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 15: The Last Day of the Camino

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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The last town before our final trek to Santiago de Compostela was relatively anti-climatic.  At this point, we were beyond hoping to be romanced by Spanish villages or magnificent churches, and mainly longed to return to hot showers the and luxury of shaving your legs (something I never thought I’d say). But the morning’s weather was stunning, and the group launched their packs onto their bodies with extra vigor and hope.

On one hand, we were returning to the real world.  I had lost touch with my boyfriend about a week prior, a situation that was significantly stressing me out, and I also had a ton of loose ends to tie up with the job waiting for me back home.  As much as I wanted to be in the moment, five weeks away from responsibility was starting to take its toll.  On the other hand, we were returning the real world. Traffic jams, email, days of sedentary life.  Not to mention the pressure that the Camino itself hangs over your head–that you will have worked through all your demons by the end of the hike, returning to the old world as a newly enlightened super-being.  Physically, I had changed, my ankles and calves were tree trunks at this point, and I was so suntanned that I looked like one of the mothers from my childhood lake community that lathered themselves in coconut tanning oil.  Psychologically, I fussed less, and I know that sounds little, but for someone with life-controlling anxiety, this was huge.  One of my hiking mates mentioned that I talked way less about money stress, and I just generally had a freer mind to think about other things.  But as far as my life-altering breakthrough, nothing yet.

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Day 14: That Terrible Time I Tried to Be a Hip-Hop Dancer

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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2010 was the year of applying to everything. Every audition or job opportunity that remotely fit my abilities was a chance for me to at least give it the old college try.  Many times, this landed me in auditions and interviews that were significantly over my head.  One of these times, I was called to audition for a hip-hop flash mob to take place in Times Square for the launch of a new video game console

I don’t know if you know this about me, but I am not a hip hop dancer.  Up until that that time, I had studied ballet, jazz, modern and tap on and off since childhood, and to be fair, I wasn’t half bad.  But when I tried to attempt any type of dance that required you to relax your body (as hip hop often does), I struggled. I really really struggled.  I’d look like a broken tin man trying to dance.  But hey!  This casting director called me directly to tell me about this massive cattle call.  What could go wrong?

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Day 13: Thirty Lessons Learned Between 20 and 30

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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Thirty Lessons Learned Between 20 and 30

  1. How to haggle with a NYC hot dog vendor
  2. How to stand on the right side of the subway platform so you get off on the right side of your stop
  3. Always tip extra
  4. Always double-read a lease before signing it, and for heaven’s sake, keep a copy
  5. There is no way to decide on all your life goals at 21
  6. Gratitude is not the sole answer to anxiety, but it is a gentle start
  7. The third drink is the window between two drinks and six drinks
  8. A lot of famous people are regular, nice human beings
  9. And on that note…there is no magical separation between the Broadway/Hollywood world and the rest of us
  10. I don’t need to try and monetize all my skills/hobbies
  11. A stalled train is not actually the end of the world
  12. Always carry chocolate
  13. Your body is capable of way more that you give it credit for
  14. We have the option to eat a lot of crap or eat food that fuels our body
  15. Sometimes you need to spend a little money to get over your fear of being broke
  16. At times, it’s better to go to bed instead of saying what’s your mind, other times it isn’t, the trick is knowing the difference
  17. Days of rest lead to days of productivity, and you never get a badge of honor for claiming otherwise
  18. You have no control over your audience’s reaction, only over your level of preparation and honesty
  19. Time heals all wounds, if we give ourselves the space and forgiveness to allow it to pass
  20. Nothing good every comes from being snippy to a waiter–or any business you interact with
  21. Living a life without barriers from pursuing your art or passion is the greatest privilege, and one worth fighting for, even if it’s never attained
  22. Go for a walk
  23. The more money involved, the more you need to fight for the project’s genuine, original purpose
  24. Telling someone to “choose happiness” is a lack of awareness of your privilege of stable mental health
  25. You have no reason to feel guilty for taking care of yourself
  26. Hard work does pay off, but it is not rewarded evenly
  27. An arts career is a long-distanced run, not a sprint
  28. How to educate myself during a mind-numbing, dead-end job
  29. Kindness is always the answer, is any situation you can imagine, no matter how many people label you as weak for believing so
  30. Nobody owes you shit

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Day 12: Who Owns a Story?

So after two long, but very nice, days, I was thinking of writing a quick, non-emotional story for the next day of this challenge.  I figured it was a throwaway day–it’s a Saturday night, and maybe no one will be up for reading a blog post.  However, something has been weighing on my mind since I began this project.  It’s a bigger issue–one that I’m sure a trained writer has worked through either in a school program or just through experience.  Or who knows?  Maybe no one has a true answer to this and I’m just realizing the biggest dilemma of all for myself for the first time.  My question is: who “owns” a story?  Let me elaborate:

At the beginning of this project, I brainstormed a list of stories that come to mind when I think about interesting, enlightening, or stressful times in my life that are worth working into the narrative of this representation of 30 years.  At the bottom of the list, past the area of actual possibilities, I created a second list–the “these will never go online” lists.  They are the stories that I deemed inappropriate for an innocent, yet public, forum such as this blog.  I’ve been realizing as I go that I’m unclear about whether these stories at the bottom of the page should ever be told.  What purpose would I be serving by sharing them?  You all have them–stories about past relationships, about being wronged, about mistakes, about fights, or about personal or family hardships that significantly shifted your life.  They are ones that may or may not put you in a good light.  But what’s more important–is that many of these do not put others in a good light, and that’s the issue here.  And other than the possibility of actually getting in trouble for hurting someone’s character, who are you to decide if a story should be told without the other person to defend their side of things?

I’m  being vague because this applies to so many stories I’ve come across on my list.  This blog (as much as I respect it) is not worthy of these stories that most strongly affect me. But that sparks the question–if they mean so much to me, where and when do I tell them?  How does a writer decide when and where a personally significant or deeply influential story is meant to be told?  I think this can be asked of theatre as well.  Do you put your life on the stage if it risks marring the message of something that altered you and your loved ones’ lives?  Or does it serve you more to keep them for yourself?

I find myself skimming the surface with these 30 days of tales.  And at times, I worry they make it look like my “hardships” or journey are anecdotes about travel woes or brushes with frustrating jobs.  But the real ones, the ones that truly make me who I am, involve so many other characters that they cannot be told in this manner.  So what do you do?

Thoughts?  I am open, and thankful, for any advice.

Have a safe a happy night, everyone!

Day 6! A Short Camino Story by the Fire

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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With the interest of returning to hike the Camino again, I’ve been reading several forums about how much things have changed since 2009.  When we hiked, there were no smartphones, no apps to guide our path, and no way to check social media without putting a Euro in a router at a hostel.  It was also pre-The Way, a beautiful movie that helped spread the Camino’s tradition, and apparently significantly boost its popularity.  Understandably, technology and popularity brings along as much bad as it does the good.  I’ve read countless posts about the overcrowding of hostels, squabbles over wifi speed, and a commercialization of the hike.

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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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Oh good, I’m super great at the wrong thing

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Last night I had a dream about eating a sandwich with my grandma.  She passed away a little over two years ago, and had one of the best kitchens on earth for snacks and conversation.  In the dream, she made me a huge but simple ham and cheese sandwich on really nice bread that she said she specifically bought for my visit–something she was known for doing.  However, in real life, I haven’t been able to eat gluten recently in an attempt to figure out why I’ve been so sick.  So in the dream, I start to have this huge dilemma–I’ve been so good about getting healthy.  I’ve been disciplined, I’ve been taking care of myself properly.  If I give in to eating this bread, I’ve gone backwards again.  I’ve failed at my goal.  But in the dream, I stop myself from giving my grandma the gluten speech and eat the damn sandwich.  We have a nice talk before my brain drifts away into the another storyline someplace else, leaving me wishing the elusive and comforting dream had continued a little bit longer.

The significance is due to the infuriating exhaustion I’ve developed this summer.  I just finished another acting class, and though the class was incredibly helpful, I still walked away feeling like I have frozen in my growth as an actor.  Without a show, without the time to find a consistent project to throw myself into, I stall.  Throughout it all–the juggling, the pushing, the planning–I’ve worn myself down further and further, constantly attempting to do everything that I do well.  Or actually, better than well, perfectly.  And yes, I have become very very good at creating stability–financial and otherwise–so good that I have ended up in the place where my art that I’m fighting for barely exists.

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The Buddhist Actor and the Audition

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The Mental Life Cycle of an Audition

If there’s one thing that hasn’t changed in the past 20-some years of acting, it’s the twisted, complex labyrinth of psychological grief I embark upon each time I lock down an audition.

Step one: What a cool opportunity, I’m not going to get hooked on the idea of getting the role, it’s just great to go. Yay me.

Step two (approximately an hour later): Great!  I have officially figured out all the logistics of how to schedule/travel for this role if I get in the show, but totally won’t count my chickens before they hatch.  If I don’t get it, that’s cool too.

Step three: Irrational confidence/justification stage: It’s a small theatre in a small town so I bet they won’t get that many women and I know that guy through that lady who I think is stage managing so I feel really good about this one.  Also, I’m now obsessed with the character.

Step four (the night before): Maybe I shouldn’t go, maybe this is dumb and it would stress me out to go anyway.  They have other people who would be perfect for it, and I’m really not feeling prepared.  Also, I’m totally getting sick.

Step five: The audition waiting room: Everyone knows each other but me. They’ve all apparently been working constantly.  I’m gonna sit here and stress over the weird shoes I’m wearing.

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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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