Jams I’ve Been Jammin’ To

One of my jobs right now is writing study guides about musicals and plays for a new website. It’s a shit-ton of work for shitty pay, but it’s really fun for the most part. One of the parts of the job that is the most fun is finding video clips for every show and every character. I love musical theatre songs because A) I’m a theatre nerd, B) it’s my job to be nerdy about theatre, and C) each good song is a glimpse of a moment in time for a character. More than songs of any other kind, musical theatre songs are about people and their stories.

So. Here’s some fun stuff for you.

First, a little girl who KILLS it. Sydney Lucas singing “Ring of Keys” from my favorite musical of last year, Fun Home, based on Alison Bechdel’s graphic memoir about growing up a lesbian with a closeted gay dad. SO. GOOD. (this video is from an event, not the show)

Keeping it in the same with the same composer, Jeanine Tesori. This is “Lot’s Wife,” the insanely amazing 11 o’ lock number from Caroline, or Change.The whole musical is on YouTube– I highly recommend it.

This wasn’t from a show I did a guide for, but it came on shuffle and made me feel good. Lots of good songs from this show, but this week in my life, this was the one. “Remember This” from The Unauthorized Autobiography of Samantha Brown.

So… Newsies doesn’t always do it for me, but this song gives me serious shivers EVERY time. “The World Will Know.” Super good dancing in other clips– recommended for that.

Love this musical. If you loved the 1970s documentary, you’ll love it too. This is my favorite song, but there are lots of good ones. “Around the World” from Grey Gardens.

The harmonies!!!!!  “Sunday,” Sunday in the Park with George

I love this whole musical. I don’t get why not everyone does. Here’s just a little taste of The Secret Garden.

And, because there’s never enough Matilda:

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One hand in my pocket, and the other one is giving a peace sign.

When my best friend, L, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic lymphoma and leukemia a couple of years ago, we left her second appointment at Beth Israel (before we decided to go to Sloan Kettering) and she mentioned that she couldn’t keep Alanis Morrissette’s song “Hand in my Pocket” out of her head.

Many of the lyrics were poignantly related to what she was going through— ‘I’m sick but I’m pretty, I’m brave but I’m chickenshit.” I fell in love with the song, partly because it has great meaning for me (L finished her over two year treatment in December 2013) but partly because it speaks to what it is to feel like “you haven’t really got it figured out just yet.”

Also, I’m learning to play the guitar. I’m not good, but instead of being chickenshit I’m going to be brave and post.

Love to all.

13 Things I Learned in 2013

1. JANUARY: You can get an A+ in “being an actor,” but it still doesn’t mean you’ll succeed.

It’s about being ME, and living my life, and knowing, deep within myself, that this moment is temporary. To forgive myself when I get another “no” or I’ve gone months without a “real” job. To acknowledge that I’m WORTH forgiving. To trust myself enough to believe that the next job will come.

It’s not that you don’t do the hard work– it’s that you don’t depend upon it to make your life perfect. I don’t think I expected that when graduating from high school, or when I moved to New York, or really… ever. Until the last two years of being in the world. I’ve become more and more comfortable with it, but I have to constantly remind myself that the balance is the key. As one of my favorite professors loved to say about the process of acting (and, ergo, the process of living) is “always balancing, never balanced.”

2. February: I want all the things.

This is something that has surprised me about my relationship with A. I never dreamed about my perfect wedding, I never felt like anything was missing when I was alone, I never wanted anyone to spend money on me. But with A, I google engagement rings (not that I want him to propose yet, but again… suddenly I want all the things). I want him to buy me nice dinners. I want him to get his book deal so he can take care of our little family. I want to cook for him. I want him with me all the time.

This is not to say I’m going to get married and become a housewife and give up everything I’ve dreamed of– I’m just as ambitious as always. But I realized that I maybe do want some of the things we’re told women want, and that’s okay. Like Hannah, I feel weird about wanting all the things, but truth be told… I kinda do.

3. March: I know that there’s no quick fix to this.

Everything hurts me.
I’m easily irritated, and I hate that.
It is physically difficult to do anything, and mentally even more so.
I feel as though I’m wasting my life.
I am not entirely sure that “I am enough” for this business at all.

My spirits are very low. And the thing that makes me the most happy in the world is so far away from me. I have nothing to look forward to. I don’t know what else to do. I’m scared and feeling very hopeless. Why can’t the universe throw me a bone? A small one? Any one?

I know this will pass. I know I will eventually work again. But right now I feel like my insides are made of hardening cement– heavy and painful. Nothing give me joy right now. Everything hurts. Everything makes me cry. I want to be nowhere; to hibernate until this time is over. And I just want it go away.

4. April: Our love is the truest thing RIGHT NOW, and for the time to come.

We talk about love a lot. So do most couples.
But my darling, I UNDERSTAND you. We FIT. “I” am not a “thing” without “you.”

Just wanted to share.
I never take you for granted.
I never am not surprised and grateful when you make me coffee.

Our love is energetic and exciting and romantic, but it’s also comfortable. It’s home. And that’s something that’s harder to put into words than the platitudes and poetics that make up the language of most relationships. A year ago, I couldn’t imagine a love like this.
Now, I can’t imagine my life without it.

5. May: Self-harm is the is the easiest game to play.

I’m always amazed by the ways in which I know how to hurt myself.

Food.
Cutting.
Watching videos of my boyfriend’s ex on his computer.
Saying “no” and staying in.

I have hurt myself more than anyone has ever hurt me.

6. June: The way I see myself, the way I see the world, has transformed.

Everything changes. It would take years and years to trace each seismic shift from its starting place, to its catalyst, to its change. There are patterns, of course. My triggers are familiar. Many of my dreams are the same. But the way I see myself, the way I see the world, has transformed, and on more than one occasion.

I’m okay with that.

As long as I still find those moments where all the pieces of my life, my desires, my city, can balance momentarily on a finger. As long as I feel those sharp flashes of knowing I’m exactly where and what and who I’m supposed to be. The inside transforms the outside, and the same is true the other way around. And maybe that makes me hope that I’ll never stop changing, that with each turn of the season and spin of the axis, I’m finding my balance on the point that feels just right, at least for a moment. And then I’ll fall off, only to tip and spin and flounder until I’ve found my perfect, temporary fit again.

7. July: I hate this business sometimes, I doubt my strength when the going is tough, but I honestly CANNOT imagine my life any way but this.

And those raw moments of the play, where the only thing that exists is the look in Reed’s eyes-the kiss or kill- or the way Angie skips onstage after a betrayal, like nothing has happened, or the genuine nerves and laughter of the epilogue– I am so much myself. I get to experience worlds different from my own, physical contortions, and heartache and lust and love, it really just boils down to ME, really looking, really hearing, really standing there and taking it, and letting myself feel every bit. No hiding.

It’s not really disappearing, I guess. It’s allowing honest feeling to seep out and be seen. I am actually standing there, actually slapping his face, actually kissing his lips, actually blocking her way.

And unlike life, much of the time, I get to experience it fully. That’s what I share with the audience. And that is joy. That is release. That is certainty.

8. August: I ate pasta for dinner. And I feel A-OK about it.

Starving made (and makes) me angry. Being hungry sharpens things, sure, and I’m more productive, but I’m also touchy. I’m isolated. Everybody and everything annoys me. It’s manic, but it’s also pissy. I’m never more outwardly angry than when I’m hungry.

Binging makes me sad. I turn inward here, too, but for different reasons. I want to be invisible. People don’t piss me off– I just feel as though I don’t deserve to be near anyone, like I’m worthless and I want to be alone. It’s almost more painful because of the shame. Not eating isn’t shameful. I don’t care what anyone says. For women, and anyone who has ever experienced an ED, eating is shameful. Not eating means self-control. This is not the objective truth, but it is the truth we live every day in this society. I would get more auditions if I was starving than if I was binging. If I’m sick from not eating, that’s almost understandable. If I’m sick because I tear into myself with food, punish every body part, my stomach and my brain in particular, I lack self-control.

9. September: I am a participant in so many tiny universes.

Looking at A’s Facebook page today, loaded with those lovely “Happy Birthday!”s that pop up through the day, I noticed my universes converging. That’s how life goes, I guess, and love is the catalyst for it. Actors I worked with last summer post greetings after friends from college share their blessings. A knows these people and they know him because I exist. I love A, so I bring him places. I love my friends, so I make a point to go to those places.

I know I’m not the only one with these many orbiting galaxies, meshing and meeting, with only me, my strange and special life, at the center. How did I become someone whose world has so much variance? It makes me feel good. It makes me feel like I exist.

10. October: I have confidence that I can care for myself, for the first time in a long time.

Look at all this SHIT I had to fight through, tooth and nail, to get to this point. Look at how hard I worked. Look at all the time I spent fighting for the life I have now. I battled an eating disorder, crushing anxiety, self-hatred, depression, mania, self-injury in every way you can imagine, and I’ve come out the other side. And I have confidence that I can care for myself, for the first time in a long time. Isn’t THAT crazy?”

My life is nothing special to me, as I walk through it. And yet, I realize that I have walked through incredible forests, forded wild rivers. I am lucky to have it, and I am grateful. Overwhelmingly.

11. November: Eventually, someone will reach out to me because they want me.

Andddddd. Here is me letting go. After a day of excitement, then a day of so much nervous energy I could have powered NYC… And the video audition is taped, looks just fine, and was sent off to my agent. Now. I can feel good about this. I just need to stop fantasizing about it.

What’s next to get me excited?! Anyone? Mom and dad are coming for thanksgiving in two weeks! Artie and I have two movie dates next week! I have a play audition on Monday! I have amazing supportive friends! Life is good, y’all. And that’s the end of this chapter. Page turn, cover close, on the shelf, as high as it can go. :)

12. December: I love that in spite of EVERYTHING, every time the lights go down, my heart fills and beats just a little harder.

I love this community, despite its flaws.

I love this craft, despite its strangeness.

I love these shows, despite some of them being kind of dumb.

I love this city and its passion, despite the fact that it’s exhausting.

13.  2013 was not a “banner” year. My career was slow. The first bumps in my relationship appeared. I struggled with friendships, I struggled at work. I fucked up a lot. It’s hard to look at the strides I made last year (huge show, Equity card, agent, new boyfriend, moving in with boyfriend, new cat) and compare them to last year. Yet 2013 was not devoid of growth. It was just that the growth was subtler, harder to see, less exciting, less bright.

I rekindled incredible friendships through the process of R’s wedding.
I did a show that reminded me why I love the theatre.
I shot my first lead in a TV episode, and did really well. And had so much fun.
I am happier with my body, and also more content with my “recovery,” than ever before.
I took some great risks (new dance studio, solo vacation, new doctors).
I supported my boyfriend through a career change and the ups-and-downs therein.
I watched my boyfriend’s ex-girlfriend in a play, then watched her leave the state, and slowly stopped letting her hurt me (still working).
I had my final appointment with my amazing therapist.
I said what I wanted and boldly asked for things (“I want an audition for this.” “Could you please do the dishes?”)
I reconnected with my relatives (though my grandmother would disagree).
I attended my first wedding.
I looked more beautiful than I have ever looked before, and I felt that.
I accepted that there are things that I can’t do because they make me feel bad, and that’s okay.
I was more in love than I’ve ever been.

So yeah. 2013. Things happened. As we enter a new year, I want to continue to make things happen. I want to continue to take risks. I want to give back. I want to be kind. I want to keep learning.

What did you learn this year? And by the way, I’m so grateful for your presence in my life this year. Happy new year!

Sometimes musicals make you feel better.

Sort of still coming down from the high of this weekend. I look forward to December, when I can stop worrying about getting it because, of course, I will have not gotten it. Right now, I am just frustrated. I wish this wasn’t a one-shot thing, you know? Like I wish I was auditioning for a few things I was excited about… not one thing I’m excited about that is so unlikely it’s laughable.

So yesterday was bad. I got moody and pissy with A, even when he was trying to be warm and supportive. I was in a terrible mood at work, and gave a half-assed audition for a play I don’t care about. Today is better. I woke up, and though still feeling sick (oh yeah! I have a cold!), I felt positive about my day. It’s just going to take time for this underlying feeling of excitement/anxiety to subside. And then I can feel happy. For now, I’m just plugging through and trying to focus on exciting things that are happening– my parents are coming next week! I love Christmas and the holidays!

So. I may or may not listen to musical theatre and self-identify in the songs. I’M AN ACTOR. Deal.

Just because I find myself in this story
It doesn’t mean that everything is written for me
If I think the ending is fixed already
I might as well be saying I think that it’s okay
And that’s not right.

Even if you’re little you can do a lot
You mustn’t let a little thing like little stop you
If you sit around and let them get on top you
Might as well be saying you think that it’s okay
And THAT’S NOT RIGHT.

I make my own choices. My career is mine and I’m on my own road. I may be little, but I am strong. And I’ll fight for what I want.

***

Maybe we can’t be okay
But maybe we’re tough and we’ll try anyway
We’ll live with what’s real
Let go of what’s passed
And maybe I’ll see you at last.

I don’t need a life that’s normal
That’s far too far away
But something next to normal would be okay
Yes, something next to normal is the thing I’d like to try
Close enough to normal to get by
We’ll get by.

Perfect doesn’t exist. Normal as a goal is too high, too close to perfection. No… one day at a time. Go one battle at a time and stop stressing about the whole war.

***

But when you least expect
Opportunity walks through the door
You suddenly connect
To the thing that you forgot
That you’d been looking for

And there you are
Right in the middle of what you love
With the craziest of company
You’re having a kick-ass time
And being who you wanted to be in this world
You’re that little girl, with wings unfurled
Flying again

Back in the backyard dancing.
I found my way back to then.

I’ve found it before. The quiet lull right now is just a transition into the next step. Trust your friends. Expect the unexpected. Be thrilled that you are certain of what you want in this life. Not everyone has it.

High School Yearbook

It’s the 50th anniversary of my high school alma mater, and when I open my senior yearbook the spine cracks like a knuckle pop.

The first picture of me is three page-flips in, hidden in a right corner. I’m wearing a frilly purple dress that someone’s mother made them once for Halloween and they decided they should bring to boarding school. There’s a bow on the top of my head. I’m pulling a face while next to me an Arabian gypsy, a King of the Jungle, and a Porcelain Doll grin.

In black and white are the faculty, haircuts so-five-years-ago. Familiar faces leap from the page and nestle straight into my heart.

Cutest Couple. I remember. I made the finals.

There are a few poems in the Creative Writing major’s section. I read them again, for the hundredth time, words penned by friends wise and young. They seem overwrought, now, heavy with simile and prose, thick with the maturity that comes too early in adolescence.

Page after page of round, grinning faces in suits and blacks. Musicians. Beautiful brown-haired girls with reeds to their lips, completely unaware of anything but the Shostakovich. The lopsided grin of the tall, flax-haired organ major, far from his native Texas in the non-denominational chapel, pedaling and pounding.

My heart drops as I flip through the Theatre section. I hunt around the space it leaves for the feeling there. I don’t know what it is. I let my eyes flick past the production pictures, there and gone.

The dorms are named after artists. Writers, painters, musicians. The photos of each hall, organized by RA, look like team photos for any high school club. Boys in hoodies, hanging off each other. Girls with their arms wrapped around each other. It’s easy to see them as gaggles of teens at a sleepover. I like to remind myself that they are world-class artists. It makes anything seem possible.

Faces fly past that haven’t crossed my mind in years. That girl fell into the orchestra pit and broke her nose. I fell for that boy on tour. Those boys are our class ambassadors. That girl intimidated me. That RA had a thing for my boyfriend. Those boys got expelled. I once tripped over that girl’s euphonium in the hallway.Those girls were my roommates.

There we are in our prom dresses, glowing with sweat from dancing. And there at senior dinner, spring light finally illuminating our cheeks outside the cafeteria. And look! There we are at the end of the year dance, arms looped around each others’ necks, my boyfriend and my friends bound with limbs to me. And in that photo, the end of the year party, I see a glimpse of my favorite sundress, and just obscuring the rest are three boys, all of us crouched, mouths open, singing. So many moments in dresses, celebrating one thing or another, celebrating all the many more moments we had in our uniforms, struggling through coursework or a particularly hard passage from Shakespeare.

And then the senior pictures and quotes, ensconced in black. Senior pictures were “student’s choice,” so there are the boys with their oboes and the girls with their horns, the dance photos or the artsy-edgy shots. The senior quotes run the gamut… permanent reminders of what was in our hearts all those years ago.

S– Theatre
“I want to live and feel all the shaes, tones, and variations of mental and physical experience possible in life.” –Sylvia Plath

J– Creative writing
Water for my horses, and whiskey for my men!

B– Euphonium
“I’ll play it first and tell you what it is later.” –Miles Davis

E– Motion Picture Arts
“I wasn’t born yesterday, you know. I’ve seen movies.” –Aqua Teen Hunger Force

J– Visual Arts
Do unicorns wear bikinis?
Do they complain about their thighs?
Will they strut their stuff, wink,
At those fiesty uniform guys?
In the winter, will they fake bake?
Make their pure coats a scandalous brown?
Will they count their unicorn calories,
Refuse to keep their food down?
Does your unicorn wear bikinis?
Is it low on self-esteem?
Reassure your unicorn,
Feed it fatty ice cream!
— A, Creative Writing

And my picture, sharing the the frame with a Shakespeare bobble-head doll. A picture of three-year-old-me, a daisy crown on my head. So we’ll live, and pray, and sing, and tell old tales, and laugh at gilded butterflies. —King Lear

Spring Soundtrack

The tunes I’ve been jamming to January – May. It’s not comprehensive, but it’s a good peek into my life.

“Breaking Down” — Florence and the Machine

Lots of Florence this semester, because of the show and because of L. “Breaking Down” was the curtain call song for Friends Don’t Let Friends, the show I did in December. So it’s got special meaning. I tear up a little every time I hear it.

“Nine People’s Favorite Thing” — [title of show]

Yes, I’m a nerd. But I listened to this song after some of the hardest moments… and it actually works to make me feel better.

“Paper Bag” — Fiona Apple

This song has been around forever, but it just came back to me after seeing Bridesmaids. That scene where she’s making cupcakes… I mean.

“Helplessness Blues” — Fleet Foxes

The first song in the show I did this summer. It’s very apropos to summer angst.

“Laura” — Girls

My friend sings this probably 100 times better than this band. I mean it’s this band’s song, and I still like it, but boy… you should hear J sing it.

“Call Your Girlfriend” — Robyn

Um… Have you seen this music video?

“King of Anything” — Sara Bareilles

This is the classic breakup album. I didn’t have a breakup, but who cares. I listened to this song on repeat.

“The Fear” — Lily Allen

It’s just amazing. It was also in pre-show of FDLF.
“I wanna be rich, and I want lots of money / I don’t care about clever, I don’t care about funny / I want loads of clothes and fuckloads of diamonds / I heard people die when they’re trying to find them”

“Hand in my Pocket” — Alanis Morrissette

This was my song with L. The second day, after we had a complete diagnosis and a proposed treatment plan (which we subsequently didn’t follow through with, when she decided to be admitted to Sloan), she started singing this song. It still makes me think of her.

“Wonderwall” — Oasis

We used to sing along to this song freshman year. It wasn’t until this year that I actually learned it. Make me nostalgic for college.

“Far Far” — Yael Naim

I love songs that are very lyrical and catchy. This one is a little nonsensical (she’s not a native English speaker, I don’t think…) but it’s very lovely.

“17” — Youth Lagoon

This band is from my hometown. This is my favorite song from this album.

“Braille” — Regina Spektor

I love Regina, and I find this song to be so powerful. I want to sing it for an audition someday… it’s totally act-able. I know because, um, I have definitely tried.

“Someone Like You” — Adele

I mean, this is everyone’s song of the year. But again, it reminds me of L. We listened to it together on the subway the day she was diagnosed. Then, the day I went with her and she was admitted to Sloan, she went in to get an x-ray procedure and I had to sit outside. It was the first time we had been separated the entire day. This song played on the radio in the basement of Sloan. I started crying. I started singing along, imperceptibly. The nurses sang too. And I knew inside the room, L was singing with us.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NAc83CF8Ejk&ob=av2n

Do you think our parents have any idea how hard we work?

My friend/colleague/whatever asked me that question on Thursday when we spent from 12pm to 5pm pounding out fundraising language, setting up our websites, drafting blurbs, etc. I’m pretty sure they have no clue. I mean, the hours (all joyful) that I put into this company is remarkable, and our goals and plans are beyond ambitious. I mean, we have 2 production managers, a budget of $26,000 for the whole summer, two of NYC’s best off-off theatres already booked, fundraising and social networking platforms in place, full casts, designers, and crews, 2 interns, a 501c3, a huge major donor list, an even huger contact list, weekly meetings, and a whole host of rave reviews and awards from our last production (incl. from the Wall Street Journal)?

Nope. They have no idea.

So I’m SUPER proud of myself because I just finished my paper. I hate these papers. But this one is DONE! Thank the lord. Now I only have a few things to do today, including eat, which I don’t want to do. I’m not hungover from last night, but I’m not really craving anything. Do you know that feeling? Food just kinda sounds not so good? Not like pukey but just like… not hungry.  C’mon recovery. Let’s go.

P.S. I totes was a badass yesterday and made it out of the house by 3:30pm to get to the Performing Arts library to look at some songs. Definitely some success! It’s pop/rock week. I can bring in 4ish songs to sing, but I’m having trouble choosing!

Alright, unofficial poll of the choices:
Joni Mitchell, “Big Yellow Taxi”
Liz Phair, “Why Can’t I”
Norah Jones, “Don’t Know Why”
Journey, “Don’t Stop Believin'”
and last but not least, my childhood lullaby: