Nostalgia is the scent we follow

First, it should be known that I’m retaking the Acting Shakespeare course I took as a junior in college because A) enrollment was really low, B) my boss, the head of the program, is taking it too, so there’s only so much I could get done solo anyway, and C) PHYLICIA RASHAD is in the class too.

That being said, I have realized that my Acting Shakespeare teacher has the exact life that exists in my dreams.

He’s in a committed, long-term relationship with a man. I don’t think they’ve officially gotten married yet (it didjust become legal, and they’ve been together for a loooooong time so really.. who needs it?) but he wears a ring.

He’s got the agent I dream of and salivate over. His career is steady, steady, steady, and although he’s in numerous star-studded projects, he’s not “famous.” Yet he is always working, and is never, ever, in a flop.

He and his partner live in a house (a HOUSE) outside NYC. The house is on a lake. They have a yard, a neighborhood, a dog. They commute into the city for work, but they have a “normal” life.

That’s what I dream of.

***

On another note. Last night, I took my friend R from high school to this reading thing that was organized by a company I’m trying to get “in” with. I was actually interested in the play too, but mostly I wanted to appear engaged with the work.

(Oh also yesterday I auditioned for a horror movie that a friend from SUMMER CAMP is producing– he’s actually the first boy I ever really kissed, onstage or off. I was a late bloomer at 15– and it involved me having to fully act out a torture/murder scene. Who am I where am I what am I doing?)

SO. Got all cute, went down to Gramercy where the reading was being held at the Players Club, which is a totally trippy place if you’ve never been. I walk in the door and promptly trip over my own feet as I walk in. The guy I’ve been in contact with from the company shakes my hand and introduces himself… which is odd because we’ve been communicating via email like we’re buddies. I reciprocate and wait for him to catch on, which finally he does, with a bashful– “oh! really? Is your hair different?” (my hair’s not different).

R and I head upstairs with this guy, S, and enter the room, where there’s a long table with actors with scripts at the center (it’s not called a table read for nothin’.) At the last second, as R and I are chatting in the corner, S kneels down in front of me.

“Hey, B. Do you want a last minute gig?”

“Yes.”

“Do you want to read tonight?”

“Yes.”

“Okay, here’s your script, there’s the director, here are the parts you’re playing.”

As I sat down to read aloud a play I’d never read, ever, in front of and with people I’d never met, I turned to R grinning. “And that’s how it’s done, bitches.”

After the reading, which I was quite proud of myself for, as the language was slightly heightened and I played both a 7 year old black girl and a pregnant white whore who sells her babies for profit (typecast!), R and I headed outside the Players Club to meet our other old friend, N.

So. A little backstory. In high school, I wasn’t necessarily a “cool kid.” I’ve never been a “cool kid.” The popular kids at the performing arts boarding high school I attended were the members of the Environmental Club. They wore birkenstocks, slyly subverted the uniform, smoked in the woods, and microwaved rice concoctions in the cafeteria for meals. I wore pink flats and Old Navy t-shirts over my uniform polo,worked my required community service at library, scanned Shakespeare like it was my job, and ate the shrimp poppers and seven layer bars in the cafeteria because it just didn’t matter to me. They all lived together, while I lived with violists and a violinist I wasn’t best friends with. They listened to new bands, and I listened to musical theatre. I was friends with them, but I wasn’t one of them.

However, I didn’t need them. I had the most amazing group of friends in high school.

There was S, gay boy #1, who was a cool kid but liked me because I was funny and sassy and really, really smart.

Me, S before MORP (our prom) junior year

There was W, gay boy #2, who was even smarter than me, introduced me to the pleasures of Project Runway, and took me to Disneyworld for our senior year spring break. He always called me a star.

Me, W. Halloween, junior yr. (p.s. that dress belonged to a girl we knew and W's costume was my younger sister's.)

Then there was the “extended suite.” I lived with musicians and R lived with other folks, but four of my friends, N, T, A, and X, all lived together in a suite (all the upperclassmen girl dorms were two double rooms connected by a bathroom– I still can’t take long showers). Them, plus R and I, were the “extended suite.”

R was an actor, like me, a tall, lovely “black Brazilian Jew” who to this day is the boldest, most strong willed person I know.

Me, R

N is an actor as well, the daughter of a well-known composer and always self-conscious about that. But her heart is so genuine and her love is so pure that it’s hard to believe that she has any sense of privilege at all.

Me, N. Senior trip.

T was a free spirit, a first year senior actor who floated into our group, although she could have easily been “cooler.” She liked our goofiness, and we loved her for being different.

Me, T

A was a writer, and a good one. She and R would joke that they were brothers. She was from Colorado.

N, Me, A. Typical night at boarding school... temporary Ninja Turtle Tattoos.

X was a dancer, also a first year senior. She was lovely and funny, crass and clever, generous and an easy fit into the group.

The "extended suite." R, X, N, Me, T. Going to A's reading.

We were lucky to have each other, and I have still never experienced friendship like that. One of these days I’ll tell you what they did for my 18th birthday. It’s unreal.

SO really the trio of power was N, R, and me. We had a fourth, C, but that disaster is another story for another time. But being with N and R again, just the three of us, for the first time since freshman year Thanksgiving at N’s estate (I know), was unbelievable. We drank cheap, cheap pitchers of Bud Light. We ate mozzarella sticks and caesar salad and buffalo wings. We took tequila shots. We talked about high school, about our friends, about the end of school, about work and play and new loves and old loves and sadness and joy. This was the beginning of where we all started to realize that, as N said, “In a lot of ways, we really knew a lot when we were in high school. We had a lot of it right.”After drinking and stuff, R had to go home to her boyfriend and prep for class the next day (she is always the last one done– she took a post grad year after we graduated and now won’t graduate till December). N had a party with some friends from college (she went to a prestigious MT program), and it was uptown so I joined her. We stayed for a free shot, chatted, I met people, she said hi, and then, like the true friends we were, we headed to my place. There’s something special about the friendship we have… something that goes deeper than even the tightest relationships in college. We knew exactly what we wanted in high school and we sacrificed normalcy for it. We were protected from a lot of the pain and stress of the real world and of college, yet we were unique beings in a completely one-of-a-kind scenario. Even almost five years later, we are closer than the best friends I have from college.At my place, we drank some lovely champagne my mom bought me for graduation. We played with my cat, Franny, and we talked very frankly about depression, my ED, our fears, our family, our needs, our wants, our everythings. At around midnight she decided she had to head home. Being with those girls was unbelievable. It really reminded me how deep those bonds run.

Tomorrow’s a big day. Will tell you more about it later.

B.

“They hooted and laughed all the way back to the car, teasing Milkman, egging him on to tell more about how scared he was. And he told them. Laughing too, hard, loud, and long. Really laughing, and he found himself exhilarated by simply walking the earth. Walking it like he belonged on it; like his legs were stalks, tree trunks, a part of his body that extended down down down into the rock and soil, and were comfortable there–on the earth and on the place where he walked. And he did not limp.”
Toni Morrison, Song of Solomon

Tony, Tony, Tony

Hey y’all,

It’s an actor’s favorite night of the year (sort of!) It’s Tony Time!

So, in honor of this great night of nights in the theatre, let’s start with some predictions, eh? I’ll star those I’ve seen. Then we’ll move onto my personal recommendations (Broadway and off).

TONY PREDICTIONS

Best Play
Good People Author: David Lindsay-Abaire
Jerusalem Author: Jez Butterworth
The Motherf**ker with the Hat Author: Stephen Adly Guirgis
War Horse Author: Nick Stafford

My expert opinion is: This is HARD. And I’ve actually not seen any of these (because I’ve been so busy). My guess? WAR HORSE.

Best Musical
The Book of Mormon**
Catch Me If You Can
The Scottsboro Boys**
Sister Act

This one’s easy as pie. There’s no competition. THE BOOK OF MORMON will take it. I saw it– it’s brilliant. So was SCOTTSBORO, but let’s be real guys, a minstrel musical can’t take the cake over those adorable Mormon jokesters.

est Book of a Musical
Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson Alex Timbers**
The Book of Mormon Trey ParkerRobert Lopez and Matt Stone***
The Scottsboro Boys David Thompson ***
Sister Act Cheri SteinkellnerBill Steinkellner and Douglas Carter Beane

Again, BOOK OF MORMON. This might be boring.

Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theatre
The Book of Mormon*** Music & Lyrics: Trey ParkerRobert Lopez and Matt Stone
The Scottsboro Boys** Music & Lyrics: John Kander & Fred Ebb
Sister Act Music: Alan Menken
Lyrics: Glenn Slater
Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown Music & Lyrics: David Yazbek

Wild guess. BOOK OF MORMON.

Best Revival of a Play
Arcadia**
The Importance of Being Earnest
The Merchant of Venice
The Normal Heart**

My call is NORMAL HEART. I saw it this afternoon, and for the last ten minutes, I was snotting all over my face and arm I was crying so hard. After the show, I went out to see my professor, who was in the show, and I hugged him and told him how much it moved me and how much I cried. As I said that, some lady with a Playbill leans over and says, “I know– I was sitting behind you.” HA! The only real competition is MERCHANT, but I think it’ll be NORMAL HEART.

Best Revival of a Musical
Anything Goes
How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying

This is hilarious, I know. And they both sucked. ANYTHING GOES.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play
Brian Bedford The Importance of Being Earnest
Bobby Cannavale The Motherf**ker with the Hat
Joe Mantello** The Normal Heart
Al Pacino The Merchant of Venice
Mark Rylance Jerusalem

This is the fight of the night here. All five are irregularly strong performances by leading men– in theory, talent-wise, it could go to ANY of them. Seriously. This is rare. Here are my thoughts. When MERCHANT moved to Broadway, I was sure it would be Al Pacino (see notes later for Leading Actress). But Mark Rylance is arguable the best actor in our generation (I saw him in BOEING BOEING a few years ago and he was… transformative– unbelievable). Now, I’m thinking it’ll be Rylance. We’ll see!! (Also, I saw Joe Mantello in NORMAL HEART today, and he is unbelievable. He deserves to win, too, and in a normal year he would. But this is not a normal year.)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play
Nina Arianda Born Yesterday
Frances McDormand Good People
Lily Rabe The Merchant of Venice
Vanessa Redgrave Driving Miss Daisy
Hannah Yelland** Brief Encounter

Fascinating category. One brand new star-in-the-making (Arianda), an old-school dame (Redgrave), a much lauded stage/screen actor (McDormand), the theatre’s new leading lady coming out of her shell (Rabe), and a wild card (Yelland). I think it’s between Rabe and McDormand, and like with Al Pacino, I was sure it would be Rabe until the last couple of months. Now, sources are leaning towards McDormand. We’ll see!

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical
Norbert Leo Butz Catch Me If You Can
Josh Gad** The Book of Mormon
Joshua Henry** The Scottsboro Boys
Andrew Rannells** The Book of Mormon
Tony Sheldon Priscilla Queen of the Desert

Good performances here. Joshua Henry won’t win, but he was remarkable– a star-making turn. It’s BOOK OF MORMON’s game again, and my vote is with Andrew Rannelis– he literally blew my mind. 

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical
Sutton Foster Anything Goes
Beth Leavel Baby It’s You!
Patina Miller Sister Act
Donna Murphy The People in the Picture

Maybe the shittiest category I’ve EVER seen. None of them should win. NONE. It’s ridiculous. I’ll put my money on Patina Miller– just ’cause. She’s the only newbie in the pack.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play
Mackenzie Crook Jerusalem
Billy Crudup** Arcadia
John Benjamin Hickey** The Normal Heart
Arian Moayed Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo
Yul Vázquez The Motherf**ker with the Hat

This could go many ways. I’m sure Crook is amazing– he was the epitome of Kostya in THE SEAGULL a few years ago. But my vote is with John Benjamin Hickey. Not only is he an alum of my school, but he was absolutely stunning. And NORMAL HEART deserves some more wins.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play
Ellen Barkin** The Normal Heart
Edie Falco The House of Blue Leaves
Judith Light Lombardi
Joanna Lumley La Bête
Elizabeth Rodriguez The Motherf**ker with the Hat

Hmm. This is a toughie. I’ll go with Elizabeth Rodriguez– MOFO needs something.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical
Colman Domingo** The Scottsboro Boys
Adam Godley Anything Goes
John Larroquette How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying
Forrest McClendon** The Scottsboro Boys
Rory O’Malley The Book of Mormon

I’d say this fight’s between Rory O’Malley and Forrest McClendon. I kinda want Rory to win it, because he’s fucking ADORABLE and reminds me of all those adorable, normal gay boys I went to high school with.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical
Laura Benanti Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown
Tammy Blanchard How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying
Victoria Clark Sister Act
Nikki M. James The Book of Mormon
Patti LuPone Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown

Love Laura, Vicky, Nikki, and Patti (I’m not sure I know who Tammy is). But this is an unfair fight– none of them had particularly great parts. I want to say Benanti, because from what I heard, she completely stole the show with literally one song. But realistically? Vicky or Nikki.

Best Direction of a Play
Marianne Elliott and Tom Morris War Horse
Joel Grey & George C. Wolfe** The Normal Heart
Anna D. Shapiro The Motherf**ker with the Hat
Daniel Sullivan The Merchant of Venice

MERCHANT vs. NORMAL HEART, in my opinion. I’d say Daniel Sullivan for the win.

Best Direction of a Musical
Rob Ashford How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying
Kathleen Marshall Anything Goes
Casey Nicholaw and Trey Parker** The Book of Mormon
Susan Stroman** The Scottsboro Boys

MORMON all the way.

Best Choreography
Rob Ashford How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying
Kathleen Marshall Anything Goes
Casey Nicholaw** The Book of Mormon
Susan Stroman** The Scottsboro Boys

MORMON. Although if anything takes it, it would be SCOTTSBORO.

And I’ll stop there. We’ll see how I do!

Next episode, of Tony coverage here will continue later!!

What would you do?

Last night, as I was walking home from the train, I heard two people yelling at each other. As I crossed the street, I saw a man and a woman embroiled in a physical altercation– he had her hair in his hand and was pulling while she begged him to let go. They both were screaming at each other. I have never seen actual domestic abuse before, and I found myself really intensely affected. I considered what I should do, because I knew that it was wrong. I kept walking, afraid to enter the altercation. I know it was the smartest thing I could have done, but I really wanted to do something, anything. I saw other people seeing it too, but no one did anything. I walked slowly till I got to my building, still listening to the fight happen behind me. At some point, I heard a punch or some sort of contact, and the woman screamed “my leg!” I can’t tell you how strongly I felt and yet how little I knew I could do. What do you do when you have to stop something but if you got involved you’d get hurt, almost certainly? Call the cops, I realized later, but still? When I got inside, I opened my window and continued to listen. I don’t know why… but maybe it was just that I wanted to make sure nothing worse happened? I don’t know. At some point, the couple crossed the street, the woman limping, and got into a car. It was kind of awful to see that kind of violence so close.

What would you do?

“The only thing worth grieving over, she said, was that sometimes there was more beauty in this life than the world could bear.”
— Colum McCann

It’s 11:11 and I have a lot of wishes.

My first official blog post. Exciting? Yeah! Why not?

I’m quite a picture, people. I have my moose shorts on, I’m in my bed, and ’90s Christmas techno came on shuffle and I’m not changing it. So how ’bout some quick facts and I’ll launch right in?

I live in New York. I’m an actor, graduating this year from a training program. I’m originally from the West. I am easily excitable. I’m in recovery from EDNOS (quick sidenote– eating disorders are NOT about what you look like, contrary to popular fiction. They, just like other forms of self-harm and depressive behaviors, are simply manifestations of psychological issues. I don’t fit perfectly into any specific eating disorder, but I will say that I have fluctuated 50 pounds in the last year and a half, and I’m currently in the larger portion of that process). I’m also, like a vast majority of other artists, clinically psychologically screwy. I’m totally high-functioning in the world (Phi Beta Kappa, boarding school, straight A’s, lead roles, y’all!) but I am also fully aware that I’m going to have to grapple with the fritzy chemicals in my brain for the rest of my life. I have my therapist. I have amazing friends. I’m gonna be fine.

So, down to business. Today, I went into my nutritionist, as I do every week, irritated. I hate going there, and I have from the start. My Thursdays are ridiculous– I have my therapist (H, I guess I’ll call her) at 11, take myself to lunch, then see my nutritionist on the other side of town at 1pm. It’s supposed to be my day off, but it’s obnoxious. Anyway, I headed into the nutritionist (M? What’s the protocol on this?) with a clear goal that I’d been harboring for at least a month– to tell her I wanted to come in less frequently. I’m not “cured”, but I have been remarkably consistent lately in terms of my behaviors, and I just felt like every week I was repeating myself over and over… and for that much money and effort, I just was very much DONE. So, I went through the whole appointment, jittery, nervy, and altogether out of sorts. But at the end of the session, when M said, “I think you’re doing really well,” I jumped in and said, “I agree– and I’ve felt that way for a while, and so I’d love to think about coming in less frequently.” She, to my somewhat surprise, said, “I was actually about the say the exact same thing!” Honestly, when I left her office, I felt probably less “eating-disordered” than I have… maybe in a year. It suddenly felt like my progress was being rewarded. I’ve felt moments of feeling better, but never like I was actually actively “in recovery.” Pretty great.

It was also gorgeous today in New York. Fifties, probably. Glorious! I came home with groceries from Trader Joe’s, opening my window, made some hummus, and snuggled in to watch some Modern Family. I had a lovely afternoon– no bingeing, very calm, collected, and safe. I became nervous, though, when I became hungry earlier than I hoped to, and finally decided to just make dinner. I probably waited too long, though, because my brain was already in that buzzy place it goes to when it doesn’t want to focus on doing what I’m supposed to do. Mistake. I ended up having a normal dinner, and then about an hour or so later, participating in some “behaviors.” Certainly not as bad as it has been, but also not really the smartest self-care. These little falls have been happening lately. I haven’t had a huge binge in a week or so, but food just seems to turn my brain into a live wire, and I suddenly lose all control of self-control. It shuts off.

I’m hoping that starting this blog will give me somewhere to push the buzz of the brain when it acts up. If anyone starts reading this, let me know you’re here. Knowing that I’m actually writing to someone and not just to the internet ether will SURELY help me stay on track. Also, nonexistent readers, email me whenever. I LOVE email.

–B.

P.S. I’m totally in love with a boy who may or may not A) be single, or B) be into me. Here’s the thing– he’s been insanely flirty via text/Facebook (omg I’m such a 21st century generation x-er) but the profile picture of the girl who at least WAS his girlfriend still has HIM in it (I’m just making it worse). I’ve seriously loved him since I saw him in like, June of last summer. Last night (dorky subconscious alert) I dreamed that we were for realz in love– like my love at first sight for him was totally mutual. We were inseparable in the dream. I feel often that I will never be the kind of person who could live with a lover (I desperately dream of it, but I can barely live with a roommate… hell, I can barely live with myself), but with him in my dream, our love was just so pure that it was not even a worry. Urg.

It’s my mantra, apparently: “I just feel so much, so deeply, all the time.”

How ’bout a quote of the day for the blog? I love quotes. Yeah? Okay.
“”May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you’re wonderful, and don’t forget to make some art — write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself.”  –Neil Gaiman