. I just don't really know what to say. So I'm going to leave the video of someone who does in case you somehow haven't seen it, and leave it at that.

What a brilliant, thoughtful, incredible leader we've had.

Resolutions for the New Year - "Be slow in considering but resolute in action." - Bias of Priene

Well you guys, I finally have my New Year's resolutions together. And it only took me, like, two weeks! (#awks)

So I guess we should first go over how I did on my 2016 resolutions.

2016 New Year's Resolutions

2016 New Year's Resolutions

Not as well as I'd hoped, to be totally honest. Which isn't to say "badly," but last year I had definitely, in some way or another, completed all of them. And this year, not as much. I think I was too specific for 2016, so when my life and priorities changed, these didn't change with them. But let's go through them all:

Write the Uglies screenplay: I just didn't do this one. I still want to. Uglies by Scott Westerfeld is still one of my all-time favorite novels, and I think it'd make a fantastic movie. But I just didn't do it. I worked on other feature-length projects. But I didn't finish this one.
Get my own apartment: Well, THIS one I very much completed!
Go to South America, Asia, and/or Africa: Hello, my trip to Peru!
Get my reel together: Well, yes and no. I don't have one video of clips of my work. But if you go to my Actress page, you'll see tons of clips of my work that are all labeled and easy to watch. So... I think that counts.
Go to another city in the USA: Well, technically I traveled to Boston, but I meant a new city. So I didn't do that in the USA. But I did see a new city in the UK, so I feel like I still fulfilled the spirit of the resolution. Mostly.
Start my 401K: I was too specific here, but I was also lazy with my finances. Sure, I've been saving money, but I haven't started a retirement account. I have, however, gotten a credit card and started to build up my credit. So I've advanced the planning of my financial future, even if I haven't started a 401K, which is within the spirit of the resolution. But I also could've started all of this way earlier in the year and then done both, so I'm not sure that I get to consider this a win.
Write/Act in 2+ shorts and submit to FESTIVALS: I've acted in so many shorts this year. But I've only written/produced one short in which I've also starred. It's a bigger production than I expected. And I'm very proud of it. So maybe I just overshot with this resolution. Either way, I'm proud of the work I did last year. It just wasn't the work I thought I would do.
Attack life with the confidence of a mediocre white man: Done and done.
Do 10+ industry seminars/workshops: I easily did more than ten!

Overall, not a terrible showing for my New Year's resolutions. But I think I can do better in 2017. Here's what I have coming up!

2017 New Year's Resolutions

2017 New Year's Resolutions

Most of them are much more vague 2016's. But I think that's good. It makes them more flexible and reasonable for a life that's changing and constantly in flux. These are resolutions I can achieve even as my priorities change over the course of the year.

Move to Los Angeles: This one, I think, is pretty self-explanatory. I'm heading out in June. It's time. I can't be bi-coastal if I'm only ever on one coast.
See 2+ new cities in the USA: Sure, it was within the spirit of the resolution to have seen Edinburgh instead of a new American city last year. But this year I am so specific. I have to see more of my own country. New York, LA, and Boston do not count. They have to be new cities to me.
Increase my future financial security (401K/credit score/fuck you money!!): This one, also, is pretty self-explanatory, I think.
Get a new doctor and have a check up: Guys, it has been embarrassingly long since the last time I saw a doctor. Long enough that, technically, my doctor is still my pediatrician from when I was a child. That's just not acceptable. I don't think there's anything wrong with me, but it sure would be nice to know for sure.
Be the Blood of the Dragon: Guys, I've been really inspired by Daenerys Targaryen lately. Her leadership, her self-assurance, and her ability to make people believe in and follow her. I want to emulate that. Sure, she's a fictional character. But they're admirable qualities, and I'm gonna get them.
Get at least one of the following: agent, manager, union status: It's time. I can't control who will like me, or if a union project will cast me. But I think it's reasonable to expect to achieve at least one of those over the next year.
Finish at least one feature-length project: I have so many things that I'm working on that I never finish in favor of shorts. But this year, I don't care what it is, but at least one feature screenplay or full length play is gonna get written.
Simplify your material life: For all that I bitched about getting rid of all of my childhood stuff, I felt so much freer and stronger once it was gone. And, frankly, I don't really miss it. I'm gonna try to keep getting rid of stuff as much as I can. I don't need a lot of things. And I like how I feel when they're gone.
Have/Complete monthly goals. January: shoot WICF film, go to Planned Parenthood about an IUD, send out industry updates: I think it would be a good idea to set these kinds of goals for myself more regularly than once a year! So I'm shooting a short film on Saturday for the Women in Comedy Film Contest, I'm gonna send out updates about the work I've been doing since the holidays to my contacts throughout the industry, and I'm gonna go to Planned Parenthood and see if I can't get an IUD before Planned Parenthood gets fully defunded.

What do you guys think? Do you have any resolutions of your own that you're actually going to keep up throughout the year?

Power and Attaining It - "There is no good and evil. Only power, and those too weak to seek it." - Voldemort

Maybe it's the Slytherin in me, but I've been considering that quote a lot lately and to what extent it actually is true.

Most of the time, if I want something to happen, I make it happen. If I want to be in movies, I make them. If there's a person I like, I ask them out. I am the one in control of the world around me, and I shape it to my liking.

That sounds an awful lot like putting myself out there and taking risks and doing all of those other things creatives are supposed to do. AMAZING HOW THAT WORKS OUT.

It's interesting, though, that it sounds like creatives have all this power, but it's not like we have the ability to say "go" to a major project. It's really just personal power.

But isn't that the same thing? People follow those who take the lead, which gives those with that personal power a broader kind of power. Influence over those people, for instance.

Maybe power compounds upon itself? And maybe that's why it can be so hard to come into your personal power, because we know that it will expand, and that's terrifying?

And maybe the greatest of us can do it because we have something we're fighting for, and that's what gets us through the terror? And the best of us are so good because there is a good and evil, and they are good and have power?

I'm legitimately working this out for myself as I'm trying to figure out how to be powerful and take what is rightfully mine (or at least legitimately go after it) while not being selfish about everything that I want.

Basically what I'm saying here is that this theme came up on my Pandora the other day, and it reminded me how much I want to be like Daenerys Targaryen. I'm just sayin'. As I get prepared for the new year, I'm pretty sure one of my resolutions is going to be to try to make myself more like her.

Happiness and Contentment - "To be content doesn't mean you don't desire more, it means you're thankful for what you have" - Tony Gaskins

The other day I was at my day job, and a coworker casually mentioned that she had been talking with another coworker about how much they love me because I'm so warmhearted. And first I straight up nearly cried at work because the compliment was so unexpected and it means a lot that the people I work with think so highly of me.

Later that night, after closing the restaurant, the other closing server, the closing bartender, and I all went out to a nearby pub for a drink or five. They had both moved to Colorado after college, and they were telling me about how there are people who are perfectly content to spend their whole lives here, working a day job, skiing, and smoking weed. How it's really a pretty awesome life. And it struck me how easy it can be to become content with what you have, and how that's both wonderful and deeply dangerous.

On one hand, I like my day job a whole lot. It gives me the flexibility to pursue what I really want to do, the money to pursue what I really want to do (both in the arts as well as in my personal life), and I like the job itself, especially the people with whom I do the job. It's not perfect - barely a day goes by that I don't get angry that someone sees me as lesser than them for being a server - but there's more good to it than bad.

But I'm concerned that it's part of why I've been losing my discipline in my free time as I write and act.

It's a full time job, so I put a full time amount of time into it. That's a given. But then sometimes I go out with my coworkers, or at least I have to relax a little when I get home, and then I get a full night of sleep, meaning that when I wake up, it's just a few hours before I have to start getting ready to go to my day job again.

I still write - I've got a new short screenplay that I'm working on for a contest, so that'll necessarily have to be done soon - and I still go on auditions and take classes and everything.

Sometimes, though, it's difficult trying to remind myself that I'm happiest when I'm truly pursuing what I love, and that happiness is more than the contentment I feel with where I am now.

Just something I'm considering as I'm beginning to think of resolutions for the new year.

Cuffing Season - "Don't you need a man to raise a man?" "No, I don't think so." - 20th Century Women (2016)

I've been thinking about an ex of mine a lot recently. Not that I want them back, but it's cuffing season and I've still elected to remain single, and even if it's by choice, it's still a little bit lonely.

I know exactly what my priorities are. I know that I usually work evenings, and the nights I have off I want to be writing or watching movies, not going out with somebody just to go out with somebody. If I'm not feeling ~*that feeling*~ for a person, then it seems like a bit of a waste of time. In 20th Century Women, someone describes to Annette Bening's character his casual relationship, and she asks "if it's not serious, then why do it?"

Life is exciting and layered and interesting and stimulating and fun. Or at least it can be. It's supposed to be. I try every day to make it be. (Is that terrible grammar? Yes. Do I care because the literary device there still works? Hell no.)

And if I get more excited by hearing my favorite Christmas songs and making slutty brownies but with CANDY CANE JOE-JOE'S (you're welcome for that idea) than going on a particular date, then why should I?

To be clear, it's not that I'm uninterested in dating altogether. It's just that I only want to bother dating people I really want to date.

Maybe it's me. Maybe I'm rejecting people before I've given them a chance because I'm scared of commitment. Maybe it's me having imposter syndrome, and/or feeling this Groucho Marx quote: "I don't want to belong to any club that would have me a a member!"

But also... so what?

Plus, I never want to toy with anyone the way that ex toyed with me. I never want to have someone relate me to the Paulo Coelho quote "it's important to realize you can miss something, but not want it back."

Anyway, you all should check out this movie because it grapples with a lot of the same topics about what it means to be a good person and figuring out life and Annette Bening's performance is just ridiculous in how nuanced and casually emotional it is.

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.

Death, Grief, and Community

A friend of mine died this week. And I'm really struggling with what to say about it.

It's not the first time I've experienced the death of a peer/someone my own age. And I didn't know him especially well; we worked together at the New York Film Festival, and I liked him a lot as a person, but it's not like I had known him from childhood. But his passing makes me very sad, and I don't know what to do with this grief.

There are two things I'm primarily thinking about. One is the impostor syndrome, and how I keep feeling like I don't deserve to feel this way about his passing, even though I intellectually know that's absolute bullshit. The other is how beautiful the community that comes together after a senseless death like this can be.

That first point, where I'm concerned about how worthy I am to be concerned, is pretty self-involved, I know. Not only am I entitled to my feelings, but I did know him, I was touched by his presence, and I feel his absence in my life. I know that there are other people who feel it much more strongly, and I'm doing my best to be there for them without overwhelming them with my own desire to help or intruding on their private spaces. But it's a sad thing that happened, and I am allowed to feel sad and share that sadness. And I am allowed to think about how that sadness and his absence affect me.

In the nerdiest possible way, my thoughts on that particular topic keep coming back to this scene from Star Trek: The Next Generation:

I intellectually get all of that. But I almost didn't go to the memorial service yesterday because I was worried that I didn't deserve to be there with people who knew him better and loved him more than I did. Ridiculous, of course. And I did go, and not only am I glad that I did, but I saw that the room was absolutely packed with people who had cared about him, and his family was comforted by how many people care.

There were so many people there. I already knew that he's a wonderful, kind, considerate person, but in the auditorium where the service was being held, not only was every chair filled, but all of the extra chairs that had been put out were also filled, and there were people lining the walkways so standing room was also filled. When people joke in that only-half-joking way about wanting to fake their own death to see how many people come to their funeral, this service was exactly what they want to happen. This community was huge.

I couldn't possibly speak for everyone there, but I know that I took comfort from how many of us were there feeling sad together. It absolutely sucked that we were there, but at least we all felt shitty together.

There isn't any kind of lesson to be learned from this. I don't believe that peoples' deaths and the things that we do after them are there to ~guide me on my path~ or anything. (Even I'm not that self-involved.) But this is my experience surrounding it, and I wanted to get it down in writing.

I want to end this by saying a little bit about him. His name is Noah Witke. He was 25. He was a liaison for the Film Society at Lincoln Center, and I knew him from his work with the theater team volunteers at the New York Film Festival. He was one of the friendliest staff members. Not to say that anyone who is a staff member for NYFF isn't friendly, but he's the kind of guy who, no matter how busy he was, would make time to stop by you as you're working, ask how you're doing, and really mean the question. He would remember people. He graduated from Julliard in drama, which is just ridiculously impressive. (For those of you who don't know, Julliard only accepts 18 people every year.) He was intensely curious about the world. When I was on shift at NYFF at the end of Yom Kippur, he's the staff member who was there as I left to go get food, and when I told him where I was going and why, he got super into the mini discussion we had about the holiday, and Judaism, and what it means for us before I ran off to actually eat. And then later that evening, he asked me what I had gotten, and got legitimately excited by the fact that I, too, was the kind of person who would get a pint of ice cream just because I could. He was caring, full of life and joy, and there are few people who deserved this less than him. People are sharing photos and stories of him here, and I think these stories capture who he was as a person better than a description ever could.

Anyway. I'm not sure what else to say. But I'm going to miss him. And this sucks.

Fasting on Yom Kippur - "It's the holiest day of the year." - Sarah Pfefferman, Transparent

This past week was Yom Kippur. It's the Jewish day of atonement, and the end of the Days of Awe. That's that week in between Rosh Hashanah, our new year, and Yom Kippur, when the Book of Life is open. We're supposed to think about the people we've hurt over the past year so we can atone for it, and then our names will be written into the Book of Life for the next year to come, and it is closed and finalized at the end of Yom Kippur. And while most of this time is generally joyous, celebrating the sweetness of life and the excitement of a new year, we're supposed to fast on Yom Kippur itself, to reflect on who we are and what we've done.

I'm a pretty bad Jew. I've never fasted on Yom Kippur. At least not before this year.

Honestly, I'm not sure I could tell you exactly why I chose to fast this time. It's not like anything in particular happened to make me understand that fasting would actually have meaning for me this time around. I've been connecting more and more to my Judaism and my faith/spirituality, but that's been an ongoing process for a couple of years now, I didn't start fasting when I started that. It was just a few days before Yom Kippur, and I realized that I was going to do it.

(Thank god I managed to give away my shift at my day job. Sure, it's about denying yourself the pleasure of food to think about what you've done, but I don't think whatever higher power there is meant for us to do that while working in a restaurant.)

I went about my day almost as normal. I slept in way later than I normally would, but I still volunteered at the New York Film Festival that evening, and I didn't go to services or anything. That didn't stop me from reflecting pretty much all day, though. And there were two things I was particularly thinking about.

One is that I never realized just how much my schedule and my life revolves around food. Not just my day job, but when I started to plan my day and I had to deliberately leave out a lunch break. Or when I thought I might be early to the NYFF, so I figured "I'll head down there, and if I'm too early, I'll just stop by Starbucks" before I remembered "no, I won't." When I started to run low on energy and I figured I'd just get a snack. And then at the festival, realizing that I would have to decide at 6pm between seeing a movie and breaking the fast. (Good thing for me that 6pm movie was also showing the next day at 9pm, so I just saw it then! Before I found that out, I was really, legitimately struggling with the decision.)

But more importantly, I was thinking about the people I've hurt and disrespected. And I realized that I haven't hurt that many other people. In fact, I go way out of my way to make sure I don't hurt others, and everybody likes me. I'm sure there are people I've hurt that I don't realize, but I'm also sure that they all know me and they know I didn't mean to hurt them.

The person I have disrespected is myself. Yes, I know, that's pretty self-serving for a holiday about atonement towards others, but by going so far out of my way to make sure the people around me are happy, I've put my own self at less of a priority. As if I'm not as important as my peers. I'm happy to help my friends where I can, but I also have to start looking out for myself more. I have to start demanding the things that I want, because if I don't, I'm not going to get them. And that's probably going to make me come off as a bit of a "bitch." But I have to stop caring about that, too. Besides, like Tina Fey and Amy Poehler have said, bitches get stuff done. And I have a lot of stuff to do.

I have lost out on too many things that I've wanted this year so the people around me could like me more and I would hurt them less.

I then broke the fast by going to Indie Food and Wine in Lincoln Center, getting a soup, two sandwiches, as well as popcorn and lemonade from the concessions stand at the Walter Reade theater... and then I went to Gourmet Garage, bought a pint of Ben and Jerry's, and split it with a couple of other NYFF volunteers. Because it's also possible to get what I want AND make the people around me happy.

Is all of this the point of Yom Kippur? I don't know. Probs not. But it's the spiritual experience that I had, so it's valid, too.

Avoiding Burnout

If you had told me a year ago that I would come close to burning out, I never would've believed you. I would be coming straight out of NYFF 2015 having seen a bunch of the movies that would come to compete in Oscar season, hella inspired, and wanting to tell all of the stories and explore all of the human condition.

I've worked a lot since then. Both as an actor, and at my day job just to keep myself stable.

Now, in all fairness to me, I've been doing pretty well for myself. Over the summer, I was the lead in three student shorts, I was cast in two features, I did a play, I went through a solid portion of the post-production process for my own short film, and I started work on my new solo show. I'm literally living the dream, and it's pretty awesome.

In fact, I was so happy with the work I had been doing that I didn't realize that, between all of that, working at my day job, and trying to have some kind of a social life, I was burning out until I got on the plane to go on vacation, and my whole body lit up at the prospect of just being on holiday.

Oh yeah, a couple of weeks ago, I went to London! There is a massive blog post coming up about everything I did, the love I feel in and for that city, and Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. I'm wearing my new Slytherin necklace now and everything. It's pretty badass. I also went to Edinburgh. I had never been there before. It's so beautiful I can't stand it. And I ate haggis. I'm pretty brave.

Now, part of all that is just me and how much I love to travel. But it was such a change to wake up in a hostel room at 7am after maybe five hours of sleep and instantly be awake and excited for the rest of the day instead of oversleeping if I try to make myself have any less than seven and a half hours.

I'm not really sure what the answer is here. I still do the work now that I'm back in the US, and I love doing the work, and it makes me happy. Maybe it's just that it's that much easier to be excited while on vacation because you know you only have a week to do everything so you want to soak it all in while you can, and it's a totally normal thing.

It does help me remember how lucky I am, though, that I can be an actress and still travel the world, it helps me remember how important my discipline is while working at home, and it makes me especially excited to go to Peru later this month! So there's still all of that.