Tuesday, May 8, 2018

My journey to MY NAME IS RACHEL CORRIE

Me in MY NAME IS RACHEL CORRIE.
Photos by Russ Rowland. Projections by L Wilson-Spiro. 

I’m proud to say that I’m in the midst of one of the most rewarding and difficult artistic experiences I’ve ever had - playing Rachel in the one woman play - MY NAME IS RACHEL CORRIE. The journey I’ve taken to finally be able to produce and perform in this play has been long and arduous.

I first heard about Rachel Corrie when most everyone else did - in mid 2003 when her death was announced world-wide. I remember that this was the first time I had ever heard of “non-violent direct action” as a tactic toward bringing change. I had no idea that were activists with the courage to stand up to tanks and bulldozers. I researched her story and grieved for her. I think this might have been the first time I thought about activism for myself.

Later that year, a theater company I had helped to start - Mo`olelo Performing Arts Company in San Diego - decided to present a world premiere play as its first production. It was called REMAINS, written by Seema Sueko, which was based on a true story about an American of Pakistani & Japanese descent going to Israel for a college program. Seema decided to use Rachel Corrie’s story as an inspiration and dramatized her true story with a fictional death of the character. The action of the play took place after the lead character died and the remains of her life - journals and clothing - were shipped back to her mother. We see this character come to life through the reading of the journals, bouncing back and forth between the past and the present, highlighting the wonderful people she met and also deep racism that she experienced. As a producer I was very proud of the show, and as an actor I was a little envious. This character was written to be non-white, so I would never get to tell this story as a performer. But I was so glad to see the play produced and received so well, especially as the company’s first venture.

So you can imagine what it was like to learn about the play MY NAME IS RACHEL CORRIE, constructed in much the same way. With my newfound passion for activism through theater, I knew I was destined to make the show happen.

Fast forward to now... I had NO idea how challenging it would be to perform a 90 minute play with just myself on the stage. Putting aside the line memorization (which is crazy!) it’s both thrilling and daunting to just have myself to rely on, to carry the show with energy and focus. No one to rely upon but myself.



But the biggest challenge has been the boycotts and protests.

This play touches on some very deep issues regarding the violence in Gaza - namely, the bulldozing of Palestinian homes in the occupied part of the Israeli/Palestinian region. By having a play that is sympathetic to the plights of those people, we’ve received angry emails from community members and longtime patrons calling for the cancelation of the play. People have said that what were doing is vile and anti Semitic and that we’re glorifying a murderer. Rachel Corrie never harmed a soul.

Though people like to think of the play as a historical play, it’s not. It’s a portrait of a girl who puts herself in harm’s way to bring peace to a war-torn region. Even the character says that her experiences are not the reality - she acknowledges that she is seeing one angle based on privilege and locale. And she also acknowledges that there’s a “distinction between Israel’s policies as a state and all Jewish people.”

Many Jewish people who have seen the show have said that it was not nearly as controversial as they had feared, and one proudly Pro-Israel gentleman even said, “This is exactly what I hoped the play would be.” But it’s still challenging for people to set aside their concerns for 90 minutes to hear an alternative point of view. As one patron shared, seeing a single performer share one side of an issue for that long can be alienating. Just the other day, in the first 20 minutes of the play we had a patron shout “This is insane!” at me multiple times and then later storm out, leaving this little note for us in the lobby before she slammed the door behind her. I was left stunned on the stage, as this happened right to me as I was performing.

This is the note left by the woman who shouted at me during my performance

We’ve had deep conversations at the end of each play where the audience members get to talk about their experiences with the subject matter and their impressions about the questions the play raises. And this is the most rewarding part of the whole thing - hearing people from all sides TALK and not just ignore and rebuff what the other side has to say.

But all of the conversation in the world is useless if people aren’t able to learn about the show. Many reviewers have refused to critique the show - our press rep said that she received significant pushback when she sought reviewers. But audiences have been making reviews of their own, most of them very positive (and some of them incendiary.) You can see those reviews here: https://www.show-score.com/off-off-broadway-shows/my-name-is-rachel-corrie

We are in the final week of shows, so if this post has piqued your interest, I would absolutely love for you to come. Here’s my show schedule:

Wed, May 9 - 12pm

Wed, May 9 - 8pm

Fri, May 11 - 3pm

Sat, May 12 - 8pm

Sun, May 13 - 4:30pm

Tickets range from $10-$30, with free tickets to AEA members who show their cards at the door. Tickets can be purchased at www.TheSeeingPlace.com.



Me in MY NAME IS RACHEL CORRIE.
Photos by Russ Rowland. Projections by L Wilson-Spiro. 



Erin Cronican is a breast cancer survivor, whose career as a professional actor and career coach has spanned the last 25 years in New York City, Los Angeles and San Diego. She has appeared in major feature films and on television, and has toured nationally with plays and musicals. She has worked in the advertising & marketing departments of major corporations, film production companies, theater magazines, and non-profit acting organizations. For more information, please visit www.erincronican.com.

Monday, January 1, 2018

2017 Retrospective ... In Questions

I originally got this idea from Bonnie Gillespie. Every year, this casting director answers the same batch of questions, and I've taken it on for myself. (Check out this blast form the past from 2010 - I was such a baby back then!)

So, without further ado, here is a recap of my 2017...


What did you do in 2017 that you’d never done before?

I traveled by myself to Italy! I took advantage of an offer from the Daniel Ferro Vocal Program to work in their office for 6 weeks in exchange for rom and board in Tuscany. All I would have to do was pay for my own ticket to fly. It was an amazing experience - I was there for 10 days and was forced to use a language I didn’t know and meet people I otherwise wouldn’t have. I can’t wait to do something like that again.

A view of Positano, Italy

I met these fiesty Australians in my adventures on Florence

Did you keep your 2017 resolutions? Will you make resolutions for 2018?

I always have the same resolution - “This will be the best year of my life.” I came up with this on New Year’s Eve 2000/2001 (holy crap- 10 years ago.) I had listened to the old song, “Summer of 69” by Bryan Adams, and there’s a refrain that says, “Those were the best years of my life.” I realized that I couldn’t claim this -- I had no “best years” and, by god, I wanted to create some.

What I really focused on in 2017 was reclaiming my life from cancer. I committed to making enough money to cover rent with performing gigs, so I auditioned more frequently and by October I reached my goal! I’m now singing at a church once a week and am the standby on two Off Broadway shows. Amazing!

My 2018 is all centered around working less and earning more:

• For my coaching business it means moving a lot of what I do online so that more people can benefit, and then I can make sure I have enough time for the in-person coaching for those who really need it.
 
• For The Seeing Place it means applying for more grants, building a board, and delegating to more ensemble members so that we can raise more money with less work hanging over my head.

• For my acting career, this means that I want great representation and the ability to do TV and film projects whose residuals will make a better lifestyle much easier.

• And personally, this means that I want to treat my body like the temple it is and create energy and strength now so that I can keep it healthy for years to come.


Did anyone close to you give birth?

Not "close" close, but I know a lot of people who had babies or are pregnant and I can’t wait to hold them?


Did anyone close to you die?

Not terribly close, but there were some incredible losses in our community


What date from 2017 will remain etched upon your memory and why?

December 23 - the day I went on as a standby in SISTAS - my first commercial Off Broadway credit!



What countries did you visit?

Italy, though I didn’t fly through Germany and went through customs there...


What would you like to have in 2018 that you lacked in 2017?

More physical strength, which has been hard to get back after surgery for cancer. I also would like to have more money.


What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Definitely going into the two shows Off Broadway. I didn’t have a formal rehearsal for either project, so my time on stage in front of an audience was my first rehearsal for both musicals. But I rose to the challenge and had a blast, and I can’t wait to do it again!


What was your biggest failure?

I had to borrow money from my mother earlier in the year because I was having trouble paying rent. My coaching business ebbs and flows, and as I was trying to get my acting career to the next level my coaching career suffered. It wasn’t until the fall that things started to stabilize. That was a really hard time.


Did you suffer illness or injury?

I’m still dealing with the fallout of cancer and its treatment, and I was diagnosed with anxiety and major depression. Luckily I have therapists and medication that are helping me navigate everything.


Whose behavior merited celebration?

My boyfriend. We’ve been together for 6 years and he never ceases to amaze me. He took a huge step forward at work by becoming one of their best and most well loved employees, and he also does great work with our theater company. Not to mention that he also has worked hard to keep our relationship strong.


Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?

A certain president who shall not be named, as well as a certain speaker of the house and that person’s cohorts. Boooooooooo...


Where did most of your money go?

Rent. For sure. Eating out is a close second.


What did you get really, really, really excited about?

My gosh... getting cast in THIS ONE’S FOR THE GIRLS and then actually going on in the show were the best experiences! It felt like the culmination of so many years of work finally fulfilling on a dream.




What song will always remind you of 2017?

“This Girl Is on Fire”


Compared to this time last year, are you:

happier or sadder? Much much happier. Medication really helps with that - the first 9 months of the year I would have said sadder.

thinner or fatter? Fatter - medication causes weight gain so I’m still figuring out how to handle that.

richer or poorer? Richer! In money, health, and love.


What do you wish you’d done more of?

Grantwriting. We finally got our 501c3 for my theater company and I expected that I would immediately have started writing for grants but I haven’t done much of that.


What do you wish you’d done less of?

Being depressed. What a hard time that’s been...


How will you be spending Christmas?

I spent Christmas in Florida with my mom, my aunt, my sister, and my mom’s best friend. It was a house of 5 women, and it was fabulous!


Who did you miss?

I miss my dad, as always. I miss my dog Denver, which passed away in 2012.



Did you fall in love in 2017?

I feel like I fall in love with Brandon a little more each day. Also - I reignited my love for bing a paid singer this year. ;)


What was your favorite TV program?

SO MANY! I can’t even choose.


Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?

I don’t really hate anyone. There have been several people this year who have (directly or indirectly) hurt my feelings so I have had a hard time communicating with them.


What was the best book you read?

I just started reading again this year - I really liked “Never Let Me Go.”


What was your greatest musical discovery?

Hmmm... after watching the Lady Gaga documentary I have a newfound respect for her. I also found the TV show The Voice, which I love!


What did you want and get?

I wanted paying work as an actor and singer, and I got those. SO AMAZING.


What did you want and not get?

I wanted to finish creating my online coaching program but my focus was split with prepping for the shows (both for my theater company and the musicals I’m doing.)


What was your favorite film of this year?

“Get Out.” I’ve seen it twice now and I really loved it.


What kept you sane?

Punk-colored hair, Netflix, Hulu, the women’s and #MeToo movements, the Slow Carb diet, good snow boots, Duolingo for Italian practice, Brandon Walker, Candice Oden, Sarah Rice in church, Blair Brown with her diet tips, Zach Wobensmith with late night bourbon, my theater company and a few key people who really made a difference this year, and finally my mom.



What did you do on your birthday? How old were you?

This year I turned the 30-35 age range for actors. :)  I performed at church, and then did two performances of JACK GOES BOATING with The Seeing Place, and then I enjoyed bourbon and New Orlean's style food for a late night dinner.


What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

If my mom had been able to travel to NY. If my boyfriend had been able to travel to Italy with me.


How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2017?

My personal style has changed since I got short hair, so now I’m a little more romantic/bohemian with a little bit of hipster thrown in.


Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

I think we’re all about Prince Harry right about now.


What political issue stirred you the most?

My gawd. Women’s rights all the way. #MeToo


Who was the best new person you’ve met?

I met a ton of great people this year. David Levy in Italy, Traci Bair and Robert Levinstein in “This One’s For The Girls”, Cait Weisensee and Clinton Powell via my theater company, and every one of my students who I met this year. It’s really been a good year, all things considered.


What valuable life lesson did you learn in 2017?

That I’ve suffered a great deal emotionally/mentally from having cancer, and I deserve to have that treated. Anxiety and depression are no joke, and they have made it a very difficult year. But it is a year where I also triumphed in huge ways.


What song lyrics sum up your year?

“This Girl is on Fire” by Alicia Keys

She's just a girl, and she's on fire
Hotter than a fantasy, longer like a highway
She's living in a world, and it's on fire
Feeling the catastrophe, but she knows she can fly away

Oh, she got both feet on the ground
And she's burning it down
Oh, she got her head in the clouds
And she's not backing down

This girl is on fire
This girl is on fire
She's walking on fire
This girl is on fire

Looks like a girl, but she's a flame
So bright, she can burn your eyes
Better look the other way
You can try but you'll never forget her name
She's on top of the world
Hottest of the hottest girls say

Oh, we got our feet on the ground
And we're burning it down
Oh, got our head in the clouds
And we're not coming down

This girl is on fire
This girl is on fire
She's walking on fire
This girl is on fire


Everybody stands, as she goes by
Cause they can see the flame that's in her eyes
Watch her when she's lighting up the night
Nobody knows that she's a lonely girl
And it's a lonely world
But she gon' let it burn, baby, burn, baby

This girl is on fire
This girl is on fire
She's walking on fire
This girl is on fire
Oh, oh, oh,

She's just a girl and she's on fire


Happy New Year!

GET IN HERE 2018!
Erin  :)




Erin Cronican is a breast cancer survivor, whose career as a professional actor and career coach has spanned the last 25 years in New York City, Los Angeles and San Diego. She has appeared in major feature films and on television, and has toured nationally with plays and musicals. She has worked in the advertising & marketing departments of major corporations, film production companies, theater magazines, and non-profit acting organizations. For more information, please visit www.erincronican.com.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

The New Me

As I have talked about in previous blog posts, one of the hardest parts of getting breast cancer is dealing with the physical changes due to surgery, chemotherapy and radiation treatments. And there a double whammy with these changes. Not only have they taken a physical and mental toll, but they also wreaked havoc on my career. Because as an actor body image impacts just about everything. It’s not just what you look like, but how you feel in your own skin that makes a difference.

For a few years I put “making money” as an actor on hold as I worked to build up The Seeing Place (my theater company.) But at the beginning of 2015 I made a new commitment to dust off the ol’ headshots & resumes, get back onto the casting websites, and start submitting myself for paying work again. And just as I started to do that, I got my cancer diagnosis and everything stopped. Just stopped. First, it was recovering from surgery. Then, it was being sick during 5 months of chemotherapy. Then, it was having to find the energy to drag myself to radiation treatments every single day for 7 weeks. Once all of this was done in April, one would think that I would be able to start auditioning right away. But the side effects lingered on, and not in ways that I anticipated.

It’s been really upsetting knowing that I had the time to pursue work as an actor but the psycho-emotional/physical impact of the disease and treatment have kept me from putting myself out there. First, I don’t know if I can adequately describe what it’s like to look in the mirror and see someone you don’t know staring back at you. I felt like my identity was ripped from me and I didn’t know who I was anymore. I’d look in the mirror and see an alien - puffed up skin with no eyelashes or eyebrows, short stubby hair, sunken eyes. I hated myself so much that I didn’t take any pictures during this time. I actively avoided the camera unless I was making some kind of funny face - because then at least we could all laugh about what I was doing and we could overlook the way I appeared.

As I’ve mentioned, I lost my hair so it’s taken some time for it to grow to a length that I feel comfortable sharing with the world. I gained about 15 pounds during treatment due to the steroids they had me on to combat chemo side effects. All of the weight that was gained went to my upper body (which is very rare for me but apparently common for steroid weight gain.) Not only did none of my clothes fit, but I hated the way I looked in photos. My face felt fat and my upper body seemed to overwhelm any photo I was in. I was very ashamed of the way I looked, and even though I knew it wasn’t my fault I felt guilty that I couldn’t get my body under control.

It’s taken me about 8 months and I’m just now starting to recognize a “me” that I can relate to and feel comfortable putting out there. I’ve lost almost all of the weight I gained so now I’m working to get to a pre-cancer weight. My scars are starting to heal - they still itch and ache, and I still have tons of swelling that causes pain, but for the most part that can be covered up with clothing. And I’m so relieved to know that my stylist has found a haircut that works for my face and I’m really loving it. I put in a streak of hot pink in my hair as a sort of gift to myself for everything I had gone through. (By the way, one thing that’s weird - sometimes I feel like I have a ponytail and I go to grab it and it’s not there! Is that like a phantom limb? A phantom ponytail??) And in the last few weeks I have started to get some of my old energy back.

So...

It’s time for me to re-introduce myself to the acting community. A new me. And it all starts with new headshots.

I was very nervous for the photo session. I wrote to the photographer that I was anxious about looking heavy in my photos, and I was also questioning my choice to keep the pink in my hair. I just couldn’t bear to remove it, though, and my photographer reassured me that we could do retouching on the photos if I ever took the pink out. So I swallowed all of my fears and last Friday I traveled to the Upper West Side to shoot with Mendez Photography. I had a lot of fun, and though I was a little restrained throughout the process I got some really great shots out of it.

Here are a few from the proofs - they have not been retouched yet so be kind!

Photos by Mendez Photography

I’ve done the task of figuring out exactly the type of work I want to be doing and how I want to promote myself for that work (also known as “branding” in our industry.) So my next step is to update my website and all of the casting websites with my new materials and start putting myself out there. The hope is that I’ll be able to reignite things that way I wanted to before I got sick. And maybe, just maybe, this illness will yield deeper, more expressive work that will bring me an income that will make living in NYC easier and more fulfilling.

---

To see my description of what happened the day I was diagnosed, check out my first post, “Yes, I Have Breast Cancer.” And here is a link to all of my cancer posts.

To experience the art I’ve created through grief, come see me in the play GETTING OUT with The Seeing Place Theater - July 16-August 7, 2016.

---


Erin Cronican is a breast cancer survivor, whose career as a professional actor and career coach has spanned the last 25 years in New York City, Los Angeles and San Diego. She has appeared in major feature films and on television, and has toured nationally with plays and musicals. She has worked in the advertising & marketing departments of major corporations, film production companies, theater magazines, and non-profit acting organizations. For more information, please visit www.erincronican.com.


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