Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Happy SVC Day, Y'All!

You mean you don't know what SVC Day is? Why, it's the day that Sweet Valley Confidential is released. What's Sweet Valley Confidential? Why, it's the novel that picks up ten years after the ever-popular Sweet Valley High series.

Are the twins still a perfect size six? What happened to the Fiat? Apparently Bruce Patman and Elizabeth are best friends now, Jessica's divorced, and Elizabeth cries when she has orgasms.

Suffice it to say that I am too cheap to buy my own, but so impatient about waiting my turn at the library that I may crack. I may have to steal over to the bookstore on my lunch hour and read a couple of chapters a day.


That's the kind of play I'm writing for the Big Time Theat-ah Development Opportunity. A solo. I've never written a solo before, at least not one that was longer than about 10 minutes. And it's hard. Like, really hard. And lonely. And you wonder if you're being a little bit boring. I did go see a couple of full-length-ish solos this year that made me feel a lot better about a single person telling a story being engaging.

Part of it I think is that for a regular play, I could say "Today I'm going to write the cocktail party scene" and there would be a separate scene, a separate chunk of script that I could write and it would be done and I would feel accomplished. But because of the nature of this play, there are sections, but not separate scenes per se. And so it just feels like I'm writing on and on and on without the same kind of guideposts as more people entering or exiting, or doing something gives you.

Currently, I'm writing 2 pages a day or more, which takes about as long as it would take to write 8-10 normal pages. It is driving me crazy.

On April 11 I have to hear it read. And it has to be done. I mean, not totally done. But to have a beeginning, a middle, and an end.

I will get there.

Oh you guys...

I'm watching "Bizarre Foods With Andrew Zimmerman", and he's "stranded" in the jungle in Mexico, forced to fend for himself.

My first question, which is really more of a comment, is:
If I knew I'd only be trapped for a day, I'd probably hold off on eating bugs. I'm not saying I would never eat creepy crawlies, but it wouldn't be a Day 1 priority. I know that wouldn't be great tv, but seriously, you can't go without eating for six hours? Didn't you eat before you left?

Fortunately, he's had some survivalist training. From a guy, who, no joke, is called MYKE HAWKE.
Obviously he's some kind of ex-military dude, because you'd pretty much have to machosize yourself with a name like that. Naturally this led to about a half hour of immature riffing on our part:

1) (AZ goes in for a hug) Whoa, first rule of the jungle--hands off Myke Hawke.
2) (while they're searching for food) You just relax and let Myke Hawke find something to put in your mouth.
3) (during the in-class portion of training) Myke Hawke is very experienced.
4) Etcetera.

I feel so juvenile. But I can't help it. I had this sudden dream sequence of being in this class to learn about survival, to learn vital information that I would need to make it on my own, and I wouldn't be able to focus. I would die in the jungle making jokes about Myke Hawke.


Monday, March 28, 2011


Every year I think "This is the year I'm going to do generals," meaning general auditions. It's kind of an open call for theatre companies to see actors, once a year. You go in, do a couple of monologues or maybe a song, and they say "thank you" and then you leave.It's simultaneously basic and nerve-wracking. And by "doing generals", I mean actually travelling to surrounding cities to do generals (I already do generals here every couple of years).

Needless to say, this takes some organization. And advance knowledge and saving of money. And every year, I think "I'm not quite ready" yet. And I have a lot of standard "reasons" which are more correctly "excuses" as to why I'm not actively pursuing things. So next year, I have decided, I will be ready. Next May, yours truly is going to be travelling around Western Canada, having a grand old time trucking out her party pieces for new and exciting artistic directors.

I have said it. That means it has to happen, right?

In the meantime, I'm going to try and get in on a couple of companies that are having auditions in my city. Which is a little scary when it comes down to the reality beyond popping my photo/resume in the mail. But I have over a month to prepare. And who knows, they may not even want to see me...

Another ambition I have long held... a ridiculous, silly ambition? To record a Christmas album-- specifically 1940's/1950's Christmas songs. The beautiful and talented Sarah at Size 8 Struggle recorded a fab album last Christmas (so hopefully she doesn't think I'm copying her!) and I was so inspired by it. This ambition dates back to childhood years when I thought the greatest job in the world would be to be a lounge singer. I have a couple of songs picked out already...

Would that be silly and lame and self-indulgent? And if so, is it wrong for me to be so silly and self-indulgent?

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Pushing vs. Being Pushy

I've been sending out my work. To a lot of different people, festivals, and theatres. I've sent my latest play to people who know me, who don't know me, who know some of my friends, and to complete and utter strangers.

It takes a while. And the expectation is that you won't hear back from anyone. Because it seems that all producing theatres have piles and piles of scripts from writers, and no time to read them all. Plus a lot of places already have plays in development with writers they already know,and it's a big risk to spend a lot of money on an unknown writer, etc. etc. etc.

So I can understand it taking months and months to even get a rejection letter back, especially when I've taken it upon myself to ask a busy stranger to read my work. But it's when people I know-- people in my own theatre community-- specifically request my play, and then don't respond to any kind of follow-up contact... well, that sort of bugs me.

And it's not like I send a script on Wednesday and I'm calling them on Friday asking them how I liked it. I mean, I let a decent amount of time go by. And I'm polite-- "Just following up, I'd love to hear your thoughts, etc."

It's no secret that I hate the schmooze. I mean, there's legitimate networking, and then there's the schmooze. The fakey-fake, poured-on, ass-kissing of self-congratulation. And I'll bet some people would say "well, you're in the wrong business, then." But I don't think it has to be that way. I just don't know the line where gentle pushing becomes pushy.

I feel like there needs to be a little mutual excitement about working together. I know people are busy, I know you have to keep reminding people about yourself, but I feel like after I've called a couple of times, emailed a couple of times to follow up, I'm being pushy. And if you're not interested enough to even say "Not for me, no thanks." or "I really liked it, but I'm swamped, let's schedule something for next month." or whatever, if it left such a small impression on you that you don't even care to get back to me, well... is it something I should be pushing at all?

And please understand, I'm talking about people I know, who I see regularly. Am I wrong? Is it not correct to assume that people should be at least a little interested in a play I spent so much time on?

Or do I just need to be pushier?

Friday, March 25, 2011

Act Two...

Yes, I am now ensconced in Act Two, still hoping that I will eventually figure out what I am writing about. And I think I'm on track to finish by my deadline.

I've realized that I have pretty much no free time until sometime after April 20, when the second session of the Big Time Theat-ah Development Variety Hour concludes. Until then, my time is eaten by:
3)seeing plays
4)reading the assigned plays for the Theat-ah Development thing-y
5)trying to make money

Making money, my favourite and least favourite topic. We are a little broke, my friends. I know, nothing new. But we're both trying to make a concerted effort to get rid of some debt so we can do fun things instead of eating spaghetti 4 days a week. This also means I accept strange standardized patient gigs, because I need need need the money. Listing stuff on Amazon (although nothing has sold yet), counting change. You know the drill.

The other day in rehearsal, a local actor/writer-type person apparently told J that she envies our life, which is kind of hilarious, because she's certainly what I would consider more successful than me. But I guess where we really went right (according to her, anyway) is not having kids to get in the way of our creative careers. If we had kids, I would make them get jobs. Ok, I probably wouldn't.

I also got to go see a dietician this week, which I thought would be lame, but was actually pretty cool. Let the healthy, balanced eating begin!

And apparently there is some kind of public workshop planned for the plays at the Big Time Theat-ah throughout next season. How do I know this? I read it in a program the other night.

Hopefully more information is forthcoming...

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Awkward Encounters

I had a weird experience this morning... I got on the bus to go to work, and there was this woman smiling at me... and she looked very familiar. Now, I'm notoriously terrible with names, so it took me a second to remember. Turns out she was a shrink I saw for a few months a couple of years ago... She was a masters student at the time, and only a couple of years older than me. I think her specialization was art therapy, and we probably would have had a lot in common, had we not had that pesky headshrinker-client relationship.

I wasn't really sure if I should sit next to her, or talk to her, or what, but we ended up chatting for the ride downtown. I guess she lives in my neighborhood.

WEIRD. I mean, not pathological weird, but weird, nonetheless.

Don't Hold Your Breath...

This is the instruction that my voice teacher gave me yesterday. Like, quite literally, don't hold your breath. Which is a bad habit of mine. Because, friends, I hold my breath ALL THE TIME. It's some kind of stress management/holding back emotions/who knows why psychological quirk of mine. I could probably go on for ages, analyzing it. But I won't.

Apparently I had a bit of a breakthrough at yesterday's lesson, which has left me feeling a bit unguarded and vulnerable. See, when you hold everything back behind a safely clenched diaphragm, releasing it makes you a little loopy. Just letting it all go makes you a little anxious.

And I'm confused about tension vs. impulse vs. normal, non-tense muscle activity, and a host of other things.

I just want to sing! How hard should that be?

Saturday, March 12, 2011

To keep in mind while writing...

The only person expecting the first draft to be brilliant is me. All anyone else is expecting is for the draft to be done.

Take deep breaths and repeat.

It's startling to sometimes see so clearly that the creator of most of my obstacles is myself.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

I made it!

Yes, I finished shooting yesterday, and I'm glad the 3 days is over. I didn't get fired for being lame/fat/untalented/having a terrible wardrobe, all of which was a great relief. Although I am going to miss having someone do my hair and makeup.

I get the feeling that I wasn't on the greatest set ever-- the director was... inexperienced, and there were a few times I noticed a wee bit of tension between the crew and the director (who didn't seem to have a good understanding of the process and preparation involved). I tried to be the model of professionalism-- oh, you want me to hold the plates at this level? Can do! This time don't turn my head until after I finish my line? No problem.

I'd kind of forgotten that film stuff is incredibly technical for the actor... you're kind of like a prop that can talk. An important prop, but still a prop that's expected to stand, move and talk the same way every take. We were shooting with kids on the first couple of days, which was challenging, because they couldn't keep track of things like not looking into the camera during every. single. take.

I don't know when I'm going to be on tv. From my understanding, they'll be starting the ads on their website first, then broadcasting them on television towards the end of the summer.

I'm pretty proud of myself. And pretty excited about the paycheck, too.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Tomorrow is the big day...

You guys, I am so nervous! I am shooting all day tomorrow, Monday evening, and Tuesday all day. In the first commercial I'm a harried mom (mom? I'm old enough to be a mom?), in the second I'm half of a fun young couple. First shoot has no dialogue, Tuesday has a few pages (which I need to get my ass in gear and memorize).

Here's a sample of some thoughts running through my brain:
What if I suck?
What if everyone realizes I don't know what I'm doing?
What if my clothes choices (from my very limited wardrobe)are awful?
What if I look even chunkier on camera?
What if they fire me for sucking/not knowing what I'm doing/having terrible clothes/being chunky?

Yes, it's a full-blown riot, where self-esteem and anxiety team up to make me lose sleep. Here's what I try to tell myself:
Clearly I don't suck, because I got hired. Also, we can always do another take if something doesn't work.
Obviously I won't know what I'm doing--it's my first commercial. That's why questions were invented.
My clothes are what they are-- I'm going to do my best with what I have.
I have no idea if I'm going to look chunkier or not. I assume that since they'd seen me on camera before hiring me, it's not going to be a huge shock to them.
If I get fired, I'm going to make my agent have them pay me for at least the day. But I'm not going to get fired.

It doesn't help that I had one of THOSE dreams last night... really weird dreams where I was a photographer and interviewing all these people I knew, and realizing gradually that none of them actually liked me and they wished I would just leave, so I slunk out into the parking lot, where some kind of hillbilly hoe-down was taking place, complete with a buffet of various types of live beetles.

OK, the dream itself makes no sense, but it was still one of those dreams where you wake up and feel all disappointed because of how people treated you and it takes a while to remember it was just a stupid dream. And while we're on the subject, I clearly remember being entranced by the movie "Waking Life", where they told you that one way to tell you're dreaming is that tech things don't work, and writing is incomprehensible. Yet I even more clearly remember a chafing dish of giant red beetles with a handwritten sign saying "Got to get your RED MEAT!". So am I some kind of dream weirdo who can read things in her dreams? Does that not happen to everyone?

It doesn't help that I am working pretty much constantly. I need a day off. I miss the days of working 3 hours shifts and then wandering around having coffee and thrift store shopping. I miss naps. I miss having time and energy to cook something more complex than grilled cheese sandwiches or spaghetti. Soon spring will come and I will have more time. And then the summer, when we're not open into the evenings.


Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Heard back from my agent...

And it looks like the commercial gig is a go! I shoot Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. And my job is being lovely and understanding and giving me the time off! And the best part of all is that I'm getting paid a pretty handsome amount of money.

Could I be living the dream?

Well, I wouldn't go that far. I do have to bring some wardrobe options, which I'm a little nervous about, since my wardrobe is a bit limited at the moment. I may sneak in a quick Value Village run and see if I can pick up a couple of new-to-me items.

That and I have to squeeze in a couple of plays, several full days of work, and lots of writing between now and then. Basically, March feels like I'm working 24 hours a day, every. single. day.

I can't wait till April. For one, I will likely have at least some time off over Easter. And the next session of the playwrights unit will feel like a vacation. An intense, mentally tiring vacation.

Putting Myself Out There

The other day I was volunteering for a local theatre company's casino-- I'd heard the food was miles better than bingo food, and what could it hurt to show some support, mix and mingle and help out... particularly with season announcements just around the corner?

I was chatting with the AD (artistic director), who was lamenting that he felt he was never going to "break through" to the next level (those of you who know me for realz may know him... actor/writer/designer/artistic director). Anyhoo, I confessed that I felt the same way. He said that he thought I would, but wondered if I meant as an actor or a writer. I said both ideally, but I just feel like I'm never going to get cast in work I don't have a hand in creating. And he said he did think I'd find work as an actor, but that I had to keep reminding people that I'm an actor.

And not just because I write, although that doesn't always help my case. It's because there are... well, there are a lot of actors. Even here. And it's easy to forget people, or think they're not interested, or think they're focusing on doing something else now, like writing. And really, I need to put myself out there more, remind people that I'm here, I'm good, and I'm ready to work.

I don't quite know how to do that. Do yet another round of generals? New pictures? Become one of those people who self-promote really well without being completely obnoxious about it?

I need to say yes to more things. Like this thing: in April I will be joining some fellows who do a Mystery Science Theatre-style riff on bad movies-- my movie? Twilight. They need a lady's point of view, and they thought I'd be funny. Will I be funny? I don't know. It's one thing to make comments in the warm cosiness of your living room, quite another to make them into a microphone in a theatre full of people.

I guess we'll see...

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Booking it...?

Well friends, it looks like some acting work may have fallen into my lap. I say "may" because it's not 100% confirmed yet, but the long and the short of it is that some marketing lady saw me in a comedy sketch I filmed for a troupe here before Christmas, and wants to put me in a couple of commercials.

Now before you imagine me being discovered at Schwab's or something, I will stress that these are local commercials, probably of the slightly hokey persuasion. I will also stress that I am waiting until she says "Yes, you are the person I mean", because apparently she thought she was contacting me a month ago, and she was actually contacting another girl from the video. Wouldn't it be hilarious if that happened again? And by hilarious, of course, I mean completely and totally unhilarious.

In any case, I've talked to her, emailed her my photo so she can be double-sure it's me she means, and given her my agent's contact information. (Amazing how my agent is suddenly extremely interested in my life once there's the prospect of getting paid-- but that's another story).

We shoot Sunday, Monday night, and Tuesday all day if this is in fact the gig. Should be a goodly amount of money for my trouble, I'm thinking.

OK, that's the quasi-news for the day. Back to writing.