Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Studio4Seattle: You are a Wonder

Every Tuesday I attend a play reading group. I've been part of this group since its inaugural meeting around this time last year, and every time I go I come away with the most amazing feeling.  This group is called Studio4Seattle , and honestly it's much much more than a play reading group. It's an open forum and meeting for playwrights, directors, actors, painters, singers, musicians, and artists of all types to meet and inspire each other to be creative. It helps us stretch and grow, and above all, to not become complacent. It's an encouraging atmosphere where every person has the opportunity to have a voice and be involved, but never has to feel the pressure of having to participate.

The group changes weekly. New people come, busy people don't. But everyone seems to come back again and again as time allows, and I believe that's because we've all stumbled upon (or possibly created) something incredibly special. There's a trust to conceive new ideas that I haven't found among other groups in this city, and we're all guided by the amazing David Nail who facilitates this trust with his vision for an artist collective.

This week we read adaptations (or maybe I should say 'arrangements') of a script previously produced in Florida, but originally written in England. It is a script that can be written for any number of actors and we've taken to playing around with how the story is changed by changing the number of characters and which lines they say. This is just one of the many exercises and experiments that I have had the fortune to be a part of.

I don't know how to stress this enough, but being an actor (or any type of artist) is hard. All professions are, in their own way. But one of the struggles of an actor is to consistently find work, to be working, to be seen and heard. And sometimes it's impossible to work based on type and demand. But one thing we can all do to make things easier for ourselves, is to create our own work. But this too, can be extremely challenging. A lot of the time it's difficult to feel inspired, to give yourself permission to take the time to create, or to feel motivated to create when you feel like you don't have time. EVERYONE should find an outlet that helps them feel inspired--because it is truly the most fulfilling and motivational feeling.

I urge all artists to push themselves to create, create, create, and if you can help yourself by including yourself in groups like these--do it. Don't be afraid. Make the time. And give yourself permission.

I'm so grateful for Studio4, and for the way I get to feel every Tuesday night after speaking and working with other artists who help to motivate me. It's such a beautiful experience.

My question to you: How do you motivate yourself? How do you make time for yourself?

Saturday, March 22, 2014

I'm Having a Party!

There are so many things to celebrate recently that I feel like I need to make a list! We know how much I love lists.

1. I'm the newest artistic associate for a wonderful Seattle theatre company called Theatre22. What does that mean? It means I get to learn from the best of the best how to run a small theatre company that wants to grow bigger. Paid staff? Equity contracts? A cool new space? Check it off the list folks, Theatre22 is here to stay.

2. Theatre22 is having a PARTY, and I want to share it with you! April 5. Come join the fun of celebrating this great new company. Did I mention there's a silent auction with fabulous gifts? And I'll be running it. So, seriously, go buy your tickets.

3. This Seattle casting site has listed my page of Headshot Photographers on their site. I mean...I feel famous. Or just really organized. And there's no reason for everyone to make their own list when mine is right up there on that navigation bar. Need new headshots? Click it!

4. The sun is out.

5. Have I mention that I'm the Development Director for Annex Theatre? That's the Gregory Award Winning Theatre of the Year for 2013. And they're about to start taking submissions for next year's season of brand new work. So get your playscripts in!

6. BIG auditions coming up. It's generals season, and I've just finished my first 'Equity Day' audition with TPS (thanks Book-It for the union status change!), and up next are the Village Generals and then Seattle Children's. Can you say time for some fun?

7. The sun is still out.

8. Thanks to a fantastic run of Frankenstein and my current unemployment status, I've been able to spend more quality time on me and the direction I want to go next. I'm looking forward to the research.

So basically, life is a party and everything is going really well in the world of Seattle.

The Play that was Frankenstein

I started writing a few times during the production of Frankenstein. As my first 'professional'(I hate that word) experience, it seemed like I needed to write about it. I needed to get my thoughts out there in the world. But I was entirely too close to the experience, and there was a lot going on.

Instead, I'm writing about it now! Let me begin with why I hate the word 'professional' in relation to theatre. Since moving to Seattle two and a half years ago, I consider most of the work I've done professional. I graduated with a theatre degree from an amazing institution, moved here, and within six months was being paid for my work. I was offered so much work I had to begin turning it down within eight months. I started being called in for auditions by people who had seen me or heard of me by the end of my first year. All of that sounds great within that context, but I suppose the difference is in perspective. I wanted to see all my work as 'professional'. That is the level I aspired to be working at, and I was certain it was the level I was working at.

Then I got cast at Book-It Repertory Theatre. I was offered an hourly wage instead of a stipend. I worked enough hours for that wage to pay my bills. Suddenly, people that hadn't known my name were seeing me on a much larger stage working with a well-known company, and those people that had 'called me in' suddenly seemed like friends I went to play in the sandbox with. Granted--that's how I felt for much of the run. Wide-eyed, plucked from obscurity, and thrust into center stage so to speak. But I want to be clear, that in no way did I ever feel suddenly important. I did, however, suddenly recognize the difference between the work I had been doing thus far, and the work I was now being able to do.

The professionalism of my process and my ability was no different, but I was certainly affected deeply by the breadth of talent and experience surrounding me. The wealth of knowledge that comes from working with a company and a cast of theatre professionals who have made it their career and their lifestyle to work solely for theatres who profit from their shows, run smoothly on grants and a donor database, and are considered as known on a national scale was a completely different experience than just getting paid to do my work. That is how I used to consider professional theatre. If I was being paid in any capacity, I was doing well for myself. I was respected enough to earn some sort of profit, and my time was not being wasted. I suppose I had to have that mindset to continue to push myself forward. It was my way of being positive and optimistic about where I was in my career, and gave me that ability to continue to strive towards something. In a sense, the stipend work was the stepping stone to something greater, but it was also great in itself. I still be believe that a lot of fringe theatres do professional work or have a professional process. But having the operating budget, audience, and space is as important to the process of professional theatre as picking the right director.

Now I understand a lot more, and while I consider all the work I've done professional, I consider the theatre that I just ended a contract with a much more professional experience than any I've had the pleasure of working before!

I've had a fortunate year of professional work! Getting cast in a SAG film, and getting cast in a theatrical production that offered me EMC (Equity Membership Candidate) was not an opportunity I expected to have all in the same year. But I'm counting my blessings and moving forward in the hopes of more good fortune!

What I learned from Frankenstein:
1. Daytime rehearsals are the best thing to ever happen to a theatre graduate. It's everything you've ever wanted and dreamed of and hoped for. When you wake up in the morning and realize that going to work means going to do what you love for the day--that is a special kind of amazing.
2. Sometimes you have the astounding opportunity to work with a phenomenal director who happens to have the magical ability to choose a cast that gets along so well that it's unbelievable. That's how I felt anyway.
3. Every day is a new experience. One day of rehearsal for a new work (world premiere play) can be completely dedicated to one three page scene. This scene may get rewritten five times in one day. Yes, you must know and remember all the line changes. But you must also bring something new every time you do the scene.
4. I had the distinct fortune to work with a director who was also the adapter. This meant that when I, as an actor, felt something off about the scene, we were able to work together to create a different word choice or a completely new line if needed. I had the most amazing time because the director allowed me as an actor to try a scene ten different ways and still never told me that I had to pick one yet.  This rehearsal process was the most freeing and creative experience I've had since college. I could come in and create anything, and if was stupid we'd scratch it, and if it was great--we'd try it again in that direction, just to see what happened next.
5. Safety and trust are the key to every great theatrical experience.
6. Bagels make you rehearse better.
7. Sometimes you will hate a costume piece. It will look fantastic, and will be exactly what everyone wants--but it will impede your ability to do a scene the way you've been rehearsing for five weeks. It doesn't matter. You'd better figure out how to make it work--and like it.
8. Sometimes it takes 23 years of your life until you are allergic to every kind of chapstick, and even if you desperately need that chapstick to survive a show in which you kiss someone in every scene you're in--thou shalt not use chapstick. And you will survive. Albeit, with chapped lips.
9. An all women's dressing room is something I have not experienced since highschool. It was grand!
10. Corsets are your friend. You must learn to breathe and move as one. And you must never eat before a show in which you must bend in your corset, because vomit is a real thing. See our promotional video here.
11. Enjoy every single day like it is the last day you will have the opportunity to do what you love for a living. Treat everyone with respect. Never be afraid to make a big bold choice. Always check in with your fellow actors, and don't be selfish. Love those you work with, and appreciate the work that is being done around you. Let it affect you and move you and take it with you when you are done, for it will help you move forward toward another great experience.

A list of reviews:
The Curtain and the Monster
The Stranger, 2/26/14
Nowhere to Hide at Frankenstein
Mode is Fashion, 2/21/14
Book-It conjures ‘Frankenstein’
Seattle Times, 2/21/14