action · dreams · finances · performance · self-abandonment · self-worth · work

The Truth Will Out.

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(A quick note before I run off to our full-day tech
rehearsal. To Kill a Mockingbird opens this Friday!)
On the heels of the “Don’t forget your North Star” blog
yesterday and contemplation this week, I went to have a voice lesson with a
former castmate. We spoke afterwards about my job transition and how he’d
realized what his North Star was years before, and sure, he had to jump through
hoops to get there, but it was and is worth it. 
He was telling me we have to listen most of all to
ourselves, not to others, and to not let their voices drown out our own. But I
replied, Their not giving me their ideas, they’re asking “What do you want to
do?” and I keep on answering, “I don’t know.”
But I sat with that for a moment, and I corrected myself: No, That’s not true. I do know: I want to perform; I just keep dismissing it.
That, performance, is
my North Star.
I went last night to see a friend of mine perform at her CD
release party. The talent was phenomenal, but beyond that was the
brilliance of her pieces. Honed, practiced, cultivated brilliance. That’s
beyond, “You’re talented.”
I sat in the audience, and during one of her songs, I was
brought to tears with its beauty. With the privilege of being alive and able to
listen and be moved by such art. She created an atmosphere and an experience
that wouldn’t have existed if she didn’t.
I want to do that
And I think it’s possible. I just have a few hoops to jump
through. And a lot of learning and honing to do.
It is very easy for me to dismiss what it is I want, because
it sounds frivolous or flighty in the light of day. It sounds vague and too
artsy and too uncertain. But I’ve fought with myself for years to cop to my
desires, and each time I dismiss it, I pull myself back into the dance of “I don’t know what I’m doing with my life.”
I can dismiss performance for many reasons: believing I’m not
good enough; that it’s too late; for financial reasons; for I-want-to-be-approvable reasons. I want the easy check-box on the form of life: What do you
do for a living?
Or, more accurate, What does your soul want to do?
In talking with my voice teacher, he basically said it’s
possible, and it’s worth it. I drove back from there to meet with two women to
get some perspective on all this job transition stuff, and to firm up actions steps I can
take in the maelstrom of “What the F* are you doing?” that invades my brain.
They said, too, it’s possible, and it takes work. Don’t give
up. Do not go back to sleep.
Here are some steps to take, Yes you’ve taken some of them
before, but here they’re being suggested again. Try again. Talk to my friend,
my sister, this guy I know.
No, it won’t look like being a self-supporting performer,
but it will look like earning enough to support those endeavors.
The artists I’ve met and spoken to this week all have day
jobs. But they do it in service of their dream. It’s not an either/or
proposition: Art or Financial Stability. Dream or Devastation.
It’s hard for me to keep my eye on where I want to go, and
that’s why I have you guys to help me. When I finally ask. And when I finally
am open enough to listening. To you, and to myself. 

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community · fear · joy · love · performance · self-doubt · self-esteem · theater · trying

So, How’s the play?

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Oh, you mean that surprise piece of happenstance that’s underscored how unhappy I was at work by how happy I am in rehearsal and
performance?
That sudden flurry of activity that challenges me to quiet my inner
critic and do what I’ve written here I’ve always wanted to do: perform and
sing?
This universe of actor grumbling and sweaty mic packs and not
enough room at the backstage table and no air conditioning and that railing
that was never put in right and voice cracking and line flubbing and lighting failures?
Well, it’s fantastic!!
The buoyant aura of hard work and camaraderie, laughter and
support. Even when we’re elbowing for room at the table, or need to ask someone
for the hundredth time to hold your wig while you comb the bejeezus out of it –
you know you’re doing it in the service of something larger than you.
To be in performance
is so much more fueling than in rehearsal – like when they described
Sex
and the City
, they said “the City” was the 5th main
character. In a live performance, the audience is also a character, a member of
the staged community. “It’s a great audience tonight.” “They’re not really
laughing.” “They’re so into it.” You measure your performance not necessarily
by how much they laugh or applaud, but by what they give you and what you give
them back. And sometimes what you get is bolstering, and sometimes it’s not, but it’s always present. 
Creating something that never was and will never be again.
Flubbed it tonight? Live theater! Try it again tomorrow. Got your ridiculously long
wig stuck on a screw during an entrance? Have your co-actor unhook you and get
on with it. Didn’t get a laugh on that line tonight? Do it again tomorrow
anyway, because
you think it’s
funny. Try it differently. “Let’s get crazy,” to quote a line from the show.
In addition to all this, I’ve loved the backstage buzz.
People are talking about auditions and other musicals, and arguing about their
favorite. People are going over their next audition monologues and kibitzing
about where they’ll audition next and who the casting director is and if you
saw that one last play, and Boy Howdy what a success/disaster.
It’s thrilling to me!
Someone so new to this world, it’s like drinking from an oasis. People are
actually
talking about theater,
about acting, about what they’ll do next. And it’s inspiring me to continue
trying.
I know it would be very easy for me to not do anything for a
while, because of my upcoming job transition.
But, this play is part of the reason why
I’m changing career avenues. And much of the point of the changing avenue is to
change my schedule to accommodate
being in productions.
Hearing all the dressing room chatter about upcoming
auditions, I find I want to do more. And, like I wrote yesterday, it could be
easy for me to let this thread drop when it’s over – I know how to have a
flurry of activity followed by inaction. But being in the belly of the action,
hearing words fly back and forth and the encouragement and the excitement
shared by the other actors… I’m demanding from myself that I make these
outreach emails and audition calls now, before the play is through.
So, how’s the play? It’s changed and is changing my life.
It’s hard, and I feel inadequate, and I judge myself against
more experienced singers. I dread these two lyrics in the whole show and
challenge myself to not dread them, to be present and let it be what it’ll be
because it’s not the all of who I am or what I’m giving.
The show is fun and takes effort and requires me to be
present and accommodating and kind.
In short, the show requires me to live. And live bravely.
Amen. 

ambition · band · commitment · decision · destiny · dreams · faith · hope · performance · perseverance · self-worth · singing · tenacity · work

Dream Girls

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If we can pass others on the street and think to ourselves,
“There, but for the grace of G-d, go I,” isn’t it possible that others can pass
us and say the same thing?
I spent last evening at a Queen concert. It was balls-out
amazing: the talent, the showmanship, the technique and the bravery to stand
out there, bounce around a stage and invigorate a crowd of thousands.
I had a moment while watching Adam Lambert, who was filling
Freddie Mercury’s shoes pretty darn well, when I realized that only the slightest
differences existed between the two of us.
Go with me here. A plane takes off for New York, but the
compass is one degree off. You end up at the Nyack mall instead of JFK. One
degree. Completely different destination.
If there is just the “grace of god” between me and the
person I see huddled under the freeway gathering up their belongings as the cop car pulls two
wheels up on the sidewalk to shuffle them along to another temporary spot, isn’t
there just the “grace of god” between me and Adam Lambert? Or that woman I saw
perform at Yoshi’s a few years ago: She wasn’t perfect. Her pitch wasn’t always
on, but she was a performer. She had the
crowd completely, she enjoyed herself, she was proud, vivacious, and seen. And
she wasn’t perfect.
I don’t even remember who she
was, except she was the singer of a bluesy/jazzy band, and she was fierce. She
was a large woman with a large smile. And as I watched her, I thought to myself
that I wanted to do what she did; get up there and perform, without needing to be perfect – because if that were the case, I
don’t think any of us would ever do anything, including Adam Lambert.
Over the last year, I have adjusted my compass to be bringing me closer to that
point on the map. I am not so far away in the Canada hinterland, but perhaps
flying somewhere over Buffalo by now. (Can you tell I grew up back east?)
Julia Cameron writes in The Artist’s Way that it isn’t talent that creates success; it’s
tenacity. It’s being a dog’s fierce jaw chomped around a toy rope, refusing to
let go.
The guitar player, Brian May, dazzled the crowd with a
10-minute long epic, cacophonous solo. It was like a safari inside of music
itself: strange, elegant, mystic, and ancient. I said to my friend, That’s what
happens when you spend 40 years doing only one thing.
That’s what happens when you decide that you love one thing,
that you’re good (enough) at one thing, that you want others to know you do this thing: You become great.
Here’s to finding—or claiming, rather—my thing. 

abundance · acting · authenticity · grace · gratitude · happiness · joy · life · performance · spirituality · theater

Being There

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See, there’s two things I’d forgotten in all the sturm&drang of rehearsals & work & sick & crossing bridges
& lack of down time: I’m actually good at this acting thing. And I enjoy it. 
In the maelstrom of preparation, I forgot why I was doing this.
As I sat in our reserved cast seats in the front row of the
audience, watching the other actors before my scene perform, I got a
few minutes to gather myself, and reflect. Something the director said during
the “let’s get PUMPED” speech before we got into costume helped to remind me:
She said, This is for you. This isn’t
for your friends, your parents, your partners: This is for you.
This is for me, I
repeated to myself. I remembered that this isn’t for a resume, for a good story
to tell when I’m older; this isn’t for accolades or for money. I am doing this
acting thing,
because I enjoy it.
Because it’s FUN. Because, once I do get through rush hour traffic from Berkeley, once I do find parking in the Mission behind some dude drinking Steel Reserve and
selling electronics out of his car, once I do get upstairs through the weird
haunted building, I come to a black box theater.
In that theater, I’m there to have fun, to enjoy myself, and
to share myself. I’m there to engage in something I thoroughly enjoy, just
for the sake of it
. How fucking novel.
It was and is nice to have been sought out during the
wine&cheese reception after the show by a cute little gay boy and his girl
friend, to have them sidle up during a conversation with a beamish grin, and
tell me how great my performance was. That they got chills. To ask if I did
that thing with my hands on purpose, and wow, you did? Wow. That was so great.
It’s gratifying to know that something that I actually enjoy
doing is enjoyed and appreciated by others—that’s true, too. (We are only so spiritual!)
But then, isn’t that the point of theater, too—to affect
another person. To affect an audience, to help them experience something? Sure, Mol, sure. Yes, you can enjoy the
accolades, too. As long as they’re not what’s driving you.
In the chaos of rushing to work, to rehearsal, to home, to do it all over the next day, I began to feel weary. I began to feel like
maybe I’m not cut out for this—that
maybe this hustle is a younger person’s game. Maybe it’s too late for me to be
high-tailing it all over creation in service of a pipe dream.
I really was beginning to wonder if I would audition again.
Part of my delay/hesitance recently, is that I knew I was in
a production that was taking all my time & memorization space. Part of it is that I
know I’m going out of town in April, and didn’t want to audition for anything
new when I’ll be gone. (Cuz, it seems to me that working actors can’t
really take vacation…)
And, part of it was/is just plain exhaustion and feeling
grueled instead of fueled.
But, I am getting to see that perhaps this is just part of the
process. Part of that “put in the hard work to enjoy the results” thing that I’m so
loathe to do most of the time. HARD
work? Meh.
But, perhaps that’s what’s required here, to get the feeling
I had last night. Sure, I fucked up some lines, but people didn’t seem to
notice. I still got to feel the sense of “right place.” In the chair, on
the stage, in front of lights so bright you can only make out shapes in the
audience; hearing the sound cues, the mounting tension of my scene, the
mounting tension I bring to my scene.
Getting to be there, getting to sit in that chair and show you what I’ve got –
It was… well, enlivening.
There’s a phrase I’ve heard to name those times when you
are so engaged that you feel out of time, out of the chaos of place, when you are so in something that
“time just flies,” – it’s called being “in the flow.” When you are so engaged
in what you are doing, when you are so enjoying what you are doing that you are somehow matching the heartpace of the Universe. When for moments or even hours, you just feel in it – your speed
aligns with the speed of life, and you flow, you coast, you glide.
In it. To be IN IT. In life.
There was a moment, too, as I sat in the dark audience
awaiting my scene that I remembered something I sometimes do: I survived cancer to be here, and I am HERE. Staking a claim. Making a name. Claiming my own.
The gratitude I felt to get to be in that PUMP YOU UP circle before the show: All chaos, time
pressure, toll bridges are lost – and I’m just there. 

acting · adulthood · calm · connection · excitement · health · performance · theater

Wow. Wowie Wow Wow

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(Christopher Walken on SNL; check it out if you don’t
know; too funny)


You know when they (I) say “Both/And”? That life is both
this, and that. It is inimitable and gripping, and sallow and challenging? That
life is “everything all at once”?
That you are both excited for your new callback and getting
dressed to get a possible melanoma removed?
Yeah. Both/And.
So, that’s happening right now. In a little while.
I went to the dermatologist about a month ago to get a
strange new mole checked out on my back. She told me that that one was nothing
to worry about; that, in fact, it’s the kind of mole you only see on fully adult
homosapiens. So, I asked, then basically, this new mole is a Rite of Passage
Mole? That I’m officially an adult human, now? Wow. Weird to have your skin
tell you it!
You, Molly Louise, you are now officially an
adult. Instead of a parade, statue, medal, or email from the Universe, you get
this nifty little mole on your back. Holler!!! Luckily, I think it’s kind of
awesome and funny, and I’m really not concerned about the aesthetics of it –
it’s not gross or repulsive or anything. It doesn’t have a satellite moon
orbiting it or have a hair growing from it. – although the Derm said that a
hair is usually a good sign that a mole is not malignant.
(It’s this an awesome
blog topic!)
“BUT,” she said. …
“This other one…” and took out the little 6-inch ruler she
kept in her white lab coat. “Well, this other one, …”
Yeah, that one’s kind of new too, in the last year for sure,
I told her.
So, today I have it taken out. Which means, they have to dig
all the way through ALL of the layers of skin into the fatty flesh below, and
take out, like a dowel in the earth, a cylinder of my skin. Yum.
It’s a small thing, it’ll only leave a centimeter of a scar,
but for a few days, until the stitched, sewn-together skin around it heals and
seals together (our bodies are amazing), no heavy lifting or working out the same way.
Meh. C’est la vie. Small price to pay for solace of mind.
Although, when I told someone when I found this out
those few weeks ago, that it was a possible skin cancer thing, they said, oh,
no big deal, that’s simple, they gauge it out. Done. … Well, I felt like that was a tad insensitive. I mean, this was coming from another young
cancer survivor!
I’m not “worrying twice,” and it is something you just take
out (I think – I don’t know – I’m not Googling anything until the doc indicates
I ought to). But, it’s still a (what’s “less than worrying”) – Ah, concerning, it’s still a concerning thing. So, I’m concerned.
So I get it checked out.
I think my Rite-of-Passage Mole might be on to something.
And, further in the Wow category, this acting
thing. Wowie wow wow, man.
It’s so fun. Sure, I talk about the isolation it offers when
you’re practicing lines alone, auditioning alone, but, the camaraderie that it
leads to, is the point. The opportunity to turn the light on in an audience, to
share something with someone else, is the point. And this is the path to that.
I’m stoked.
I have no clue if this is beginner’s luck, if anything more
will happen, if I’ll circle around the drain of “aspiring actor” for years.
But, SO WHAT.
When I think back to what it felt like on Saturday to join into the
lobby of a group of folks, stand around awkwardly in a room with
other aspirers, to have my name called, and to walk down the dark aisle of the
near-empty theater. To stand on a real stage under real lights, state my name and my piece, and
perform it. To have the director say, “Very nice. Thank you.” To then walk back
up that aisle less than two minutes later, and gather my purse and walk back
out into the amazing Berkeley Spring day?
Well, I’ll tell you:
Wow. 

commitment · discovery · fear · performance · theater

Give me some wool, and I’ll spin you a yarn.

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I have another audition tomorrow, this one for the role of a
mother in her early 40s. And I’ve been thinking about who I can believably “play,” what my
“place of life” would be as a woman in her early 30s? I feel too young to be
the queen, to be the mother of adult children, but I feel too old to be the
ingénue or the lover. But I suppose I fall more easily castable into the latter
category. Lover, Romantic, Unwed.
So many actors have sordid pasts and upbringings, making it
easy and understandable to want to lay on the skin of someone else, the idea
that it’s easier (safer?) to be someone else than it is to be yourself. However, I think
I’m realizing that to take on the skin of someone else means that I have to
find that person within me, those feelings, and then face them, understand and
inhabit them. And not all of those feeling are easy for me to have. Not all of
those parts are natural for me to play.
And I think that’s why I love it and am challenged by this
so much. (With all my scant experience!) I will have to find the romantic within me, the tyrant within
me, the tortured within me. I’m going to have to let my internal flashlight
illuminate corners I’d rather mark off-limits. Some of those corners I avoid
because I’m afraid I’ll enjoy them too much—Who doesn’t want to dissolve into
rage instead of pulling yourself up to decency? Who doesn’t want to allow the
gnawing chatter to become a cacophony and play itself into Ophelia’s mad death?
How easy it is to go mad; how very hard to stay sane.
And, surely, some of the corners of experience I may be
asked to play, I don’t want to go into because I’ve spent so many years
avoiding what they demand of me. To fully feel passion, desire, or even (don’t
say it!) love?
It’s amusing to me that once I changed up my blog settings
to list the subject tags in order of frequency, “love” became the first one. I
think it makes sense if you put before it the words: “avoidance of,”
“challenges with,” “attempts at,” “softening to,” “fear of.” But, just “love?”
Hm. Yes, it makes me smile.
I also know that acting isn’t therapy, and can’t be primarily intended to process my own demons or fears through its use, but I can’t help
but imagine there will be some side-effects like that. I imagine that I’ll get
to see where my flashlight is happy to go, and where it isn’t. Where I’m
naturally at ease, and where I’ll have to cull my acting chops.
But, isn’t that the thrill of anything new? Isn’t that the
thrill of being alive? Being challenged to feel, do, and be that which you
weren’t able to before, simply by the act of showing up with intention?
I have no idea how long or wide this acting path will be for
me. But the caves it is already calling me to explore are worth the
price of admission. 

direction · family · performance · perseverance · theater

Postcards from the Edge (of a Bookshelf)

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Two nights ago I picked up a book that’s been on my shelf
since July of last year. I brought it back with me from New Jersey, where I’d
stayed with my brother and attended a good friend’s wedding. My brother was
getting set to move from his (omg LUXURY) apartment (by SF standards) to
Baltimore to live with his long-time girlfriend. (Seriously — a huge one-bedroom for $950. Come ON!, she drooled.)
He was getting rid of nearly everything. And my brother is a
keeper of books.
I didn’t know this about him. We haven’t lived in the same
place since I was … 23 and he was 20, still living in our childhood home. So, for about
ten years I haven’t been able to witness him living on his own, developing his
own habits and patterns, becoming a real self-sufficient adult who buys his own
eggs and toilet paper, and who apparently keeps books.
I am not a keeper of books. I am a library whore. I love
them, escaped to the one in our neighborhood growing up, and mostly, I like to
live light. But, as I’ve settled into my own adult-ness, and one place-ness,
and probably not moving anytime soon-ness, I’ve begun to slowly add to these shelves.
And when Ben was about to throw out (or dear god, I hope
donate!) almost all his books, I scoured his shelves for anything that wouldn’t
weigh down my carry-on bag too much. I took a few “classic” novels,
returned my copy of Catch-22 to myself,
a few books on physics, and two on acting.
One is by Mamet, and is a little too mean for me (not as in
base, but as in incompassionate and didactic). The other is called Auditioning by Joanna Merlin.
My brother had the great experience and success of doing the
plays in high school and in college, and I even flew back once for his star
performance in undergrad (the play of which I cannot recall), to attempt to
make up for the years when I’d been absent from his life. He was a fun actor,
an able one, and I still hope/wish that he takes it up again one day.
Confidentially, (if this place can be called that), acting
was one place for him that his stutter completely disappears, and he is the
confident man I know him to be.
The Auditioning book
hadn’t a crease in its spine. Brand new. And Ben gladly passed it on to me.
I began reading it again because in class at Berkeley Rep on
Monday, I opened the notebook I’d brought, which I use for theater stuff, apparently.
In the notebook were some handwritten notes and quotes from Merlin’s book. I
must have written them down when I was reading the book last summer, and then
promptly put it back on the shelf.
The quotes were revelations, the extending of a hand down
into the dark world of trying and hoping and trying some more in the
course-less world of theater. I took the book back off the shelf the other
night, and haven’t been able to put it down since.
There’s practical information about what happens at an audition,
compassionate anecdotes about sitting in the waiting room for one, and tips and
exercises for how to explore a scene or monologue. It’s a great book. I’m
devouring it. And I know I’m at a place where it’s relevant now, where it
wasn’t when I began it a year ago.
I have a frame of reference now; I have a better
understanding of the challenges I’m putting in front of myself, and the ones
that are inherent to the process.
If my best friend hadn’t gotten married, if I hadn’t had the funds to go, if I hadn’t stayed
with my brother, if he hadn’t been discharging all his books, if I hadn’t taken
this class at Berkeley Rep, if I hadn’t picked up this very notebook, I
wouldn’t have gotten this gift.
This tome is a welcome hug and nudge on a path I’ve never
walked before – but someone else has.