Monday, January 26, 2009

Paddy Chayefsky

I'm working on a play by Paddy Chayefsky for my monologue class with Karen Kohlhaas at the Atlantic Theatre School, and I just had to pay kudos to this great writer. I've always been fascinated with his plays, The Tenth Man and Middle of the Night. His work is humble, human, and warmly intimate.

I'm really impressed with how timeless some of his work is. This play I'm currently working on is from the '50s and deals with "the real connection" between two people, particularly in a marriage. Sex, emotions, the mental connection of two like minds. It's all as relevant today as it was then, and I find myself constantly tipping my hat to Mr. Chayefksy and his wonderful writing.

One of my friends asked me who he was, so I did my research and discovered this beloved playwright was an Academy Award winning screenwriter:

My parents were big fans of the films "Network" and "Altered States," and I find it fascinating that Mr. Chayefsky's work still resonates with so many generations. Very very cool.

Friends, Films, Family and Fun

While in the midst of working on my craft, it's always a joy to see others putting their art out into the world as well. There's something so inspiring about that, and there's this great sense of fellowship and community and artists supporting each other through the "birthing" process, getting a labor of love seen by the public at large.

My high school friend, Kara Herold, is bringing her documentary, "Bachelorette 34" to the Museum of Modern Art here in Manhattan next month, and I can't wait to see her and her film.

One reviewer said, "Forget five stars, this film deserves 34 exquisite, gem-quality of documation at its best.”

"Bacelorette 34" will be playing Friday, February 20 at 8:30pm in Titus 1 Sunday, February 22 at 1:30pm in Titus 2 at the MoMA.

Likewise, director Jonathan Betzler, whom I worked with at NYU on the 30 minute film, Sincerely Yours, is screening his feature film, "Homecoming" on Feb. 10th in New York City at 9pm at the Anthology Film Archives on the corner of 2nd Avenue and 2nd Street in NYC, featured by the New Filmmakers Series. I'm so excited for him and can't wait to see this film.

And then there's my little bro, Sean, playing with Hippie Cream at Juanita's Club Flotsam in LA. Wish I could be there!

They all inspire me to keep on with my craft, to enjoy the ride of each day and to embrace each opportunity we have to be creative.

Groove on, you all!

Friday, January 23, 2009

A quick word

When I was in CA, my little brother imparted this wisdom to me:

"A mistake is only a mistake if you label it so."

And I had to giggle because my acting coach Karen said something very similar in class last night:

"If you make a mistake, say, 'GOOD,' and practice dealing with where this new energy takes you."

I love that!

In Effortless Mastery, Kenny Werner talks about how "there are no wrong notes," and my brother, Sean echoes this sentiment. As a musician, he's learned that a "mistake" can lead to an incredibly cool new riff, and I love that unlimited approach to art. Isn't that why we dig being creative in the first place?

Enjoy your process!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Risk-taking and Bravery

I'm on Week 2 of Karen Kohlhaas' Monologue Audition Class and we're moving from being "outside" the monologue (taking care of all the work your own "internal director" wants you to do during an audition) into the excitement of getting "inside" the acting of the piece. It's really exhilirating stuff, and I've been enjoying the homework. It makes me feel like I finally have the tools to take care of the technical aspects of an audition beforehand and then really enjoy it once I get in there.

Karen took us through a bunch of steps last week in class and it was fascinating to experience. Now this week all 8 of us in class will show the monologues we've been working on, and I tell ya, I'm excited to see what we all bring to the table.

I don't think I've ever run the lines of a monologue as much as I have for this class. Sure, I have 2 standard monologues memorized for auditions, but because they were done without these new tools I've acquired, they felt stale and flat and without a sense of direction. Sometimes I would hit the right emotion in an audition, because of where I was at that day, but now I feel like I can truly back myself up every time! It's like before I would be able to pull out A color to show during a piece, but now I feel like I've got a whole rainbow in my pocket, just waiting to come out. That is thrilling!Something yummy I also learned was about one of my favorite actors, Sir Anthony Hopkins, who reportedly runs his lines 200 times until "there is no more distinction between the actor and the words – he is what he has to say, and it comes out of him as effortlessly as if he were actually that character." There is no need to "embellish or push when he acts." And there are times I've hit that mode, but it can be so happenstance.

To be able to demystify the process and still respect it and enjoy it... I have truly found that this week with just drilling and drilling my monologue every chance I can get. Have I done it 200 times? Nope, not yet, but I'm working on it. :)

This next class focuses on the acting of the piece, on risk-taking and bravery while "acting on the character's behalf." Anyone who has done public speaking knows what a wild thing it is to get up in front of a group and speak. I thought about that yesterday with Barack Obama speaking his inaugural address to the huge crowd in front of the Capitol. He also spoke about risk-taking and bravery. And I know it might sound wild to compare my little class to the work of the now president of the United States. But it takes dedication to pursue one's dreams, and there is hard work, and there is a sense of absolutely taking risks in putting oneself out there to make your dreams come true.
I think of all my friends who choose to live fully, to take the road less traveled. I believe we all do the best we can every day. And we do it with guts and gusto. Some days require more risks and bravery than others, and actually, that's one of the things I love about auditioning - the challenging risk-factor. It can be scary as ever, and almost every award-winning actor remarks on the terror of auditioning. But now I have the tools to climb that mountain, and I am THRILLED.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Unity of purpose

"On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord. " - Barack Obama

It is such a fascinating time. Watching Barack Obama's inauguration as the 44th president of the United States, I was blown away by the amount of people there, but I totally get it. Everyone wants to really be there, sharing this historic moment. One of my neighbors even took the train down to DC with his partner, to celebrate this joyous occasion.

Watching it with some of my workmates, it truly felt like a unifying hour. I loved Biden's sincerity and confidence in taking his vows. I cheered Aretha Franklin on, though I wished the key of the song had been lowered so she could really belt it out. Still, she's Aretha and she's wonderful!

I was especially moved by the quartet (cellist Yo-Yo Ma, violinist Itzhak Perlman, clarinetist Anthony McGill, and pianist Gabriella Montero) who played John Williams' composition, "Air and Simple Gifts." What a gorgeous tribute!

And of course, I was greatly inspired by our new president Barack Obama. His speech was awesome, and I was especially moved by these passages:

"The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness. "

"It has not been the path for the faint-hearted... Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things.."

"Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them may be new. But those values upon which our success depends - hard work and honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism - these things are old. These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history. What is demanded then is a return to these truths. What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility - a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task."

"In this winter of our hardship, let us remember these timeless words. With hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come. Let it be said by our children's children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God's grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations." - Barack Obama.

So it is time to meet the challenges before us and to press on with hope and prupose.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Baby, it's cold outside

A lot of people ask me, "Do you miss CA?" Like they're wondering why I would come to New York and leave the land of palm trees and orange groves. But I have always been drawn to the dark, mysterious east. Except for days like today when the temperature hovers around 9 degrees... that's when I really miss CA.Of course, I miss my friends and family in CA all year round. I had such a blast visiting them for the New Year. Something I particularly tried to do on this last trip was to visit local shops in town that are unique. My Mom turned me onto this little coffee shop that appeared before Starbucks came to my small hometown. It's called the Ya Ya's Coffee Shop, and I'm glad to see it's still alive and kicking. How cool is it that they did The Vagina Monologues last year? The place is really hip and perfect for intimate live performances like that.

They also make AWESOME "fluffy coffees." I had one called The Peppermint Patty and it was deee-lish!
My little bro, Sean, came with me and was diggin' the painted walls inside.The Ya Ya's Coffee house is located at 312 N San Jacinto St./Hemet, CA if you're in the mood for something groovy.

Support your local small business! :)

Friday, January 16, 2009

Class and Creativity

I had an awesome class last night with Karen Kohlhaas. It was my first time at the Atlantic Acting School which was such a treat. I've auditioned for productions in the actual theatre spaces for the Atlantic Theatre Company which is in a completely different building altogether. The classroom I was in for Karen's class was warm and cozy and a perfect space to mirror the many monologue audition spaces an actor will find themselves in.

I tell ya, if you've ever had any issues with monologues or wanted to get more out of them, this is the class to take! It lets you look at your work from the outside in, creating effective staging and guilde-lines for a work environment that lets you get the most out of your material, from creating clear choices to providing really meaty acting exercises once you get inside the piece.

I'm still reeling, taking it all in. What an absolute blast!

On that highly creative note, I'm wearing my Hippie Cream shirt today in honor of my little brother and the awesome band he's playing with this weekend at The Beach Comber in Oxnard, CA. They are racking up gigs in LA pretty quickly as people are catching onto their groovy tunes. I believe they even got an invite to play in 'Frisco and Las Vegas, so catch the wave! If you like music that ranges from soulful to silly, old-school rock n roll punk to funky-country-folk, Hippie Cream might just be your cup of tea. :)
(my Mom and me show the love with Hippie Cream T's).

Rock on and have a great weekend!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Snow Days

A lot of my friends in the Midwest are having snow days today. I imagine they're home with their kids, and I hope they're enjoying some hot chocolate.

In the meantime, it's business as usual in the Big Apple. I love it when it snows here. There's something so magical about how the snowflakes blow about the city and then settle in piles. When the sun shines on them it's like walking on glitter.

Growing up in the desert of southern CA, snow was unusual and didn't appear unless you went into the mountains in search of it. So now, to be in a place, where winter truly drags her long white coat over the land, is always a marvel.

This is not to say that I'm impervious to the cold. On the contrary, I've spent many a day out in the cold, waiting to get into an audition, and I have to say that I think actors are as dedicated as the postman, because when it comes to auditions, we'll show up in rain, sleet, and snow. See, here in NY, even though an audition will be listed with a start time of 9 or 10 AM, people will show up as early as 6 AM to make sure they get an audition slot. Some of us are pretty driven when it comes to getting out product out there, and we'll run all over town, hitting different audition spaces at different casting offices or rehearsal spaces, to hit as many auditions as possible.

I've become a lot more focused over the years, targeting specific auditions, and fortunately, I've reached a point where I've been getting called in directly from the casting director or director for specific appointments, which is great. Still, I go to the general Equity auditions when there's something that really grabs me.

Tonight, I'll be hiking across town to The Atlantic Theatre Company to start classes with Karen Kohlhaas. I've been interested in her monologue class for quite a while, but I've been so booked up with gigs that I haven't been able to jump into it til now. So tonight's the night! I'm so excited and have been enjoying the preparation for the class, revelling in the homework.

When I was in CA, my brother and I talked about how every class we take adds to the whole package of what we bring to the table as artists. He's a drummer who also plays gorgeous acoustic guitar and is an incredible writer. He went back to school after years of working solely as a musician, and I'm so inspired by his choice to take classes that stretch him. He could argue philosophy with the best of 'em! And the cool thing is that musically he keeps growing too.

So I'm off to class! Tell ya about it later!

Monday, January 12, 2009

The clouds are shifting

"The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." - Franklin Delano Roosevelt

This quote has appeared twice to me today, and when that happens, I know it's a sign to pay attention. I see so many of my friends struggling with day to day fears like being out of work, or scared about what to do for an interview/audition, for life and school... all these transitions... and I know they're working through their stuff just as I am. But I think of that great quote from Frank Herbert's novel, Dune:

"Fear is the mind killer... I will face my fear... and when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain."

I believe we can overcome our fears.

One of my friends was talking about how when we're kids we never think to focus on the obstacles. We just think, "I'm going to do that!" No limitations. But as we age, something happens and we become aware of perceived hurdles. If we waste our energy focusing on the hurdle instead of getting over it then we're missing the joy of what's beyond it. Or the joy of leaping over it.

As my friend Tina says, "If there's a wall in your way, just walk around it. It doesn't need to block your view."She recently posted this awesome blog on coming out of the darkness - as a small business owner and as a woman. And I can't help but salute her and thank her for shining her light, for bringing hope to others by sending out a shout of hope for the future.

James Wolcott mentions this in his recent article in Vanity Fair, how people in New York City (considered the cynical capital of the world) are still wearing their Obama buttons, and I still see Obama bumper stickers in store windows. People are hopeful, I believe. We have to look to the light. There will be a dawn.

Bonnie Gillespie wrote about focusing on the positive in her column, The Actors Voice, paying kudos to Malcolm Gladwell's book, Outliers: "We--as a society--can conspire to create greater success for all of us. Sure, there are predictors such as socioeconomic status, IQ level, raw talent, era in which you were born, and geographical advantages. All of those matter too. But perhaps just as important is a person's practical intelligence (or social intelligence), i.e.: charm, wit, even chutzpah. And because those things can be developed and supported by a community that rallies around a person to make success more feasible, we actually have far greater control over whether we succeed or fail in life than we may have always thought (or been taught or been told, based on how or where or when we grew up)."

So keep positive, people. Hang in there. And shine your light!

Thursday, January 08, 2009

The Start of Something Special

You know when you read that first line of a book or hear a piece of music that just grabs you? You know you're in for something special, and that's how my New Year started.

I was in CA visiting my family and I got to hear the phenomenal band Hippie Cream at this fun club in Venice called Good Hurt. My little bro, Sean, is the drummer for the band, and they've been steadily growing in recognition and reputation. :)
I'm just so proud of him, because he's a cool cat to begin with, and he's played with some really neat bands, but this one... there's just something special about Hippie Cream.

They were the early band at Good Hurt, so there were only a few people there, but we all could feel the fun factor increase a hundredfold when they started to play, and everyone went nuts for them. Even the other bands that were arriving to play later in the evening were like, "Wow! Glad we got here early to hear you guys!"
It made me think of all those great "beginnings" where audiences got to first hear The Doors or Oingo Boingo in whatever small setting they first rocked. Those are two bands whom I really love, and ironically Hippie Cream reminds me of them. Apparently I'm not alone in this, because Hippie Cream reminds everyone of their favorite band! One guy at the show said they reminded him of Elvis Costello. Another person said they were like The Grateful Dead. I also sense a bit of Bob Dylan in their material, and yet they still have their own wildly unique sound. It was a blast to be part of that.Even some of my pictures of them turned out psychadelic. :)

Ironically, their performance made me think of the musical theatre scene, because that scene has been growing much more pop-rock flavored. Heck, musical theatre has been rocking since HAIR and Hippie Cream would be a great comparison to that freedom-loving scene.

As I watched them perform and then watched some of the other bands, I was reminded of my musical theatre audition classes. Strange parallel, I know, yet you can learn so much by watching AND doing. For example, if you have a group of 12 performers, and 10 people decide to do slow ballads, but 2 performers decide to do something wildly different, guess who's going to standout? This isn't to say the balladic folks aren't going to work... some of them work really well. Look at Evansence. But I think the thing that works so well with Hippie Cream is that they are unfettered, and I know I've always felt more successful in auditions and performances when I'm letting everything flow like these guys were. They're just having fun - whether they're rockin a punk-flavored tune like Cuddles the Vampire, which played on the radio on KXLU's Demolisten 01.02.2009 or crooning some crazy country love song like, "Pray That When I Die" that's on their latest album, On The Moon. They are unique, and they're just letting their sound out and having fun doing it. It's awesome.

If you want to catch them, they've got some gigs at The Beachcomber next weekend and will be back at Good Hurt in LA on March 22nd.Boogie on!