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?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reclaiming my Body

“How am I reclaiming my body?” I am asked by my friend, Haley for a challenge she started. This challenge is the whole reason you are even reading this right now. I ponder the question. A few answers pop up, then push them away thinking they are too personal, so I say I will go to back to thinking about it later. I mindlessly watch Tv, zone out, but the tantalizing question keeps whispering in my ear and finally an hour later I finally confront it.

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Just now- posting that first picture of my mostly naked body…I could stop typing right now is reclaiming my body because I feel like I am going to throw up and my body is hurdling through space and my head is spinning. Am I going to post this? My grotesque body for the world to see? We will see if this post ends up on the internet. But I digress and push all feeling of utter detestation, distaste and revulsion for my body and I’ll post what I originally wrote:

I reclaim my body everyday that I no longer cut it’s beautiful, unique shade of carmel- honey-brown-sugar and in return, the counter on my phone applauds me by tallying another day clean. I reclaim my body with every morsel of food I eat to nourish my body. Is it fun to have to force yourself to eat sometimes? Or realize it’s 10pm and you’ve gotten though another day without food and find satisfaction in that, but also sadness because it’s not fair to yourself? Absolfuckinglutly not. With every sip of water I drink my body silently thanks me. Every cigarette I don’t smoke anymore and pollute my lungs with is a victory after 7 years of wasted money, stinking clothes and rotting breath. I reclaim my body when I remind myself that it is mine and nobody else’s and that *I* am in control from here on out. It’s revolutionary when I have the small “it wasn’t your fault” moments and feel that I no longer have to feel like a victim- they are few and far between but those are moments to be cherished. I reclaim my body when I see myself as more than my physical body and include my beautiful, brilliant, creative, afflicted mind as part as my whole self. I am not the sum of my physical parts.

Even in the moments when I all I can see are is damaged parts; the fat, hideousness, disgust, shame, laziness, loneliness, mental illness and sickness that swallow me whole, I try to salvage the idea that I am not a failure. I am intelligent, well spoken, educated and have an alacrity and appetite to learn more and more about the topics that interest me. I always say, (especially when it comes to dating) “I would rather be respected for my mind than my body.” Body shapes and sizes are ephemeral, intelligence is forever.

I reclaimed my body and soul when I declared my trans identity and express that in a plethora of ways because of the fluidity of my gender expression is infitie. On August 8, 2016 I surgically reclaimed my physical body.

I reclaim my body when I write because all the neurons and synapses in my brain are firing at once. When words surge at the speed of light out of my fingertips and onto a page and simultaneously thoughts erupt out of my brain like lava exploding out of a volcano–I must find a way to express myself because spoken words won’t suffice. My body is reclaimed when I speak about my mental illness because I can use my brain, (a seemingly endless mocking dichotomy of strength and weakness) as a beacon of hope for others because I am articulate, open and honest. I can show my scars, tell my stories, share the trauma and what lead me to who I am today. I use my lips that I once hated because people, men, used to make sexual comments about them to share my message of hope.

I am reclaiming my body when I go to therapy 2 times a week to work on the skewed and sometimes illogical beliefs I hold about myself and my body. I am challenged by a brilliant therapist to really look at myself and thoughts and notions about myself and the world and question if what I am thinking or feeling is coming from an emotional place or a place of logic.

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I am in a perpetual state of evolution.

#ReclaimingMyBody

My Room Is Illuminated and Bright. A story of personal growth and overcoming self harm.

I woke up this morning to this this Facebook reminder. When I looked at it I smiled and was briefly reminded of how much this day was a catalyst to where my life is now. Now less than an hour later, on the 1 train headed to the Apple store, I feel sick to my stomach. I feel sad. You see, I had to just count on my fingers how many days it had been a year ago (when this post was made) that I first started self harming. At this point a year ago it was a week straight; my troubles started December 8, 2016. This is a day that I remember like an anniversary, like one would remember a birthday or death (perhaps this was a rebirth?) On this 1 train at 1:21 pm I am listening to my playlist “December 2016” which consists of all the sad songs I used to listen to for almost 10 months. Just as a little taste some of the songs on this pit-of-despair-in-music-form playlist I’ve got:

⁃ Hurt, Johnny Cash (a personal fav when the self loathing of cutting came in)

⁃ Under The Knife, Icon For Hire ( I think we can all guess what that’s about)

⁃ Creep, Radiohead

⁃ Hurts Like Hell (which, shockingly enough is NOT about cutting- it’s about people leaving you)

…Anyway. You get the hint. #sad #angst

SO! On December 8, 2016 I began to cut, on December 16 school let out for Christmas break, and Christmas Eve I left acting training.

It wasn’t another 4 months until my violent, life threatening behavior ended and I stopped hurting myself in March 2017. I can greatly attribute my recovery to my constant cognizance that what I was doing was dangerous, in addition to my willingness to go to therapy 4 times a week. Now I’m down to 3 because I don’t need to meet with my psychiatrist weekly anymore- we are now on a 3 month in-between period to touch base.

It’s sad because that moment in the status above mentioned a teacher grabbing my face and saying those words to me “you are worthy of love and belonging” was in response to me simply saying I probably wouldn’t return for the third year of training (a whole semester away from where we were now in training.) What I was really saying was “I know I don’t have you as a teacher next semester in the first place, I know I would have you again next year but I can’t do this anymore. Goodbye.” Same thing happened when my classmates and I went out for drinks after class was finished for Christmas break- I knew in my heart that I wasn’t coming back. I sat there, detached at the schools haunting grounds, mildly dissociated trying to quietly let on I was leaving.

I guess word spread among the staff at Atlantic because I soon revived a message from the student affairs director on December 23 and then eventually we had a phone call on Christmas Eve discussing my “options” even though we both knew it would be in my best interest to leave the rigorous training program that I was no longer mentally capable of meeting the demands required for success in the program. It’s funny, I was going through my old phone a few days ago and found the exchange between this human and I over Christmas break:

Looking at the conversation I see the resistance, anger and embarrassment I was harboring at the fact that she had found out what I had been doing to my body. It’s clear the amount of shame that I had considering this is the woman that took me to the hospital in the middle of a school day and ended up saving my life when I came to her and told her that I had tried committing suicide the night before back in September 2015 .During our phone conversation on Christmas Eve with her I decided to leave school. So there I was, in the north woods of my Wisconsin lake house in 18 degree weather, I felt as if a weight was lifted from my shoulders. I KNEW it was the right choice. I wrote a blog post that was called “Christmas Eve Drop Out” that I posted on Facebook and my WordPress blog. That night my post was read over 100 times and I received over 30 comments from people, some current classmates, some classmates in the grade below me who I never got a chance to know, family friends, teachers, and some private messages etc. In that moment I felt loved and supported. Part of my post:

“I had deep undercurrents of sadness and a sense of mistrust in myself and my ability to succeed at this school. By the final two weeks of school I had cut myself near 100 times on my wrists and legs as a way to deal with my feelings that I couldn’t express. I made it through to the final day just barely, missing classes became a pattern for me which is a no no at my school. I had begun to fall down the rabbit hole each night that I took a razor to my skin and inflicted such pain on myself.

I am lost and weak. I have lost who I am. Yesterday I wrote saying ” An inferno of sadness as engulfed my soul.” In this moment however, I don’t feel that way. I see a light in the corner, a light that I am actively chasing to eventually illuminate my whole room. This is the reset button. I will leave school to undergo intensive psychotherapy and get the help I desperately need but more importantly, want…. It is time that I stand  (shakily) on my two feet and walk into the light of recovery. It’s time to rebuild. “

After I came home from the lake house it was time for an action plan. We looked into hospitalization back in New York because I refused to move back to Wisconsin- cutting or not New York is my home. My therapist was in way over her head and told me she couldn’t help me anymore. Luckily that’s when Callen Lorde came in and saved my life. Callen Lorde is an LGBT community health center in Manhattan– the place I make the 2 hour commute 3 times a week to better myself.

So. That’s all in the past, yes? Well happily the answer IS yes. I haven’t cut myself in 286 days (and for those of you that are mathematically challenged *not judging, so I am* OR too lazy to figure out how long that is- it’s 9 months.) I still have sooooo many clinical diagnoses that are listed in the charts by the many mental health professionals I see, but guess what? I am working on it. Although these conditions will never go away, I am finally in a very stable place where my days aren’t soiled with the acrid taste of regret (usually alchohol) and sorrow that used to wake me in the mornings (and by mornings I mean like, 2 pm because I was a depressed mess.)

I have written about my past of self harm and depression extensively on my blog ‘The Rilen Files’ on WordPress (shameless plug. )Most notably the post called “56 Little Marks” that has a (horrifying) 486 views where I document the 56 scars left on my body that still remain a year after my 3 month fall apart-who-the-fuck-am-I-help! period in my life. Below is the beginning of the post (a good read if I may say so myself)

It’s nice that I’ve gained allies throughout that horrific time in my life. I’ve sustained friendships that have weathered my tornado. Friends I’ve met online across the world on different continents who I talk to daily,and trust inherently. Not your every day Joe Shmoe could’ve been sucked in and devoured by my sea of despair because they simply weren’t strong enough or had the compassion to deal. Cuz seriously, what the hell would YOU do if someone was texting you at 3M, drunk, depressed and (sometimes) angry telling you they a) have a knife next to them and either they want to cut themselves or b) they are already bleeding????I don’t even know how I would react to that.

So, to those friends, and therapists (that will never be able to read this- unless I decide to take the whole session to read this novel) thank you. Thank you for your friendship and unwavering love.

It’s been a year and then some but as 2018 approaches in (counts on fingers again- I told you I wasn’t kidding) 16 days, despite the haze that used to cover my eyes and cloud my thoughts, the darkness that consumed me, the vicious thoughts and voice in my head that whispered and sometimes screamed at me to cut deeper and give up, I am excited to see what wonderful opportunities are headed my way. On December 24,2016 I wrote “ I see a light in the corner, a light that I am actively chasing to eventually illuminate my whole room.”

And now on December 14,2017

My room is illuminated and bright.

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

Gender is a performance, and I have taken the stage.

April 11,2017 3:24pm

I transcend gender. My gender is too complicated to fit into a box- the binary is just too small for me. I am finding that I go beyond what it means to be male or female, I am neither and I am both all at the same time. I can’t remember the last time I was this confused, yet liberated. Probably since the first time I came out as transgender, when I idneitifed as ftm— female to male. When I first stared questioning my gender, I quietly identified as genderfluid. I thought that since I still liked wearing makeup that must mean I was still “partly” a girl. I am learning now, after being out as genderfluid for 2 months now, that just because I like wearing makeup still is not what in essence makes me “feel” like a girl still.It’s more how I think, act and feel that makes me still identify partly as female. Men can wear makeup and dresses too. I am who I am and I feel comfortable wearing different clothes based on how I feel any given day or situation. I am finding that if I am going out to a party, I like to get dressed up, put on a cute dress and do my makeup, where as sometimes during the day, that seems far from my mind and does not sound appealing to me at all.

I think the clear indicator to me that my gender is fluid is that I can feel male or female given different circumstances. Sometimes when I am with all females I feel like one of the girls again, I feel a sense of kin ship and understanding that I don’t get when I am surrounded by cis men. I always felt like an outsider among my cis male classmates and peers. Something about me didn’t quite click and I always felt like an outsider. I thought I was too feminine and came off flamboyant and “gay” to people if I was compared to cis men. I am now realizing, maybe I’m not flamboyant at all, because I think that is a very gendered term for a male that is flashy and exuberant, but maybe I am just me. Maybe I am just a loud, glitzy, extra person regardless of my gender identity du jour. I think I need to stop putting myself into catergories and say that my gender is what it is in the moment! Maybe I don’t have a “resting” gender identity and I don’t normally sit on the male or female side of things and it literally is different all the time. Does transmasucline even fit me anyone? This can be confusing and exhausting when it comes to picking out what to wear for the day, but over all I feel more free than I have in awhile.

There is a different sense of relief with my second coming out. When I first came out as ftm I felt like I wan’t lying to myself anymore and I was able to just be me. I didn’t have the gender expectations to be dainty and pretty anymore, now I could be rugged, rough and tough (and anyone that knows me, knows that is a far cry from who I am). Now that I am fully living as me, in all my various identities I feel that no part of me is hiding any longer. For the past 2 years that I have been out, I stifled the feminine parts of me, saying to myself that was wrong, and I was “too gay.” But now I see the fact that I enjoy wearing makeup and dresses is just as another facet of my gender expression and who Rilen is as a human being. I am no longer pushing any part of me away in order to conform to societies expectations of what it is to be a male OR a female. I am swimming around, wading in the water, getting wet and having fun. Gender is a performance, and I have taken the stage. It’s all a big lie in my book, and now that I am unthethered to what the world expects of me, I am living my best life, and damn it feels good!

That Hue Of Purple

Thursday Feb 16,2017 1:28AM

That Hue of Purple

I remember the days when I had to stop drinking caffeinated mountain dew at night so I could fall asleep so I could forget your purple face and skin. I used to lie awake fearful that I would see you standing at the foot of my bed, in the same state I saw you last; dead, gone, deceased. I used to have nightmares of you hiding underneath my bed and finding you with your eyes snapped open, frozen in rigor mortis starting at me. I will never forget the amount of seconds it took for the paramedics to assess that you were dead. They walked up our blue carpet, must have seen your hue, felt that you were frozen, and made the assessment that you were gone at 56. I’ve woken from my bed, screaming, crying, fearful of the images I saw that day. The last time we spoke echoes though my head like an ear worm. The sound of your slurred words and click of me hanging up followed shortly by the ringtone on my phone with your caller ID calling me back, I press ignore. Oh, how I would have answered that call if I knew it would be our last. I would have told you so many things, about how beautiful you are, how we both hurt the same. I would I have told you you are loved, and stunning, intelligent and generous, but instead I kept shopping at walmart for a stupid sweater while ignoring your call.

Days go by, even weeks and months where you no longer haunt me. I no longer fear, that after the 3 years that have passed that I will find you at the foot of my bed, staring at me. Although that shade of purple that illuminated your skin will never, ever fade from my mind, sometimes I see you as how you were. With your sparkling green eyes, beautiful soft blonde curls, a cackled laugh, a cigarette in hand and a smile on your face. I remember when you received golden braces on my birthday. The years have passed, each one gets easier than the next. While you are not with me in every waking thought anymore, I wear your ring around my neck, the diamonds sparkle, just like your eyes once did.

So much has changed since you left us. I am no longer who I used to be, I am now Rilen. You could have had a son, my dear mother, but you left too soon. I chose my name for you, Rilen. It’s gaelic for Island Meadow. While you are not in my thoughts every second anymore, I carry you with me on my skin, with my tattoo— art on my brown skin. Now this art is framed by scars, framed by shame, guilt, sadness and hurt. Oh how I wish you could see me today. Flat chest, facial hair, square round face. I know you are with me, I feel you sometimes. I hear you when you communicate with me though music, you’re here. But theres so much I want to ask you. Are you okay with the fact that I am trans? Do you like my new name? How do I deal with my mental illness? How do I stop cutting? Why am I so sick, and alone? These questions I will continue to ask myself for years, but the one that haunts me  the most; are you proud of who I have become? Is the man that stands, broken and tall, who you wished I would be? Should I be doing more? I want your guidance, I need your love. I want to feel your skin, hear your laugh, feel your arms wrap around me once again. Even if it’s only in a dream I will take it. I will take it over these haunting, vivid memories that are so visceral and real. But most of all what I want mom, is for you to rest peacefully, knowing that you are loved by many.

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