Tuesday, May 31, 2011

When Good Things Happen to Good People and Good Actors

One of my first professional gigs after going to The American and Musical Dramatic Academy was in the Shakespearean improv troupe for The Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire. You heard me right: Shakespearean Improv.

It was seriously one of the best gigs for a young actor. Tons of Shakespeare, coupled with customs and manners of the 16th Century, and TONS of improv.

Best of all... getting paid for it! :)

When I left the desert of CA for the lush countryside of PA, I had no idea what I was getting into. I'd never seen any place so green! And I was quite overwhelmed. My entire family was back in CA, and I had just made quite a leap: a 5 month contract, rehearsing 6 days a week, and performing 8 hours a day.

I felt like a fish out of water until I got to the conservatory where the actors were being housed. It was an old church with bats in the bellfry. No lie! And the first person to greet me was Kacey Camp, who was going to play Queen Elizabeth herself!

Kacey was so gracious and instantly welcomed me with a hug. She was like the Rock of Gibraltar, and we formed a fast friendship. We're both Aries, we're diehards for Shakespeare, and we're both very passionate about the acting profession.

When my husband, Rob, and I moved to NY, Kacey was here too! Her home was a safe haven for us, a place to try audition pieces and watch classic films.

Over the years, we've all traveled about the country. Rob and I went back to the Faire in PA and got our Actors' Eligibility to be part of the stage actors union, and Kacey went to Atlanta to do some stagework there. Then Rob and I returned to Manhattan, and Kacey went to LA.

We've both made strides in both cities, and have always cheered each other on, in good times and bad.

Right now is a GREAT time, because Kacey just had a juicy role on Season 2 of the FX series: Justified. Her part comes right in the middle of episode 12, Reckoning - just like the meat of a sandwich. :)

I'm so proud of her! And inspired. Kacey has been plugging away, just like I have, for many years, and it's a great lesson of persistence, patience, and professionalism.

You never know when your moment is going to come, but if you give up, if you quit trying, you lose the opportunity to be there when it happens. So keep at it!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Comedy tonight!

Performing with Jen Curran's sketch class from The PIT. I play a secretary on "The Crystal Meth Diet" by The Kids in the Hall, perform in an SNL sketch called "Surprise Party," and more!

He's My Brother

When I was 5 years old, I asked my parents for a sibling. I was tired of being an only child. I was very imaginative and very good at entertaining myself, but I wanted a playmate, someone to share adventures with!

My parents promptly told me that I was "Enough," which was said with an exhausted, sardonic weariness.

Luckily, 5 years later, they changed their minds and gave birth to my brother, Sean. He was the most incredible being I'd ever encountered, and I adored him instantly! He could have wrapped me around his little finger, but luckily (again, notice all the good fortune here?) he was such a cool kid that he just seemed happy to snooze in his blankie or gaze at me and smile.

He was, and still is, my best bud. :)

Within a year, he was already dancing to Kenny Rogers, who was my mom's favorite singer at the time, but I made sure to dig out my parents old Beatles records and give him some real tunes to groove to!

Little did I know that, a few decades later, he'd bring The Beatles back to me, as well as remind me of other great musicians like Stevie Wonder, Pink Floyd, and countless other rock n rollers.

See, my brother, Sean, is a drummer. He's a major music delver, always searching for something to tickle his brain, heart, and soul.

I remember the first time I watched him on drumset. It was like watching Jackson Pollock paint. It was that magical.

And it's still a delight to watch him play, to hear him make music. He's played with a few different LA bands like Smug, The Wild Complete, and various others, but my all-time favorite is Hippie Cream.

Most of the members reside in our hometown of Hemet, but they've played all over southern CA, and they have a feature film coming out in June based on the concept album, Marty's Magnificent Day-Glo Dreamathon. I play Marty's dream-mom, and it was a thrill to be a part of it.

So why am I telling you about my brother today? It's his birthday! And as I always tell him: he was the gift to me the day he was born.

I love you, little bro! Happy Birthday!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Support Your Local Artists

Tomorrow night, after rehearsing for my sketch comedy show, I'm going to see a friend and fellow artist, Tracey Gilbert perform her first one woman show, Little Known Facts, at the Laurie Beechman Theatre.

Having worked with Tracey on The Tragic and Horrible Life of the Singing Nun, I know what an exceptional performer she is, and I'm so proud of the work she's done on this solo show. It's going to be a blast!

It makes me think of all the wonderful artists all over the world who are brave enough to put their work out there - like my friend, Chas, who's pursuing an opera career in Berlin, or every cast and crew member I've ever worked with who are making their careers happen... wonderful filmmakers from NYU and PA and CA... incredible musicians... I feel so fortunate to have worked with so many talented people!

There's Andy Monroe and Jack Lechner, who won the Outer Critics Circle Award for the new Off Broadway musical, The Kid, of which I got to perform a few of their early demos.

There's my brother Sean,  in Hemet, CA, who's getting ready for the premier of the independent feature film, Marty's Magnificent Day-Glo Dreamathon, of which I  was delighted to play Marty's dream-mom.

The film will be shown in the historic Hemet theatre on June 17.

And of course, there's the sketch comedy show I'm doing on May 26 with 10 talented performers at The People's Improv Theatre

It's a graduation performance of famous sketches from SNL, Kids in the Hall, Mr. Show, and more, and one of the things I loved about this class is thate very time I entered the studio, the halls were filled with laughter.

Everyone I've invited to the show have been so enthusiastic about it, which makes me smile. But then again, everyone loves to laugh. :)

Hope something fun has tickled you today.

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Fighter

Finally got a chance to see "The Fighter," and - WOW! - what a great movie!

Based on the true story of boxer, Micky Ward, the film received countless nominations including Best Picture. I can see why! The cinematic story-telling was gorgeous, and who wouldn't be interested in a story about an underdog finding his strength?

Academy Awards and countless other honors went to supporting actors, Christian Bale and Melissa Leo, who absolutely transformed themselves for the roles of Micky's brother and mother. It was astounding work!

But I was also impressed by Mark Wahlberg's performance as the "quiet lion" Micky Ward, a man fighting not only for his career but to bring the volcanic people in his life together. It was great stuff.

And the supporting cast was incredible! A delicious ensemble of characters! The sisters! My god! They were a tornado of estrogen at its fiercest! And Jack McGee as Micky Ward's father, George, was so grounded and real. I wished he was my dad! :)

Amy Adams was also incredible as the tough-girl bartender who becomes Micky's sweetheart and "rock." Her versatility as an actress just keeps growing and growing. I can't wait to see what she's going to do next! She is full of surprises!

Lastly, I have to commend director David O.Russell for his vision of this film. There were so many incredible moments. And the cinematography by Hoyte Van Hoytema was just beautiful! Kudos to the entire production team, cast and crew!

I wish I would've caught this movie in the theatre, because I bet it was great on the big screen. But I will say the DVD extras are awesome! This film is a keeper!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Practice, Practice, Practice

One of my friends is getting ready to do her first cabaret / one woman show next week, and it's been delightful to share the growth process with her. We were talking about practicing the other day, and how some things get easier with practice - like how singing constantly and healthily strengthens the voice and expands possibilities. Sometimes you discover you can hit higher notes, etc.

It makes me think of that old joke: How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice.

I had a musical showcase last night, and I have a sketch comedy show next week, so I've been afforded quite a playground to practice in. It's interesting to note different strengths and weaknesses, how things that are easy require a different kind of practice from the things that are challenging. No matter what, it whets my appetite to put in the time to train and enjoy the process.

Bonnie Gillespie wrote a cool article, paralleling The Super Bowl to acting, doing everything you can to train and be at the top of your game, "showing up, suiting up, being ready, and staying in the game."

My teacher, Jen Curran, at The People's Improv Theatre (The PIT), has prepped our sketch group about being aware of what you can and cannot control as a performer, and practice is one of the things you can control.

The last thing I'll add about practice is to enjoy the process. Some of the material I've been working on has been made famous by phenomenal performers, and it could be tempting to be challenged by that. I was telling my brother it's like being afraid to play Hamlet because Laurence Olivier, Kenneth Branagh, or Sarah Bernhardt have played the role before.

We all have a voice, we all have a unique interpretation of the character.

It's been really exciting to find my voice, to discover different facets and explore it further.

Going boldly forth! :)

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

How Much Can You Memorize?

I feel like I'm on a game show lately called How Much Can You Memorize?

 I've been so wonderfully busy with classes and rehearsals for upcoming showcases. And in the midst of all that, I'm getting called in for auditions, as well as hitting EPA (Equity Principal Audition) casting calls.

I received a script yesterday for an audition tomorrow, so I'm working on that tonight. Plus I have a scene from Les Liaisons Dangereuses that I'm performing on Monday in a showcase for Scott Frankel, so I'm rehearsing for that.

One of my classes is a sketch comedy class at The PIT (People's Improv Theatre), and our awesome teacher gave me 2 more scenes to add to the sketch I'm doing on May 26th at 7 PM the theatre, so I'm definitely juggling a lot of memorization.

But it makes me think of Tina Fey's book Bossypants where she writes about working on sketches for Saturday Night Live, and how, no matter what, the show goes on whether you're ready or not.

I've been in many shows from theatre to film that have definitely had last minute script changes. Never have I juggled so many scripts before at once, but I am absolutely LOVING IT! :)

Bring it on!

Everything's Coming Up Roses

It's a little after Mother's Day, but as I always tell my Mom, Every day is Mother's Day!

My mom has never been a Mama Rose type, although she did ask the director of The Tragic and Horrible Life of the Singing Nun, upon being introduced, "How do we get this show to Broadway?"

This is the woman who told me at the age of 5: "Live Out Loud!"

She was so young when she had me. I don't know if she ever got to make her dreams come true. But she gave my brother and me a great love of music, literature, film and art, so it makes sense that we both turned out to be artists.

I don't think she and my dad knew what to do with me when, again at the age of 5, I proclaimed I was going to be an actress. They came to every school play, enrolled me in dance, gymnastics and music classes, asked their mothers to help finance voice lessons (thanks to both my grandmothers), and drove me to my first professional gig in San Bernadino where I played an orphan in "Annie."

As I've grown, I've been compared to her a great deal. I have a picture on my desk at my day-job, and one of the guys at work said, "Woah! I thought that was YOU!" And I take that as a compliment.

She's a beautiful woman - inside and out - and I'm proud to call her my mother and my friend. We are still learning a lot from each other.