I am More

Jan 24, 1:15pm

I just weighed myself and weigh **0.7. Two days ago I was **1.7

I looked at my weight loss tracking app.

I saw that my weight loss has been .29% per week since December 3 2019. 3 pound weight loss in almost 3 months.

I stepped back from the scale and said aloud to myself as I was picking up quarters ($3.50 to be exact) to go to do laundry in my near-empty apartment where my girlfriends sleeps soundly in the next room.  

I said aloud:

“ I am more than that. I am intelligent. I know words. I am compassionate, I am beautiful because I have freckles on my beautiful brown skin.”  

 I started to tear up when unconsciously I said words in which I don’t believe “ I am more than that number on that scale. I am worthy of love. Of receiving it. Of Giving it.” A voice that spoke words as if they didn’t come from me lovingly cascaded out of my mouth because I don’t believe them. But this was a gentle reminder or rather affirmation from deep within. A truth I push away because instead the lie that I am “fat” beats me over the head daily and rips me apart, tearing my self-esteem and any possibility of self-love away and out of my grip.

So. I am more.

I am more than the names that I was called thought elementary school and the nickname they gave me about my body. The name that the popular girls at the sleepovers branded me with at the parties I used to get invited to. I am more than the hurt that still haunts me from the boy that told me he’s “seen uglier” when I was 11 at a party in a hot tub when it was time to play “who would you date” I am more than the trauma that began when the boy who told me to “sit down Rilen, nobody wants to see your fat” when my pre-pubescent, lanky, tall 5’5, size 6 body rose from my desk and I outstretched my arms above my head to simply stretch and my favorite magenta shirt rolled up, betraying me by exposing my then, non-existent “muffin top. I am more than the permanent message that from that moment forward that my hips were bad, gross, disgusting and the eventual stretch marks that showed up in adulthood were wrong and something to humiliated about. I am more than that debilitating fear that forces me to wear leotards when I perform out of sheer terror that my shirt might fly up and my “fat stomach” and “hips” will fall out mid-performance, leading me to be self-conscious and unable to stay in the moment during a scene because that voice will scream at me how disgusting I am and how embarrassed I should be. 

I am more than the deleterious nickname my mom gave my breasts in high school that mocked the color of my skin and the shape of my body. Goddamnit, I am MORE than any mean word and slur that anyone believed they had the agency or permission to pass judgment about my childhood body and my body now in my adult years.

I deserve nothing but respect and admiration for my body. For its shape, its color, the ripples on my thighs, the scars on my skin that I self- inflicted because I needed to feel something in moments of distress. The freckles that litter my face that seem to multiply every year, my 3 tattoos on my body inked in by a stinging needle with each holding deep meaning and representing a piece of my identity. 

My mind deserves to be respected for its intellect and capabilities. My gifts to express myself through word, song, and acting deserve acknowledgment, not my untoned arms and stomach. My mind needs to accept that I am everything I need to be at this moment. Would I like to lose weight to feel more confident in my body? Yes. Does that mean that because of weight loss I need to do in order to be healthier that was unfairly added to my body as a side effect of psychiatric meds to help with other aspects of my mental health that debilitate me equal me being gross, a failure and lazy because it hasn’t happened yet?  Does that fear that freezes me from making changes cross my mind that even if I lose weight I will still hate myself as much as I do now? Undoubtedly. But when all is said and done, I am enough. I am all that I need to be. A number on a piece of glass with batteries and a number on a size of pants or shirt has absolutely no merit or any standing in who I am as a human. I am more. So, so much more.

The Voice Over Acting Path My Career Is Heading Down That I Didn’t Expect, Auditioning For It & What I’ve Learned So Far

Voice Over: We all know it, whether we hate it (the car commercials, those horrific training videos before you get on the floor at our new job or even those annoying peppy- ass Spotify ads) or the ones we like, the ones that voice our favorite TV characters in animation, video games, the NOT so annoying commercials like maybe you like the sexy old spice guy? Or the Dos Equis dude? These are just tiny examples of where voice over is  present in our daily lives because baby- it’s everywhere. Instructional how-to’s, McDonald’s dollar menus, bar safety videos and our beloved Homer Simpson and Stewey, are all faceless voices, even the stuff on on TV telling us WHEN a TV show is  going to be on at “8/7 central” are all voice over.

In my over decade career of acting and years perusing professional training through my BFA in musical theatre and my 2.5 conservatory degree at the Atlantic Acting School in New York which specialized in solely acting, VO (Voice Over) was not even on my radar as something I would ever do, was in my range of possibilities or even of interest to me.

Now a year later in my professional relationship and contract with my management  overall, 98% of my auditions were for VO. My auditions are for animation so: The bulk is mostly TV show characters, a TV spot here and there ( the person telling you when a TV show- mostly for nickelodeon was going to be on), a few video games, I did one audiobook audition and I recently had an absolute blast for a horror-story podcast based out of an eastern city metropolis. Now, the other 2% of auditions can be broken down into physical in-person auditions and self-tapes. The physical in-person auditions have all been for wildly successful and high profile things that I still can’t believe I’ve been able to step into those rooms to audition for such as Netflix TV shows; FX, or big-name showrunner TV peeps or wonderfully exciting well known NYC Theaters–My managers are goooood to me! (Shout to SG if ya’ll are reading this)  The self-tapes have mostly been for films which I have the least experience in and don’t have much to say about.

So that 98 % of VO auditions that have taken up my August 2018- now present July 2019 have been such a learning experience and what I want to focus on. I’m not going to lie and say in the beginning and even middle and here and there, there have been moments where I have said after having so many auditions in a row (sometimes 4 in a week- but like- I wasn’t complaining then because HI AUDITIONS AND CREATIVITY!!) where I was looking at the potential trajectory of my life and saying “I don’t want to do voiceover ” or maybe some variation perhaps of ” This isn’t what I planned, I want to do theatre, where are those auditions?”

So privilege check for a moment- I am extremely lucky because in my best days I was getting a minimum of 2 auditions a week. Usually 3. Lucky? Check. The shit I was/still am auditioning for was and is ridiculous to be brought in at that level is extremely lucky and so fortunate. Check. I know there are actors out there who would murder their families Menendez style to audition for the companies I have in a medium they “didn’t plan on” or “want to.” So I know when those gross words slip out I need to shut the hell up and look at my life and be grateful.

So here’s the part where I’ll lay it out and just be transparent and in the words of Amy Schumer (who I can quote this almost verbatim because I was practicing my VO skills the other day from her book The Girl With The Lower Back Tattoo) and say “Choose your own adventure and skip ahead if you don’t want to hate me or hate your life.” I’ve had the pleasure of auditioning (and I’m going to stick to VO only because that’s the point of this post) for new shows on PBS, Nickelodeon TV shows and commercial spots, Cartoon Network ( some established shows like Steven Universe and new ones), Video game franchises, Dreamworks and my personal greatest accomplishment and honor was when I finally got to audition for Disney about 10 months in. Privilege check meter:  meter has exploded- mercury exploding all over. check check check.

Now here’s a fun fact. Out of the however many auditions I’ve had (including the in-person ones)…I haven’t booked a single one! And I put that exclamation mark there for 2 reasons, A) for proof that you can have all the opportunities in the world and it doesn’t mean shit because this biz is hard and B)  also hopefully you’ll be like “see he doesn’t take himself that seriously and he’s not a conceited asshat”  *Nervously looks around hoping for the latter*

But in all seriousness, I’ve auditioned for a lot of stuff, and haven’t booked anything and while yes, that super sucks and my bank account weeps and I’ve been on the verge of having to move out of my 1 bedroom apartment I live alone in– heres where things turn around- I’ve learned so much about acting through VO and honestly this past week I have begun to learn so much more- which is why I was inspired to write this all down now.

The main thing about Voice Over acting: You have so much FREEDOM TO CREATE. You can literally do ANYthiNg. You get to be so SO big. You are literally, at the true essence CRE-ATE-TING a character from just lines on a page and conveying it all with your      v o i c e.  You get to encapsulate and paint the picture of a whole human with your mouth dude! What a concept!

The Audition Process: You get the email from your manager *LADY SPIDER DUE 7/4* you will usually get a break down which means it’s a description of the character, sometimes a paragraph giving the emotional arc (or other times, a very brief description like a sentence or 2 of key facets) of the character and sometimes you even get a sketch of what the character looks like, usually a black and white artist sketch. [[[Quick Trivia: Something I am learning now, (A year later…better late than never, but aren’t babies just learning to walk at a year or something? I know nothing of child development) as I am getting better from listening to the professionals, something paramount to creating the way the voice of the character is they may get the idea based on the sketch maybe about the way their mouth is shaped prompting this voice actor to then talk out of the side of their mouth, or have a lisp.]]] So you get the breakdown with or without the sketch. So here, let me give you a fake breakdown so you know what one would look like:

Lady Spider, 17-mid 20s,  She’s a spit fire always ready with a witty quip. Her close friends; Jewels and Tyler all work together at the job they all hate, Dairy King.

And then the scene would probably take place in a Dairy king (maybe she puts it down with a snide comment?) but maybe the lines have nothing to do with Dairy King-I dunno. Who knows, it just gives you a slight idea that this girl has some sass, and then it’s up to you as the talent to portray that facet in whatever way you want. Then you record it at home, do as many takes as you want- me I do like 80,000, then you send it off as an mp3 to you manager and you continue on with your life.

The lines are usually short, and equal a page or 2. I am going to type usually again, but use italics this time. Usually. I’ve had some doozy’s where I’ve had almost paragraphs to read. Another fun fact is, you just read your lines, when you get the script, or some people call it sides, or copy, you get everyone’s lines but you skip down the page and just read your lines even if aurally it won’t make sense if when listening it goes from suddenly you shouting “NO!” when your line before was “I think I’m going to eat some pizza.”

So, as I said– you get to be as big as you want, which I have found a lot of freedom and fun in. I find myself creating these larger than life characters, doing things, making sounds (I’ve had to pretend I was shoving my face with cake, so I was licking my fingers and had to find a way to make myself sound full) to create a picture and tell a story, which inevitably is a lot harder than you think. However not everything is peachy keen, I wish and have a bit of disdain that I have no training in VO. I will be the first to admit, and then my managers can probably (although in a loving manner) back me up and say that I would benefit from VO lessons and classes. I can do a few specific things very well, a few accents, and placements in my voice and find endless emotion within that placement, but finding a great deal of vocal range has been difficult for me. An old acting teacher has told me, my speaking voice alone is interesting, so wouldn’t that be nice if I could just Mila Kunis it up in this B (She plays Meg on Family guy in her speaking voice) and just get cast using my regular voice? And I’ve honestly thought about that a lot, and I don’t know that that would be all that fun. Part of the glory of sending in all these audio files to the faceless suits of the 2 agencies I always submit to is creating these larger than life characters, most of which are not human (I would like to clarify though, just because I’m reading for a character named Lady Spider or Ollie the Octopus I’m not making guttural noises like a Pokemon, these are human beings and voices I am creating.)

And finally the last story I will share with you my dear friend, is the most challenging and longest audition I had because it was a 10-minute recording, was for an AudioBook. It was a while back but I believe it was 3 chapters of a successful teen novel that had been out since I believe 2014? It was very surprising but the audition came late at night, I want to say maybe 9pm and was due the next day. Now, here’s my thing when it comes to VO auditions- I do them immediately. I don’t have much of a life so I am usually always home and can get to my computer almost immediately and start recording. So, it was like, 9pm on say, a Wednesday and I get an email for an Audiobook audition (my very first) I don’t even know how many pages it was…Let me see if I can find the email- hold please…-okay, I’m back- it was 6 pages in about size 12 font. It took me hours to record.

Now, I say this 100% UNBIASED despite the fact that I am a Backstage (magazine) Brand Ambassador for the Backstage platform, but months before I got the call for this massive undertaking I was browsing youtube and stumbled across a video they had where it was something like “An audiobook artist (?) takes us through her session recording” And my interest was piqued enough to click and it was interesting because the 10? 12?  minute  video showed how this woman differentiated each character from the next by highlighting their lines of speaking in different colors so she knew who was talking and which voice to do. So you saw a colorful page in front of her, designating the different characters she was voicing and sipping tea. I was blown away. At this point it was just voyeurism- I had no personal stake in this woman’s genius or lifesaving tactics. But come that Wednesday 9pm email months later and when I scrolled that 6-page pdf and a flurry of swears came flying out of my mouth I remembered that video. I didn’t even need to watch it again- I just knew I needed to highlight who was talking. Luckily for me, there were only 2 people talking, a 60-year-old man, who I gave a deep southern drawl to, and a young 17-year-old fiesty/ defensive girl. So, my computer screen went from white to an array of pink and blue (no not gender norms- more like adobe pdf sucks and I didn’t have color options)

What I found perhaps most interesting was  the “I said” and “he said looking down, embarrassed staring at his shoes” and then launching into the dialogue of a character because you then have to switch into someone’s voice you made up- also known as the narrative, in this case, it was first-person narrative. The older guy who I made up, with the deep southern drawl, we will call him Jack, was an interesting segue from the “I said’s” considering this was written in the first person and sometimes the characters would just dialogue back and forth. It certainly was a lesson and a sight to be seen.

Only now listening to the GENIUS that is Michael C Hall narrating, fuck it, acting the SHIT out of Stephen King’s ‘Pet Semetary’ do I KNOW what Audiobooks are supposed to sound like, oh my good god and heaven! I’ve never listened to one before, but thanks to Amazon prime I got a few for free and I am shocked at what that man can do ( I feel like Dexter didn’t do him justice because I was bored- sorry) He voices: an 80-year-old woman and man, 5-year-old girl, 2-year-old boy, the 40-year-old main character, his wife and the narration which I believe is third-person narrative ( “Louis put his shoes on”)

And finally finally (swear to god I’m done now) I got an official microphone to compete with everyone else with last week. This whole time bashfully I’ve been using my MacBook Pro microphone, so even as good as my auditions have been, the quality hasn’t been as nice as it could have been. BUT! The same 2 agencies called me for all my auditions so I won’t beat myself up too hard and fault myself, but now I’m ready for the big leagues. I’m ready to compete with the big dogs. Is this the $1000 microphone yet? No. But the difference is incredible. I am excited about my next audition and I want to  practice because now with the microphone it has a jack so I can hear myself while I’m talking, and obviously playback afterward when I’m done. Mostly, I am excited to learn from my mistakes, correct my accent (My Wisconsin regionalism still creeps through) and just get better. Because whether or not in the moments I am an ungrateful piece of poo, VO seems to be where things are headed, so I might as well be the best doggone actor I can be right?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You’re Not Good Enough & The Little Lies I’ve Told Myself.

Sunday October 29, 2017, 8:40pm

I believe in this moment at 8:40, my life could be on a precipice of change. I sit here on my leather couch in my Riverdale apartment, with my script beside me, my favorite scent of circus sage candle burning, and a stiff well-deserved drink by my side and realize I have the power right now, to change my thoughts and eventually my life.

2 weeks ago, on October 7 I auditioned for my dream role, Konstantin in Anton Chekhov’s ‘The Seagull.’ Words don’t express how much getting this role, and even having the opportunity to audition mean to me. When I first read The Seagull back at Atlantic last year I was smitten. Never in my life have I felt so connected to a character before and felt understood and seen (more on that later!) In school I was fortunate enough to do the famous Act 3 bandage scene where K and his mother have a falling out. The work I did that day surprised me and opened my eyes to what I am capable of as an actor. I didn’t know I could be so vulnerable and open, and cry my face off and feel so much emotion by saying someone else words. I hoped and dreamed that someday I would be able to play the role but put it on a shelf of realities that probably weren’t going to come true. I put it on that shelf because I am trans- I look and sound like a girl and it would take an open minded director to take a chance on me and let me bring this character to life. Well, fast forward a year later, and it happened. I fought for this part, I gave every morsel that I could to prove that I deserved this part and despite my physical appearance, he and I are not so different and that I can bring a truth to this part that simply based on my life experiences, other actors may not be able to connect as deeply as I can.

Now, fast forward again and these 2 weeks a shit-storm of emotions have happened. Self doubt, self HATRED, insecurity, feeling unworthy, incapable, not experienced enough, green, are all things that have littered my mind. The overall feeling that I have been lugging on my back these last 2 weeks is that I am not worthy, that somehow I tricked everyone into thinking I am capable of playing this part and that in reality I was unfit and a pretender. Konstantin is the first lead I have ever played in my 12 years of acting. I have been bitch slapped in the face many times these past few weeks of what specifically that means, and how that plays out in terms of preparation and responsibility. When all is said and done my character is the protagonist- which is simply to say a very large role in which we follow the throughline of this characters story and has a full arc, or as dictionary.com states “The principal leading actor, character or participant in a literary work or real event.” I always hoped that someday I would be able to play a part this big, a part this complicated and then, when I finally achieved it and began to do the work I told myself nope- they made a mistake, I can’t do this because I’m not good enough.

The rehearsal process has been an uphill struggle. We are putting together a large 4 act show in less than a month. My first day of rehearsal I had a huge, complex, layered scene to memorize without whole lot of time. I became obsessive, mean and downright abusive and compulsive in the way I was approaching the way I needed to learn my lines and approach the character. I wanted to be perfect, or at least my version of what perfect looks like, and let me tell you- two weeks in I am still very far from that. I have standards for myself and the bar is set very high because I know what I am capable of emotionally as a human. I am grateful because of the intensity of this role and the journey my character goes on that I have the opportunity to learn and play and grow as a performer. To try to bring the emotional depth that Rilen has to the stage is proving to be difficult. I didn’t realize how complex the role was and the friggin rollercoaster he is on. I suppose some small part of me throught, we have so much in common that he should be easy to tap into. Don’t get me wrong in NO way did I think it was going to be easy, but I was naive in thinking having shared experiences was enough. On that note of shared experiences heres the list I have complied of how we are similar:

  • depression,
  • suicidal actions/ideation,
  • rapid mood swings
  • creative
  • sensitive
  • low self-esteem
  • extreme feelings of inferiority
  • both dropped out of college (for me, twice both because of psychological issues)
  • Longing for affection and attention from mom
  • constantly feeling like your mom hates you, but still reaching and longing for that love, and when its given, you crumble and give in no matter the amount of previous hurt she caused
  • feelings of loneliness and detachment from others—misunderstood
  • feelings of hopelessness
  • both play the piano when we are sad
  • feelings of abandonment-everyone is against me
  • dislikes the person his parent is dating

You would THINK (!) THAT HAVING THIS SHIT IN COMMON WOULD MAKE MY JOB EASY AS A PERFORMER- but nah bitch- wrong. Legit, if you look at half of that list its about self doubt, feelings of worthlessness and sadness. And anyone that actually knows me know’s thats me in a nutshell. Those are less than ideal characteristics to have in the first place, but pair that negative self image with the pressure and responsibility of telling a story, and its kind of a recipe for disaster.

The reason I started this post is because I realized something tonight after an intensive 4 hour rehearsal in which 2 of those hours were just my director and I fleshing out the first scene I am in. This revalation, simply put is: I can’t continue this play (and in the BIGGER picture- my LIFE and career) with this thought processes that has been running rampant in my conscious mind that I am undeserving and not “enough.” I am looking at these past 2 weeks and labeling it as the “perceived failure” chapter- the chapter where I would text my old teacher nightly (sometimes in a rage) of how inadequate I am and question how I got this role in the first place. I am making the choice right now to knock that shit off. The fact of the matter is I have 12 days to pull it together and make shit happen before we have tech. I am not going to get anywhere by telling myself I suck. I have been working very hard on this play outside of rehearsals, spending a bare minimum of 3 (some days 5-7) hours a day with the text- but I realized today, that simply is not enough. And for any non-actors you might be like, “What the fuck? Thats a long ass time to stare at a piece of paper with bright highlighted words and illegible notes!”And yes, in hindsight it is, but for the demands of this part and how far I still have to go to bring a truthful, honest and raw performance (in my eyes at least) that’s the bare minimum. I have the capability to DO something with this role, and until I feel like I have gotten “there,” I have a lot of work to do.

The fact of the matter is, this is my first role since completing my training at the Atlantic and like I said, first lead ever. A quick snapshot of the last year: My life fucking fell apart from December- February- (I highly suggest reading my older entires, because wow- a lot was going on and I did NOT hold back on the details and stark reality of the pain I was in.) I became someone I didn’t know anymore- I was in a perpetual state of emotional and psychological crisis. I was cutting myself daily, drinking and dissociating- my ability to be able to be present in my body and emotions was a daily struggle and a lot of times I failed. Then March happened- I discovered Ben Platt in Dear Evan Hansen. A fire was lit under my ass and I signed up for backstage, an acting website where a lot of people in the biz self submit for roles. I was getting work frequently, and then within 5 months of pursuing my professional career I landed a manager- a long-term goal I had set to achieve in a year. And now here in almost November, my mental health has taken a completely 180, and I am finally stable. But essentially, everything has been so fast paced- it’s like, everything I had ever wanted and dreamed of as an actor was (and still is) falling into place at the speed of sound. So while I have been berating myself and telling myself I don’t deserve this part or whatever else bullshit my brain has been coming up with I need to look at the facts: I AM good enough. I have trained, I am professional, competent and I want this and I got the part because someone believed that I could do this. I am just as worthy as anyone else and have worked my way up to be where I am now, so to tell myself that I am not deserving of this dream role is just fuckin mean and vicious.

So what I’m saying is this: I have no more room for bullshit right now, and on the deeper level- I NEED TO LOVE MYSELF. One of my old therapists always said, “Think of the negative self talk you have- all the mean, hateful things you say and think about yourself. Now imagine saying that to a child. That would be considered child abuse and your kid would be taken away from you. So knowing how impactful those statements and words are, why would you say those things to yourself?” And while I’ve always agreed with that analogy, at this moment in my life I’m like “oh fuck. What have I been doing to myself?” Now doooooon’t get me wrong, this attempt at seriously starting to realign my self worth is not going to be easy, its not going to fix everything and it sure as shit is not going to happen in the next 2 weeks before this show opens and closes. I am in therapy 3 times a fucking week and I have been in therapy for 11 years working on this very concept and this is still *clearly* something I struggle with. But right now, for this moment, for the rest of this process I want to try and diminish those lies I’ve been telling myself. I am capable of being a great artist someday, and this gift, this BLESSING from the god’s above to let me play this part is a huge step for me an opportunity to grow as an actor, but even more than that, A Human.

9:36