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?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Working Through Mental Illness As An Actor

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From the picture on the top and left you can see the joy I have in my eyes to be involved in Brainfood, at brunchtheatre and halfthestory a collaborative show centering around mental health. This show is an amazing opportunity to be in and I could not be more grateful to be part of it.
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But can you look closely and see in that second picture that look of uncertainty, fear and sadness? There’s a resilience there too but it’s buried deep down built up over time.
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Even working on this show has been filled with self doubt and my own mental illnesses have come to the forefront rearing their ugly, monstrous heads, causing me to think I’m talentless and I don’t deserve a place in this show.
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My OCD tells me to not take breaks until I’m perfect on my lines which sometimes means hours without food or water( and “perfect” is a concept that DOES NOT and NEVER will exist for any of us -sorry my loves), my ADHD in complete juxtaposition makes it damn near impossible for me to sit down for long periods of time before I realize I am staring at dots in the wall or watching out the window and I can’t even get though the line I am trying to memorize or speak aloud to myself without stopping mid-way through.
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Being a human with mental illness is difficult enough, and being an actor on top of it I find is an interesting combo. The depth I have as a person due (also the trauma I’ve endured outside of my illness) simply due to the chemical imbalances in my brain and the experiences I’ve had because of them, allow me to tap into levels I think others cannot. But that adds a thicker wall: the ability to allow myself to be seen.
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So much stigma is alreadysurrounded around mental health (which is what this show is aiming to bring awareness to and make a dent into ending) but much of my life I’ve been told “I’m too sensitive” “dramatic” “clingy” “ moody” Well friend, some qualities can all be traced back to of my diagnoses I have that are rarely talked about- Borderline Personality Disorder.
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What I’m trying to say is- even though sadness behind my brown eyes in that second picture, (and resilience in the others) as an actor I want to work though my mental illness, try to strip back those layers, use the “you’re too _____” I’ve heard over the years (which is pure stigma blanketed over the years) and now, I want to allow myself to be seen, because that’s what this show is about. Being seen. Saying: mental illness is okay to admit and “I am struggling.”

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To think I am able to explore some of the depths of my mental illness because of an ad for a theatre company I responded to 2 years ago on backstage.com is mind blowing. I never thought that a magazine that used to sit on a table at my theatre schools and page through between classes had a website, let alone a website and that would then allow me to apply and eventually get cast, giving me the opportunity now, in 2019  return to my second season with this theatre company, is beyond me. It’s scary working though mental health problems, but I’m glad I’m being challenged in my work, and I’m glad I’ve been given the opportunity to do so.

Bipolar Manic Episode *Uckery.

Edit: I also feel like this post could be called: A desent into madness, lets take a journey together!

August 10, 2018 2:53

On July 20, 2018 is when I had my first night of 4 hours of sleep. The lowest amount of sleep I got was 48 minutes of sleep on Tuesday in which I had a full 14+ hour day. Second after that was this past Monday I had 3 hours and 40 min of sleep. So its been 12 days of less than 4 hours of sleep a night.its been 22 days and last night was the first time I got 8 hours of sleep. (I’m done with numbers now, I promise.) Eventually sometime last week I lost an entire week of sleep- don’t know how much I’ve lost now, but who cares- point is, I’m fucked and bipolar blows and insomnia can suck it.

Why such little sleep? Because of an ongoing, seemingly endless, (sometimes draining) Bipolar hypomanic episode. You see I struggle with Bipolar II (vs. bipolar I which is signified by full blown manic episodes which sometimes mean: no sleep for days at a time, psychosis, delusions, hallucinations– basically the shit that gets you hospitalized and REALLY fucks your life up.) Instead I have “lesser” episodes (which at this point, this fuckery has been going on for almost 3 weeks. So, please, try telling me that right now this is a “less severe” episode.)  Although I do know that in some areas of my symptoms things could be worse and certain symptoms that were present at the start of my episode have since subsided. Basically here is what my hypo manic episodes look like for me (but I just use the word ‘manic’- but  from a clinical standpoint I wanted to clarify for you the difference between hypo manic and manic episodes.

  • Impulsivity- perhaps to steal, promiscuity aka the want or need to sleep with all of the Bronx and parts of Queens, drink, occasionally the URGE to spend money (but I don’t act on that specifaclly one)
  • Pressured speech– feeling the inability to stop talking, constantly interrupting people and not being able to slow down my speech

The main way I describe my mania is this: It’s as if someone is standing behind me pushing me, rather shoving me forward while I try to stay still.

  • My mind races
  • I can’t sleep or if I do (usually 4-5 hours) I am able to function completely normally with no hint of being tired. As in I can pull off 15-18 hour days without a hitch. Sure I might be like “Jesus why am I organizing my closet right now, its 3 am go to bed kid” but yet, physically I don’t feel tired. Sometimes my mind gets tired but even then, I cannot sleep.
  • I can hyper-focus which is also a symptom of AD/HD meaning I can (just as it says) hyper focus which means I can seemingly zoom in on an activity for hours at a time. Yesterdays hyper focus of the day was downloading a shit load of songs and listening to music for like, 2 hours straight on youtube.
  • And the weird one; making lists. Like legit- writing lists. Bullet. Pointed. Lists. Of what, you ask? I don’t even fucking know man but when I do, it seems hella important.
  • decreased appetite and having to literally remind/force myself to eat because I can get through the days without eating much.
  • Racing heart 
  • Elevated mood, I can turn into Nice Nancy, who thanks all the cashiers and wishes them a great weekend and rest of their shift! Which is something I don’t necessarily do.
  • And most importantly: Increased creativity! Sometimes (not this episode) I will write songs or just write in general (maybe thats why you are reading this right now? Who knows?)

Essentially all these symptoms just mean none of this stuff listed above is present, or to the extreme degree they are in my daily life- they are disruptive to my daily functioning.

I wish I could say I have honestly 100%  given up trying to make sense of why this happens and try to cope with these disruptions but thats not 100% true. I would like to know how it it physically and mentally possible that I am able to function off 4 hours, or like I said 48 min of sleep ( and that to me is honestly frightening) and feel totally fine and not affected. The only reason I know how much sleep I get is because of my handy-dandy fitbit, which is such a helpful mental health tool for me. Long gone are the days where I constantly check to see (much to my dismay how little)  I’ve walked only to realized I’ve only walked .27 miles or something (thats a lie- I walk more than that. However, also sometimes I don’t leave the house at all for days at a time and I live alone which is magical- most of the time it really is, but it can get lonely.)

Sometimes these episodes are brought on by a clear cause, this one I can attribute to staying up until 6:30 in the morning talking to someone and then thats when it all began to crumble and it just been a god damn shit show since then. I believe this stretch is potentially being elongated because of a number of other factors going on in my life right now, namely the status of my relationship with my boyfriend who I am currently taking some time apart from so we can both focus on our mental health because we are both kind of messes (case in point!) and also I have financial burdens and my living situation is a mess because I’m broke as a bitch! But other times, like I think maybe back in January when I had another long lasting episode that lasted about 2 weeks just came out of nowhere, but we are slowly nearing a month which sucks major balls.

I honestly just want to sleep consitently and not feel altered. Sometimes I feel okay, like I’m not bouncing off the walls (these periods don’t last too long- a few hours maybe if I can focus on a TV show) But as of yesterday (and right now as I write) I have a killer headache which I realized literally 15 minuets ago might be caffeine withdrawal because I didn’t drink soda yesterday ( or really eat) because it’s just too hot to drink anything but Powerade and water because I have been so active (I legit took 3 showers the other day because I kept sweating through my clothing because I CAN’T STOP RUNNING AROUND AND DOING THINGS!)

SO, I guess what a manic episode can look like is someone (most people picture a little boy, but adults have AD/HD as well)  bouncing off the walls and won’t shut the hell up. With many mental illness there is usually co-mordbidy (simply meaning you usually have more than one diagnosis leading you to potentially hate your life an inch more and board the struggle bus more often than others who have one diagnoses) and a lot of the symptoms overlap. So some of the things I deal with daily are exasperated and heightened, however manic episodes are horrendously more disruptive in my daily life than my AD/HD.

I guess all I can say at this point at 3:27pm is I have a headache and I just want to feel like “me” again. And what does “me” look like? Essentially just a lot more sedated and my mind isn’t racing too much. I don’t have a need to keep doing things. I’d like to just sit here, maybe take a nap (“Hah! yeah right bitch!” screams my brain at the mere thought of casual sleep) and just exist peacefully. I wish I wouldn’t have called for an hour trying to find an issue of Variety magazine centered around trans actors at 10 am today calling every CVS, Walgreens and every Barnes and Noble in NYC trying to find it. Only to have a friend actually CALL Variety in NYC in which he was informed that they don’t sell variety in NYC, just Long Island so, that was a cool relization (see, thats what hyper focus looks like- an incessant need to carry out goal oriented tasks- see! THAT makes sense, I should have put that up there when I listed the symptoms. Oh well.)

Luckily I have an incredible psychiatrist who cares so deeply about me and is fighting alongside me to help me control this pharmacologically and end this vicious cycle and firstly allow me to sleep, while at the same time (using the same meds) to end this hellish episode. I guess my only fear I have that just popped into my head is I hope there isn’t a downswing and fall. Because sometimes (and not too common with me- I think?? I don’t remember?) there is a goddamn crash and burn like the Hindenburg and you’re all the sudden depressed, suicidal, maybe drinking even more (if thats your bag) Let’s hope that does not happen because my brain has already been traumatized these past few weeks, and we don’t need the pendulum to swing.

So my dear friend, I hope this gave you a closer look into what a bipolar episode from one persons point of view looks like. If you want to see my rad video I mad describing this (vocally in words, obviously) on my youtube channel including delicious text effects (yay!) here is the link to my video.

Warmly,

your mentally ill, but- fighting- like- a- fucking- warrior friend,

Rilen

I don’t think actors body of work should be written off because they are rapists and sexual abusers.

Yes, you read that title right. From the surface it sounds as if I am excusing actors for their predatory actions, no? Or perhaps it sounds as if I’m saying I don’t believe they should be held responsible for their actions and shouldn’t be condemned for what they did simply because they are famous? That might be the assumption you are making. You might be thinking “who the fuck is this moron?” From the surface I can understand why you would think that and question who I am. It’s a bold statement to make in such tumultuous times. But dig deeper and you will discover who I am. What you don’t know or realize is that these words, that declaration is coming from a sexual assault survivor. I was sexually assaulted at Coney Island on September 5,2015 and I also have an extensive, dark, scary, shrouded trauma history dating back to childhood. I am not a nobody- my eyes are not veiled by ignorance and innocence- I know first hand the effects sexual assault has on a person. I am a fucking warrior who has weathered the storm of abuse and the consequences that follow it. I have stood in the pouring rain, that eventually began to drown me and carried me away into a sea of despair and loss. Seemingly helpless I watched my life fall to pieces right before my (and those who love me) eyes. I have weathered the storm and in the end, (which is my present) I managed to come out on the other side finally. But to come out on the other end of that trauma I had to go through 2 years of abusing alcohol, cutting my skin nightly and complete decimation of any sense of self. It is now on the other end of that darkness that I feel competent enough and have the lived experiences to make the statements I am about to.

All the different parts of my identity—sexual abuse survivor, former cutter, peer counselor, animal lover, pizza fiend and overall human being who has compassion and empathy begin to make up the tattered fabric of who I am as a whole. In addition to these facets of me, I am also an actor and for the purposes of this post, I am going to separate this complicated issue into looking at this from an actors perspective and as a sexual assault survivor.

The reason I am writing this in the first place is because of a recent facebook status I made lauding Casey Affleck for his performance in 2016’s Manchester By The Sea, that I just watched last week. This film garnered him best performance by an actor in a leading role at the oscars, as well as the film winning best original screenplay. I expressed my admiration and shock of his seamless performance of a repressed, struggling, and under the external guise of put-togetherness a truly broken, hurt, vulnerable human. I didn’t expect to be so inspired and taken by his performances, I told the 556 friends on Facebook that I have how much I admired him and was inspired by the subtle complexities of his performance. Within minuets I received a few comments on my status, the first being “didn’t he assault women” in which I *truthfully* admitted I was not aware of. 2 other people chimed in, confirming the allegations made against him. I also had someone, a fellow acting teacher in fact, send me an article via facebook messenger that explained the accusations of sexual harassment made against him, in which this particular person lamented remarking “ Yeah. It’s pretty bad. Disappointing, to say the least” in my response to “oh man, I didn’t know!”

By the time the movie had come out ( now almost 2 years ago) there were allegations against Casey by a few women stating he displayed inappropriate, unwanted sexual harassment, although no formal rape allegations were made. When presenting Affleck with the award at the Oscars, former best actress in a leading role, Brie Larson made it a point to not hug, clap or touch him while presenting him the prestigious and sought after award. In an interview after the show she was quoted saying “I think whatever I did onstage kind of spoke for itself. I’ve said all I need to say about that topic.” The world had its opinion on whether or not he should have won the award given these accounts from women. Twitter blew up from people all over the world reprimanding the Oscar’s for giving him the award. A very outspoken Chrissy Teigen pretended to be asleep on her husband, John Legend’s shoulder while Casey awkwardly accepted the award. Currently, there is uproar about whether or not he should be allowed to attend 2018’s Oscars in which he would present the award of Best actress in a leading role.

Given this new information I felt shame that I had admired him so openly when others had such staunch opinions about him and his actions. I am not blaming those people, or pointing fingers and saying “You made me feel bad about myself, so heres an article! Shame on you!” The reason I write this is because, despite the fact that I know that was not the intention of these people, I still did feel shame, to the point that I felt obligated to delete my status as a whole because I didn’t want it to seem that with the new knowledge of what he had done I was still supporting him-even though I still do.

And that, that right there is the root of the problem in my eyes, or rather my question I pose to you is this: should we disregard, belittle and erase an actors work because of sexual assault or harassment allegations? Do actors like Kevin Spacey or comedians like Louie CK (and the laundry list of other abusers that have been exposed in recent months) deserve to be written off as performers and erode their past work? Or should we just look at their (despicable) behavior and “judge” solely their character and poor choices and dislike them as a human because of said actions and leave the work out of it? Does it make sense to take away the weight of inspiring, moving, heart wrenching performances that these artists were able to conjure because of something disgusting they did that clearly caused their victims discomfort and peril? Do we throw away all the brilliant performances Kevin Spacey (or in this particular case, in relation to me, Casey) demonstrated on film? Don’t get me wrong, a completely separate issue is whether or not they should they work again after their abhorrent actions were brought to light- but that is not what I am here to talk about.

I question whether or not this concept of discounting the totality of their work after their actions surfaced makes sense or is warranted. I will speak solely for myself and this whole “Casey situation.” Personally, I am saddened and disappointed to hear that Casey would sexually harass someone. And I lament the fact that the other victims of other high-profile entertainers lives are ( and forever will) be changed, and they too will experience the lost sense of self and inevitable implosion that happens after someone decides they have agency over your body. For those women, or men- I truly empathize with and stand beside them because to continue in the face of violence takes a strong person- a warrior.With that being said, I do NOT believe his, or anyone else’s performances in films (more specifically this case, Casey in Manchester) should be thrown away into the trash and blacklisted. His talent and what he dug down and into to reveal about the human condition in this movie should be respected and honored. I say judge him for his actions, not his accomplishments as an actor. Hate him, curse him, hell- throw darts at his face on a wall if you want to, but I don’t think his lack of decency should overshadow what he did in that film.

Now! For the flip side of this- the victim viewpoint. What Casey, and every other performer who is being charged with these lurid acts of explicit lack of compassion and sound judgment is disgusting, wrong and unacceptable. I do not condone, support or even bat at eye to knowing what they did to children, men and women is wrong. Their actions are reprehensible and unforgivable. Predators like this are pieces of algae at the bottom of the pond and deserve to be reprimanded for the lives they have ruined. But again, I do not think because of this behavior their talent as a performer should be stripped away.

Now ask me, “Rilen, if your abusers were talented, renowned, powerful actors and inflicted pain and emotional turmoil in your life, would you feel the same? Would you forgive them?” My point is, this is not about forgiveness or even making excuses or excusing behavior. This is not about wiping the slate clean. Keep the slate dirty- pour sulphuric acid and cow shit on it! Simply, I just don’t believe their performances should be disregarded. I was talking to a friend today about this, someone who used to be my teacher about this same topic and they expressed that they had no interest in seeing his films anymore- or at least this one in particular at this point in time. He felt that if Casey atoned for his actions, by first of all apologizing in the first place ( because he has yet to do that. In fact he settled out of court for an “undisclosed amount of money” Aka: “I know I ruined your life but heres some money so be quiet. Go to Fiji, get a tan, drink a mojito. Just keep your mouth shut”) and in addition tried to makeup for what he did by perhaps giving back to the community of sexual assault survivors he would be given some room to redeem himself. It’s funny, I was just reminded of how my late mom refused to see any of Tom Cruise’s films or even interviews ( she would honestly leave the room) after he made a comment directed at Brooke Shields saying that postpartum depression isn’t real. Looking at these two different peoples reactions there is (from what I can gather- I believe this is somewhat wrong, but this is all I can out together) no separation in their eyes between these actors less -than- angelic actions and the validity of their previous and future creative/artistic work.

One final example is when I texted a close friend of mine a few nights ago, who also happens to be an actor. I reached out to them because I was afraid to ask anyone else because of the fear of retaliation and judgment, similar to what I received online from other actors. I knew this person would be open to discussion and not judge or reprimand me for posing this question. I texted them in the same way I did earlier when I began this post. At 3:48 am I said “With all of these sexual assault allegations coming out and such, do you think it should discredit an actors talent or work?…I feel bad for still respecting his (Casey’s) work in this film when those people basically said I was wrong for looking up to him. What do you think? Do you think we should judge actors and eliminate their talent just because of disgusting choices they made in their lives?” His response, 10 whole minutes later, which frankly felt like an hour because this concept was really bugging me was this: “ No, not at all. Bill Cosby was America’s dad. I still have so much respect for him and the amazing things he did. But he raped women, one of whom tried to kill herself. Its fucked up. Does it make the good things he’s done go away? No.”  I responded with “ Agree. What they did was wrong. There was a violation. Someone’s life and innocence was ruined. But that does not mean their work should be discredited. Idk man.” He ended with “Exactly, its a beyond tricky topic to talk about. I’m going to bed. Goodnight.” And I quickly followed up with “ I know if I say or make a video or write about this it I’m gonna get scathed.” His response? “Just do it. Up to you.” I replied “We shall see. Could be powerful.” Which brings me to where I am now on Friday December 22, 2017 at 8:23 pm, taking a risk by voicing my opinion by carefully crafting my thoughts (this took 3 hours) on a very controversial, timely topic.

In the end what I am saying is: As a sexual assault survivor, I know first hand that what these people did to others is inexcusable, despicable, dangerous and life-altering, but I am also saying that I don’t believe the work they did should be discredited because of predatory behavior.

 

 

 

if you would like the video version of this is here: https://youtu.be/LfG3oF1bn6s

 

A Life Lead in Confusion

Tuesday February 7,2017 10:35pm

My life is lead in confusion. I am confused about my gender, my trauma history, why I drink, why I cut, why I am so mentally ill, why I have no friends, why I feel empty. I am surrounded by endless thoughts of what, why, how come? I wish I had answers to all the questions my mind asks of me, instead I walk around in a haze, stumbling around trying to find the door that holds my secrets and unsolved truths.

I want to be understood, I want to be loved, I want to once again, feel whole. I want to have people in my immediate surroundings who I can spend time with instead of seeing blurred faces through a computer screen. I long for someone to touch, to hold and be held by. I want to sit in my sweatpants and watch sappy romantic comedies with a friend while shoving our faces with popcorn. I want to feel so fulfilled and purposeful in life that I am bursting with life, unable to hold in my joy that I could get up and break into song at any moment. I want to greet my days with purpose instead of shades of grey that paint my days. It’s only been 2 months since I’ve been out of school and I feel disheartened. I wonder, will I ever make it as an actor or will this be my life forever? Living off my dad and lying around, like an amorphous blob in my bed.

When will I look in the mirror and be happy and not see double chins and fat hips? When will my legs gain their strength and tone again? Do I want to continue hrt and become looking more and more male, or do I want to slow down and stay how I am, in the middle? I don’t fit with others and I don’t fit with myself ,there is turmoil and unrest deeply settled in my soul. My withering soul that longs to spark back to life. To feel free, love, understood, apart of SOMETHING. So much, if not all of my life I have been alone and felt disconnected, I now wonder if this because of my disorder, or is that just me? Forced to walk beside my own shadow? I don’t have the answer to all of these pitiful questions and it plagues me. I want clarity, I want to take of my splattered glasses that are covered with fog and dirt and see clearly. To feel complete and needed. I make youtube videos to help others and help myself, but I wonder, who is really helping me? I have a mental health team that encourages me and understands, supports, empthathizes and sympathizes with me, but am I really interconnected with anyone? Or am I just a flag flapping alone in a field?

I don’t know what I want most in my life, if its to feel included and understood? Or to just feel whole and content within myself? I don’t have any answers at this point. I am lost.

10:46

Getting life on track

Saturday January 14, 2017 8:48am

It’s 8:48 am and I excitedly await 6pm. I’m going to dinner with one of my classmates who I feel a deep connection with. I’m ready to spill my guts to I person I am fond of and trust. I’m ready to chat about school and why I made the decision to walk away from it.

Yesterday was the first day I didn’t get drunk or cut, a major accomplishment since I have cut the last 3 days in a row. My wrist is still puffy and red but I am glad I am healing instead of waiting for new wounds to heal.

My life since being back has consisted of writing new songs on my beautiful shiny new piano, making a trip to the library where I check out 10 books to read for pleasure— a nice break from the old necessity of having to check out plays to research roles and expand my knowledge of various playwrights. I’ve been watching netflix and just trying to take it easy. As little stress as possible is my goal. I’ve bought a few candle and continue to keep in contact with my friends from far way who I have met online. They have become my life line, the only constant communication and connection in my life.

I’ve had 3 therapy sessions in the past week and a half where we tackled my self harm and abandonment issues. I feel like I am finally starting to see the gap in reality and the illogical part of my brain that tells me people are going to leave me. I am able to see that my brain tricks me by ignoring all evidence and proof that the person who means most to me is going to disappear without a trace. My fp ( favorite person) has done nothing but support and care for me, yet I feel he is going to run away and abandon me. I learned through therapy that isn’t the case- he won’t leave me and isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

My therapist constantly lauds me for my extensive effort to better myself and get healthier. He says that most people aren’t capable of being so self aware that they need help, and instead live their lives in silent misery. Where as me on the other hand, dropped out of a prestigious acting school to get my shit under control. Him saying that brings me little comfort but deep down I am grateful and pleased. My mental health has always been a priority of mine as I have voluntarily been going to therapy since I was 16. At first I went to deal with my eating disorder that was slowly developing in reaction to my abusive alcoholic mom, god rest her soul. Then I went to a new therapist to also deal with my mom but to deal with my bipolar disorder and skewed body image. Then I went to another therapist where I dealt soley with my gender identity and came to the startling realization that I am transgender man. I’ve had other therapists beyond that that I don’t want to get into. The point is, my mental health has always been a priority, but now it is the sole focus of my existence.

I am excited to meet my new therapist on Tuesday but also quite nervous. Will she be nice? How fast will it take her to realize I am intelligent, focused, determined, kind caring and wounded? When will we tackle my sexual abuse and my mom? Will she understand my deep emotional pain and be able to help me get healthier and wipe my slate clean and start over again? I am hungry for change, to be on a new playing field of life. As usual with life, things are unknown and hang in the balance of time. There is no way of predicting how therapy will go or the new DBT group I will eventually start going to. For now my focus is on not cutting or drinking excessively in my room at night alone as that has been my daily habit for the past 2 months.

I am excited for my life to begin unfolding in to the way it is meant to be lived, with happiness and joy instead of this fluctuating constant state of hurt, pain, disappointment and fear.

The journey home to a new me.

January 3,2017, 1:37pm
Here I sit at gate D47 after paying a $125 baggage fee waiting for my flight home for my new life to begin. I am a bit shaken by my last encounter with my angry dad over the excessive baggage fee. If I would have removed 6 pounds from my bag, it would have been only $25. I am mad at myself because I used the wrong card so I probably won’t be able to afford my metro card. Fuck. Will I be able to buy groceries? Dumb decision, Rilen, DUMB! Regardless, I am seemingly calm, probably because I have nicotine coursing through my veins as I just smoked my second to last cancer stick.

I am nervous and excited to go home. My flight leaves at 2:55. The gate is quiet, about 20 people scattered about, chatting on their cell phones, quietly listening to music, or like the guy next to me, munching on a piece of hard candy. I don’t know what to expect when I get home. A messy room, an empty fridge, unkept bed and no clean towels. Beyond the physical state of my cozy Brooklyn apartment, I have no idea what to expect of my new life that has just begun. I am on the road to recovery. I will begin intensive therapy, 4 times a week to tackle my self harm, and borderline personality disorder symptoms that permeate my life. I am crossing the bridge into a new me, the life of a professional out of work actor. I am nervous to go on auditions, but due to a new wardrobe I am confident that I will look great walking into those rooms. A shred of guilt nags at me as two of the sweaters I bought are a bit too tight around my hips. My muffin top spills over the top. I am still impatiently waiting for T to smooth out my hips and for the day I finally have the will to stop drinking mountain dew. 20 pounds lighter and that sweater will fit perfectly. When I go on a date I will be one fashionable bitch, clad in my new boots and sweaters. The new me is beginning to be shaped.

I don’t know what lies ahead for me. I did buy myself a piano which I am so excited to receive by mail later this week. I haven’t played piano in almost 2 years, haven’t written a song in over 3. I was walking down the street with a friend last night and was excitedly chattering about all the material I have to write songs about now, my moms death, being trans, being sexually assaulted, having mental illness— so much to draw on. My therapist says she doesn’t think I should have a job right away because I am still a delicate mess.

The exacto knife still sits in my $125 bag that is currently being inspected by gloved fingers.I wonder what they will think when they see it is shoved in a box of large bandaids, will they know? I hope I never have to use that knife again to peel back the layers of my skin in order to feel something deep that is buried in my soul. I hope that this 2 day, no-cutting streak can continue and I don’t add to the collection of straight lines that scar my wrists and forearms. Self inflicted pain and proof of it is hidden underneath bracelets I made. I am ashamed, I am wounded. I wonder what people in auditions will think when they see my wrists as I hold up the sides to an audition. Perhaps I will wear makeup? Or even still wear my bracelets? So many unknowns that only time will reveal. My goals are to get through this flight and take it day by day. I want to focus on piano, and learning spanish again and keep writing. Beyond that and therapy I have no plans. I will work when I am cleared to but I intend to keep busy regardless. Perhaps the bar around the corner will hire me as a bartender when I am ready? Or I will get a job serving in the city? So many unknowns.