Sunday, February 24, 2008

Is there a good reason...

Is there a good reason why the Best Actress Oscar and the Best Actor Oscar were announced more than 1 hour apart from each other? It is well known that the Oscars announce their most anticipated awards later in the show. And the male and female actor awards have always been handed out together, with the supporting actor awards coming towards the start of the show and the best actor awards toward the end. So why, this year, did the female award get put in the middle of the show while the male award was at the end, 3rd only to Best Director and Best Film? I am hoping it was something silly like one of the female nominees had to leave early, and hence the switch...

Saturday, February 23, 2008

The subway is a funny place

One thing that you cannot escape on a subway is being with other people. I know that sounds obvious, but I am sometimes surprised at people on the subway who act as if they are irritated that other people are present. If you open yourself up to the fact that, yes, there are other people and they are pretty damned fascinating to watch, you can actually have quite a good time while traveling to and from your destination.

Here are just a few of the things that I observed today on the subway:

- As the subway slowed to a stop in front of me, I noticed car after car go by filled with people, but the car that stopped in front of me was less than half full. Those who have traveled the subways a lot know that this is rarely a good sign. It usually means the temperature in the car is unbearable, or there is a stench that renders it unrideable. The latter was the case here- there was a very stinky homeless man on the train. I decided that I was going to muscle through it and got on anyway. Luckily, my nose seemed to get used to it, because after several stops I didn’t really notice him anymore. What I continued to notice, however, was the way that people expressed their displeasure over the smell, especially those who chose to complain about it loudly, or worse, laugh about it while saying horrible things. I wonder if the homeless person heard them, and understood they were talking about him?

- Later, the car became even more crowded, with people crammed shoulder to back. I had a seat and was happily reading my New Yorker magazine. Over the buzz of people’s conversations I heard a man say sharply, “Just stop it, ok? Stop it!” It sounded like an exasperated father admonishing his child. Instead, I learned that it was a middle-aged passenger getting irate with another passenger for elbowing him. “You are elbowing me on purpose, and your know it, dude. So, just stop it!” The other passenger may well have done it on purpose or it could have been an accident. But he was clearly enjoying the debate so he keep inciting the victim, telling him that he "couldn’t help it" and that the crowded train made him do it, "Do you see all of these people?" At the next stop, a bunch of people got off, including the elbower, which prompted the victim to exclaim, “What a jerk!” as he scurried to grab one of the rare, vacated seats. It was like watching two children in the back of a car saying, “Mom! Jimmy’s on my side. Make him stop!” I couldn’t help but giggle.

- On my way back home from my appointments I was serenaded by a three piece mariachi band: A guitar, a bass, and an accordion. And a singer, of course. They were all wearing cowboy hats, and the singer walked through the car with his hat extended asking for change. The bass instrument had etchings of tropical flowers, and if I closed my eyes I could imagine being at a restaurant in Old Town, San Diego drinking huge margaritas. It made me homesick and it made me smile. And quite a lot of people gave them money, which was kind of nice.

Living in New York City has made me appreciate that I live in the world with other people, with strangers. In California I only spent time with those that I knew and interaction with strangers was minimal at best. My idealism has actually increased while living here- I still do see things that make me question my vulnerability in public settings but ultimately my life is richer for being open to it.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

A fun audition, and the ER

This Saturday I was invited to attend callbacks for a animated musical feature film- I am in top consideration for their leading female role. I showed up prepared with 9 pages of dialogue and 2 songs from the film. The auditions were held at a sound studio, and the performances were recorded so that the auditions could be listened to by the extended production team, who were not present. When I walked into the booth I was greeted by the composer/book writer who was amazingly warm and happy to see me. She said that she had been to my website and had gone through my vocal demos and absolutely loved my work. She kept telling me how funny I was, and how pure my voice sounded, and that she thought I would be a good match for this project. After singing through the material and reading the scenes, she said that I had exactly the tone and sound they were going for, and were excited to have me as a possibility. Though we recorded the session, there was something wrong with the tracks they were using so they asked me to go home and record one of the songs again and mail it to them. Luckily I have a Mac and have moderate tech abilities, so I was able to complete that today and fire it off by email. Even if I don’t get cast, it was wonderful to walk into an audition and know that my marketing materials have put me ahead of the pack. It meant that I could really relax into the audition and just show them what I can do. I’ll be sure to let you know if anything comes of it.

In other news, tomorrow I am finally debuting my standardized patient training program at one of New York’s busiest emergency rooms. This program uses actors to test ER residents on their clinical skills when dealing with a difficult patient (me) in a high stress locale (the ER.) I am going in under cover with a tape recorder and an entire fake record, which will help the hospital system make sure they are training its doctors the right way. It will be very exciting but I am also a little nervous- I hope they don’t try to stick me with needles or something...

Friday I am doing background work on “Guiding Light“ - I am playing a waitress. I am actually a must-join for AFTRA (since I did an AFTRA commercial last summer) so I have to go to the union tomorrow and join before I get on set Friday. There’s a $1300 initiation fee- phew! Thanks goodness for credit cards. The good news is I can easily make that back in 7-8 days of background work (or principal work, of course, in 2 days or less.)

Still doing a ton of audition seminars- will highlight those another day. I have to go to bed now so I can be rested for the ER tomorrow...

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Star sighting WAY uptown

The other day I was walking past Rite Aid in my neighborhood when a gorgeous man jumps out of the passenger side of a big, black GMC SUV and runs into the drug store. It took me a second to realize it was Ryan Reynolds. What in the world was he doing in Yorkville?

Help Hillary!

Please consider making a contribution to help Hillary get the word out about her amazing campaign. While I like Barack Obama and think he would make a decent president, I am very concerned that I have yet to hear a compelling plan of action from him regarding his presidency- it is one thing to rile people up to get excited about change, it is a whole different thing to actually have a reasonable plan to get it done. Hillary can get it done, and she can do with with diplomacy, grace and vigor.

If you want to know more of my views, let me know and I will send them to you.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

They keep trying...

I was sitting with a friend in a coffeeshop yesterday, and a homeless-looking man ambled into the front door and stood in the doorway for a bit. As he turned and was about to walk out, he spotted us and walked over to our table. In slurred speech he said something like, "It looks like you could use some company. Ok if I sit down with you?"

Nice try, but no.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

The Tao of Denver

It is always interesting when you are humbled by your pet.

Today is was pouring outside. I mean: POUR-ing! And I had to take my dog, Denver, out for a walk. Boy, was she unhappy. When we got outside, all she did was stand there, in apparent disbelief that she was getting wet. Anytime she moved left or right she encountered a puddle that displeased her further. What normally takes 5-10 minutes now took 15-20, as all of her familiar smells had been washed away and she now had to decide upon a new location to do her business.

By the time we got back to our building, she was soaked to the bone. I let her inside the lobby area, which is where the aforementioned humbling took place. As soon as she was inside, she did the obligatory, "I am going to shake all of this water on to you, Mommy" that dogs are known to do. But then she got this look on her face and her tail started wagging furiously, and she bound up the stairs two at a time. And for the next 5 minutes she did the routine I have come to love over the past 12 years- the, "I am so happy that I am no longer being rained on" routine.

The Tao of Denver- how many times, as humans, do we encounter something less than wonderful, like getting soaked, and once the problem is solved we end up in an ecstatic mood? How often do we say, "I am so excited that I am in a dry place now! Yippee!" Not very often. We complain about the rain, seek agreement from others about how horrible the rain is, and blame the rain on the next 30 minutes of bad mood. Boo, I say!

I want to live life in the moment, like my dog Denver- sure, it stinks to get rained on but I want to appreciate the times when I am dry. And maybe I will be rewarded with a chicken banana treat afterward too.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Actors are cool

I had a really fun time at the audition seminar last night. I met with Jill Creighton from Guiding Light, and she paired each of us with a partner to read scenes. I was the last person to be paired up, with another person named Aaron (different spelling than me, of course.) We looked at each other and laughed- I guess they thought it was cute to put the two people with the same name together. But he and I had great chemistry, which basically meant that when we read the scene it looked like we had been friends for years, even though we had just met an hour before. All of which was very good for a "cold paired" audition. Afterward I met up with my dear friend, Kory, for a little night on the town, and Aaron came with us. We talked about politics, acting, geek-dom, and a host of other things I have forgotten in the haze of the 3 martinis I had. Fun times.

Oh, and Jill said she really liked our read (and commented on the chemistry) and after giving us an adjustment congratulated us on giving a great 2nd read and giving her exactly what she asked for. I am starting to feel like an old pro at this...

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Creeped out a little

I just did my daily check of my web stat counter and found that someone had looked me up twice on the Yahoo search engine, and then looked me up a third time with my name and "boyfriend" in the search.

Maybe they wanted to know if I had starred in the musical, "The Boyfriend" but I somehow doubt it...

Monday, February 11, 2008

I'm Backlogged!

I am a bit backlogged on audition stuff. And I want to get back on track, because I am tired of the posts that are 3 pages long (I am sure you are too.) So I am going to break up the potentially long posts into shorter, bite-sized ones, to make them more palatable (wow- that is not how I thought “palatable” was spelled...)

By the way, one of the reasons for my lack of blogging is actually an excess of blogging- on one blog or another! Or in answering questions on various message boards. This Web 2.0, while wildly effective, takes a lot of time and energy!

I may have to work backwards by talking about my most recent experiences first. That way, the memories are fresh! Tonight I went to a networking seminar with Cindi Rush Casting. She was great- and though I have been to over 30 of these events I still ended up hearing things in the Q&A I have never heard before, or they were presented a fresh new way. This is always a nice start to the session. Although one of the things that went less than perfectly was the very beginning of my actual audition time. I stood in front of her and she looked down at my resume, read through it, circled some things, and then looked back up, studying me. After an awkward moment of staring she looked back to the resume, and then back up again to study me. It took a few more awkward moments before it dawned on me that she may simply have been waiting for me to begin. So, I said, ”Oh, are you waiting for me?“ She smiled slowly and said yes. I laughed, and jumped right in- ultimately, it really doesn’t matter that there was that disconnect, but it did throw me off a bit.

But happily, after doing my ‘go-to“ monologue she asked me to do it again with a different perspective that breathed some life into the piece. It was good before, but now I think it is pretty great! Not only did I find a fun, new way to approach the monologue, but I also got to show her how well I can take direction with a well-prepared piece, which would bode well in any audition situation. Strangely, a lot of actors have trouble with that, so it was nice to show that it was a strength of mine. We had a lovely chat afterward, in which she commented the musical skills listed on my resume and she liked that I had strong credits. She told me should would put me on the short list of actors to call in for projects (most notably, she casts the developmental reading of new musicals at NYU, which boasts the best (or only?) musical theater writing program in the country. It would be fantastic to get to workshop new pieces!

I’ll log on again tomorrow and work backward with my other auditions and events- I have a whole week of catching up to do!

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Fortune Cookie

I ate Chinese food tonight, and here is what the fortune cookie said:

"You will receive a surprise very soon."

That doesn't really sound like a fortune. It's more of an anxiety producer. Oh, and it taught me how to say, "Wait" in Chinese. Do you think that is in response to the question I had when I read the fortune (When?)

Oh well. The brown rice was good.

Self Promoting Self Production

After watching an amazingly well produced parody on YouTube, I am thinking that Tom and I should get to work on producing our own stuff. I mean, we’re funny. We should be able to do some pretty good stuff. And our apartment walls are bright green, so we have a free green screen to work with.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Rock the Vote: Hillary Clinton

It’s primary day, and no blog would be complete with out personal political views being expressed. But first...

I am declaring a breakdown in the voting system in New York City.

I am registered to vote in Manhattan (voted in the 2006 congressional election at the polling site a block away.) As of today. I have yet to receive any piece of mail or email or a phone call regarding polling instruction for the primary. I don’t have a location, I have no idea what will be on the ballot (besides the presidential candidates, of course), and I don’t know what the times are. And other than polling times, I cannot find any of this information online, and I am a very good researcher.

I called the NYC Board of Elections yesterday, and when I told them that I had yet to receive any materials and wanted to get my polling place, the gentleman on the phone said:

“Yeah, we have not yet sent out the information about the presidential primary.”

This seems so absurd to me that I am not even sure I heard him correctly. But I didn’t have the time to question him, because he immediately got me my polling location and hung up the phone. I was luckier than Tom, who was hung up on 5 times (3 by people, and 2 by the phone system) and never got his information.

In 2006 I posted a blog about my annoyance with the voting system in NY as compared to my home state of CA. And it seems only worse now. How are people supposed to vote if there are so many problems? If I were not as passionate about voting, I might just say, “Screw it,” especially for a primary. So I can only imagine how many voters we are losing. Unless of course, the lack of information is only a problem for a segmented part of the public, and not the public as a whole, which has it’s own set of problems (for example, is the information being withheld for a reason? Shudder...)

I am committed to having a breakthrough in the NY election system, so please do what you can to get to the polls. Show up at the last location you voted at and see if you are on the list. If you have questions, call them- flood their phone systems. Don’t be complacent- make a difference!

And now for the political stuff:

I am voting for Hillary Clinton. She is great! Here is an article on why:

New York Times endorses Hillary

Here is one of my most important issues- even if you are not voting for Hillary, please consider voting for someone with a positive record of bringing funding to the arts:

Americans for the Arts: ArtsVote2008

Hillary Clinton’s position on the arts

Get out there and vote!

My Day at the AEA Lounge

I spent what ended up being an awesome day at the Actors’ Equity lounge last Thursday, while attending a few auditions. AEA’s Audition Lounge is a meeting place for actors, complete with 3 audition studios as well as dressing rooms, big bathrooms, and a social area that doubles as a waiting room. I stopped by because there were two auditions being held from 1:30pm-5:30pm- one for a musical and one for a play. I arrived around 12:15pm to sign up for a slot (sign ups would begin at 12:30pm) and was dismayed to see at least 75-80 people already waiting in line to sign up... for each audition. I couldn’t really believe the massive amount of people that were there, and I knew right away that I was going to have to make a choice as to which audition I wanted to do, because I couldn’t stand in both lines at the same time. I looked at the audition details and opted to stand in line for the musical because it was being cast by Cindi Rush Casting- Next week I will be meeting Cindi at an audition seminar, so I thought it would be a smart idea to do this audition to increase the number of times this office sees my work.

After 30 minutes in line I finally edge up to the sign up table, and right when I get there and am ready to show my card, I hear the depressing, “The last slot has been filled. We are now only taking alternates.” Drat! I was so close! Actually, getting onto the alternate list can actually be a better option than getting an appointment- alternates are called when auditions run ahead of schedule (to absorb the extra minutes) and in most cases you can get seen earlier than you could with an appointment. Once I became an alternate, I ran over to the other audition to get on their alternate list. Within one hour the first list called my name for the musical, so I headed in to sing. They had asked for an uptempo contemporary musical theater song, and I had chosen what I thought was a perfect song. But when I handed it to the accompanist, he pouted a bit and gave a big sigh. “You don’t like it?” I asked. “Well, I don’t think I can play it well enough,” he said. So, I flipped several pages to the next appropriate song. “How about this?” I asked. He smiled and nodded, and in the 3.5 seconds it took to walk to the center of the room, I completely reworked my audition choices. It doesn’t happen very often that an accompanist would tell you to change your song (this was a first for me), so I am glad that I was prepared with another choice. It’s crazy what a little change like that can do to an actor’s confidence, but I was pleased with my performance and had a lot of fun singing. I gave myself an A for Effort and for Execution!

I got done with that audition at about 2:35pm, and since I was #28 on the alternate list for the other show, I had up to 3 hours to wait (with the chance of never getting called for the other audition at all.) Luckily, I ran into quite a few friends (Brandon, Anna, Josh, Matt, and Marilyn) and we got to spend the next 3 hours commiserating, inspiring each other, and laughing a lot. I also met new people who were friends of my friends, and saw actors I had met once or twice through other auditions or classes. The time crept closer and closer to the last time slot at 5:30pm, and it was looking like I wasn’t going to get to audition. But a miracle happened somehow, because they needed one more actor from the alternate list, and 3 people on the list ahead of me were no longer in the building. So, they crossed them off the list and announced my name- I was the last actor of the day! While waiting to go in, the audition monitor tells us that instead of the just a basic contemporary monologue, they were specifically asking for a comedic piece. And again, I was prepared enough to be able to switch my choices, and was able to give them something funny to finish their day. But I was a little taken aback when I got in the room. My comedic monologue is a cute, if mature, piece about a midwestern girl who goes on vacation and experiences a threesome. To my chagrin, in the audition room there was an older woman (over 65) sitting behind the table, and for a split second I got concerned about doing a threesome monologue for her. But I swallowed my pride and went for it, and she laughed all the way through it. In fact, I think she laughed harder than anyone I have ever performed it for. She thanked me for letting her leave the audition with a smile on her face, and I was happy to have another good audition under my belt.

Another day, another dollar (spent.)

Friday, February 1, 2008

Missing out on New York

I’ve started to realize recently that the fact that I work from home means I don’t have that many experiences out in New York City other than my time at auditions and at restaurants. I am very happy with how I spend my days, but I am not really taking the time to make sure embrace this wonderful city that I live in. I am sure that part of it is hibernation instinct- it is cold and wet out there, so I am less inclined to head out of doors. But also, because I work for myself, every hour of my day feels like a time I could be developing my businesses. And because I love my work, I never really feel the need to take a break. Hence, from the time I wake up until the time I go to sleep, I am pretty much doing work, and much of the work needs to be done from home.

One of the great things about working from home, though, is that I spend quality time with my best friend, my 12 year old doggie, Denver. Denver has been with me since my junior year in college (damn, I think I just dated myself.) I sit on the couch with my laptop, typing away as I work on my various jobs, and get to reach over and scratch her on the belly. It’s a pretty awesome part of my day.

For my coaching business, I always offer a free consultation and hold it at a little coffee and tea shop near my apartment. Oftentimes there is a group of 4 people who play chess against each other. Two people play the game, and the other two wait for their turn to play, meanwhile they heckle the others about their play. It took me seeing them a few times to realize that they were actually friends because the heckling can be pretty fierce. Some people take their chess pretty seriously, and it is fun to observe this when waiting for my potential coaching clients to arrive.

In other news, I wanted to give a “shout out” to Tom’s dad, Phil. Tom and I are very lucky that often we open our mailbox and find a personal greeting in the form of a postcard or a card. He often commemorates the lesser known holidays (Chinese New Year, for example) and always puts stickers on the cards to brighten them up.

Today I got a Valentine’s Day card, and I almost started to cry. The card is a bit early with the actually holiday being on the 14th, but that fact that I got it today made a huge impact on me. Two years ago, to this day, my father passed away unexpectedly. Each year of my life while he was alive my father gave me a Valentine’s Day card, with his trademark calligraphy writing that he always did for cards (he even had a special fountain pen!) So to go to the mailbox today and see a bright red envelope, addressed just to me, covered with Valentine’s Day stickers, it was almost like my dad was still here.

I don’t believe in fate. I don’t believe in ghosts or karma. But coincidences can still feel magical, and today I felt a warmth in the midst of a very sad day. So, thank you to Phil, and for Tom for sharing his dad with me.

Feeling Groovy

“La-la-la-la la la-la la, feeling groovy...”

I have been meeting many casting directors and agents recently, and I am starting to hear the same positive feedback over and over. It has been absolutely wonderful. There are two key aspects to getting work as an actor- 1) Knowing who you are and what you have to offer (your “brand”) and 2) Knowing how to appropriately communicate your brand to the industry. For the past year I have been refining what my brand is, pulling in feedback from industry professionals that I trust and taking the time to look at what I want out of this business. At the same time, I have been refining my skills as the lead marketer of my brand, building relationships with these same industry professionals and educating myself so that I am prepared when the time comes to “act.” The fact that I am hearing the same feedback from these casting directors and agents means I have finally solidified my brand and am communicating it in a way that is concise and powerful. And I am thrilled!

On Monday I had an audition seminar with Kate Martineau from “As the World Turns.” After the great Q&A, she assigned 4-page scenes to read with a partner. I was in the first group, and we stepped outside to read through our scene quickly before they called us in. We got a chance to read through 2 times before going in, and as I read I had a strong instinct to express myself in the scene in a way that seemed opposite from how the scene was described. And it really paid off! After we read, Kate said that she was surprised with how well we had read- she said that normally people who audition with that scene have a tendency to overplay it and make it very dramatic, but we were refreshingly understated. She was very impressed that we were able to find some nuances in such a short amount of time. After the read, she asked us a few questions- she asked me about my time in California and wanted to know what it was like being on Veronica Mars (she said the show was one of her favorites!) I feel confident that she will give me a call if they have anything in my type category, and I am so excited to be able to branch out into this genre of acting (which would be so much fun!)

On Wednesday I got a chance to meet and audition for Christine Wyse, from Donald Case Casting, who I have heard great things about. I performed commercial copy from Cingular which I got from my friend Bobbi (an accomplished actor and voice artist.) Other than saying that the copy was a little long, she said it was absolutely perfect for my type and showed me off well. She said that she felt I was in a very marketable category and that she would definitely call me in for a role that I am right for. She also said that the best way for me to get an agent, at this level, is to book something through a good casting director and then the CD can call and agent and say, “You know, you really should consider taking her on...” It’s a little bit of a Catch 22 (must have work to get an agent, must have an agent to get work), but that’s where the seminars come in. I need face time with the industry folks and without representation this is the best way to do it.

This Thursday I had what might have been the best audition seminar to date. This time it was with legit casting director Brette Goldstein. Not only is she a regular riot to spend an hour with, she is refreshingly pro-actor and in favor of discovering new talent, rather than pandering to names all day long. When I walked in she asked me where we had met before, but except for a large SAG seminar where I saw her speak, I had not seen her before. I performed my “go-to” comedic monologue, which I adore performing and she loved it. She said that one of the things that I have on my side is that not only am I pretty (thank you!) but I am funny too, and she said that a lot of the pretty actors who think they are funny simply are not. She also said that I had a certain quality that makes me stand out in a room- that even though I was sitting in the back of the room during the Q&A she noticed me right away. She said that may be why she thought she knew me- I had a certain essence that really made me memorable. She even went as far as to say that I am her ideal kind of actor- someone who has great timing, has a great look, and one who is professional. She also commented on the fact that I have an interesting package- that I have leading lady looks but a character-y personality, and that there are currently a lot of roles written like that. She asked me to please keep her posted with phone calls and emails- yippee! I walked out of the meeting feeling like a million bucks- and it has propelled me me into February with a newfound sense of purpose.

I have been spending the week sending out my monthly postcard updates to agents and casting directors I have met. My stable of relationships is growing so big that the postcards are somewhat difficult to get done on time. I want them to be personally addressed and written, but man that takes a long time! Eventually I am going to have decide on a way to automate them without making them impersonal.

Tomorrow I have two auditions for student film projects. The scripts seem good, so it will be interested to see how the auditions go. Busy busy busy!!!

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