Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The California Experience

It only took 11 months, but I'm now officially a California resident - I've survived my first earthquake.

We're on the 12th floor of a fifteen-story office building, so we felt the floor rumble, then somebody said "Did you feel that?" and then our entire building was swaying back and forth. I looked over to my coworker, who is a native Californian, and she was crawling under her desk. So I followed suit.

In retrospect, it really wasn't that bad, but the twenty seconds of feeling an entire building rolling around was pretty disconcerting. The 5.4 magnitude is the biggest they've had since 1994, but we were thirty miles away from the epicenter.

My other coworker, who was not under a desk, took this picture:

They were making fun of me. But this Southern girl will go under the desk again if the need arises. I'm hoping there is another 14 years of seismic stillness.

Monday, July 21, 2008

My Life in Art

No, I am not purporting to have insights equal to those of Stanislavski. But the title is relevant.

I'm taking an improv class at iO West and it's fantastic. I've never studied improv and it's scary and challenging in the best ways. Our instructor, Paul Vaillancourt, is a wonderful gentle man who happens to be a hilarious improv genius.

Yesterday was our third class, and I was off. During the first two classes, I made mistakes and "said no" (breaking the primary rule of improv) and wasn't great, but I also had some nuggets of goodness. Yesterday I just didn't do anything I felt good about. I found myself taking down the same notes ("Keep it in the present. Personal - make the scene about your relationship to the other person.") as I had written the previous two weeks. I was frustrated with myself for not being able to let those notes sink in. When Paul asked if there were any questions, I asked "How do I learn to listen and how do I get out of my head?" ("Oh, is that all?" Was his response. He's a funny guy.)

After class, Paul asked me to stick around. He asked if I was enjoying the class, and I said yes, very much so. Then he told me that he though I was being too hard on myself, that every time I left the stage during class yesterday my head dropped and I seemed really down. I didn't realize I was being quite so transparent, but that is certainly true. He asked if I was frustrated, and that was when I realized that I was.

Paul said he sees something in me and thinks I can be really good at improv, but that I'm probably having the same problem that he did when he started. "You have some background, right?" he asked, and I said yes. He explained that a lot of times people who have theatre background have to unlearn a lot of things from that before they can really be good at improv. He said the learning curve can be plodding and frustrating and then it just skyrockets.

As is often the case when I'm being paid a compliment by someone I respect, or when an authority figure of sorts is kind to me, I was fighting back tears a little bit while we were talking. I was so touched by what he was saying and by him taking the time to pull me aside. I was a little ashamed that I had worn my emotions so clearly on my sleeve, but that is par for the course for me. As is being too hard on myself.

It's been a rough few weeks, which has been hard on me and the one who has to live with me. (Thank you.) I've been low and spiraling and unable to rally. I don't blame it on the showcase, but I do think my expectations were a bit idealistic. (If it were that easy to get an agent, everyone would have one.) I wasn't prepared for what I would do after the showcase, when I had to keep plugging even without my desired feedback or being immediately cast as the lead in something groundbreaking and huge.

When I was thinking about what Paul said, I realized that I am and up to now have been completely results-oriented. It has served me well, and that way of thinking combined with my ambition and drive are why I am where I am now. My path was curvy, and so is the road ahead, but I never lost sight of what I ultimately wanted, which is to be an actor. I am an actor. And now I have to change my way of thinking.

This town and this career require a shift from results based thinking to process-oriented thinking. Obviously, this is also the best mindset for being receptive to learning, in improv class and in life. But that is a big shift for me. I don't do well when I don't get what I want, and I need to stop focusing on that. I have to enjoy what I'm doing when I'm doing it and stop worrying about whatever comes next. (Which is a catch 22, because in order to stay sane when you're auditioning all the time, you have to leave the room and forget about the audition and say "What's next?" a la Jed Bartlett of the West Wing - you can't dwell. But.)

Which brings me back to my lofty blog title - Paul was talking about improv, reminding us to keep it personal and present - "That's life," he said, "and art imitates life. That's what makes art interesting."

Since moving here, I've been down on my choice, feeling like I had chosen an acting track that wasn't based in the art of theatre, which is what I signed on for. I've certainly had the struggle, which to me is part of the joy of accomplishment when it comes, but I've felt like I didn't have the art. And that's why what Paul said yesterday smacked me in the face.

Improv is art. I am doing art. I am learning art. I am living art. I am art.

I thought I had lost that, and I haven't. It's with me, and it's undeniable, which is why myself and so many of the people I care about most are still doing this thing, in whatever way it is points them towards what will make them happy.

I have to stop being so hard on myself, and I have to get out of my own way. That applies across the board, to all facets of me and my life. But it took Paul saying the word that I've rarely heard since moving here - art - to remind me that I am pursuing my dream - I am living my life in art.

I forgot that. I won't let it happen again.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Showcase done. Depression ensues.

Well, only a little. But everyone else in the showcase really felt like a cast, so I think we're all having show withdrawal, even though it was technically a showcase. I suppose it's good to miss the people you worked with.

I did not get the desired "have actor contact me" requests from anyone, which was a bit of a let down. Bonnie told us that she got overwhelmingly positive feedback and very few requests for meetings for anyone, which she thinks probably has to do with the possibly impending SAG strike. So there's that. But as she said, we're on their radars and they know about us, so I'm trying to keep that in mind.

The house was packed both nights, which was great. Our scene went better the second time, as there were no major wardrobe malfactions, just a little accidental flashing. (Not by me.) I talked to some people afterwards and had a good time, but I didn't meet any agents. Met a couple cool writers and other actors. Networking is hard, man.

Here are the comments I got from the industry feedback forms, with names removed:

Good work! -- anonymous agent


Favorite scene. -- anonymous manager

Very fun.

A little "played at," but very fun. -- anonymous casting assistant

Good effort. Maybe a little more. -- anonymous manager

Nice! -- anonymous non-industry

Too over-the-top. -- anonymous production company rep

Lauren is such a joy to work with and so much fun to watch. She is
committed, smart, and talented. Cannot wait to cast her again!

Most of the comments were anonymous, but whatever. Good to know. And I agree with both of the negative ones to a degree. It is helpful for the learning.

So. Now I'm composing postcards and trying to figure out what is next. It's tempting to feel like I'm back where I started, but that just isn't true. I've made some industry connections and a lot of friends. And those are just plain good to have.

Also, I got a full time job. Did I mention that?

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Showcase Night One

I do love a live audience.

The showcase went great last night. We had a fantastic, loud, energetic, ready-to-laugh audience and the 248 seat house was packed. A friend in the audience said she saw the industry people scribbling away during our scenes, so hopefully that means good stuff.

My scene went okay - my partner is supposed to get dressed during the scene, and her skirt ripped in half and then she dropped her shirt. I changed the blocking a bit to try to let her gather her clothes, and we got a little off, but we saved it. The audience was laughing and no one backstage could even tell anything had gone wrong. I was a little frustrated, but I got over it. We handled it well. And we'll do it even better tonight.

After the show, I talked to a few people, but not as many as I had hoped. As a friend pointed out, it was a little anticlimactic, but we decided that if we were agents, we would turn in our notes of people we wanted to see and go home. So hopefully that's what happened. I'm anxiously and somewhat obssessively checking my email.

This is sort of fun - Xan is quoted on Blogstage, Backstage's...blog.

And, finally...I GOT A FULL TIME JOB!!!! I put this in excitables because it is salaried with benefits and an actor friend will be my boss and it's flexible enough for me to leave for auditions and shoots and such. It's a good thing for the time between now and when I can fully support myself acting.

Exciting week. And we're gonna rock it again tonight!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Stuff and stuff

It's been a while.

June flew by and the Cricket Feet Casting Actor's Showcase is next week! I'm super excited. My scene is going really well, and the director we've been working with, Chil Kong, is amazing. He offers these amazing three word nuggets of direction that totally change the scene. It's been wonderful to work with a director again, even if just on a three-minute scene. And I do get to chase a girl in a sheet while wearing heels. It's pretty fun.

I have a week to become a master networker and not be afraid to talk about myself and tell a story where I am the central character. I'm working on not being nervous about performing for a theatre full of people who could potentially give me a job. I'm excited, and I'm trying to fuel the rest of the nerves into more excitement.

It feels so good to be doing something that propels me forward. I'm excited for July 9th and 10th and what will come after.