Christopher Erlendson

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.

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.)