Every Day, a Little Gratitude

I am working. Not only that, but I am working at one of the top theatres in the country, making LORT B (second only to LORT A when it comes to regional theatre) pay, and playing two leading roles. It’s a three month contract which means I will get another six months of health insurance. I am housed. I have a car I share with two other actors. This is the DREAM.

Which means I want to remember this feeling when I go back to NYC. I’m already dreading it… that discomfort of not working, that pain of not auditioning, that hurt of wanting so hard you think you might break.

But right now?

This.

WARNING: numbers

First: it is very odd to me that neither of the gyms I’ve gone to now in AL have scales in their locker rooms… only ONE scale for the whole gym that’s out in the main area. Plus, it’s an old-fashioned scale. In NYC, you have old fashioned scales, maybe, but there are going to be at least three in a locker room. C’mon. What is this nonsense?

At my wig fitting a couple of days ago my hair person said that I’d lost weight since being here. I felt like it might be true– I eat less when I don’t have a nice boy to ask for desserts. Plus, I’ve been working out pretty regularly. A part of me felt a bit nervous about it– but not TOO nervous. My depression is under control, and I know my triggers. I’m not going off the edge, and I know that, 100%, with a confidence that really makes me feel strong.

Today, as I changed back into my clothes after a costume fitting, I pulled the scale down off the shelf and weighed myself in my show slip and socks.

I weighed the low end of what I usually weigh.

Part of me was disappointed.

COME ON, GIRL. GET IT TOGETHER.

I don’t want to lose weight– at the VERY least, my costumes need to fit for the next two months.

I’m not anxious or freaked out. I’m just always amazed at how ingrained our reactions to numbers are. I think that, at least for me, it has less to do with my ED than the constantly ingrained notion in our society (and my biz in particular) that we should always be losing weight… even if we genuinely don’t need to.

Life is weird.

Starting tech tomorrow. Here. We. Go. http://www.bykennethjones.com/elyzabeth-gregory-wilders-white-lightning-new-play-rum-running-racing-romance-premieres-alabama/

An Attitude of Gratitude

I’ve been in Alabama for about two and a half weeks now. I’ve settled into the apartment: figured out how to work the dishwasher and the heat, which way the door locks, and how to angle the showerhead. I’ve learned all my lines for show #1 and we’ll run through the whole thing off-book for the first time tomorrow morning.

IMG_1812I need to remind myself to take a step back and appreciate how incredibly lucky I am.

  1. I am working at one of the best festivals in the country.
  2. I am the only girl in a cast of five in show #1, and I’m playing a lead in show #2 as well.
  3. I like my castmates.
  4. I’m making good money.
  5. This job could have gone to ANYONE. But it went to me. Can you believe it?

I started this blog so long ago, it’s insane. I started it before I had an agent. Before I had my AEA card. Before I had gotten a single job worth bragging about. I was single. I was sick. I was unhappy and struggling and anxious and alone.

And now, look how far I’ve come.

Life is funny like that, and being in my industry reminds me of it all the time. Hard work is part of it, of course– beating my eating disorder was probably the hardest things I’ve ever done, and god knows I wouldn’t be working right now if I hadn’t worked REALLY hard to get the auditions in the first place and then nail the auditions later on– but a whole lot of it comes down to luck, or the way circumstances shift. I used to believe that people “deserved” things, but now I’m not so sure. I think everyone deserves everything– we just don’t always get those things. If everyone got what they deserved, there would be nothing left. We are all just pioneers, trudging forward on a path with a vague idea that we’re headed in the right direction.

So. Alabama.

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My days generally hold the same shape. I get up around 7:30am. Most mornings, I meet M (my costar, who is my age), and we go to the gym. We work out until about 8:45, when we come back to the apartments. I turn on the coffeemaker and hop in the shower. Often I have to be at rehearsal at 10am, but I’m not in every scenes so many times my call is later. I eat a smoothie with peanut butter and oats. I pack an apple for a snack. I walk to rehearsal, through the apartment parking lot, under a small arbor, down the road between the park and the parking lot, and to the rehearsal room, punching in my code to get in the back door.

Rehearsal is slow, occasionally frustrating, but generally fine. I trust my fellow actors (well, I only have scenes with M) and I enjoy being around them, though the director is kind of a weird dude. I have issues with the play, but I know it’s going to be very well-received. Sometimes, that’s enough.

IMG_1825We get out for lunch at 1pm, and if one of us drove the car over (I share a car with M and our fellow costar L), we carpool back. I usually eat, watch some TV, and go over my lines. Nothing too rigorous. We’re back in rehearsal at 2:30 and work till 6:30 or 7pm, depending on the day. We drive back together to the apartments. Most nights, I come home, feel lonely, and eat dinner solo. My brain hurts at the end of the day, so I rarely want to work, even when I know I should. Sometimes I go out with M, like last night, when we went to a Mexican restaurant. We get along well, though we’re quite different. The more we get to know one another, the more fun we can have onstage.

I’ve never had issues with romantic scenes (even when I’m not a huge fan of my costar, I can suck it up and kiss ’em like nobody’s business), but there’s always a negotiation. You want to be the best possible partner for your partner, which means everything from making sure your teeth are brushed to pushing through to the intimacy early (especially as the woman, because men tend to get nervous that they’re doing too much too soon– I like to take charge to ease the tension and show it’s okay to touch/kiss/whatever in a scene).

I go to bed around 10:30/11pm.

We open this first show in early March (I can’t even remember) and I’m excited. And I am SO, SO lucky. Who knew this would be my reality.

xo,
B

There are the stars–doing their old, old crisscross journeys in the sky. Scholars haven’t settled the matter yet, but they seem to think there are no living beings out there. Just chalk… or fire. Only this one is straining away, straining away all the time to make something of itself. Strain’s so bad that every sixteen hours everybody lies down and gets a rest.

–Thornton Wilder, Our Town

Every day is grapefruit day.

Today I close another show. This is how this career is… you’re deep in it, totally invested, your whole day leads up to those few hours at the theatre…

And then suddenly it’s over, and you’re unemployed, and you may never seen your castmates, who have become your family, again, or at least for a long while.

It’s a somber moment, and I’m feeling a bit somber today.

Last night, I went up on an entire speech– I froze onstage and literally couldn’t form words; didn’t know where I was– and it really shook me. It was fine, but awful. I forgive myself, because it wasn’t my fault– I know the speech front and back, I was focused and paying attention– I just short-circuited.

That, compounded with the closing of the show, is making today tough. The rain doesn’t help (thanks NYC).

This was so wonderful.

  • We were a New York Times Critics Pick.
  • We got amazing reviews (my work was mentioned)
  • My parents got to see it
  • I got to do Shakespeare!
  • I made some amazing friends and met some remarkable people
  • I got to work off-Broadway, which is a gift in and of itself.

But more is to come, I know. Including a weeklong vacation in July.

And really, you can’t top what we did at the end of our performance on Friday, June 26. The day was already so joyous. Then we did this, and it was the best curtain call ever:

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Murder in the Evening

Two nights ago, I was chased down an icy dirt road outside a castle in 30 degree weather, then dragged down the same road by the feet, then hogtied on the frozen gravel and creepily petted by a stranger while six other people watched. In other words, it was just another night at my job.

I’ve done a few of these “reenactment” shows. They’re silly, non-union, and can be really bad, but they’re also pretty fun. It’s like all of the most fun stuff to act without the pressure to be “good,” because really, who cares.

So the last two days I shot an episode of “The Haunting Of,” which airs on Lifetime Movie Network. I played Judy Dull, a 1950s pinup model (obvi, haha) who was murdered by the serial killer Harvey Glatman. Not only did I get to do the fun murder-y stuff (most of which was shot in the freezing evening I described above (they padded me so the dragging didn’t hurt, but you can’t fake lying hogtied on the ground– it was fucking FREEZING, and anytime we weren’t doing a take they rolled me up like a burrito in a moving blanket), but I also got to be a ghost, which was a surprise.

So yesterday, I met the courtesy van in Union Square at 10am, and we drove to an obscenely enormous house in NJ (the “castle” we filmed at the night before was in Tarrytown, NY) where we were shown to actor holding and I was immediately ushered into HMU (I genuinely have no idea what that stands for, but it’s hair and makeup). I got all dolled up and pretty for my bondage scene (yep, 1950s lingerie and tied to a wooden cross– THIS IS WHAT I WENT TO COLLEGE FOR GUYS) and then got all scary for my ghost scenes. I mostly lurked around corners, did a whole lot of walking around crying, messing with wires, etc. etc. It was a blast.

It’s kinda hard to express exactly what it’s like to shoot something like that, but it can be really, really fun. You’ve got to have a sense of humor about the whole thing, because otherwise it would be pretty dark.

Here’s me in the makeup chair yesterday between bondage scene and ghosty makeup (pre-blood, strangulation marks, and sad makeup running down my face.)IMG_0422

Here’s what the back of me looked like after getting murdered in an episode of Redrum on Discovery ID (it was a great episode– lots of fight choreography. You can watch it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tZvatPDzuls&list=ELFhYgKowg8ek&index=11  )

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Dear Annelle…

I underestimated you.

I think we all did.DSlcX.AuSt.36

But, like you did after that nasty thing with Bunkie Dupuy, you bucked up and faced the man. You may have stumbled and fumbled your way there, but you got there. We’ve been lots of places together, and I think it’s safe to say that I love you. I love your clumsiness, I love your conviction, I love that you’re quick to love. I love your hair when it’s good, and your hair when it’s REALLY not good. I love that you are just… well… you.10678660_10152694594135833_6475396379663879078_n

Some of the things we’ve seen together:

–packs of coyotes howling from less than 500 feet away

–spiders taking up residence in your curler drawer

–holding for an audience’s medical emergency on opening night, right in the middle of doing M’Lynn’s hair

–a sagging pregnancy leotard (don’t ask)

–so many bugs it’s impossible to comprehend10628582_10152694593610833_6605070146464692797_n

Don’t let anyone reduce you to a stereotype. Keep changing, and keep taking risks. Keep letting love win, and keep giving of yourself. No one puts baby in the corner. Thanks for letting me hang out with you for a couple months. I’mma miss you.isXPQ.AuSt.36

We close on Sunday, and my gratitude knows know bounds.

I

A Beautiful Ending

So, yesterday afternoon, another show came to a close.

I don’t feel let down, and I don’t feel sad. That said, I am really pleased with the whole thing.

It’s rare to walk into an audition totally cold, do sides in front of a stranger, have them ask you back a few days later, do more sides, and then get cast in a role. Especially coming off of four years of school (albeit four years… two years ago). Usually you know the director, so you get an audition. You have an “in.” But this? I walked in in February with a bad Belgian accent and walked out in March with a great one.

I did get my good notices, by the way– including something from the New York Times that I can pull. Audiences genuinely liked it, and I felt good about my work. Not 100% all the time good, like it was easy (which sometimes it is), but a solid-member-of-an-ensemble kind of good, where I feel like I’m doing my job up to snuff.

Yesterday afternoon, after the show, as on all previous Sunday afternoons, we had a talkback. Usually folks who stick around say things like, “Well, who really WAS the hero?” — it’s a play called THE HERO– and “I think the ending was too pat and easy,” and “I think it was a feminist play and reminded me of Ibsen.” So we had our share of those, and when the director called for the last comment, a man in the back row raised his hand and began to speak.

I just got off a plane from Europe yesterday, and I had a choice. I could go see my friends (Sir Ian McKellen and Sir Patrick Stewart) close their show WAITING FOR GODOT this afternoon, or I could have come to see you. I am so very glad I chose to come here. The performances were beautifully rendered and the play was astounding. You have a wonderful little theatre here, and I am so grateful to you for producing such fine work.”

We all laughed and gasped– Sir Ian and Sir Patrick’s friend!– but then, with some hugs, all went our own ways into the rain. I chalked it up to a wonderful final moment of a wonderful run.

It turns out, the man was Vernon Dobtcheff, so literally SIR IAN’S FRIEND and a talented actor in his own right across the pond. Not only did he come see our little show, but he stayed for the talkback, and he shared his experience. What a remarkable, magical moment. I couldn’t be more grateful.

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From Rupert Everett’s memoir:

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Chapter Complete

Closing night.

My heart feels very full. Mostly of love, but there’s a bit of heaviness.

I have had struggle after struggle with this company– this universe that I helped create and populate that recently became a stranger to me– and with the friends therein. Our relationship has changed. More importantly, my expectations have changed. What I wanted from my relationship with this group of people turned out to be unrealistic. They cluster and cling, but I need some independence. I wanted them to feel like my best friends even when I wasn’t ensconced in their apartment. My friendships with L and K are like that. But that’s not who they are and how they function. This doesn’t make them bad people. They still like– no, love– me.

But that’s all backdrop to this moment. This is the first play I’ve done since last year’s amazing NJ triumph. Readings and workshops and short films don’t count, because working on a full play requires am inordinate investment. You dedicate a month to daily 5 hour rehearsals and another to nightly two-hour performances that leave you sweating and exhausted. You dedicate hours of time outside of these parameters to learn your lines, think about the role, remember your blocking. You can’t fake that stuff. And in the rehearsal room, you are an explorer– finding what works, nixing what doesn’t, working with partners who are all independent and trying to cohere into a single vision. That’s tough.

But this process, from start to finish, from the first read to tonight’s closing performance, I have had. So. Much. Fun.

I loved the atmosphere in the rehearsal room, full of laughter and silliness and big choices and mistakes and breaking when someone was genuinely too fucking funny.

I loved the one-on-one scene work, working with a director and actors I’m completely comfortable with. It was like the most fun scene study class ever.

I loved seeing the playwright laugh at his own jokes when we nailed them (or improved them).

I loved suggesting a joke and having the director guffaw and okay it: “Yes. Genius.”

I loved the twenty or so minutes of waiting in the dressing room once the house opened, a cast of six clowns in knee pads, all equal, all trusting, cracking jokes and rolling our eyes at each other.

I loved each pratfall and fake bump and trip, even when it got fucked up. My body felt alive when I leapt and fell and tripped.

I loved the sweat that dripped like water down my face every night. It was embarrassing, yes, but it was pure ME, pure energy. (It mainly happened because I was doing a super physical show in sweatpants and a sweatshirt in the summer… And I was in a clown squat for 80% of the show).

I loved every moment on that stage. I always do (I mean, in most cases!), but this just felt like pure, unfettered fun.

I don’t think the show is spectacular. I think it has flaws. Lots. But I do think it’s funny, and I had such fun doing it. Such fun. And I didn’t care about getting agents or casting directors to see it. I invited them (none came of course, including the one I’m signed with!) but it felt good to just let this be about joy. I didn’t need to sell this show. I just needed to enjoy it. And boy, did I.

After tonight (and tonight’s festivities), I’m back in rehearsal for the Fringe show. I’m there 4 hours a night Sunday through Thursday, with opening night on Friday and five shows spread through the next week. This monday I have jury duty (how about that?!). I have to go into work on Tuesday, I have a haircut on Wednesday. On the 20th, A is home, and on the 21 he’ll see our closing and we’ll leave for CT.

It’s a race to the finish. I’m sorry to say goodbye to this lap of the relay. It has been truly, purely wonderful.

A Few Things (including pasta)

A few thoughts this late night in Washington Heights, in a queen bed, alone, while my cat drinks cold water from the glass by my bed.

1. This happened: http://goo.gl/HP0u35

2. Had tech tonight for the next show I’m doing (which doesn’t open till the 16th, but, hey, festivals.) It went fairly smoothly as far as tech goes, but because it’s a festival, we get only FOUR hours (3-7pm) to tech our 90 minute show, including staging the fifteen minute load in and fifteen minute load out. That is the ONLY time we have in the space till we open. Just to compare, most techs for full-lengths involve two 10/12 hour days, plus a dress onstage, before previews or performances begin. I cannot yet tell if this show will be any good. Frankly, I don’t care. I just want to open, and do the show (which is fun, since, ya know, acting is fun), and stop having 5 hour nightly rehearsals. Because that shit is EXHAUSTING. The disorganization is rampant and I’m over it. I’ve officially become the bitch of the cast because I JUST CAN’T WITH INEFFICIENCY. So.

3. Read WINTERGIRLS for the first time. It finally was available for download on my iPad, so I just did the damn thing. I read about it a lot when I first started reading ED blogs, but just never got around to it. (I tend to prefer memoir to fiction, anyway, and most of what I read didn’t necessarily hit that close to home as far as my ED goes). It’s a well-written book, if overwrought. SPEAK was definitely stronger, but who am I to judge. What probably hit me the most about it was the memory of feeling hungry. I obvioously still feel hungry now, but the pervasive hunger of not eating enough on a regular basis… that feels different. And it’s been a long while, and was only a brief portion of my disorder, but… Here’s what I found.

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.

That was another aspect that I appreciated about the book. Binging is no good either.

4. Was down on Suffolk St. at the theatre, and realized I was very close to where J and R just moved in on Orchard. I texted them and asked what they were up to for the evening. They told me they were free, and that I should come over after tech. I did. We chatted a bit, then went out, split a bottle of wine, ate STUPID good and STUPID expensive food because we can, and then saw FRUITVALE STATION. Also stupid good. And stupid sad. It was genuine and fun and I felt like I had friends and it just all in all was a really, really, really excellent night.

5. I ate pasta for dinner.

Now, I haven’t restricted, really, in years. Certainly not to the point where I’m actively refusing things and avoiding eating when I’m hungry etc etc. But there’s still this part of me that knows what’s “good” to eat and what’s “bad.” Which certainly doesn’t stop me from having French Fries and dessert whenever I feel like it (which I do, and only slightly feel guilty about). But pasta. I haven’t ordered pasta in… I don’t even know. A long ass time. Even when I’m home and mom makes pasta, I tend to take a small serving and have a lot of salad or protein. What is my beef with pasta if I can eat ANYTHING else I want?!

But I had it. It was SO good. Black pasta with grilled calamari, garlic breadcrumbs, and some sort of buttery garlic sauce. This was following a yummy grilled shimp and quinoa appetizer we split, and along with a couple of glasses of merlot. This is the life, y’all. And I feel A-OK about it. I didn’t finish it. I didn’t need to. This, my friends, is rare. I’m a finisher now. If it’s there, I feel obligated to finish it. That’s, kinda, how the behavior started.

6. So anyway, I should head to bed since I should do laundry tomorrow. 😦

Love to everyone.

Love to my boy who is asleep in a bunk on a base in Vermont.

Love to my ice-water-loving cat.