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

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The melancholy creeps…

It’s finally beginning to be real.

I’m losing my job.

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Giving the commencement speech at my graduation.

Yesterday we interviewed 4 applicants, all qualified, although there’s already someone in place to take the job from within. Today I’ll have my very last program meeting, where the students and faculty get together and talk about news and auditions and departmental happenings. I have gone to these monthly since August 2007.

Before the final program meeting in high school.

Before the final program meeting in high school.

I’ve been recording a lot for these audiobooks I’m working on, and the ones that pay the best give me about $100 per finished hour (plus royalties to come), some more than that. It’s not bad. But I’m realizing that if I were to “rely” on my audiobooks, I’d have to be doing at LEAST two full-length books per month to get up to the pittance I’m currently making. It’s not really feasible.

And also, I no longer have a safe space. I don’t have a computer not in my home. I don’t have somewhere quiet to escape to. I don’t have the comfort of a door I can close and a chair that’s mine and a printer I can use and the people who I have surrounded myself with for the last 7 years. SEVEN YEARS.

Closing celebration for the last show of my first year in college.

Closing celebration for the last show of my first year in college.

I think that’s the hardest part. It’s sort of like graduating all over again, and it hurts. It’s scary, but it’s more sad. It’s more like leaving my therapist or graduating from school or having a show close than it is money anxiety or anything like that.

My senior prom (and my 18th birthday) in high school.

My senior prom (and my 18th birthday) in high school.

I don’t know how I’m going to make money, but even more, I don’t know where to focus my energy. I’m not sure where my “home base” will be. That’s very scary.

So many endings. So much uncertainty. Starting from zero again.

And not knowing exactly what the next step is.

My first "Banquet."

My first “Banquet.”

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My final “Banquet.”

Sadie Sadie Workin’ Lady

Today has been quite something at work. Usually it’s pretty relaxed– at most, one crisis per day. Today? Not so much. My brain hurts.

It also got me thinking about how hard I work. An actor I did the most recent show with posted today on Facebook about how he is stuck in Puerto Rico, where he’s been on vacation. Lots of whining. And I’m thinking: a) I couldn’t possibly afford to go to Puerto Rico! and b) I don’t have the TIME to go to Puerto Rico! and C) if I WERE in Puerto Rico, I would not be complaining about having to be there for a bit longer. And CERTAINLY not on Facebook.

Which got me thinking about the number of hours I dedicate to work. So. Calculations:

20hrs/week at my office job.
I do about 3 hours of VO session stuff maybe 6 days a week. So, 18hr/week.
I take an on-camera class for 3 hours each week.
I audition usually once or twice a week. On average, with getting ready, transit, waiting, prep, that’s about 8hrs/week.
My daily commute is at least 45min each way, and that’s if I’m going to work and then going home, which I do about twice a week. Other times, I commute much more. But as far as basic commute, 40 min each way 5 days a week, that’s about 7hrs/week.
I see a lot of shows, which can count as work. Show, plus commute, about three times a week is about 12hrs/week.
There are 168 hours in one week, minus about 48 hours of sleeping (I get about 7hrs/night). How do I spend my days?

So. Here’s the breakdown:

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With 120 possible hours per week to do as I please, 68 of those are NON-NEGOTIABLE job requirements. That gives me 52 hours/week of free time. Which I guess isn’t bad, except I’m counting all 7 days of the week. Eek.

I always tell my mentees that in order to truly recover, you have to give yourself lots of free time. I did that when I was deep in my recovery, but it’s an important reminder to really look at when I can cut myself slack and take a BREAK. I deserve that. Since, y’know, I don’t get holidays…

xoxo to all, and be KIND to yourselves!!

It’s nice to feel proud.

Tonight I went and saw a show at my alma mater/workplace. I’ve admired the play for a while, since it was done downtown by one of my favorite off-Broadway incubators, Soho Rep, so i was thrilled when it was selected for the season. It’s appropriately edgy for this school (god forbid we do the expected) but it’s fresh, unique, and utterly do-able. I was proud to come from a program that would take risks like this, and with intelligence and deliberateness. This was thoughtful theatre. That meant something.

(It’s also pretty darn cool that we hired the playwright to teach Playwriting last Fall, and she’ll teach again this fall. Yeah, it’s pretty freaking cool.)

Last night we did our third runthrough of the show I’m currently rehearsing, which runs March 1 – 30. The run was really good, I felt great, and the director even specifically commented on how he thought I was really on track. It’s nice to do a show that you audition for, totally fresh and without knowing anything, get called back, and get cast. No politics, just good old-fashioned picking the right person for the part. And to do a good job– that’s the icing on the cake.

NOW it’s time for this little Belgian to go to bed.

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What have you been proud of lately?

HOW?

How? HOW?! (so many hows)

HOW #1: How do I balance busy and not busy?

I’m not happy when I’m not busy, but when I’m busy, I feel run down. Balance? What’s that?

A and I fought last night because I was irritable and needed space and probably other things I couldn’t articulate. All day today I felt overwhelmed by all the things I haven’t completed (learning lines, cleaning the apartment, literally my entire job at school) but when I sit down at my desk, I can’t focus on doing them. It’s terrible. Why can’t I complete tasks like a normal person?HOW #2: How to I figure out what I need?

Do I need more space? Probably. A’s not working right now, except from home, which somehow really irks me. I run to work at 11am, then to rehearsal at 5pm, then home at 8pm, and then he’s there and wants to talk… so YES, I need space.

But even when I have it, I’m not happy. I need MORE. Or I need something else. I need him to make choices? I need to relax more? I need to work harder? I seriously don’t know what I need. It would be so much easier if I could answer the question A asked me today: “Is there anything I can do, or say, or is there a food, or an object, or an activity that would make you feel better?” How the fuck do I know? I WISH there was.

HOW #3: How can I stay focused?

The second I get busy I lose my drive. I simply can’t fathom picking up my script and memorizing lines, so I wander around and submit audiobook auditions. What IS that? I know I need to clean the apartment, but instead I take a bath. WHY? I know A’s coming home so I should enjoy my me-time but instead I lock myself in the closet to do voiceovers, which I could do to get space when he IS around. WHY?

HOW #4: I don’t even know how to cohesively write a post right now, so how on earth am I going to accomplish anything else today? HOW????

 

The Ultimatum

I finally got the ultimatum I’d been waiting for:
If you take the acting job in Idaho, then you can’t be a full-time Assistant.

At the end of this summer, I will lose my job.

I have worked in this position since I was a sophomore in college, slowly taking on more and more responsibility. I have been salaried (LOW) for two years. This semester, my boss is on sabbatical so for all intents and purposes, I am running the Theatre Program. If I accepted the full-time position I’d have steady work with a good boss in a job I like and am good at, plus benefits, health, and a higher salary.

But I’m not taking it.

I should be terrified. I mean, I AM terrified. I haven’t been completely jobless in… ever. Really. And I like this job, and care about the work I do. But the main feeling I’m experiencing right now?

Relief.

Because this choice is not a choice. I can’t possibly forfeit a great, professional, $800/week gig for the stability of a day job. I have left other jobs for lesser gigs. I AM AN ACTOR. Not always, often not working, but this is my forever-job. I want to do this until my brain short-circuits and I can’t remember lines anymore, or until my legs give out and I have to play Blanche in a wheelchair. Admin work? That’s all to serve the dream.

So yes, I’m scared, and sad, and a bit nervous. But I have time to think and plan, and I have a little cushion of savings, and I have a wonderful man and a cat who love me, and I have a 2 month gig that will take me home to my family, who will help me move to the next step. And I will also have freedom. Which is scary, yes, but also… you know… freeing.

I know what I want. And that feels good.

It’s Happening.

I’m really happy. For now, and the work continues, but I’m going to honor happiness for just this moment and brag.

Tuesday, Feb 25, watch me get murdered at Lululemon on the show Redrum on Investigation Discovery on your local TV. 9pm. Apparently I’m good. I haven’t seen it. All I know for sure is I’m super bloody.

This September, I’m going to get paid the most I’ve ever been paid to do a month-long run of Steel Magnolias at a professional Shakespeare Festival in the West. I auditioned just “cuz” for the Artistic Director over the Christmas holiday, knowing the season was mostly cast. It’s merely my luck that they were actually looking to cast a part– he had me send a video, and I just found out I booked it.

It’s the little things.