Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Miracle is You

One of my friends recently went in for a very rough surgery, so I've been thinking of her and all the special people in my life. We were texting a great deal before her surgery - about life and really living each day to the fullest - and one of her texts struck such a chord. She said, "The miracle is YOU."

(photo by Paul Bates)

It makes me realize how precious life is, how each moment is so entirely unique and new unto itself. What happened yesterday will never happen the same way it did. It was what it was. Now we're onto a new moment.

"The gift is the present."

It makes me appreciate those folks who have shared this life ride with me all the more.

My friend, Tina, and I often talk about being surfers on the cosmic waves of life. And I feel like that with all my friends.

Sometimes we share an incredible wave together. Sometimes one of us wipes out, so we're there to support each other and help each other get back on our boards. Sometimes only one of us catches an incredible wave and the rest of us watch them surf the heck out of it. But no matter what, we're there for each other, sharing it in one way or another, and that is such a gift!

Friday, June 17, 2011

This Week in Liffe Lessons

Do you ever have a week chock-full of life lessons?

When something comes my way, especially if the message is repeated more than once, I realize it's a sign to pay attention to the lesson. It's like the fortune in the cookie. :)

So what were the big lessons for me this week?

1) Practice. When you practice something - any kind of activity from sports to the arts - you improve your skills and your game.

This week I performed in a small staged reading of a new musical, and it was wonderful to be immersed in the material for a full 2 days. The music was very complicated with lots of different time signatures and harmonies, and it could have seemed daunting. But by practicing my part, I went into the performance feeling strong and had a great time! :)

I also started a writing class this week. I've written dramatic pieces over the years, so I wanted to try my hand at comedy, and so I enrolled in a class at The PIT. The teacher is great, and he also affirmed the lesson of practice. The more you write - again, the more you practice anything - the better you get at it.

2)  Find the positive and cheer each other on.
This lesson was also gleaned from my new writing class, and I thought it was a great philosophy.

Too often, in art especially, people will rip each other apart. There's a great scene in Mel Brooks' "History of the World Part 1" where a caveman artist is born, promptly followed by the birth of the critic.

But if we can find at least one positive and expound on that, who knows what other treasures we might find?

Next week we're going to get into constructive criticism, but this also reminds me of a lesson from one of my first musical theatre classes at AMDA. We had this great teacher named Karen, who was quite old... "as old as the hills," you might say. She reminded me of a combo of Ethel Merman and Aunt Clara from "Bewitched."

She was wonderful and would encourage the class to give feedback after each in-class performance. But we were not allowed to say a performance was "good" or "bad." We were encouraged to say what was "effective" or "ineffective" about a performance, and this language created a healthy playground for us all.

This takes me to...

3)  Love your self.

As a petite woman and actress, I've always been aware of caloric inntake. In high school and college, I used to skip meals and even went on the Atkins diet to rapidly lose weight for an audition for "Days of Our Lives." This worked for a brief while until my body rejected this way of living. My blood pressure plummated during an audition and I passed out, literally falling flat on my face and breaking a tooth. It scared the heck out of me, and so I've made sure to eat healthily ever since.

I'm really into juicing right now and simply love it. I'm still working on losing the pounds. I hit the gym and power-walk everywhere, but I'm not a stick-thin actress - never have been. I'm curvy and I like to dress in sexy attire, so I wore a dress for this week's performance, and one of the gals in the cast complimented me on my figure. That made me feel great, and I told her how great she looked.

"Well, I can't dress like you," she said. "You have such beautiful arms, but mine... I need to cover them up."

I was astounded because A) I didn't see myself that way, and B) she was GORGEOUS! I mean, seriously, I hope I have this woman's figure when I get older.

So this made me realize that we don't see each ourselves as others do. Yeah, there are many harsh critics out there, but often, we're our own worst critics.

(artwork by Rita Lloyd)

We really need to love and appreciate ourselves as we are RIGHT NOW. Sure, there are pounds to lose. Yes, there are things we may not like about ourselves, but can you imagine how good we would feel if we really loved, supported, appreciated and took care of ourselves right now? To really love every part of ourselves.

Some good things to think about.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Marty's Magnificent Day-Glo Dream-a-Thon

About a year ago, I hopped on a plane to my hometown of Hemet, CA and spent a weekend filming a scene for the independent feature film musical, Marty's Magnificent Day-Glo Dream-a-Thon.

The film is built around the concept album by the psychadelic folk rock band, Hippie Cream. It's about a young man who seeks to find the cure for his grandfather's illness by undertaking risky dream therapy.

My brother, Sean, is the drummer for the band, and I have long been a fan of their work. When he told me they were doing a feature film musical in the style of a science fiction B movie influenced by The Ramones' "Rock n Roll High School," I knew I had to be a part of it.

The director Daniel Philip Maggio cast me in the cameo of Marty's Dream-Mom, and it was a pleasure to play such a role.

The cast and crew for Marty were simply stellar. Everyone asked about the New York scene, and it was fun to bring my experience to their party, so to speak.

The young man who plays Marty, Wesley Houdyshell, is a natural! And director Dan Maggio is really one of the most professional, patient, encouraging directors I've ever worked with.

I feel very lucky. All of my film experiences have been really great with top-notch casts and crews. I've played leading roles in NYU shorts and won the Craft Award for the 1/2 hour film Sincerely Yours. I've done big-budget stuff, worked as a stand-in on The Sopranos, played an extra in Spiderman, and walked by Sarah Jessica Parker on Sex in the City.

The cast and crew of Marty were just as professional as any of these cinematic teams. Everyone put their hearts and souls into the film. Plus it was SO MUCH FUN!

Marty's Magnificent Day-Glo Dream-a-Thon premieres tomorrow June 17 at 7 PM at the Historic Hemet Theatre. If you're in town and feel like taking a walk on the wild side (artistically), check it out! I have no doubt it's going to be a blast!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Power-walking to an Audition

Today I power-walked to an audition at the York Theatre Company. This lovely little theatre is on the east side of town, so it provides an artist like myself the opportunity to take in the sights of Manhattan whenever I boogie over there.

I come from the West Side, so I get to pass all these landmarks and beautiful buildings like the MoMA.

I had met Kara Herold and her folks there when she came to show her film, Bachelorette 34.

That's when I was rockin a platinum blonde look. :)

I also passed the Irish pub across from the MoMA where I had met The Twisted Sisters, Tina and Maryanne, for lunch with their college kids, Rob and Molly.

Obviously a fun group! :)

Then I passed HA! Comedy Club where The Sisters came to see me in the musical Hell's Belles last year. I usually give the club a smile as I dash by, but today I was seriously power-walking, so I zoomed by and suddenly found myself at Rockefeller Center.

It was a particularly beautiful day at 30 Rock. The flags were flying, the sun was shining, and a nice breeze was moving through the trees. Just gorgeous!

Then I zoomed by the south side of St. Patrick's Cathedral. The grass smelled freshly cut, and it was such a heavenly scent. The city doesn't usually smell so nice - in the summertime especially.

Then I boogied over to St. Peter's Church where The York Theatre abides. It was such a lovely walk, and I had a blast at my audition. What a great way to spend the day! :)

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

SciFi Girl

Ok. I'm coming out.... I'm a scifi fantasy girl. :)

I have been loving HBO's miniseries, "Game of Thrones," based on the novel by George R. R. Martin (my husband's reading the book now, and then I'm stealing it). And apparently I'm not the only one! :) There are a ton of awesome blogs about the series - and the books - all over the world! Just Google "Game of Thrones," and you'll see.

For those who need a quick overview, it's a tale of one throne, seven kingdoms, and a bunch of families vying for power. It reminds me very much of the War of the Roses, the Medieval civil war in England, which I studied in preparation for my characters in the acting company at Penn Ren (we covered A LOT of history in rehearsals).

I think that's why "Game of Thrones" works. It hearkens to a time we're familiar with, drawing upon tales of old like Ivanhoe, but it's definitely an original tale that has the fantastical inclusion of dragons and the undead.

The characters are also very rich. My favorite is Tyrion, a dwarf, played by the marvelous actor, Peter Dinklage, who proves his wit is sharper than than the swords most men carry. He is the son of a rich and terrible family, and his sister, Cersei, is a cut-throat queen with a "win or die" attitude. Her cold, cold smile speaks volumes.

Actress Lena Headey is obviously doing her job with this character, because... she scares me.

Then there's the rightful heir to the throne, a young girl named Daenerys, who is sold in marriage by her brat of a brother to a horse warlord named Drogo. But instead of withering under the strength of her warrior husband, Daenerys blooms and becomes a very strong woman of her own. I love that she's finding her power!

This theme of empowered women actually correlates to a book I'm reading called "A Discovery of Witches," by Deborah E. Harkness. The heroine is a brilliant Yale historian named Diana, who is a reluctant witch from a very powerful magical family. She's actually afraid to use her power, but the more she denies it, the more it becomes imperative that she must accept her supernatural talents and learn how to use her power.

There's also a delicious vampire and several daemons, and of course, lots of witches! It's a fun world that Ms. Harkness has built, combining fact with fiction, chemistry with alchemy. Think Bones meets Charmed (or more like the movie, Practical Magic) with a lot of classical references and wonderfully smart, sensual story-telling.

Of course, it's not lost on me that the theme of women finding their power is very prevalent in my life right now. And I'm excited to turn the page of my own adventures. :)

Stay tuned!

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Broadcast Music, Inc.

For a few years now, I've been privileged to work with emerging composers and lyricists, "the musical theatre writers of tomorrow," at Broadcast Music Inc. (BMI).

Andy Monroe
introduced me to the group when he asked me to sing a song from his new musical "The Kid," which has since gone on to win countless awards, including The Outer Critics Circle Award for Best New Off Broadway Musical.

I've also worked with Robby Stamper, who was the musical director for The Tragic and Horrible Life of the Singing Nun, and has had recent success with the musical, "Helen on 86th Street."

Next week, I'm performing in the final presentation of a new musical by Glenn Bassett and Adam Cohen, and it's incredibly exciting to be part of something so new. I've done some song presentations for this duo in the past few weeks, so I know their musical groove, and it's cool to be on the ride.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

More Faire Days

I blogged yesterday about a friend I met at one of my first professional acting gigs: The Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire. And actually, many of my life-long friendships have come out of that amazing experience. I still keep in touch with many of the performers, stage managers, directors, producers, and shop-keepers.

The Twisted Sisters, or "The Herb Sisters," Tina and Maryanne are particular favorites. We tend to cackle like witches when we get together, and my husband often says that he expects us to fly around when he's not looking.

I met my husband, Rob, at the Faire 21 years ago. We were both cast in the professional acting troupe and became fast friends. He was the wickedly funny Cardinal Synne, and I was the thief, Polly Pickalittle. We shared lotsa laughs and fell very much in love.

I feel so blessed that we're still so in love and are still best friends!

It's an incredible journey, and I am so thankful for the people in my life and the opportunities that keep coming my way. We keep learning and loving and growing every day.

Blessed be! :)