Monday, December 3, 2012

Alas! this is not what I thought life was

Lately, I am distracted - and it is not a focused distraction like the consistent back and forth of a ping pong game - rather, I am the ball being pinged and ponged in my schedule, my priorities, my emotions and general life.
This means that Eva has not completed her homework for acting class and she walks in with tail meekly tucked between her legs, face buried in a play or poem to do SOMEthing, work on SOMEthing. But nothing speaks to me the way I want it to and I am not allowing myself to resonate either.  My judgement of the text is off - or / also - I question whether my judgement of the text is off.  I read Night of the Iguana - and I adored it. What an incredible, quirky, intense play by Tennessee Williams. It takes place in Mexico, coincidentally, and Bette Davis originated the role of Maxine: the horny, overbearing widow forcing all patrons to delight in her rum-cocos. I don't even know what a rum-coco is, but I want one. There is a zany cast of central characters (Maxine previously mentioned): Shannon, the defrocked Irish priest-turned-tour guide who cracks up more deeply than a coconut about once a year. Then Hannah and her Nonno - a spinster/hustler who sells her watercolors and sketches while toting her 97-year-old grandfather around seeking new shelter and new resources.  Nonno is in on the hustling as well as he recites poems as if from a mountain top, always stopping as abruptly as he started, but sparking the scenes with hilarity every time.  Then there are the tourists - a busload of ladies mutinously debating with Shannon about their unchosen "stay" at Maxine's. The 17-year-old tourist with whom Shannon slept and whose youthful heart is swept away too much like Juliet.  And then there are the already willing guests: a brazen, tromping group of unquenchable Germans.
Tennessee, ya old dog. You're so interesting. Where did you pull this little rabbit from? Well, of course, it's HIM.  But I have not read a play of his like this before. It's wonderfully "outside the box".  I might do a scene from it. Let's see.
Anyway, I didn't have a THING prepared today. Luckily, my reasons for not preparing for class beforehand usually have to do with auditions (commercials and callbacks and nationals oh my!), but I have to get it together!  So I dug out a poem that I liked before, then decided no, then decided yes, then no, then JUST DO IT ALREADY!
Below is the text, by Shelley.
Alas! this is not what I thought life was.
I knew that there were crimes and evil men,
Misery and hate; nor did I hope to pass
Untouched by suffering, through the rugged glen.
In mine own heart I saw as in a glass
The hearts of others ... And when
I went among my kind, with triple brass
Of calm endurance my weak breast I armed,
To bear scorn, fear, and hate, a woeful mass!
I read it.  Then Janet asked me to read it down again. I felt deeply stirred by the first line as it translates so wonderfully to the present. After "misery and hate" I began to lose it, oh did the tears fall steadily.  It was nearly embarrassing, but hey, it's acting class. Tears happen. I am more pleased by the thought that my emotional access is greater each time I perform, and that the text is a gateway to that. Once one ingests the text and it resurges from the heart and the stomach, the emotion and meaning resonate richly through the voice. It's astounding to me how often I do not speak ON my voice. How can it be so consistently disconnected all the time? I know the answer and am working on it.
I was skeptical about this performance poetry stuff, but ultimately glad that I have an excuse to jump back into the Romantics. So many beautiful words, so many sadly beautiful thoughts and feelings, so many years ago yet so relevant today.
Okay, back to finding more texts, more plays and more work.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Rick Millikan Casting...

Workshop alert with Christine Ciraolo of Rick Millikan Casting at Actors Advantage Studio.

And why is Ashton Kutcher the face of Nikon? Wierd. Sorry, a commercial distraction.

Christine Ciraolo is super laid back and super cool. She obviously doesn't want to waste anyone's time. She is upfront and highly opposed to actors wasting their money.  (No postcards, Actors. Do you really think that CDs give those priority? Maybe 1 out of 50 put them on their lists for their assistant to read.)

Christine casts BONES and MELISSA & JOEY.  Rick casts pilots come January and Ms. Ciraolo takes over the brunt of the regular casting work. Now, I don't watch Bones regularly, but I know MANY people that do. Hilariously, even my friend Nate, who was a gamer/stoner/political activist in the 22 year old male demographic LOVED Bones when it began.  "REALLY?!", I thought, back then. Well, to me it proves the point that BONES draws a very diverse audience. Christine even mentioned that their audience is growing EVERY season. WTF? It's in its 8th season!  She did say the show has a "weird" edge - and if the writing is decent, I can see that happening quite easily.

I was given a scene from an episode called "The Bikini in the Soup" where a woman is pulled from her home the day of her wedding (thus in curlers and a robe) to enter interrogation about her former wedding planner - who was murdered!!!! (dun dun duuuuuuunnnnnnnnnnnnnnn).   Shock! Surprise!

Anyway, I had all the lines and my poor scene partner had hardly ANY, but...when in Rome. My character was a real bitch, bridezilla tendencies and NO worries about anyone but herself on her wedding day.  I gave her a country dialect because it felt natural to do so. That's my happy risk via Jack Plotnick.  Well, it paid off. Christine had no adjustments whatsoever and said (verbatim) "Wow, I loved how you really went for it.  You made her the bitch that she is, no apologies, and no concern for a murder, this is her day and you owned it", etc etc. "You completely got the BONES vibe". 

Oh good, I landed the BONES vibe.  Well, MAYBE she'll call me in. I have yet to get called in for any workshops, despite excellent feedback from most, but it's just a question of persistence plus timing. I love to do workshops when I can, but will the wallet allow it? Not always...

So have fun if you take Christine Ciraolo workshop. She is a no bullshit kind of gal. Little feedback, probably a bit more internal with her critiques. She seems that way.

Viva la Bookings!

Mexico, here I come.

What's that? Oh, WHERE in Mexico? Uuuuuh, no se! No se!

That's about the extent of my two years of high school Spanish with Senora Cunningham, who unfortunately "perdio a su marido" one semester.

Anyway, after weeks of non-auditioning, I suddenly went on three in one day - bam bam bam. I got a callback for the third,, and wal-lah! I booked! This is my first official job as a SAG member, THUS I get SAG scale and per diem and a trip to Mexico! Que emocionante!

To top it all off, the one cool chick I met and conversed with at the callback booked it with me.  So we're going to take over Cancun, or whatever sub-town, together.  Luckily the girl is from Miami so she has a bit of espanol already engrained. Thank goodness.

PS - my LA TIMES "Join the Conversation" commercial spot is playing now!  Probably until the Oscars. You can barely see my face because the editing is so whip-fast but that is good - because I look like a Russian mail-order bride in it. Thanks make-up and hair girls! You did a spectacularly Euro job. (big insincere smile!)

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Meet Wendell

I take workshops at Actors Advantage Studio sometimes. It's a very nice facility with good casting directors coming through (I've taken about four or five workshops there) located round Robertson somewheres in the B-Hills.

They are also affiliated with dog adoption programs and often ask for volunteers. Strangely enough, lots of casting directors and acting facilities are involved in some sort of animal rescue org. But AA Studio says that in exchange for a four hour shift on a Saturday, an impoverished actor like myself can get a free workshop! Whee!  (But you have to be on their mailing list.) ANYway, I said "yes yes yes!" when I got an email. And one may think I did this only for the free workshop, but NO.  That ain't true. Like a stoner pulling into a Trader Joe's parking lot, I have been majorly feining... for some volunteer work - specifically with animals; sweet, sweet little animals that I can cuddle, walk or feed treats. My mother volunteers with wild birds (owls, eagles, vultures, etc) in Kentucky and I hear AMAZING stories.

Last Saturday at the West Hollywood PETCO, I volunteered for Ace of Hearts - a dog rescue organization (one of MANY) located in Beverly Hills.  Surprisingly, a billion people showed up and we were overstaffed, but not surprisingly, none of them wanted to shake a jar full of change and one dollar bills while holding a sign in the cold at the corner of Doheny and Santa Monica.  So I did that with their most faithful volunteer, ol' Barbara. She's a master of the donation process, approaching cars like a sweet little old lady and then thrusting a jar full of guilt in their faces. Haha, I'm kidding. She gets major kudos for taking the most unpleasant job and performing it with persistance and gusto. I tried to do the same, but I kept getting yelling at cars as they approached knowing full well that they can't hear a damn word I'm saying. It made me feel bolder though to vocalize the needs of the organization, so I rolled with it for awhile, momentarily spinning in circles from the madly whizzing sports cars and taking full advantage of cracked windows and red stoplights, heh heh.

Purposefully avoiding animal shelters while hardcore craving a pet (my animalogical clock has been ticking for about 4 years), I was quite astonished to see that ALL the dogs were fully grown. Well?! I didn't know! In fact, half the dogs (out of 15 or so) were old boys, one nearly blind from cataracts and constantly slipping around in his own slobbery crate, barking at nothing and everything. It was a little maddening. I teared up almost instantly while staring at a fat sweetheart of a bitch named Thelma. Oh, these dogs they all had so much LOVE to give.

Anyway, in the duration of my volunteer work - aka jar-shaking, name tag making - I found out that people can foster dogs while the dogs wait for a permanent adoption. YyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyES!!!!!! I will do that! I can do that! Ace of Hearts desperately needed foster people for their dogs. Not only do you get a cool dog to hang out with for a month (perhaps longer if you choose), not only does Ace of Hearts provide you with food and doggy supplies, not only are you making a sweet pooch feel love until someone is ready to love him forEVER, but each time you take a dog into your home, you have opened up a slot in the kennel for a new dog to move in that is typically saved from being euthanised. I signed the Foster form, and BOOM Monday morning I get a call that they have an emergency dog named Wendell that they need me to take, so can I take him?

Nervous! Um, uh, well, yes, I guess, what is this dog like? Will he chew my shoes up? Is he housebroken? Had he had a traumatic life? How big is he? How do I do this? Do I really wanna do this? Do I really wanna commit to a month of being responsible for this animal?!?!

Yes, yes is the answer. I saw Wendell, actually, the day of the pet adoption, but I didn't get a good look at him. He is the only dog I didn't see properly.  All I remember is that he looked like a fox and seemed rather crafty inside of that cage. It turns out that Wendell is SO new to Ace of Hearts that they really don't have any info on him. They don't know what breed he is, they know he was a stray and found on the streets somewhere, they don't know of any trauma and they need me, the Foster Parent, to do the research.

It's been one day thus far with ol' Wendell. Three walks, two poos, and 75,478 tail wags later, I do not regret this decision at ALL.  If you are interested in fostering a dog, please go to this site which explains the process thoroughly: Be A Foster Pet Owner 

Also, consider adopting Wendell. He was obviously owned by someone before because he has a very domestic demeanor.  He has coloring like a border collie, looks proportionally like the dragon in The Neverending Story, and an adorable snaggletooth juts delicately from the end of his snout. He sleeps upside down and he has difficulty with separation anxiety (which I hope to research and help him heal from).  He is also the perfect size, 20 plus pounds. If you are interested, let me know. Below is a pic of WENDELL! Updates as the month goes on.

Mostly - ACE of HEARTS is in need of DONATIONS, not just adoption. Please visit their site and give $5 or more so that the dogs can get medical expenses covered, boarding covered, nice doggie beds and good food. I had no idea a surgery for a dog could cost so much, but one particular dog named Bob has a neurogical disorder. It costs $3000 to identify the problem and another $5-6000 for the surgery. What? That's frickin' crazy! A doggy doesn't have a wallet! They don't even know why they are here on this earth! They just wag their tails and slobber, lick, and love!  Donate, adopt or foster. One, or all three. Do it!

Spoon River

I, like many, many misled others, once thought I was a possible poet. Yeah yeah, laugh, laugh at me. Then laugh at yourself because you went through that phase also and even NOW you probably have those poetic tendencies. The problem is, those who are excellent poets are truly excellent and most words we come up with are crap. I think this every time I read T.S. Eliot. His deeply rooted meandering. His purposefully structured wanderlust. Oh, I love him.

In Alhanti's class, we have been attacking the Spoon River Anthology.  Meisner did this with his students. I watched a segment of Frances Sternhagen (a much younger version, but who later plays "Bunny", Trey McDougal's mother on Sex & The City ....What? Yeah I watched every episode.) reciting Amos Sibley.  Meisner takes Frances through a process that brings purpose and point of view to the poem/monologue.  Essentially, Janet has instructed us to do the same thing - find a character in Spoon River, really GRASP the material (break down the cryptic nature so that there are no ?s left for the actor then you will KNOW and OWN what you are talking about), and find a specific point of view from which to deliver the words. We have easy guidelines here - all of the poems in Spoon River are by deceased people of the town. They are dead and gone and each monologue/poem is exactly what each person has chosen to say after death - now, to WHOM is the question, and WHY is another. Janet always asks "What is this about?", in her echoing Bronx tone.

What's hilarious is that most of us have NO CLUE what it's really about. The poems are not that hard to decode, but some are more cryptic than others - and despite an emotional and human through line that has lasted 100 years past Edgar Lee Masters's initial publishing, there are some differences that may be defined and unlocked by the period.  I will say what is said in Yoga that also applies here and many other countless places: Repetition leads to freedom. Spending actual TIME with our material/words/scripts can lead to levels of creativity and understanding that patience has not allowed us to find before. Is it our generation's doom - and others behind us - to be flagbearers of A.D.D. and let that excuse us from our disciplinary intentions, or - dare I say it - disciplinary necessities?!?

God, I hope not. A violin player is out there rehearsing 10 hours a day. An opera singer, 6. Where are the exercises and the time slots and the practice rooms that are being occupied by today's actors, specifically in La La?  Yikes.

Anyway, Spoon River is something that should be learned in high school, but if you had a Kentucky education like myself, I didn't get to it. Or maybe I skipped it and still got an A.  I don't remember. It is regardless a pleasure to visit this wonderful book of poems, this work that sticks like a deliciously dark film to your brain if you let it sink in, like the bodies that have sunk six feet under or more.

Thus far, I have performed Nellie Clark, Pauline Barrett, and today I added Mabel Osbourne. I've read others but felt less clear. Dora Williams was my first attempt and it is a wonderful doozy. I should revisit it on Wednesday with the sprightly verve that Dora deserves. I already promised to attack Pauline Barrett again - oy, she was a cryptic one. Pauline is a woman who committed suicide and wants to make sure her husband knows that he had no part in it whatsoever; that this was completely her decision due to the pitfalls and unfortunate events of her life. Here's the poem of Pauline Barrett. Tell me if you figure out what kind of operation she had. And don't cheat by looking it up online!

So these are the things I've been doing in acting class - Spoon River - and a recent scene from DINNER WITH FRIENDS with Rick Malambrai.  It went very well - he's a fun actor to react with. Hopefully he'll replace Channing Tatum one day.

Next up on the list: romantic poets. Byron, Shelly, Blake, St. Vincent Millay. Mucho, mucho excited to delve.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

You Want a JOB? (Gasp!)

WARNING: the following paragraph may be too raw for some in the industry (side note that this the only thing I have in common with ODB, I like it raw.)

Excuse me?

What did you say to me?

You want a...what? A job?.....A JOB?!

Sssh! Don't tell anyone that. Don't tell ANYone that you want a job. No, actors that want jobs, that talk about wanting jobs and call their agents and managers expressing that they want, that they NEED, work only come across as desperate.  Don't talk about needing a job.  No one will want you if you are too eager. People, directors, casting directors, agents - they only want people they CAN'T HAVE, so you can't go around talking about wanting work or a job or an acting opportunity because you will STINK of desperation and they will automatically think you are talentless and worthless. It's a turn off. That energy will crush you. Los Angeles will discard you faster than a chewing gum wrapper. You know what? You can't want it so much. That energy will repel you from work. You have to let it go. You have to sit back and let the universe do its work. Otherwise, the universe will run away screaming. Imagine the solar system spitting you out over by Pluto, that sorry little ex-planet.  No, let it go. Just...LET IT GO.


Some actors follow a formula for success out here in LA.  They believe that a stalwart commitment to the following steps will lead them to time. Could be a year (riiiiiight), two years, five years, ten years, fifteen years. It will happen eventually.  Get headshots, get a job with a flexible schedule (waiting tables, catering), do extra work, join the union, get a website, start your social media engines and tweet, post, blog 'n' build, get a gym membership, get a commercial agent, theatrical agent, perhaps a manager, send them candy, flowers, wine, postcards, do workshops, do showcases, go to acting class, get a coach, write your own web series and direct/star in it, take meetings wherever you can, explore all opportunities no matter how shady, keep your skirt down, tell people you have a boyfriend - wait, don't they want what they can't have, why that's fuel on the fire!, don't mix professional with personal even though this entire town mixes pleasure into business and vice versa it is the way of Hollywood, don't go to an audition with curly hair if your headshots have straight hair, don't change your look at ALL according to your headshot, dress like this actress cause she's really hot right now, don't say THAT in that meeting or you'll piss them off, don't call your agent to ask why you haven't heard from them in a month, don't pester your agent, don't ask questions, don't be naive, don't do a thing, but stand there and look pretty!

The do's turn quickly into don'ts.  The optimism can sour fast under the negative atmosphere. The heat is more like an inferno and will not only drive you out of the kitchen, but outta this town.

Here is what I am learning: there are no black and white agendas leading to success. LA is the land of opportunity.  Many of those opportunities are rotten, one-way alleys that can entrap you by those who take advantage of other people.  But you toughen up, you learn, you work to remain grounded and strong and whole while in a full-fledged battleground of people stepping on you with six inch stilettos and not giving a DAMN if it pokes your eye out. The challenge out here is HIGHLY DEMANDING.  The dreams out here are BIG and OVERWHELMING. The paths to get where you want to go are DARK and DANGEROUS with the eventual pocket of light and hope, but YOU must be the one to carry the hope. No one is holding a candle for you. If they are, you are certainly a fortunate one. Human nature, however, surprises everyone. That doesn't mean you can't build a support system - in fact, you should try so as to avoid being a recluse left with only your own thoughts to keep you company.

I've been given a billion pieces of advice since moving here. I am still being guided by some here and some there, taking words with grains (or truckloads) of salt. It's true that you can't NEED a job so badly that your energy and happiness depends on it (like Ailie waiting on Mungo in Water Music).  Of course you can WANT it. But you transfer that want into your work, into your commitment to improving and to making your instrument and your acting great.  Are you already a great actor? Good for you.  But you're a fool if you think that what you have now is enough. It is never "enough". The hunger that drives us to act should remain insatiable. Is it possible to master something so completely that you need never practice it again? Is it possible that you are even NEAR that stage? Why do you act if you don't want to conquer it? And even if the tools of your acting are perfectly honed, do you not have to begin again and again with the start of every role? 

Los Angeles is the rosebush of the world; stunningly gorgeous and yet completely treacherous to fall into.

Don't get me wrong, I love the challenge of this city, though I come from a tiny little town further away from the industry than one could possibly imagine. I love the competition though I abhor the relentless frustration. I love the ideas, the creativity and the dreams yet I consistently struggle with my lack of control. The letting go is important - accepting the lack of control and riding the waves out.  Doing what you can until the universe takes over and then allowing it to happen. Knowing when to step back, training your senses to be keen to these moments and these instincts so as to allow good things to come through. And also, having fun - even at the risk of breaking a "don't" rule that came from your agent or your mother or your childhood.

After three years, I speak pretty good La-La, but I can always get better. Discussion, comments and rantings welcome.


I just saw a funny little satire from Estonia that rushed out of the blue woods and blindsided me with its fresh, awkwardly dark, and humorous approach. Toomas Hussar's debut film, Mushrooming, is this year's oscar contender from the country that I can't tell you a damn thing about (wait....wikipedia says lots of things: ESTONIA).  Anyway, maybe you don't watch a lot of foreign films, maybe you do - this is my second year where my dance card is flushed with foreign films and I adore (sometimes begrudgingly) the variety of subject matter and choices. 

Mushrooming had a slow start.  It is literally about a couple (one parliament member in the media spotlight and his wife) who go on an excursion to pick baskets and baskets of chantrelles and boletuses. A relaxing task to enjoy the woods and get away from city life and lifestyle. Along the way they pick up a hitch-hiking rock star (a seemingly one-hit-wonder type who's success makes him recognizable but completely self-loathing) and they high-tail it PAST the normal mushroom-picking grounds to much deeper, darker, stranger terrain. The events that unfold, pop up, and incept you (yes, they appear to take YOU in rather than the other way around) are totally odd, surprisingly funny, and always closely shadowed by danger.

As an audience member, I felt a bit like I was in those same woods - I didn't know where I was outside of my immediate surroundings, anything could come from any direction, and suddenly while standing and contemplating, I see a pink stuffed animal in the bushes. Head cocked and eyes focused, I have no choice but to let my curiosity lead me over to the thing - and just as I get close, the stuffed animal begins to drag away by some unseen fishing line, deeper into the woods.  Most every moment of Mushrooming (after 20 minutes in) is unexpected, kind of intriguing, and both loaded and light.  Toomas Hussar does an excellent job of toying with his audience while also making interesting political and social points that stem from his home country and relate to us as well.

Someone leaned over to me afterward and noted the film seemed also "Tarantino-esque".  I would agree with that. A very, very fresh approach from an up and coming filmmaker. Here's a review and a trailer.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Testa, Testa, 1 2 3...

4 - 5 - 6 - 7 people only in the infamous Michael Testa's workshop at Actor's Key last Saturday.  Fools. FOOLS who didn't sign up for his class! In my opinion, this workshop experience was by far the most challenging and the most intimidating of all workshops I've taken thus far in Los Angeles.  Finally I understand why my manager listed Testa as #1 to look out for when workshop shopping online.

First of all, Michael is no longer with Shaner / Testa Casting - he is an independent casting director with a current focus on film. From the moment he opened our Q & A, I understood that here is a man that defines passion within his profession. He is extremely outspoken, unafraid, knowledgeable, and warm in that i'm-just-attainable-enough-in-my-authoritarian way.  Mr. Testa naturally commands respects from his students - and that is difficult to achieve in a world full of arrogant, self-absorbed, eccentric, A.D.D. actors. Not that everyone fits that category but you know what I mean...

Side note: a Chicago comrade and up-and-coming actress, Alison Lani, was in the workshop with me. Alison doesn't know this, but I secretly admire her skills, her unconventional beauty, and I give mad props to the giant pair of cajones she has for sticking it out and MAKING it here in La La.  Needless to say, I was thrilled to take a workshop with her.

Anyway, Testa is notorious for using complex material loaded with shtuff (physical, emotional, you name it) - which means, as actors, you aren't reading an interrogation scene yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay!  In fact, Alison and I were paired together in a wonderfully difficult scene from Marc Forster's first film (director of Monster's Ball) Everything Put Together.  Off we went to study our respective scenes. Upon our return, Michael's format was to have each scene performed in front of the other actor-students so that they can voice their own critiques and learn how to evaluate performances from a casting point of view. Peers judging! Ack!  Also, Michael gives extremely in-depth premises for the film, the scene & the characters right before the performance.  He gives a few beats to let it all sink in and WHAM, you are in the spotlight.

Alison and I performed a scene in which I (Angie) am a grieving mother in an upper middle-class suburban community who just lost her first baby directly after birth. At this point in the script, I am visiting my friend Judith (who also just had a child) at her home. Judith is nowhere to be found, so I enter her home without permission and end up in the baby's room. Judith - and the rest of my friends - already have distanced themselves from me because I have undergone such a huge personal loss that I am suffering from grief like a sickness - and none of them wish to catch it. As I have a moment with Judith's baby, she finds me, screams, and we proceed to have a very tough somewhat confrontational yet also evasive scene. Judith does NOT want me there, does NOT want me near her child, and is FREAKED OUT that I have come in unannounced. My character, Angie, is caught unconsciously red-handed. She doesn't know exactly how violating her actions are or why the community has turned against her.  She is so completely lost in her grief and her own experience that her reality is a few plateaus away from everyone else. She doesn't have bad intentions, but she is unfortunately tainted in the eyes of friends. Completely, completely affected.

Honestly, we did the scene with mediocrity in comparison to this above description, but Michael was somewhat impressed (so he said) with our first try and the class had nice things to say, but not great. Understood. Tough material, hello.

WHY - an actor might ask - does Michael use scripts with such deep, intimidating levels?!  Personally I say "Who cares? It's wonderful!!!!", but professionally, the purpose is to see how FAR we can take our own performances / attempts / commitments and to use these scenes as measurements for our skills and abilities. Where are we, as actors, in our acting? Where do we land in the realm of true commitment to the circumstances? It's SO smart of Testa to use scene work in this way - like an aptitude test for the actor. It's easy to choose a scene you are comfortable with and highlight your strengths.  But take something you are VERY uncomfortable with, something that requires you to stretch to places you've never even been before, and you will come out of that experience with fresh, vital self-knowledge.  Hopefully, that means discovering new confidence and new realms of ability. It also means clarity about your soft spots and underdeveloped areas.

Secondly, Testa gave us all the same monologue/scene to perform at the end of the workshop. Here is the premise in a nutshell: SAL is an older man who lives with his younger brother in their poverty-stricken apartment. Sal has dressed like a woman for many years and insists on being known as his brother's "Mother". They rarely leave the apartment except to go to Mass once a week. Sal is an alcoholic. Sal has two peg-legs. Sal uses other drugs, yaps like a sailor, and has just killed a man who attempted to rape her during a mutual crack haze. In this scene, Sal is at her brother's door, drunk, asking why it has come to this.  She begins to sing/speak lyrics of a song and proceeds to do so until she finds herself standing at the top of the stairs ultimately making the decision to fall and end it all.

Intimidating? Um, YEAH. But Michael insisted we do it. He insisted that he doesn't care HOW we get there in Sal's position, but just to do what it takes to get there. Be it, live it, allow yourself to be lost in it. 

The outcome? I did it like a slobbering, hopeless, frustrated, soul-searching, angry mess - and as Michael pointed out - I was 90% committed to the scene, not 100%.  He is right. I am still working on the self-consciousness that creeps in and watches me/judges me as I am performing. But overall I was pleased that I gave as much as I could at that time to such a ridiculously loaded piece of script.

I loved the challenging environment Michael Testa posed for his students. To me, it is exactly what we need as actors going through the same audition routes and traditions living in LA - a WAKE UP call.  More of that please. If I were to rename his workshop, it would be: The Trippio.  It's like a flight espresso shots. It's like being thrown into a plane with all the gear and you have no choice but to sky dive. In the end, the reward is total liberation. And you leave being proud of yourself for the work you pushed yourself to do and the new areas you've discovered.

Thank you and thank you, Michael Testa!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Busy Castleberry

Last Sunday, I attended my first Actors Key workshop in a looooooooooooong while hosted by Kendra Castleberry of Donna Rosenstein Casting.  I see Kendra's name on workshops ALL over L.A. ALL the time - she is a busy, busy bee pollinating actors with her casting knowledge.  She is currently casting the 5th season of CASTLE (adore Nathan Fillion), the 2nd season of GRIMM, and the 1st season of a new half hour comedy starring Anne Heche entitled SAVE ME!.

Also - girl is from Louisville, Kentucky so she gets big brownie points from me, a native Campbellsvillian and honorary Louisvillian (mark one year of graduate school at U of L and a frequented condominium owned by the 'rents.)

Ms. Castleberry's approach is pleasantly succinct. She believes in getting it right the first time round when auditioning for television, specifically for shows that have already been running and are available for the actor to STUDY and RESEARCH (heaven forbid!).  I must say, I absolutely agree. Especially when an actor is given a list of sides preferred by the casting director prior to her workshop. Now...sometimes, when Eva is at a grocery store looking at a wall of grocery items - say, soup or cereal - rows and rows of the same thing in slightly different boxes or cans, she has a difficult time finding exactly what she needs. Visually, she can eventually focus on the brand she desires or the flavor she loves, but only after some frantic eyeballing. Look, all of this is the say that when I look at these damn workshop websites, I sometimes miss information that is CRUCIAL - like a link to the list of said preferred sides that Kendra Castleberry wanted her actors to prepare!!!  My mistake was seeing that the CD was using her own sides - and while missing that little link to all of my needed information, I thought she was giving them out for a cold read.

(Eva bangs head on wall here)

Fortunately, I arrived quite early to the workshop. I finessed the rather tense Actors Key manager into letting me view sides on their office computer and then printing them out for me. Well, they had no choice. This HAS to happen to actors every once in awhile - someone misreads or misunderstands the workshop description. Big surprise!  Judging from the healthy veins in the manager's neck, this had happened before.

Anyway, I saw some sides from a 2009 show called "Life on Mars" that I was already a bit familiar with. I printed, I studied, and I applied the Jack Plotnick ways.  Get the words down just enough, ingrain the circumstances in my head/body (or what I can deem them to be from the context), and authentically deliver the scene.

Without going into the details of the scene, I completely misinterpreted the role of my character, Annie. I thought she was a friend assisting a friend back home, but apparently she was a COP.  There is very personal dialogue and action within the scene and since I DID NOT SEE THE SHOW OR STUDY IT BEFOREHAND (ahem) I was not aware of this particular, yet essential, tone. So my first note from Kendra was "Good job, but WAY too casual." Um, YEeeeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah. When Ms. Castleberry talked on about the show and the character and the time period, I understood completely.  But too late!  She doesn't give adjustments in her workshop, but she does give excellent feedback to use next time around and in future television auditions. Me learn good!

Regardless of the screw-up, I had fun with Kendra, with the scene, and I received very high scores on my "evaluation sheet" (part of Actors Key education).  I'll be tacking Castleberry again in the future, she is a very good egg to learn from.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Sessions; The Unexpected

I went to a screening of The Sessions last night.  I felt hesitant. I knew the gist of the storyline - a severly disabled man who lives most of his life in an iron lung seeks out a professional sex surrogate to help him lose his virginity. It's not the content of the film that made me wary, it was simply my mood - you know "I don't feel like seeing that" when you review the dvds in a redbox or flip through the channel guide. And every time - EVERY SINGLE TIME - I am reminded not to listen that mood of mine or any pre-conceived ideas I have about said film because do I know what is really in store for me? Do I really have any clue what kind of experience I might have? No, and it could be a brilliant one, so why deny myself this possibility?

John Hawkes and Helen Hunt.  John is one of those actors we always like when we see him pop up on screen, but we can't remember his name, we only know he was GREAT in that one movie....(what the heck was it? Oh, Winter's BONE!).  He looks like a less attractive cousin of Joaquin Phoenix and he is cast as such. He is a wonderfully real, risky actor who invests in the full creativity of each role. In "The Sessions", he embodies Mark O'Brien, a poet/journalist who was held horizontally captive by polio since age 6. He lives most of his time in an iron lung, but can be out and about for three to four hours with a portable respirator. He calls people, types on a typewriter, and carries out simple tasks with a mouthstick.  John Hawkes's performance is going to draw a Best Actor nom, mark my words with that mouthstick.

Helen Hunt may get nominated as well (Supporting) for her brave (aka 'naked') performance. No, I really do think its quite fricking brave when a woman is nude for more screen time than she is dressed. When asked what her thoughts or concerns were when considering the role, she said "I read the script and when I turned the final page I knew that this was a role I wanted to play; that this story was a rare, beautiful thing. I didn't worry about the nudity at all." NO, she didn't.  She boldly tackled the role as a professional (on and off screen) and the audience loved it. We loved her work with Mark O'Brien, we loved their connection, we loved the edges they blurred and some they crossed and we loved the frank treatment of sex. I had a Deep-Throated Cackler sitting behind me the whole screening (that is a woman, not a bird) - just LOVING the film.

The film was wonderfully structured; incredibly playful, humorous and sensitively brazen around such complex matters like sex, disabilities, psychology, & Catholicism.  And by the way, every character was used intelligently by Ben Lewin, the director.  I loved Moon Bloodgood - I will be watching her from now on. She gave a thoughtful yet straightforward supporting performance.

This film may get a nomination for Best Picture, too. I hope so. It deserves it.

Lastly, this film was based on an article written by Mark O'Brien entitled "On Seeing a Sex Surrogate". Warning: it is very graphic. There is also an Academy Award winning documentary short on Mark from 1996 called "Breathing Lessons". You can watch it HERE.

Now, a trailer.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Vultures Beware...

Wednesday evening (Oct. 24th) I finally did a workshop with the oh-so-frank Jack Plotnick.  He's in an earlier post (The Plotnick Thickens) along with a link to his website.

Let me tell you something about Jack Plotnick - I'm fairly inclined to believe that he was sent down to earth by the Acting Gods to relieve us actors of our burden.  Jack is a working actor himself and one of those people who tenaciously strives for mental, emotional, and spiritual health while working in this death valley industry.  He has a great distaste for "acting teachers" mostly because there are so many bad ones who instill bad techniques, bad beliefs, and sometimes culture more insecurity by creating black and white boundaries to acting and - very often - dependent relationships.   On top of that, they take money from these struggling artists week after week after week all the while claiming to reveal the SECRETS of ACTING! They have the key! Just write a check and they'll tell you...

Now, Jack understands that there are plenty of good acting instructors, but he vehemently campaigns against anyone having the "right" answers that magically unlock our acting skills. In fact, Jack's approach is very simple: acting is SUPER easy, it is US / OURSELVES that get in the way of a free and realistic performance.  Our egos are constantly criticizing us, putting us down, telling us we aren't believable or saying the lines quickly enough - Jack calls an ego your "Vulture" whose only job is to sit on your shoulder and sqauwk a billion negative things into your head every day, all day long. Of course, this applies to your life, not just your acting - and Jack's teachings are about becoming healthier people who have FUN with their craft and stop considering it a labor or an unscalable wall. Many actors, especially after moving to LA (and maybe NY), let their first love of acting become more like a bitter marriage.  It's a TOUGH, tough lifestyle to master when you want to achieve success as an actor.

I LOVE Jack's approach. It taps me on the heart, head AND soul. It gives me hope, but more importantly it gives me permission to forgive myself when I don't live up to my own standards (basically I bop the Vulture on the head with an umbrella). I am terribly self-critical and that came out in the workshop on Wednseday.

The workshop was held at a cute little blackbox in The Village at Ed Gould Plaza - a place where Plotnick gives many lectures as well. As we arrived, a line formed for Jack to assign a scene of some kind. I was feeling not particular at ALL, so drama or comedy? Dramedy! From 'Brothers and Sisters' to be exact.  I don't know the show, but hey all the better so I don't have the character in mind and I can make it my own. Plus, the writing was good - funny, emotionally resonant, vulnerable mixed with some outrage. It was a wonderful piece with which to work. 

When I finally performed, I took a "joyful risk" by throwing my backpack across the stage (my character is a bit overdramatic and she begins packing to leave) but it didn't seem to work out that well. Ha - oh well! Jack stopped me 2/3 of the way into the scene and we spent some time discussing the voice of my Vulture; what it was saying to me while I performed, before I performed, and after I performed - and yes, he did speak that often. We delved into some root causes of the specific vulture-alizations and found a thing or two. Instead of throwing my backpack, I kept it rather steady the second time around - and I also found great emotion when I finally admitted to my boyfriend that it was HIM hurting me, not his family (in the scene, silly!). I found a very vulnerable and wonderful place within the material that allowed me some real, moving expression - so I was pretty happy with the work. Jack was also happy....I think...

His guidance is very simple, helpful and clearly for the greater good of the actor. Our minds are already complicated, our emotional lives warped by childhood experiences or people at school, our hearts a bit worn and faded through the years - so it is incredibly refreshing to be reminded that if we help ourselves as humans, we can help ourselves with our acting - or whatever craft we are pursuing.

I urge you to read Jack's online book, NEW THOUGHTS FOR ACTORS. It is a wonderful guide to being healthy and true to yourself and your love for acting.  Don't let the star-making machine drown out your passion.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Unfilmable Made Marvelous

Oh man. Oh MAN! 

I saw CLOUD ATLAS.  I had low expectations after reading about it in the NY Times. (It's a good article and actually ended up helping me follow the movie more thoroughly, so read it.)

This film has all the qualities of a possible disaster:
1. INCREDIBLY complicated storyline - an interweaving of six stories, all in different genres, all in different time periods.  The book is - was - considered "unfilmable".

2.  The actors are cast in a repertory-like manner - some playing up to 5, 6, 7 different characters in the film. You know the make-up has to be astounding, but what about the performances?

3. The past work of the Wachowskis pointing to another big-budget dud ("Speed Racer", anyone? No, really, did ANYone see it?!) and the possibility of a philosophically dense screenplay not unlike the third Matrix installment. 

4. Completely independently financed because no one in Hollywood would make it, not even with two-time Oscar darling Tom Hanks giving his blessing. Of course, just because Hollywood is afraid to make a film doesn't really mean jack - there is a huge lack of vision and boldness in our filmmaking industry today. 'Safe, safe, and more safe' seems to be the mantra.

5. It has a running time of 164 minutes. 'Nuff said.

So yes, I was concerned. But then the movie began...........and despite some difficulty understanding some pidgin English written into one of the genres, I was SEAMLESSLY engaged.  CLOUD ATLAS is magnificently bold, intelligent, emotional, and hopefully a contender for Best Picture this year. If it isn't, I will be shocked and terribly disappointed. The story work alone exemplifies the direction filmmakers should be going, should be striving for.  There is a fearlessness present that translates into timelessness - because this kind of film I could watch over and over and over and over again.  

By the way, indie-lovers will be flocking simply because of the Wachowskis' collaboration with Tom Tykwer (pronounced Tick-ver, apparently).  This project was truly carried by a love of film and we feel that as an audience while viewing it.  OH - and the multiple performances? Totally, totally fun.  It's like watching each actor bask in a different stream - all are refreshing and bright in their own way.

Here's an extended trailer.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Trip Back Down Goes Up!

Let's talk progress. Let's talk breakthroughs. September 23rd is the Day of the Breakthrough. I was born on September 23rd. I'm dying to live up to an astrology book.

I've been given a scene in my acting class - a hugely emotional piece from "The Trip Back Down" by John Bishop. Let me paint the scene: A woman named JoAnn is in a seven year marriage to a once very successful racecar driver named Bobby. He is on the cusp of going out the door and out of town for one of his many trips to race.  She is really feeling the decline of his success for the last few years.  The strain on their marriage is so heavy it is about to collapse. If things went normally, she'd let him walk out the door, but not today. Today she decides to speak from her heart - and it does not go well between them.  Bobby's danger, magnetism, and charm have all transformed into defensive posturing, bitterness, and guilt.  Their daughter, Jan, knows little of her father's embrace. Come to think of it, that is true for JoAnn these days as well.

Something that has helped me tremendously as of late (in terms of scene study) was a tip from Jack Plotnick (with whom I'll be workshopping next Wed 10/24 yay!).  Ask yourself: What are the circumstances? The circumstances, if one is not used to defining them on a regular basis, can be fuzzy to sort out. But once some time is spent with a scene, they emerge clearly and give GREAT emotional dimension to the character's point of view - or in this case - JoAnn's. I know it sounds simple, but most all keys to education are this way.  As students, we forget our most basic needs and tools, thus we are consistently reminded - for YEARS - of the same fricking things.

Anyway, the circumstances - what are they? Then take the lines, which have never been spoken before (because each performance of a scene is the first time it is happening) and put them in the reality of that situation you've defined.  LIVE in the moment.  For this scene, I managed to use a monotone method of memorization which I normally don't use. Was it effective? Um, YES.  I was reading my scene with a friend, being monotone, until I began to RESPOND with the words. Suddenly, my words had life and authenticity. At an appropriate moment, I suddenly choked up and began to cry when admitting something terribly vulnerable to my husband, Bobby. Tears! (As the character!) Elation! (As the actress!)

I don't know about you, but I struggle with being open emotionally and am especially concerned when it comes to authenticity within a scene.  I seize up, stifle, hide, and sputter like a malfunctioning robot when dealing with my emotion (sometimes).  But the true goal is to be free, in all things, when acting. Open and fearless.

So all of this twalking and tweeking is to say that I did my scene yesterday in class, at a table, nothing fancy. My tears - which were so loyal to that one specific moment - did not come.  Instead, I came to a moment where Bobby admits to cheating on me in a very vulgar and angry way. He stops himself when he realizes what he is saying.  There is suddenly a moment so filled with heightened, horrific tension that I respond with my lines and suddenly I am completely overwhelmed by the moment. I sob, I thrash, I nearly scream and NONE of it feels forced. Thank the good LAWD!!! Man, I needed that. And what I really need, is to understand how to ALWAYS be there, no matter what I'm going through in my personal true life - how to give myself over completely. 

Breakthrough. I was truly delighted. My scene partner may have been truly frightened. Dunno. But let's keep working like this, shall we?

The scene goes up with bells and whistles next Monday, 10/22. I'll be sure to give you a less wordy report. ;)

Sunday, October 14, 2012


Just saw this pic today.  Ben Affleck is pleasantly surprising us all (or maybe just me) with his mad directing skills (which are superior to his acting skills, oy). Cinemascore gave ARGO an A+, a rare occurence. I highly recommend going to see this film since it is based on an incredible true story involving a 1979 US Embassy attack in Iran; oddly relevant to current events today. Because of the difficulty of detail and weight of exposition, this film has been unsuccessfully developed over and over again through the Hollywood years. Today, Affleck delivers an extremely well-balanced, well-edited, fairly well-acted piece with great structure and emotion without losing important information. Some of his choices are rather predictable, but that doesn't lessen the feeling of arrest that rises and falls so musically throughout the film.

Also, I never noticed how short Ben's arms were before. Maybe its the cut of the blazer, but I think there's some reveal in the costuming.

Something else that's refreshing - casting. The six hostages are working actors, but still relatively unknown despite their previous work - with the exception of Clea DuVall and Tate Donovan.  But what do I know? I try to know as many actors as possible, I really like that Kerry Bishe gal, let's see what she does. Most comforting was to see John Goodman onscreen as the bright-eyed, bushy tailed John Chambers.  I love John Goodman. Seeing him is like seeing an old friend and I've missed his on-screen presence. FYI, Alan Arkin is, as usual, a hilariously foul character too.

Here's a trailer. Go, grip your armrest, enjoy...

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Paperboy

I saw a random preview of this film and internally said "Going to see that NEXT", so I did.

I enjoy where Lee Daniels takes his viewers, despite some annoying dream sequences in Precious. THE PAPERBOY, however, is not for the faint of heart or the prudish of mind.  Dark, dark Florida times with wacky, wonderful characters - a marvelous cast (meekly led by the dead-eyed Efron) and a very quirky, fresh, meaty storyline.

Oh Nicole - I've loved her dearly for a long time, the woman can act. She outshone her castmates by a few levels. Her work is, as usual, totally fearless, complex and wonderfully real.  Matthew McConaughey is his similar self, but takes some very brave turns. John Cusack is wonderfully cast and wonderfully one-note (no, I mean that!) And most surprising of all is the performance by Macy Gray. She swallowed that role whole - she was absolutely wonderful in the film.

The film ain't perfect, but it's really darn intriguing and mostly unexpected. So go see something interesting for a change.


The Plotnick Thickens

My manager has been asking me to go see this guy, Jack Plotnick, for AGES! No, for a few weeks. I missed the first round of lectures about 6 - 7 weeks ago, but last night I was able to run in and finally see the man himself! 

Jack is a well-respected actor in LA.  He also speaks passionately about acting and how to release our fears that constantly hold us back as performers and as people.  He has a wonderful book online that I am halfway through - and may I say that after reading just the first chapter, I went and had an amazing meeting with some industry folks by simply following his advice. He's a real person with real compassion for the career we're striving for out here. He also reminded me that I have permission not to like people I meet. What a concept - yep, I suffer from "Nice Girl Syndrome", a common condition.

I release the need to impress these people, Jack!!!

Here's a link to Jack's site and his online book, now start readin':

"Love acting again. Heal from the crap you learned. BOOK MORE WORK!" ~ Jack Plotnick


Alhanti. Alhanti? Alhanti. (Nod) Alhanti.

Guess what? Guess what? Guess what? Guess what?

I'm studying Meisner. Something I read about years ago. Something I've seen footage of. But Meisner technique is not something I've ever practiced regularly. I am fortunate enough to learn the basics from a master instructor who learned from Sanford himself, Janet Alhanti. She has guided many, many actors in her lifetime and it has been enlightening thus far. I don't adhere to one technique, but I hope to gather wisdom and knowledge from each teacher I commit to in order to find what works best for me.

Fascinating, however, was Meisner himself. Besides being a part of the revolutionary Group Theatre, he was an incessant smoker and developed throat cancer. He underwent a laryngectomy, but he taught himself to speak again through a method of breathing and burping out sound. Meisner kept smoking. He developed throat cancer again and again he re-taught himself to speak in order to continue communicating and to continue teaching. (Whether or not he used a voice box to assist himself, I do not know) A relentless teacher with a rigidly loyal following, some of his classes were caught on camera for the world to see.  My friend Chris gifted these very dvds to me one year - and indeed it is almost too disturbing to hear Meisner constantly burp and speak in his way - but what invaluable footage of a true master at work. Good stuff.

"An ounce of behavior is worth more than a pound of words." ~ Sanford Meisner


As Beck would say - "Go crazy with the cheese whiz."

I have been quite a busy bee, squirrel, your choice of forest animal or garden bug here.  I am working hard to integrate myself into the casting community of Los Angeles.  You see, if you are an "unknown" in Hollywood - which many of us are and many of us will always be (well, speak for yourself) - it is not enough to get an agent (fyi, I've since signed with Matt Jackson at Rebel Entertainment Partners for theatrical rep!) It is not enough to get a manager. It is not enough to be fully represented if you grew up outside of the industry and are unfamiliar to those in this tightly-knit world. So how do we meet these fine individuals in the casting chair? Actors take workshops.

A workshop is like a glorified audition. You get some one-on-one time with an important casting associate who could strongly influence your career by paying a small fee and preparing a small scene. Of course, many actors think this is a waste of time and money - but oh, are they wrong.  If you know the workshop offices, that's step one. Here's a few that I like:

Actors Advantage Showcase
ITA Productions
The Casting Network
Actor's Key

In the last two weeks, I've had the pleasure of performing for four highly respected casting ducks.

Judith Sunga of Audino / Schiff Casting - Judith comes across as a direct, no bullshit gal constantly evolving to be better at her job. Currently, she casts "Touch", "Nikita", and her office casts "Madmen" (Eee! Squeal of excitement!).  I was an extra on Madmen when I first moved here aaaaaaaaand it was a fab experience. I smoked herbal cigarettes in a French restaurant (aka Burbank cafe) and watched Don Draper hit on a suspecting young lass. Anyway, Judith paired us all up and gave me a GREAT scene from "Parenthood".  I had a real opportunity to act with this particular scene since the writing was rich and emotionally relevant, plus my character had a wonderful arc. Great experience and smart sides from her.

Mike Page of David Rapaport Casting - Mike is a joyous, wonderful, playful person to audition for (he casts "Arrow" on CW and "90210"). He gave the actors many CHOICES - including how to read the scene, what kind of scene, if we hate the scene please tell him so he can give you something you connect to, etc.  You can tell Mike Page loves to experiment with actors and heartily encourages the walls to come down. Choosing the drama genre, I read two scenes from "Fringe" (which Mike used to cast). He gave me great feedback. Guaranteed, you will feel comfortable with this guy and open to all sorts of possibility. FUN!

Rick Messina of Alyssa Weisberg Casting - Rick currently casts "Workaholics" (I vividly remember their VERY controversial billboard on Sunset Boulevard involving, shall we say "members" of the cast) and has also worked on "United States of Tara" and "Temple Grandin". Mr. Messina likes quick results, strong choices, and working in comedy. He paired me with a sweet little dude to read from "Past Lives" - a deceased pilot from years past. Although I liked Rick's approach very much, my character was the neutral, straight-edged attractive woman in the comedy with little dialogue to shine with.  I did well enough...All in all, Rick is an important man to see, so go see'im.

And lastly but not leastly, Chris Gehrt of Wendy O'Brien Casting - Chris is crazy attentive and a blast to audition for. He loves comedy, loves uninhibited performances and exploration AND loves his job. He is also a stand up comic, so he understands the risks, anxieties, choices - all of it. But he also knows what it means to have a pair of cojones. I was paired with a very talented guy and given a very funny scene involving a fake carrot cake recipe. Chris was in stitches and extremely complimentary. He casts "Sons of Anarchy" and a new FX comedy, "Legit". Highly recommend.

And that's the workshop update. Will keep you posted on others...


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

On Hold For the LA Times

Correction, I just BOOKED the LA Times gig and I shoot the end of this week! My second audition jump with HRi and WHAMMO, I landed hard and strong with a j-o-b. Let's keep doing that.

I'll be working with Prologue Pictures for the first time - and until the commercial comes out  - ssh! Can't say a word about it. Guess you'll have to read about it in the news...

She's a Byrd Dog...

Michelle Wade Byrd (Co-Head CD of Betty Mae Casting). Incredibly nice. Completely approachable. Extremely knowledgeable. And, loves her job.

I went to her workshop at Actors Advantage Studio last night.  Instead of preparing a scene, I opted for a cold read.  This was a tough decision for me as my instincts say if you have the option to pick your own scene and just blow someone away with your full, rich performance - do it. But I also need to sharpen my skills dramatically when cold reading. Michelle is no one to scoff at. She was a tall wall to scale in terms of this experiment.

Betty Mae Casting is one of the most respected casting agencies in town. They just wrapped the casting of Darren Aronofsky's "Noah" (wow...I get goosebumps thinking about the possibilities of this film, I LOVE Aronofsky) and they currently cast about ten projects at once (because so many movies and projects don't go forward or get put on hold or one thousand circumstances that are normal for Hollywood projects come up "unforeseen").  Betty Mae is also doing a worldwide search at the moment for the right actor in the role of Tupac Shakur via video submission. Surprisingly, they've only received about 300 submissions. Say what?!! WorldWIDE?! How funny is that? You'd think people would be jumping like rabbits to get their Tupac on.

Anyway, Betty Mae is the place to be known. Tons of indie films go through there as well - and I hope to begin building a great relationship with the associates there so that I'm always on the radar.

For our cold reads, Michelle paired the actors up. When I received my scene, my heart almost sank. I had read it before online and did NOT connect so I had to stir a major pot pronto in order to find my character and her emotional journey in the given script. Conrad (my scene partner) and I went outside to prepare. From "The Air I Breathe" script, I was to play Sorrow - a 20 year old pop star with no sense of real identity because its been honed and also swallowed by the masses. Conrad was an interviewer with whom Sorrow was quite familiar, but instead of giving her a standard interview - he turns the tables and asks her some surprisingly uncomfortable and inappropriate questions that unveil her insecurities and nearly break her down on-camera.

It's a very intense scene and I'm not 20 anymore, kids. However, I worked diligently to create the essence of a young woman who is deeply sad, but can instantly "turn it on" for those fans watching, a girl who hides behind a sexy, sweet persona in public but really just needs a good long sob and someone to hold her. Well? It's true! I know it sounds cheesy, but most of the time the needs are simple. Incredibly famous people just want to be loved for who they are, not what they are famous for. Janis Joplin is a marvelous example. She could never let go of the gut-wrenching rejection she felt for YEARS growing up, especially in grade school. You continuously see her pain in interviews, her desperation to hide it in a carefree smile, and the channeling of such intense energy and pain into the most thrilling rock and roll of all time.

The result? Conrad and I did the scene. We made it as real as possible. We improvised an ending that caused Sorrow to jump up from her chair, repelled by the embarassing intensity of not knowing the Interviewer's name, even though she's talked to him on more than three separate occasions.  Michelle responded with great enthusiasm and delight at our interpretation of the scene. She said that she loved our work and did not need to make an adjustment for a second performance, so we were good to go and it was a pleasure.

Not bad for a cold read. I was happy with the evening. I'm also happy to know that my instincts are getting stronger and sharper.

Next stop, Lisa Beach at Actor's Key this coming Saturday. Preparing a scene this time...

Sunday, August 19, 2012


Workshops. Workshops. Workshops. Workshops. Aaaaaaaaaaaaaand workshops.

Recently, I did a workshop with Bruce Newberg at The Casting Network. Even though I did well, I'll have to seek him out again because I am one of twenty billion actors he sees every year - and unless he has a part for me RIGHT THEN and RIGHT THERE - most likely, he will have a hard time remembered my blonde hair and blue eyes with some distinction. I'll track him down next month for another go.

Until then, I've got some upcoming gigs this week I'm excited about. Monday night, 8/20 - I will be performing for Michelle Wade Byrd of Betty Mae Casting. Betty Mae is a BIG DEAL, folks. They have cast many a quality project and I am thrilled to cross paths with Ms. Byrd. Byrd, meet Swan. Then Saturday, 8/25 - I'll do a little ditty for Lisa Beach, a seasoned CD of Los Angeles. 

And this morning (I am a busy little bee), I attended a free audition for ITA Productions - a workshop facility in Culver City that's been around since 1983.  Yes, I said audition. Do they hold public workshops that anyone can attend? Why yes! But when casting directors are given the option to hold a "public" or "private" workshop ("private" being one that is attended by members of ITA only) - CDs often opt for the quality over quantity rule. With Members-Only workshops, the talent is guaranteed to be of a sharper skill set.

If you are an actor interested in auditioning, go to their site: - and go to their "Public Calender". Here you can find a convenient audition date and give it a shot with no money down, just gasoline. I had a really good experience with them this morning. Christopher and Van run the joint (at least, on Sundays) and us kids got the 411 on workshops and marketing ourselves successfully. Don't knock it till you try it because I know that the $$$ factor is daunting. Budget out a workshop or two a month.  This accelerates your relationship growth with various casting directors dramatically without going only through the agent/audition grind. Workshops are a way to take professional relationships into your own hands - in exchange for a little cheddar of course. Plus, you can have way big fun.

Totally worth it. I find out tomorrow if I get accepted to ITA. I'll keep you posted.

Sparkle is Lackluster

I saw SPARKLE last night. Well, the result is: Whitney Houston could still outsing ANYone from a hundred light years away.  Her acting...meh. But she does do a showstopper version of "In the Eyes of the Sparrow" that'll give you a nearly permanent case of goosebumps.  The more likely permanent case of something would be "eyerolls" at this totally uninspired film remake. Are the voices lovely? Yes. Could I have done the cinematography? Yes. Was this directed by Helen Keller? Possibly. Was I impressed by any piece of it? The make-up artistry was fabulous.

I didn't have high expectations, but I could've left about 15 minutes in and been fine.  Everything about the film had great potential to REALLY go somewhere, but unfortunately the script was a major handicap.  Many things happened that were convenient and unjustified - as if the audience was completely underestimated. Most all performances had very little direction or development - though one or two key parts were cast well. Even the Supremes-like musical numbers were lacking on all levels which I had expected to refill the lungs of entertainment at least long enough to make it to the next interesting moment. But no, they all read as one note. 

Sparkle is a floundering fish, my friends. But hey, this is just one opinion. I'm glad that I saw it.  I now know who Jordin Sparks is after hearing her name the last few weeks. I saw Whitney's last performance. Tika Sumpter should be moving on to larger roles, that girl has some chops. And Kimberly Jones - can you please do my eyes? Those things were NEVER without some sparkle. Beautiful work.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

New Commercial Agency

HRi Talent has agreed to sign me for commercial representation! Woo and hoo, people. Marvelous news. Michelle Henderson at Henderson Represents Inc. is just the strong professional hand I need to shove me forward into the world of swiffer wipes, kitty litter, bloating, auto insurance and baconators.

I reeeeeeeeeeeeeeeally hope I book a commercial like this:

I'm a sucker for kitties, what can I say? I'll keep you posted on my upcoming audition adventures assigned by
(imagine bond music here)

Monday, August 6, 2012

HOLY F***!

That, my friends, is the name of a comedy show - a FREE comedy show (mind you) that I attend regularly.

HOLY F***!
Tuesdays @ 9pm
Downtown Independent Theater
beers/sodas/tears of laughter on tap

What kind of show is this? Well, it's a show that actually spells out the word F***! but that I choose to sensor because my dear, sweet mother has asked me not to use such profanity. Shame on me! It's the show that made me do it! She doesn't, however, have a problem with the word "Holy". :)

Anyway, the format is like 'dis: two or three comedic shorts (skits and blips and blurps) - then seven to nine stand-up comics - then a headliner!  Since the show has been around for a couple of years, the reputation has really grown - so many "serious" comics who are on their way up that bitterly steep ladder come by.  Bigger professionals (Dave Foley, Moshe Kasher, TJ Miller, Maria Bamford, Marc Maron to name a few) come by to headline, to work out their material or sometimes just drop in. Other up and comin' folks just practice practice practice and give as good a show as they can.  And it ain't always great, but hey, it's like movie night - you may not like the movie particularly, but you're not there to LIKE it, you're there to LEARN about it, discover it, grow with it, etc.

It's a great way to see new comics, discover new talent, become a new fan of someone's twisted sense of humor and see where this comedy dove flies from such young hands.

I may even begin writing about the shows I attend. We'll see.

If you're on FB - just join the HOLY F*** page and you'll get invited to events. Like I said, it's FREE.....for now.


Yes - it is Monday - and I had the workshop with CD Bruce Newberg on Saturday - and I know that for 36 hours your mind has been screaming "JUST TELL US WHAT HAPPENED ALREADY!!!"

First of all, this was my first experience at The Casting Network. Very prompt and friendly responses from Marcia, the owner. A lovely personality and an obviously hard worker keeping this ferris wheel of a casting institution afloat.

Secondly, parking is plentiful on the street.

Thirdly, arrive in a timely fashion for these things because it is NOT a good impression to fall into class in a tardy manner. Rude and ruder.

Numero Four, realize that this isn't the ideal place to get to know other actors.  Before the workshop, everyone is concentrating on their sides and in their own bubbles and head spaces.  This is a good sign - it means these actors actually care about what they do, they are preparing for what they paid for, and there will be something brought to the table by each and every one. It's true, the actors at TCN are on a different skill level - more advanced, focused and professional. Thank. The. Lord.

Enter Mr. Newberg. His pre-workshop advice is brief but precise and of course, invaluable for the easily misguided or meandering actor. Basically, he tells us how to make the most of our time within an audition context.  Preparation, persona, and perfect your questioning. Easy enough and thank you, sir.

His own persona was quite approachable and revealed a sense of humor from the start. Even though I organized headshots for the actors as they approached the "stage" (an extra challenge - not always easy to match those puppies up to their rightful owner...), I was able to feel somewhat comfortable before I volunteered my turn.

Something I found helpful: I was almost ballsy enough to go first, but instead I opted to watch for awhile and see how Mr. Newberg worked and how the actors performed. As other actresses embodied the same character I had chosen (though no one else had chosen my scene specifically - hooray!), I was able to pick up a more precise understanding of the pace of the scene intended, the character traits intended, and the overall show "feel" intended. Yes, I already had a good idea of all of these things, but if you sit back and listen for awhile, you are assured to a further degree. This solidified some choices for me.

Mr. Newberg seemed satisfied with my performance and offered critique that I completely agreed with: lighten up and go further with the comedic moments of the scene. Now, I LOVE comedy, but I tend to be less funny when under pressure. So I'm working on it. And I will have to be smarter about it - perhaps pre-conceive a thing or two as I work backwards to my naturally hilarious core. ;)

All in all, a good workshop. I enjoyed it very much and I intend to follow up with this gentleman.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Crimes of the Heart

Tomorrow, a workshop with Bruce Newberg - major CD for "The Closer", its spin-off  "Major Crimes", "Hellcats", and various feature feelms. I like that pronunciation better. I haven't done a workshop in 100 fortnights thus I am extremely excited. So are the lizards outside of my window - they are hunching their backs in anticipation. 

Mr. Newberg will be reading with each actor from a various selection of sides he has provided. I actually really like the scene I'm doing - young gal, young guy - coming home from who knows where, she is extremely worked up and exasperated at his presence because he doesn't get the hint or doesn't care that she is completely and utterly unhappy in their relationship and it boggles her mind that he doesn't address it!!!  I might know something about that. At least, about the need to point out what is - to me - the pink elephant in the room. 

I'm looking forward to the experience greatly - and looking forward to performing in front of the other actors, creatively and courageously delving into the work and my intention is: Do Not Stop Myself, My Instincts, Or My Choices - Just Go With It.  I have various alarms that trigger regularly while working on new scenes - these alarms are deeply integrated in my brain. I'm trying to take out all the batteries before tomorrow's workshop and, well, for the rest of my career. An actor can't be continuously regretting or doubting their choices as they live within the moments of the scene. Bad, Actor, Bad! An actor also can't beat themselves up too much. Well, that's another issue entirely - a tad more long-term in its resolution.

After the workshop - 40th High School Reunion bartending in Chatsworth - woooooooo! Seniors and shots! Should be a blast, actually...


Whoa. Hello. I'm BACK from a long and difficult representation journey through Managerland - a subsection of La-La composed of a combination of smooth, silky dunes and tall, seemingly impossible crags. Luckily, there's sometimes a foothold in the shadowed stone, an occasional flinty jutting branch, a bird or two that once in a while drop from the sky to squawk support.  On the other side, I have officially found an absolutely fabulous manager, Ms. Renee Missel of RM Management.

She is a sophisticated, professional dream and thinks I can act. Could I ask for more?

Let me just: HOORAY!

Renee knows the industry of Los Angeles like the back of her hand. She has been a studio executive, a producer, of feature films, head of the Santa Barbara Film Festival for years, and dang does she know her stuff.  Her management company has been thriving since 2003 and now I can be a part of her exciting team.

RMM IMDB Link Here

Now I have official help in getting an AGENT - and there are some mighty good contenders. Wish us luck!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Eating the Imaginary Apple

Two days, two Saturdays to be exact, with the same sense memory exercise.  Every Saturday morning, under the keen eye of Salome, classmates and I sit half-circled and allow the body to relax. Tension is Public Enemy Number One for the actor. Ease tension, release energy, access emotion, let all things inside flow comprehensively until that flood spills forth from the body at the time the actor needs it!

I remember doing local theatre when I was much younger - going onstage, solidifying the nerves and butterflies into tense positions and facial expressions. Thinking this was a useful approach when in reality - it limited me to the Nth degree. Even in graduate school, when I was there for one year, I developed chronic jaw issues while doing extreme character work - contorting my body in an elderly fashion, wearing a bodysuit with a hump under my costume, and being as colorful a hag as possible for a production of VINEGAR TOM. Needless to say, I overdid it - so my neck and jaw told me.

When we are truly relaxed, we are free. This is most difficult to practice and obtain. Stillness of the mind/body, rhythm and depth of breath.  We sit for minutes, minutes, minutes and let ourselves go.

I am the newest in class - and I am beginning with the simplest exercise while others more advanced go on to very interesting actions.  When I am ready, I open my eyes to find two things before me: a table and a glass of orange juice. My job is to look at both of these things with ultimate curiosity - as if I am seeing them for the first time - and I proceed to explore every aspect of both the table and orange juice.  How does it feel? Is it cold? Is it warm? Is the table made of wood? Where is the height of the table? Are there grooves along which I can run my finger? Is it dusty? Is there a ring where the glass of orange juice was once I pick it up? How heavy is the glass? What does the orange juice taste like? All of these questions I must answer and explore without going beyond to the questions where I "feel" certain things about them. Keep it light, keep it simple.

This past Saturday - the 17th - I graduated to a piece of fruit rather than a glass of orange juice.  My initial approach this change will be actually handling an apple.  Then I will re-create the apple and the table at which I sat the day before with the best possible detail. 

Hmmmm, perhaps I should choose grapes instead...