The Seagull Series, No. 1: Play Time In School; Discovering the Play

Monday, October 28, 2019 5:29pm

So, I’ve decided that I wanted to start a ‘series’ essentially to document and reflect on my time when I played Konstantin in Anton Chekhovs 1854 play, ‘The Seagull: A Comedy in 4 Acts’ 2 years ago back in November 2017.

I want to start this series because playing Konstantin has been one of (if not the) greatest joys I’ve ever had in my life. I think for the rest of my life when October and November roll around I will forever become nostalgic for when I played this role. I know last year for 1 year anniversary I tirelessly and deeply documented the journey, giving behind the scenes peeks and sharing stories of my time in the play. Well, I want to do that again but in a more formal-concrete, permanent way. This way I can always look back at the pictures of my time during rehearsals and have a timeline of my journey through the show- all of the pitfalls and successes as a young actor just starting out in my professional career.

This series will serve as a reflection of how I’ve grown since taking my final bow and all the things I’ve learned because of that show. I hope you enjoy this wild ride with me. Prepare for stories of completely forgotten lines during a pivotal scene, the time I ripped my shin open when I kicked a chair open and was bleeding and how I still have a scar from it, and overall growing as a human while I navigated my way through my first leading role. So! Lets jump in friend!

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I think it’s appropriate to start with how much Konstantin meant to me before even being cast in the show. I studied acting at The Atlantic Theatre Company Acting School full-time conservatory located in Manhattan, New York. I spent 2 years there growing as an artist and a human being as a whole. My second year we had to take a class respectfully named “Chekhov” When I was tasked with having to read 4 of Chekhov’s plays before the first semester began over summer break I wasn’t looking forward to it. Who gives a shit about plays written over 100 years ago by some Russian dude? Well, it turns out I did. I cared. Due to my extensive posting of pictures and documenting my life and the app Timehop I was able to trace the exact day I first read The Seagull- August 20, 2016.

Here’s the status I made:

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I simply replied to my classmate “I had no idea, I’m really enjoying the seagull.” That’s right Ri, you had no idea.

These are the legit FIRST lines of the play in an exchange between Masha and Medvenko. And I remember putting my phone down to type out a status update of it because I thought it was so brilliant and funny. As I continued to read the play, (it’s full title being “The Seagull: A Comedy in 4 Acts”) I fell in love.

I fell in love with the character Konstantin to be more specific. Konstantin was this struggling writer who was consumed by depression. He longed for love from his mother who was cold and dismissive of him, he was rejected by the love of his life in unrequited life-long love and struggled with suicidal ideation. He ends up making an attempt at the end of act 3 by shooting himself in the head and survives but then, sadly the final moment on stage we hear a gunshot go off and the final line of the play is “Konstantin shot himself.”

It’s maybe morbid (or to some downright depressing) to think about how much I related to such a dark character but I did. I said from the beginning, he was my spirit animal. In a picture of the cover of the play on September 23, 2016 I wrote a facebook status: “It’s ya boi Konstantin. Aka my spirit animal. He is my life in words.” Even though he was written 136 years before I was born, he was me and I was him. I needed to play him. I was lucky to have been in training and had the opportunity to do a very famous scene from the show, commonly referred to as “The bandage scene” In this scene his mother, Arkadina (are-ka-din-ah– Russian names are a bitch) wraps his fresh wound from his botched suicide attempt and they end up getting into a monstrous fight where she insults his work as a playwright, calling him talentless, belittling him to the point that he begins to cry and she ends up yelling “Stop crying! Cry baby! Stop crying!” and he, in turn, insults her acting career as she used to be a successful actress which adds to her narcissist characteristics throughout the play. It’s a scene full of energy, life, vulnerability, hurt and volatile anger between two people who don’t understand each other that just (sadly) happen to be mother and son.

Well finally on October 6, 2016 I got to do the infamous bandage scene in class. I learned so much about myself in rehearsals and the eventual “performance” for the class in that scene. I learned that I was scared of being vulnerable and being seen and letting myself “go there” and allow my work to be messy. At school, you would do a first found of the scene, then get notes, and then do what was called a “bring back” which was the final polished scene. You would think with how much I connected with Konnie I would just be a puddle of tears and ferocious but I could never cry, and I still held back. When we did the bring back about 2 weeks later after our initial showing of the scene I had a breakthrough in my life as an actor: I let my walls down and cried. Hysterically. To the point that I could barely get my lines out- which is what was needed for the scene, but also what I needed for me as an actor. I proved to myself I could let my walls down, and what it felt to be out of control and free from any judgment of myself or being in my head. I remember calling my dad that night amped up and saying that I had always dreamed of doing/being capable of what I just did in that room hours before. It was a cloud parting the sky of realizing my power as an actor when I got out of my head and what could lie on the horizon for me as a performer.

Heres a picture of me the day we did the scene for the first time on October 6, 2016

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Then oddly enough the day I did my bring back was a day that I was practicing the actual bandage scene for the professional production:

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Sadly, this is the point in my life where severe mental health struggles were beginning to pop up and lead me down the dangerous spiral of self-harm and complete loss of self that lasted 4 months.  A mere few weeks later, during Christmas break, I decided to leave the program for good.

So this was my introduction to the brilliance that is The Seagull. Despite having to leave training to take care of my mental health, little did I know not too far ahead, in November 2017 would I play Konstantin as my first NYC role and also marking my first leading role. which I would go on to play professionally a year later.

 

 

 

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?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The “Right” Way To Warm Up Before A Show

April 28, 2019 7:22pm

All done with opening night!!

I included a photo degradation of my emotional state/ prep before I go on stage. Some people might think (And I’ve been lauded and other times judged by fellow actors on my focus and commitment to warming up before a show) I take my job too seriously, or I “prep” too much, but I don’t think there’s any certain way, or rather right way it takes for a person to get into character.

For me, its vocal warm ups and an ass load of stretching. Listening to music is nonnegotiable, and making sure I’m alone and making it a point to separate myself from the rest of the cast is of utmost importance.

I create playlists for each character I play to help me get in tune with they who they are and so when I stretch (I’m talking legs- in- the- air- get- every-muscle- in- my- body- to- wake- up- and- say- hello, 30+ min stretch) I can begin to let that part of them, their energy sink and absorb into me. Because even if you’re just sitting in a chair the whole time, your body has to be buzzing! It has to be relaxed and ready to move at any second and active! ZING!

And while I do all this I try to remember to breathe (I ALWAYS forget, mostly when I’m stretching!!) because that always seems impossible to remember as an actor when we are on stage even though it’s our bread and butter- without breathing it’s hard for us to connect to our emotions.

 

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So while it may seem extreme, unnecessary or whatever to other actors and I may look like a fool, of like I’m trying to be Christian Bale, that’s fine- we all do our own thing. Truth is, I wish I would have had this precision and focus back when I played Konstantin in The Seagull when it came to warming up my physical body. I will say, I did have one helluva playlist that Got. Me. There. but I didn’t take care of my body and I wonder what my performance could have been if I would have taken the time to go beyond music. Because my biggest problem I encountered with that role, which just so happened to be my very first lead ever, as well as my New York debut was grounding my feet on the ground-I was all over the place. I was flailing around, my body disconnected and disjointed and my feet never really planted into the earth holding me firmly into place.

I remember the manager who actually ended up signing me from that show did immediately pointed out that I was a mess on the stage and I wasn’t grounded. Even in Stanislavski’s teachings he insists we stay present in our bodies.

So, when it came time for my next show after Konstantin is when I began my ritual and now I carry it with me. Now luckily, I’ve had professional training at The Atlantic Theatre Company Acting School for 2.5 years, so I also have a solid foundation of tools in my box, I just never knew how to utilize (let alone understand their immense value) them until now in my professional career.

In the end- find your process. Find what works. Is music your way in? Rolling around on the floor and meowing like a cat? Sitting quietly in a corner? Or socializing and then hopping on stage and just killing it?

Pictures from today of getting into character

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.

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

 

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