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  )

IMG_2722

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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.

All she has to do is exist.

“‘You have the luxury of time. You’re young. Young people are doing something even when they’re doing nothing. A young woman is conduit. All she has to do is exist.’ You have time. Meaning don’t use it, but pass through time in patience, waiting for something to come. Prepare for its arrival. Don’t rush to meet it. Be a conduit. I believed him. I felt this to be true. Some people might consider that passivity but I did not. I considered it living.”
The Flamethrowers, by Rachel Kushner

One of the strangest things about day-to-day life is how mundane it seems. I get up. I go to the gym. I go to work. I go home. I make soup. I watch bad TV. I try and get auditions. I go to bed. Ostensibly, “nothing” is going on in my life.

I never really listen to music, except when I’m doing something else, like playing a game on my iPad or cooking, and it’s even more rare that I listen to music while walking down the street. But the other night, I did. I was on the train, and an Iron & Wine song came on shuffle. Now, there are LOTS of songs that bring up memories for me. But all of a sudden, this song jerked me into taking a step back and actually looking at what this “nothing” really is. And I’m shocked to discover that these days– morning to night– that feel so devoid, so par for the course, are the building blocks for an amazing life.

Sometimes I feel that way in New York. This place is idealized by so many people (I, for one, never really did– I guess I just always assumed I’d be here, and didn’t fantasize about it at all), and this is where my “nothing” life takes place. The capital of the WORLD. I have to stop myself, often, and marvel at this city. I literally stop in the street sometimes, and look up at the skyscrapers, like a nerd, and think to myself, “I am living a life that others dream of. No matter what else I’m doing, being here is a success.” Because it is. Because New York is fucking hard.

Also, because I am someone who comes from a state with two professional theatres (yes, I said “state” and “two”), I can’t forget my artistic life here. I don’t know how many Broadway and off-Broadway shows I’ve seen for free. This year alone, examples include but are not limited to: Hands on a Hardbody, Romeo and Juliet, The Nance, The Testament of Mary, Little Miss Sunshine, Golden Boy, Picnic… I have seen Julie Andrews in a bathroom, given Liam Neeson back the hat he forgot in a theatre (he was so sweet about it), and seen Patti LuPone, Phylicia Rashad, James Earle Jones, Dianne Wiest, Ellen Burstyn, Carey Mulligan, Peter Sarsgaard, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Christopher Lloyd, Fiona Shaw, Daniel Radcliffe, Richard Griffiths, Zosia Mamet, and ENDLESS MORE live onstage, often from a few rows back. How cool is that? And I’ve met some of them too. I did a reading with Anthony Rapp. I did a reading directed by Shirley Knight. Stephen Sondheim saw me act. (sorry, Braggy McGhee just got excited).

L received news that she will receive her last chemo treatment on December 17. That’s literally two years and ten days after her initial diagnosis. She texted me and asked me to be there. I will. And I’m can’t believe it. Walking with L down this path has been so strange and awful and important and… it’s hard to talk about. When I talk about it too much, I feel like I’m being a “poor me” jerk who thinks she was more important than she actually was. But I have to be honest– I was there for a LOT of it. Probably more than anyone else besides her parents. That’s not nothing. And cancer, like all diseases, is powerful. It is a nuclear bomb, and anyone who is nearby when it explodes is infected with radiation. And those of us who bear it, and live with it, uncomfortable though it is, emerge with superpowers. Like Spiderman. (someone shut me up)

Then “Now We Can See” by the Thermals came on as I was trudging up the subway stairs. The last song in the first show “my” company ever produced. 2010. We were very young, kinda dumb, but with enthusiasm and self-confidence, poured to overflowing into this strange group of young people. What a strange, wonderful first New York theatrical experience. We won awards and got raves, yes, which was amazing and thrilling and great, but even more special was the feeling that washed over all of us as we sang this song, stomping, clutching the mikes, shaking our styled hair, in one of the most historic theatres in New York. What was that feeling? A strange mix of confidence, hope, and more than anything, joy. We overflowed. Regardless of what would happen next, those moments in the Ellen Stewart Theatre were unforgettable.

I spent four years with my therapist, and now I’m phasing out. I think I have two more sessions. WHO KNEW I’d ever get to this point? I sure didn’t. I frankly didn’t know what I thought, but in the last four years, I’ve felt so far from “stable” that leaving wasn’t even a thought. But here I am. Moving forward, out of therapy, because I have done so much goddamn work. And that’s the most amazing thing– not, “oh my god, weirdo me is leaving therapy! Crazy!” but “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.

 

On Set (A Shoot Day Primer)

On set today for another reenactment drama, to play another daughter of someone who was killed or stalked or what have you.

Arrived for the courtesy van in midtown at 8am. Too early for someone who generally doesn’t get up early. The cast van was heavily populated– four wives, three daughters, two cops, one best friend– and we set off to Montclair.

Like the last shoot for Discovery ID, we shot at a large house in NJ. The living room served as an equipment depository (if you’ve never been on a film shoot, here is what will surprise you– there is a LOT more equipment than you think possible or necessary, and there are way more crew members than you ever thought possible. And yes, they all have different jobs, and Hayes, they all are crucial.)

We nestled up in a second floor den and a third floor bedroom, cooled only by tiny fans and a thin breeze coming through the open windows. Crafty arrived around 10:30, and we bustled downstairs to get coffee and granola bars and bagels and donuts and apples (crafty, or craft services, is the best. On both shoots for ID I’ve done, we had crafty from Trader Joe’s, which includes things like chocolate covered espresso beans and trail mix– yes!).

Around 11, we daughters were instructed to get into wardrobe for the wedding scene. The shooting of the scene basically involved the family (man/wife, 2 daughters) standing together and pretending to get a wedding photo taken. Getting these shots took about 45 minutes. Yes. On-camera stuff is slllooooowwww.

Since then, I have just been bopping around on location. It is 6:30pm,I’ve been here since 9am, finished my shots at 11:45am, and I have literally nothing to do.

This is how film stuff goes, I suppose, I just wish I wasn’t missing rehearsal for it. I also wish that I wasn’t also called tomorrow. For another day that I can GUARANTEE will be exactly like this.

There are worse things, I suppose, than sitting in the backyard of a house in New Jersey reading, chatting, and eating.

Do you guys have any questions about what shoots are like? I am by no means an expert, but I am also incredibly bored. 🙂

Rolling: the camera is recording
Speed: that’s when the clapper is hit, so in post they can make sure that the sound syncs
Action: my turn!

Post: post production (editing, etc)
Pre: per production (casting, scheduling, location scouting, etc)
Location scouting: visiting locations to be able to accurately gauge if they’ll work for a shoot, and to preliminarily look at possible shots

Call sheet: all the information for what will happen on a shoot day. Arrival/departure time and location, all crew/cast info, scene breakdown and who is called in each scene.

All The Things

Y’all know that I love the show Girls on HBO. I’ve discussed the controversies over the show here, so I won’t go into it again.

Two weeks ago, the show focused only on three character– Ray (and then only in the pre-title teaser scene), Hannah (Dunham’s character), and a stranger played by Patrick Wilson. The episode was controversial for a lot of reasons, and I will absolutely say that it doesn’t exactly fit into the previous canon of the series. There were things about it I loved (Hannah seemed like someone I could genuinely have a lot of fun with– naked ping pong is totally something A and I would do), but yes, it was less funny than most and more like an essay than an episodic comedy.

But one thing Hannah said at the end of the episode, where she basically unloads all her feelings to Joshua (Wilson’s character), really struck me.

She starts crying, facing a wealthy, handsome, funny divorced doctor who genuinely likes her, and she says, “Please don’t tell anyone this, but I want to be happy. I think what I didn’t realize before I met you was that, I was, like, lonely.” She tells him how she always thought she would be the kind of person who was best on her own, someone focused on her career and willing to be uncomfortable and unwilling to settle. And yet, she says, she’s begun to realize: “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.

Some Brief Thoughts on the HBO Sitcom GIRLS

Current Female-Centered Half Hour Sitcoms

  GIRLS
Stars an annoying, quippy artist. The humor is intelligent, quirky, and self-deprecating.
Lena Dunham looks like the rest of us, and even her lovely friends are overly critical
of themselves and others.
They say things that I say, like, “You are gorgeous, seriously.” to a friend complaining
about her body.
Set in NYC

WHITNEY
Stars an abrasive, loud female character. The humor is dirty and Whitney has her “man” completely “whipped.”
I couldn’t get through more than two episodes because I just hated Whitney.
She’s also the writer of the show.
Set in NYC.

NEW GIRL
Stars an awkward, goofy female character. The humor is fluffy, slapstick, and Zooey Deschanel is gorgeous, beyond argument. Even at her weirdest, she is gorgeous.
Her female friends are models.
Set in NYC.

ARE YOU THERE, CHELSEA?
I have no idea because I don’t/won’t watch it.
But I’m right, right?

2 BROKE GIRLS
Stars two women– one a rough-talking, sassy Brooklyn-ite, and the other a prissy princess fallen from her wealth.
The humor is slapstick, absurd, and occasionally racist.
It’s set in NYC.


Television shows starring privileged, imperfect white males
(an example– I don’t watch everything but I’m sure there are more):
Mad Men
Breaking Bad
How I Met Your Mother
House
Every Schmancy Crime Show Ever (White Collar, Lie To Me, etc)

Basically, I’m confused as to why people find Girls to be so abhorrent. The main arguments for its stupidity are:
— the girls are annoying, narcissistic, and privileged
— the characters are all white
— three of the four lead actors are legacies (Dunham’s mother is an artist, and two other girls are the spawn of Brian Williams and David Mamet)

I understand if you don’t like the show because you don’t find it funny, or you don’t relate, or it just isn’t your cup of tea. Some shows people love I hate– it’s called opinions.
But what’s happening here is direct, pretty intense aggression towards Dunham and the show. A lot of this is certainly due to the insane hype surrounding Girls (billboards/ads, trailers, countless profiles in the media proclaiming that Dunham is indeed, “the voice of a generation.”).

I am concerned that the exact objections people are shooting at Dunham and Girls are arguments that could be hurled towards any number of other shows. I’ve mentioned Whitney, New Girl, Two Broke Girls, and Are You There, Chelsea? above, four new female-centric sitcoms that were supposedly game-changing on television. I have watched a few episodes each of Whitney and New Girl, and had to stop because I found them so irritating. And if we’re talking about annoying, privileged women, let’s see (excepting 2 Broke Girls, which purposefully does the opposite of the following, but it ain’t no janky Brooklyn like I’ve ever seen)– all the shows are set in NYC, all the women are “comfortable” in terms of finances, none of the women have real jobs, as far as I can parse, and all of them are weird. But which one do I relate to the most?

It’s not Whitney, who is loud and mean, and who men like because she is trying to BE one;
It’s not Jess (Deschanel’s character), who is pretty and perhaps a little retarded, and who men like because she is “safe,” (nothing scary about a woman who is basically a child)
It’s not pretty spoiled Beth or bitchy, lonely Max from Two Broke Girls, whose relationship to each other is basically beyond actual belief.
And it sure as hell isn’t whatever Chelsea Handler they’ve created for her TV show.

No, it’s Hannah (Dunham’s character).

–she is frequently annoying

— she makes terrible choices (but SERIOUSLY, how many people have not had relationships that are probably unhealthy for them but they still go all in)

–she has huge dreams yet often lacks the immediate ability to make them happen,

–she has a group of friends who love her but are also annoyed by her sometimes (and are well-developed, for “side” characters),

— she  talks in tweets and is desperate to both stay young and grow up at the same time.

People are allowed to not like Girls.
But it irritates me when people are attacking it for reasons that they refuse to apply to other shows.
Girls is different from what’s out there, but people are attacking it for ways in which it’s actually the SAME as mainstream television.

I’m excited to see what’s next.

ETA: A selection from a great essay from the NYTimes:

Aside from a few exceptions — Tina Fey’s Liz Lemon on “30 Rock,” Amy Poehler’s Leslie Knope on “Parks and Recreation,” both farcical enough to have more in common with “S.N.L.” personas than actual characters — we’ve largely been spared confident, complicated, single comedic heroines for a few decades now. Each week on “2 Broke Girls,” the spunky leads flee confrontation, seek solace in each other’s “You go, girl!” clichés and then stride out from their hidey hole to shake a finger in someone’s face (only to be rewarded with more humiliation). For all of the single-girl bluster of “Whitney,” our heroine seems to have few interests outside of her live-in boyfriend, whether turning him on, manipulating him or distracting him from ogling another girl’s assets. Even Jess (Zooey Deschanel) of “New Girl,” the least insipid of the lot, tends to go all bashful and pigeon-toed a few times per episode, forsaking weightier goals in favor of trotting out her oddball charms for the adoration of her male roommates…

Witnessing the female characters on TV comedies today, I find it hard not to marvel at the effortful overcompensation at play here, as adult women are transformed into something lighter, perkier, less frightening. Each character is outfitted with charming tics (“What an adorable sneeze!”) and inoffensive mediocrities (“She’s so clumsy!”) and toothless yuppie righteousness (“You tell that snippy barista the customer is always right!”) Our culture chooses the naïve audacity of girlhood over more robust concepts of femininity — even Madonna has taken to waving sparkly pompoms. If watching shows like “2 Broke Girls” and “Whitney” and “New Girl” brings on a certain nausea and dizziness, it’s most likely a result of seeing the same grown women twirl and twirl and twirl endlessly for an imagined audience each week. Even Carrie Bradshaw, in all of her attention-seeking wishy-washiness, at least had the courage of conviction to dress like an extra in the Ziegfeld Follies….

If “Girls” has been heralded as game-changing television, there’s a reason for that: the stuttered confessions, half-smiles, hissed warnings and quiet shared confidences between Hannah and her friends make the empty sassing and high-fiving of existing girlie comedies look like the spasms of a bygone era. But what’s most riveting about Hannah and her friends is not their wisdom, their righteousness or their backbone — as we might imagine would be the antidote to the frothy pap of other girlie comedies — but their confusion, their vulnerability and their ambivalence. Instead of clamoring for attention like Whitney or Jess, Hannah’s roommate, Marnie (Allison Williams), who is beautiful and has a devoted boyfriend, is bored by his sensitivity, bored by his affection (she complains that “his touch now feels like a weird uncle putting his hand on my knee at Thanksgiving”) but can’t muster the resolve to dump him. This is not how the candy-coated ingénue of American imagining, poised on the doorstep of womanhood, is supposed to react to male attention.