Bumps and Bruises

Tonight during the show, about halfway through, I have blocking where, while holding my huge binder, I squeeze between a pair of seats, swing my leg over the seated actors’ heads, then trip and fall onto a rehearsal block, my arm out with a paper.

I realize now that is difficult to describe and you probably can’t even imagine it. Suffice it to say, I do a lot of pratfalls in this show. Which is super fun.

Anyway, I rarely actually hurt myself in this show, despite the fact that I’m throwing myself around and doing highly physical clowning. Part of that is because I’m a dancer, so I know how to move my body in such a way that I look like I’m flying across the room when I’m actually 100% in control. The kneepads also help. 😉

So tonight, I did the pratfall as normal, but for some reason, I happened to hit my forearm (that bony elbow-shin, if you know what I mean?)

Getting hurt in a show is a funny thing. I was talking to R about it. She hit herself under the chin with the trash can lid last night, and didn’t even notice until her entire jaw ached the next day. I have walked offstage to discover that my ankle is bleeding and my shoe is filled with blood. The adrenaline and the focus makes it so that you can’t even feel anything. It’s very odd.

I could feel my "elbow-shin" hit flat on the block, and I knew I’d have a nice bruise the next day.

And I got really excited.

I admit. I LOVE getting bruised. I love knowing I’m going to have a welt under the skin, blossoming purple and green. I love looking at my legs when they’re banged up, as though I’ve been through battle and made it through. I love to probe the tender flesh and muscle and bone, feeling that pain deeply rush through the nerve endings and ache dully, throbbing. I love getting bruises, having bruises, and feeling my bruises.

Is that weird? Am I crazy?

I don’t feel this way about cuts. I guess I feel the same about sore muscles– I DID something, and now I can feel it– but bruises seem like a weird thing to love.

This one isn’t even that good, but I got so excited when I saw it begin to form tonight. Do any of you have this weird obsession? Or anything similar? Am I just totally fucked

up?

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Tech Week

Tech began yesterday.

9am call in a basement theatre somewhere between the Lower East Side and the East Village. An A train from 181 to 14, the L from 8th Ave to 1st Ave. An hourlong commute.

I like tech. The pressure is off me– it’s a time for the designers to work all of their stuff out. It’s also fun to see everything finally coming together. Those fake and horribly offensive AK-47s they had simulated in rehearsal with wooden sticks are now real, and shoot idiotically wonderful laser-light with a half-hearted "pew pew." That transition I’d always done in silence, with few props and no timing, now is punctuated with sound, and concludes with a solo quick change in the back hallway. You don’t realize how many props you have in this kind of comedic clown-show until you enter from the front after your one long-ish break from the stage to discover the floor piled high with newspapers, Doritos, a spilled first aid kit, and many bottles of water.

Last night, after getting home at the incredibly kind hour of 6pm (usually techs are 10/12s, which means you work for 10 hours out of 12 scheduled hours– the other 2 hours are for Equity-required breaks, including an hour for lunch). I did this and that, ate dinner, puttered about, watched Orange is the New Black, then, just as A walked in the door from his show, launched into full meltdown. Why? I couldn’t find my new boxes of contacts.

I cried. I yelled. I stomped and threw shit around. a stayed calm and tried to help, his voice soft and meek in a way that irritates me in the best of times. I am a monster, he is a saint.

Eventually, I cooled off,

***

Two tech runs today. I showed up at the theatre at 9:45am, Americano from The Bean in hand. Now costumes aren’t questions, makeup slides on. We’re ready to go for a run by 10:30. We break for lunch at 1:40, and I head across the street to Hummus Place with R, P, and SP. We’re back in the space by 2:40 to put back on our costumes (still damp, now cold and hanging heavy). Another time through, then notes, and I stumble out into the heat towards the L train.

***

I can’t wait to do this play.

I can sit around and talk about the struggle of my "career," about how it’s not what I "wanted," how it’s possibly a "step back," but when I walk onstage, when the moments flow smoothly, one into the nest, everything feels RIGHT. I am 100% myself, 100% present. It’s the greatest thing on earth.

I wish I felt more like writing, but this tab has been open for days, and I can’t seem to finish it.

More, I suppose, as things get closer. We open Thursday.

I can’t wait.

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Seismic Shifts

I’ve been thinking about what to write for a few days now, and I’m just now sitting on the couch, hoping to scratch some of it down. It’s going to be jumbled, but sometimes there’s poetry in chaos. My dad always said to start with a free write.

The window behind me is open a crack. The air is wet and full, but the breeze has a chill. It’s been a rainy June, but we’ve had a couple of miracle days. Days of perfection– bright blue skies, calm air, just enough warmth to release the sounds and smells of spring, as if every piece of the city was perfectly placed on its coordinates, suddenly allowing things to flow just right.

I have moments in this city, like I did yesterday on the way home from working with my boss while he was in rehearsal at the Barishnikov Arts Center on 11th Ave, where the pieces feel like they fit just right. I can glance at the skyscrapers uptown and wonder at how a homebody from Idaho made a life here. I’m not hungry, but I’m not overfull. Breath flows, unobstructed. Heading home in time for dinner, the sun just starting its descent over the Hudson.

I’m alone, usually, when this happens. It’s like those toys we had when we were kids– the beak of an eagle perched on your finger balances the whole bird. Miraculous. Also, temporary, and also, solo. If a bee lighted on the back of the small plastic eagle, it would crash down, all memory of balance gone. So I relish those moments– solo, balanced, and necessarily brief.

I have found that I am still very young. This is not shocking. I mean, I’m not crazy– I’m 24 years old and I’ve known I’m young for about as long as I’ve been alive. But I don’t have a life pattern yet. I have little to base what’s next upon. I was in school for 22 years– day care and preschool, elementary school, high school, boarding school, college. And now I’m entering my second year of true "adulthood." That’s not a very long time to develop of sense of what "life" is.

So I falter. I compare. I long for last summer’s career arc, and I pine for my college friendships. I am a different person now than I was two years, four years, ten years ago. Which surprises me, in some ways.

Perhaps personality develops through a series of catalysts. Choices we make that echo long after they’re done. Battles we fight until we can finally emerge, bloody and mutilated, but victorious. Sometimes the mere shape of the world around us– a high school, for instance, or a mother-daughter relationship– catalyze what’s next. I wonder how long I will keep changing. Will who I am ever cement? Or with every shift of the seismic plates, every strong Noreaster, will my "self" be changed a little bit too?

 I come from a town that is bigger than a town but smaller than a city. There were cul-de-sac suburbs and junky trailers off the highway, but where I lived there was a front yard and a backyard, an elementary school in walking distance, piano lessons, ballet class, and gymnastics. I had a younger sister and two parents who worked. My dad, a PhD and a Rhodes scholar, professor of English and author of creative nonfiction, my mother a labor and delivery nurse who often worked odd shifts but could be counted on, when home, to prepare stir fry or pesto pasta and knew when we should finish our last snacks so we had room for dinner. I had some friends from school– Heather, Keako, Andrew, Evan. We went camping in the mountains during the summer, alternately covered in dust and damp with lake water.

This was the structure of my life from age 6 to age 15. And yet, the inside is so much more complex. I was a difficult little girl– tempermental, moody, destructive, obsessive. My parents fought often, and for some time, slept in separate bedrooms. My mother sent money, and then refused it, to my drug-addicted cousins (there’s more than one), and she learned that her sister was in prison. My father still struggled to come to terms with his childhood sexual abuse at summer camp. It shuttered him. I didn’t know my sister, despite the fact that her room was next to mine.

The facts of my life are these:
I live with my boyfriend. I’m a professional actor. I’m a resident of New York City. I graduated summa cum laude as the salutatorian from college. I take the subway every day and see a therapist every week. My eyes are blue, or green, or gray, or a mix; no one can decide. My hair is blonde, or dark blonde, or light brown, or honey-colored; no one can decide.

Underneath, the struggle:
I can no longer see food without considering whether or not I should eat it.
I know when I’m depressed when I can’t read.
I am terrified that I have alienated the dearest friends I have.
All I really want is for people to love me as much as I love them.
I feel trapped and terrified and lost nearly every day.
I fantasize about a childhood that I know didn’t exist.
Sometimes I go through days in New York where every single person I see, I resent.
I want to write powerful personal essays like my father, but I don’t know where to begin.

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.

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Dreaming in DC

Lying alone in a hotel bed, I let feelings and thoughts wash over me. Memories of overnight, snow-bound delays, of brief holidays past, of transient times in between momentous ones.

Yet also my mind sweeps forward, into imagination, into a body beside me, a bottle of wine to share, a firm chest instead of a pillow to rest my head on. I’ve never traveled with a boyfriend, really. One came to my Idahome once, slept in the basement, where I joined him after my parents fell asleep and then scurried away before they woke. Another I visited– Memorial Day after freshman year, missing the fireworks because we veered off the road to avoid hitting a deer. And I came to him again at Steppenwolf, in Chicago. He was the star. It was an experience of momentary cohabitation. Within days from when I left, Obama was elected , i was opening a show, and I had been unceremoniously dumped.

I like hotel rooms for this reason. There is enormous potential in them. Perhaps I have a hotel fantasy, of days lounging on fluffed pillows and clean sheets, lolling naked as we nibble on hard cheeses and drown ourselves in wine. An escape. An opportunity to be purely with another, all responsibilities irrelevant. That’s it, I think. Hotels are blank worlds where pure, unencumbered connection may occur.

I don’t yet know what my weekend will hold. Yet at this moment, eyelids drooping, cocooned in clean white sheets, alone in a room in our nation’s Capitol… And coming off a first, frustrating, extreme, exciting, draining, dreamy week of rehearsals… I do feel like not much could go wrong these three days. just don’t let me slack on the memorization, bitchez!

Hasta mañana, and hola Washington DC.

B.

Whoo-pee!

Yesterday, after therapy, I went to audition for a Syfy show. It went well, even though I forgot my headshots because I’m the worst. It involved the casting director telling me, “Okay, you’re on the swim team, it’s five am, you’re going to walk, then you get a feeling like there’s something wrong. When I snap, you see something in the bushes over there. When I snap again, you see the ghost. If you feel it, give me a horror-movie scream?” In other words… this is my life.

Then last night, after work, as I was lingering over the free wine at my alma mater’s design show, I got a phone call. “Hey, this is the CD for Black Dog, Red Dog– you submitted a while ago? Look, we had someone pull out last minute, and if you’re available we’d love to have you come and do a scene for the film. It’s with Whoopi Goldberg.” I knew it was going to be an extra/non-paid situation, but all you have to say is “Whoopi” and I hear “EGOT” and I’m in.

So this morning I woke up at 4:45am, powdered my scalp so I wouldn’t look quite so greasy, and hopped on the train to Bushwick. I have very little experience on camera (one TV thing, an industrial, and a number of filmed auditions, but that’s it), so I was understandably nervous.

I arrived at holding at 6am, and my point-person on set, Iris, encouraged me to get some breakfast at craft. The veggie breakfast burrito was exactly what I was craving and didn’t even know it. I also had a styrofoam of coffee. Around 6:30, the hair person, Sarah, walked into the main room of holding, caught my eye, and said, “Hey, are you background?” I answered yes and she ushered me into HMU (hair makeup u…niverse?). “So it’s 1982, huh?” I responded, “Uhh… I guess so!”

I chatted with Sarah as she brushed, curled, and feathered my hair until I looked like Farrah Fawcett. I felt really fucking cool in my professional hair chair. Once I was finished, I was passed off to Steve in makeup. He gave me dark shadow and liner, another layer of liquid foundation, some mascara, and purple gloss. I took a glance in the mirror… I looked pretty cool. I moved next to wardrobe. They handed me a pink polo, which I pulled on over my huge hair. “I really wanted someone in a popped collar,” the wardrobe girl told me. “I can do that for you,” I responded. Next I pulled on a tight, 3/4 sleeve blue sweater. Then, a jean skirt– like… a JEAN. SKIRT. I was a bit nervous about getting it on– they didn’t have my measurements and the skirt looked smallish. Once it was over my butt, though, I was able to zip and button it, and assured the wardrobe girls I could breathe and as long as it looked fine, I was fine. Final touches were pantyhose and nude loafers. “You are my dream extra right now,” they told me.

Afterwards, I meandered back to my stuff in the main holding room, feeling pretty awesome. The light was bad where I was sitting, and I was feeling pretty confident, so I took my book and my phone and took a seat in the couch area, which was well-lighted. I half-read, half-watched as Whoopi sat down across from me with her iPad, going over lines, chatting with the director, then joined by Logan Marshall-Green and Tom Levinson (who are stupidly good-looking, it’s really unreasonable for humans to look like that and congregate together). I was the only non-“talent” person in the little couch area, and I have to tell you… I almost felt like “talent.”

Around 8? I think, Iris gathered myself, Jo Lynn, and Ken, the other extras, and scurried us out the door. Like what I know of film and theatre, it was a whole lot of wait… hurry up!… and wait. We were pointed towards a car, helmed by a PA who drove us to location, a few blocks away from holding. Another PA met us and led us into the bar where we were filming. Inside were hordes of people, some holding really fancy Stead-i-Cams (the nice kind that can actually be handled by one person), booms and reflective lights, labeled water for “talent” and for us, and gear that I didn’t even know what it might be used for.

We met the 1st AD, Jen, who gave us the run-down of the scene and what we’d be doing (“Here are your drinks, some purses… why don’t you sit here– oh no, that’s not in the shot. Scoot down a bit? And Ken, you’ll start at 1 and then when Whoopi walks in you’ll move to 2 and just chat up the girls, order a drink. Girls, you just talk silently together, you just got off work, you know.”) They gave us sides to look over, plus an herbal cigarette to burn in an ashtry, and before I knew it, Whoopi, Logan, and Tom (who was the bartender) were in place and we did a first take.

I was a bit shy, especially because the two other extras were a bit nerd-central (not that I’m not, but… I am gonna be Equity in a hot second so.) But I made it through, kept quiet when I needed, watched the “talent” like a hawk, generally tried to be mature and actor-savvy. As we continued doing takes, I continued to calm down, as did, I think, everyone. I couldn’t really watch or even hear what Logan and Whoopi were doing at the end of the bar. In the last few takes, Tom seemed to open up to the three of us at the end of the bar too, goofing around with our silent conversations, giving silly faces where the camera couldn’t see it… It was fun. And he was very pretty and with my crazy ass hair I felt fine enough to keep it cool. Between takes, we chatted about everything and nothing (just the extras– Tom would migrate back to the “talent”). We got into a relatively easy rapport. I continued to watch Whoopi as she fucked up her lines (she coined the classic “fuck a duck” which was inserted where lines were forgot), Logan and Tom joke with the standbys (“I wanna see you two dance!” “Leave no room for the Holy Ghost!” “I wanna see those earpieces get tangled!”), endless “fog bumps” (the constant use of a fog machine) and packs and packs of random people cycle in and out, who knows what their actual job is. Never have I been more certain of the phrase “it takes a village.”

We wrapped shooting for the day at 12:15pm, SHOCKING for a film shoot. It was a four page scene that only took three/four hours to shoot. A miracle!

My hair is still big, and my heavy eye makeup is all under my eyes, I’m not getting paid and it’s barely a credit, and I’m certain no one but the 1st AD, Iris, and the other extras knew my name, but I hung out in the vicinity of Whoopi Goldberg on a movie that James Franco is producing and it’s not such a bad day after all.

Love,
B.

Acting is my life’s blood. I’d be in an institution if I weren’t in the arts.
–Whoopi Goldberg

Well, one can dream.

Friends, Romans, Countrymen…

How was your week? For some reason mine was less crazy than I thought it would be… though of course I filled in the free moments of rest with bingeing and starving and freaking out about my body, making me MORE exhausted than if I’d been at work or auditioning.

I’m pretty pissed with myself, having engaged in ED behaviors probably every day for the last week. It’s not a good record. I’m trying to be compassionate with myself, but the food stuff so deeply affects my life, it’s unreal. I’m not one of those people that can just set aside the emotional and physical shit that comes up with ED symptoms, and just BE. There’s a part of me that thinks it’s good that it feels so awful– at least I know that I don’t want to be doing it.

What I want to do is really focus on listening to that voice I hear when I want to engage in ED symptoms. I need to stop thinking quick fixes and self-hatred, and just taking food/eating moment-by-moment. No planning, no anxiety. Feed the hunger, not the feelings. Easier said than done, of course, 🙂 but that’s the dream.

Tomorrow is our photo shoot for the publicity photos for the show I’m working on. The setup is that my character (a young actress going through an emotional/artistic crisis) sitting on the subway, while behind her is the advertisement for the sitcom she’s in (see Big Bang Theory poster). It should look really cool, and we have a great photographer, but getting pictures taken of me makes me highly anxious. I just want to cover myself fully up so no one can judge my body or see what it actually looks like. I feel enormously self-conscious when I’m supposed to look “good,” you know? It’s probably not the ideal way to be ending this week. Ah well… the life of an actor. 🙂

To prep for the show, I’ve been watching a lot of sitcoms, many of which are BAD. The one we do in the play is a traditional 3-camera sitcom, with a laugh track, most like Friends, Seinfeld, How I Met Your Mother, Whitney, Big Bang Theory, etc. What’s your favorite sitcom?

Till later. Hope everyone’s doing well.

B.

“There comes a time when you look into the mirror and you realize that what you see is all that you will ever be. And then you accept it. Or you kill yourself. Or you stop looking in mirrors.”
Tennessee Williams