Aaaaand We’re Back

Man.  Well that was something.

In a nutshell, we did indeed walk from St. Jean Pied du Port to Santiago de Compostella.  After a pesky foot injury, I came very, very close to skipping a stage by bus, but somehow it just never happened.  I’m not sure I’m proud of ignoring my body’s message, but my foot does seem to be healing, so there’s that.  It took 34 days, spanned 799 kilometers, and required one roll of kinesthetic tape, several boxes of bandaids, one container of compede, almost a full container of an ancient salve for pilgrim joints and skin problems, an unknown number of bottles of wine and plates of patatas bravas, several midday beers, approximately four emotional meltdowns, and a lot of pep talks.  Compared to my last Camino?  The word that keeps coming to mind is: harder.  My body, mind, and life is significantly different.  Processing all the moments of beauty and all the days of endless difficulties is something I am only, slowing beginning to tackle.  And writing it down feels a bit farther away. I can say for certain that the miraculous world of the Camino still provides all the love, protection, and support that anyone needs to get through the mountains of self-doubt and endlessly developing blisters the morning hours bring.  But more on that later. For now, my emotional brain needs a snooze.

After many years of waiting, obsessive planning, and borderline-neurotic budgeting, I am finally a freelancer.  On my first morning over here, I am currently one- for-one with showering, eating a proper breakfast, and putting on real-people clothing.  Ben bought me a sweet little bird statue and I have decided that he is my freelancing mascot.  I have yet to name him/her.  Perhaps Carmella II–after my Camino walking stick that I had to leave behind in Santiago. She will be missed.  Anyway, though I’m handling my panic quite well, this is all a bit terrifying–this whole “getting what you want and hoping it works out” thing. Three nights ago, I landed at JFK, bleary-eyed, confused, and crotchety after a full 24 hours of travel to get from a hotel room in Santiago de Compostella to the apartment I have dreamed of laying my eyes on for the past six weeks.

At the moment, I still feel odd even adjusting my eyes to the look of a computer screen. My brain has not required this type of focus since late June, and I’m shocked at how strange it feels to stare at one white square while trying to type this out.

So instead of totally freaking out at the freelancing task ahead of me, I’m starting with small, controllable steps.  And when I reach the day (hopefully very soon) when I can genuinely begin to piece together the stories from my second Camino, this will be its immediate home.

Until then, this is where I’m at logistically:

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The Troubled Relationship Between Time and Art

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Back in college, my friends and I invented a day of the week known as Twunesday.   Twunesday fell between Tuesday and Wednesday, and all events that didn’t fit within the constraints of our seven-day week were scheduled on this day.  When will I write that paper?  On Twunesday!  How about taking a nap?  Twunesday is an excellent day for naps!

Nowadays I find myself filling up my Twunesday schedule with all the artistic endeavors only doable on days when I have a clear schedule, void of responsibilities.  I daydream about a clean, cleared-off desk with an artsy looking planter full of succulents, a steaming coffee cup, and a little framed motivational quote about the sun and new ideas, or some other baloney.  This desk does not exist is my house, most of my writing is done at the dining room table with a cat laying half off my keyboard, usually cutting off the use of everything from caps lock to the space bar.  A pile of papers containing theatre mailers, tax documents, and notepads with my husband’s play notes are held down by a copy of Marie Kondo’s The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, of which I have read half.

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An Acting Lesson for Troubling Times

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When I was twelve, I played Anne Frank in a local theatre production up in the mountains of North Jersey.  It was in one of those performance spaces that makes you miss the community theatre scene–a sturdy, 19th-century chapel in the center of town, with original wooden pews, a lady bug infestation, and the smell of books and old coffee.

The timing of this show was a major comfort for me and my family, it was just over two years since we had moved from Plainfield, a town that had become so dangerous that we purposely “disappeared” with as little a trace as possible.  These were the days before the internet, and so all you needed to do was select being “unlisted” in the White Pages, and bam, you were off the grid.  Studying Anne brought such solace to me in a time when I felt that I had also up and left my friends without a mailing address.  The door simply closed on that old life.  Unlike Anne though, I started a new one.  I was welcomed by a chance to play in the woods, to ride my bike until the sun went down, to meet new friends, and through that, work with new theatre companies.

I had a pretty lucky theatre ‘career’ as a kid, I probably worked more then than I have as an adult so far.  But up until that point, I hadn’t dealt with a role with such a massive line-load as Anne.  I also spend 99% of the show on stage, only stepping behind a flat to change during the second act; and of course, I did not come in the final scene, when Otto Frank returns without his family.

But my primary focus was on my lines, of the logistics of staying on stage that long, of the ins and outs of imitating and embodying a historical figure I had already looked up to for years.  You can learn a lot about someone’s energy and enthusiasm for life through their writing voice, and perhaps this is why we’re all so drawn to this girl.  I studied the way she viewed the crumbling world around her, how she always maintained empathy and a belief in others’ goodness, even when she got angry and frustrated and panicked.  I connected with the fact that she had terrifying nightmares that woke her up mid-scream (at least this is how its depicted in the show).  I grew up with nightmares, and still either sleep walk or wake up gasping for breath from time to time.  But most of all, I remember obsessively retraining myself on how to hold my pen–sometimes the two front fingers connected to the pencil, my thumb on the other side, and sometimes the pencil between the fore and middle finger, something that took a good deal of practice.  I still catch myself doing these from time to time.

Like this.

Like this.

And so I learned to sit like her, to speak in a rhythm I believed she would have used, and to sink into the small world of the annex; as in real life, I played with the ladybugs and stared out the church window at a similar chestnut tree she describes in her diary.  In the end, as with all roles, I am still me, and so we slowly became one, walking and talking in tandem.  In the early days of living in a new town, she was a friend.

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Do Not Let Me Entertain You

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This is in response to today’s Daily Post, entitled “Invitation.”

If you go to the theatre, turn on a movie, stand in front of a work of art, switch on the radio–do not let me entertain you.  If you do, you are being tricked, you are missing the point, you are closing off a part of you due to fear, misunderstanding, the anxiety of truly looking at yourself.  Each piece of art–from the loud, frivolous musical to the subtle, abstract painting–evokes something in you that wasn’t there before, it creates.  It creates joy, nostalgia, anger, confusion, wonder, and perhaps even inspiration to change.  And whether the art pleases or angers you, it makes no difference.  What matters is that you went from feeling nothing–from moving along in a neutral day, from following the rhythm of the world, to distracting yourself by your own inner world—to stopping, to looking at the mirror that art provides for one moment, and challenging yourself to listen, to look.

With all the confusing anger around Meryl Streep’s speech and Hamilton providing a “safe space” and other misrepresentations of my field, I see the opportunity not to quiet these incorrect views of art, but to challenge them.  If these people, the ones who believe that art and artists are literally only meant to delight them, to make them feel more comfortable in their already comfortable states, well then I say, great!  I dare to you come to something truly challenging and try to leave simply, “entertained.”  I dare you to listen to an artist’s “unwelcome” opinion and walk around with it for one day before responding.

I keep reading,  “We go to see theatre for an escape, do your job.” But I ask you, if you only see art as an escape, what are you escaping?  Even asking yourself that question means that art has proved your thesis as incorrect.

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Day 27: A Story for Joe

For the final 30 days of my twenties, I am writing one personal narrative a day that has impacted my life until now.  To read more about my challenge, feel free to check out the first post.  

Also, this 30 Day challenge is also to support a wonderful charity, Zara Aina.  Please check out my fundraiser here and if you’re able, please consider throwing a few dollars toward this amazing cause.  It would mean the world!

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Looking back, it’s fascinating to think that my in-person relationship with Joe Patenaude was actually quite brief.  We first met when I was ten, in the height of the Plainfield saga.  He was one of those people that bridges the two worlds for me–I met him when I was still living in my old life, and then he returned in a bigger way, in my new life, many years later.

My mom had a play produced at Drew in 1996, a poster I’d always look for at our annual end-of-the-year theatre party, a reminder that I actually stood in my future-college cafeteria, many years before college was even a thought.  I remember very little, other than the fact that the show went up with a David Ives one-act, and during the little party afterwards, I shook his hand and remember thinking that he had rather large eyebrows.  That’s now all I can think of when I come across David Ives plays.  Tall man (because I was very little at the time), big eyebrows.  As my eyebrows started to get bushier in my teen years, I genuinely believed that I was getting some sort of Karmic punishment for making fun of David Ives’ eyebrows in my head.  But I digress…

To my knowledge, Joe was there that day as well.  Again, I was little and barely remember which adults were which. Nevertheless, I had a great time that afternoon and went on my merry way, livin’ my life.  When senior year crept up, and I seemed to be the only one among my friends who was completely lost when it came to choosing a college, my mom reminded me that Joe could be a deciding factor.  She reminded me I met him as a kid, that I would already had a familiar base of people there, and that she approved of him as a teacher.  My mom knew a lot of wacky 70s acting teachers that had their own bizarre ways of teaching performance, and she passionately steered me away from these guys.  For Joe, however, she gave the stamp of approval.  So this was not to be taken lightly. Continue reading

Day 4: Enough is enough, or…the night I walked out of a film shoot

 

For the final 30 days of my twenties, I am writing one personal narrative a day that has impacted my life until now.  To read more about my challenge, feel free to check out the first post.  Today’s theme is, “Enough is enough.”  Whatever that means to you, feel free to comment, link your blog, or repost online with any stories of your own.  Thanks for reading!

Also, this 30 Day challenge is also to support a wonderful charity, Zara Aina.  Please check out my fundraiser here and if you’re able, please consider throwing a few dollars toward this amazing cause.  It would mean the world!

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If you want to get under my skin, complain to me about free food. This has been an issue around me lately.  There are very few things that cause me to openly lash out against negativity.  But after years of wondering if my bank account would bottom out at the grocery store (thank heavens those days are behind us), free food, either from a job or otherwise, is no reason to complain.

But recently, I’ve been getting particularly infuriated by this type of griping—and in the process, I’ve realized something.  My aversion to complaints has a lot to do with being an actor.  In the theatre world, there are plenty of factors fighting against you—lack of work, unsteady paychecks, too many people in one market.  And so it’s necessary manages what is in your control—the amount of work you put into your materials, your marketing efforts, and above all—your attitude.  A bad outlook or crotchety attitude is a sure way to ruin your chances in the theatre world—there simple isn’t time for it.  And so I’m always shocked when this isn’t the case in other industries.  In a way, it’s a form of privilege.  You can afford to complain about your job, to not look at the bright side.  In theatre, you find a way, usually with the help of all the other emotionally in-tune artists around you, to work through your frustration in a healthy, constructive way—or with a lot of wine.  You know, healthy alternatives.  Either way, you don’t complain at work.

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Day 1: Don’t Rain on My Parade, or…That Time I Almost Didn’t Go to the Tony’s

For the final 30 days of my twenties, I am writing one personal narrative a day that has impacted my life until now.  To read more about my challenge, feel free to check out the first post.  Today’s theme is, “Don’t Rain on My Parade!”  Whatever that means to you, feel free to comment, link your blog, or repost online with any stories of your own.  Thanks for reading!

Also, this 30 Day challenge is also to support a wonderful charity, Zara Aina.  Please check out my fundraiser here!

Day 1: Don’t Rain on My Parade, or…That Time I Almost Didn’t Go to the Tony’s

In April of 2010, I peeled my 22-year-old self off my parent’s couch and took the 193 bus to Port Authority, dressed rather unstylishly for an internship interview.  The months leading up to this moment included hiking the Camino de Santiago, struggling through a damaging and humiliating breakup, and trudging through a job with a bullying coworker, all the while working through a pile of depression.  I was not in fine shape. By the time I moved back home earlier that year, quiet and tired, I was not averse to lying in bed for days at a time, waiting for night to fall so I could sit up and watch Colbert reruns until I feel asleep on the couch.  I once woke up to my side table covered in flowers because my mom was determined to inspire me to simply start moving again.  Slowly, I did.  One morning, I walked one loop around the lake in my parent’s neighborhood; this gradually became two loops.  But even after hiking 500 miles, my ability to free myself from my weight of depression was a slow, tedious process, and as it had before, walking is what saved me.

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The Actor in the Back of the Coffee Shop

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“It’s just different from what I’m used to,” says the fussy lady in the coffee shop across from me, as she slams down the delicately crafted Matcha latte in front on the barista.  “If you had sweetened it the first time, I would have liked it.”  She wavers between a demanding tea connoisseur and someone who has never interacted with a food establishment before. Luckily, I know the people who work here, and will be able to share a glance of what a pain in the ass when she leaves.  Also luckily for me, she has no idea that I’m sitting here like the opposite of a secret shopper, writing about her unwarranted indignation about what is essentially a cup of hot sugar.

So yeah, not in a super-social mood lately.  Yesterday I told Ben that I would feel much more comfortable with a standard acting career acting if I could make one major change–to remain as introverted and secluded as an actor as I get to be as a writer. I know how to get my thoughts out, how to get to the point of what I want to say, when I sit in a public place with my laptop and write.  Here, I have the societal understanding that no one should mess with me because I’m clearly writing something super-duper important. This, paired with my intimidating resting face, usually assures my privacy.  Fussy tea lady is a reminder that I’m not exactly ready to dive into being a social butterfly to flaunt my acting career.  I used to have a thicker skin for people like this, or at least I thought I had to have one in order to stick with the types of jobs and interactions necessary for a public-facing career.

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The Buddhist Actor

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Last week, I had a rare opportunity to sit in on a Taoist workshop lead by the head of the Chinese Taoism Society, Master Meng Zhiling.  I knew very little going in about Taoist culture and beliefs, only that they would be a great complement to my Buddhist studies (and helpful toward my goal of sitting and meditating for more than 10 minutes at a time without deciding the clean the living room).

During the second workshop, Master Meng spoke specifically about breath and meditation, focusing on body position and the role of Chi. In a nutshell:

  • Shoulders relaxed and down
  • Breath is focused three inches below your belly button
  • Spine and neck are in line
  • Head is lifted but not tense (like a basket on a string!)
  • Overall, you should feel physically light and balanced
  • This practice takes time and patience, since we most likely have been breathing differently all our lives

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xoJane Article on Background Acting

Hello all!!  It’s been a bumpy month for writing.  I feel like my head has been spinning around for weeks.  Nonetheless, back in March I wrote this crazy little piece and it just popped up on xoJane!  Also, if you’re new to this site and would like to read more about my background work experience, I wrote this blog post a million years ago when I was in the heart of it all.

There will be more writing in July, hell or high water.  Have a lovely 4th, everyone!!

I Worked as Movie Extra for Years, And It Got Me Nowhere in My Acting Career

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