Friday morning I had my first costume fitting for Titanic – I love, LOVE when costumes are built specially for moi. The shoes and the corset are pre-fab, but the shoes are crazy comfortable (SWEET) and the corset is hilariously pointy yet surprisingly comfortable. The rest of the dress is fantastically utilitarian, yet still within the fashion-confines of the era. I love the snug bodice and high-waisted skirt. I shall temporarily abstain from passing judgment on the sleeves. Another mark in The Column of All Things Cool is that I was given the shoes to take home and start breaking in. I’m sure we can all remember my, um, “issues” with costume shoes. Seriously – a month in advance - how often does that happen?! I wore them this morning while I did the dishes. I love our costumer.
As for things I don’t love - I do not love how harrowing the research can be. I was reading A Night to Remember in bed Sunday night and couldn't keep from sobbing - one chapter in particular just pushed me right over the edge, and it was a two-handkerchief ordeal from that point forward. Accidentally woke my mate. I have heretofore resolved to banish any and all Titanic research from the reading-at-bedtime ritual. Jane Austen prevails.
I have turned down four gig offers since January due to schedule conflicts.I have been turned down for one gig due to schedule conflicts. I hate turn-downs, self-initiated or imposed, due to schedule conflicts. I want it all.
On the other hand, since last writing here I participated in a two-performance run of Adam Symkowicz’ Captivity Plays, did eleven voice-overs for the Supervalu chain of grocery stores (Albertson’s, Cub, Jewel/Osco, Bigg’s, Shaw’s & Star Market, Hornbacher’s, etc., which should be playing all over the U.S. right now), recorded a tv demo for Nexxus hair care products, formalized my involvement in this year's Fringe Festival, and started research for my role in the upcoming Titanic exhibition at the Science Museum of Minnesota.
And yet I still feel like it’s not enough; like I’m missing out on something. I'm ravenous. Insatiable.
Perchance this means it's time to cut the excuses and dedicate myself to my craft; no more coasting.
Kids! Tune in next week to see how long this particular brand of inspiration lasts!
I have been neglectful. A month ago I should have written the equivalent of the Horton Happy Dance upon the introduction of whole, raw carrots to my diet (yeah, yeah, fine - whole until I chew them, smartypantses). Hell, I’m halfway tempted to add that regained ability to the “special skills” section of my resume (yes, actors have a “special skills” section on their resumes - one never knows when her years Irish step-dancing or the time she drove cattle for a week is going to land her a gig). I digress. Carrots and apples and popcorn and, and, and...caramel. Ohmygod, yes. These incredibly wonderful braces-mangling objets du désir. I, Leigha Catherine Horton, being of dubious “sound mind,” officially endured 18 months of legalized self-initiated torture, and on March 3, 2009, with the determination that my treatment was complete, had my braces removed. I’m like a shiny new raw-vegetable-eating girl with fabulously straight teeth and a brand-new confident smile. Even now, a month later, I go from quiet delight to spazzy-thrilled and back again without notice. A far cry from the generally ill-disposed and/or bitterly pained swings that, um, “colored” the last 18 months. To put it lightly, that shit HURT. But, this process was way, way overdue and I am now stupidly happy.
And okay, so technically I’m not entirely done yet. I have three weeks remaining with the Invisalign on my upper teeth, but they’re damn near perfect now. And I couldn’t be more thrilled. I’d probably cry if I could somehow stop grinning like a silly idiot. It’s wonderful.
UPDATE 4/21/09 (because Meghan made a valid point in her comment):
Every year, often quarterly, I notice a small void between performance-related activities and idiotically dive into a vortex of emotional self-abuse. It starts with a broad, all-encompassing, “I’m not doing enough as a performer!” and twists and whirls its way into a tight, frenzied, “Why am I kidding myself?! – I’m past my prime! – I used to be moderately good, and now I’m just a lazy-good-for-nothing-egotist-with-a-ridiculously-inappropriate-sense-of-entitlement!” It ultimately whittles down to a quantum-level slide through the fabric of reality as we know it, into an alternate plane of absolutes – “I don’t EVER do ANYTHING! EVER! My vocation is a JOKE! People are STARVING and DYING, and I’m panicking about my weight!” followed by inconsolable tears and self-loathing. As if there ever was any doubt whatsoever - I am the stereotypical “needy” actor. If I remember correctly, my last director opted for the term “psychotic.” Lovingly. It’s important to remind myself of this, lest I wind back up in the downy comfort of denial – “no, no –I’m different. I hate needy actors. I consider myself one of the few performers who can actually function normally in civilized society.” Because man, that warm blanket is co-ZY. And it is a harsh awakening to have that ripped off the bed. Which happens. A lot.
In times like these I’ve learned that my calendar is one of scant wormholes back to this particular reality (and God bless Moleskine). An hour spent with my little black book, a pad of paper, and a pen is easily worth several weeks of therapy. I leaf through, page by page, writing down all my performance projects since the start of the year. That said, I invite you to join me in an exercise for sanity - behold this year’s accomplishments, thus far:
1/04/08 – Voice-over gig for the Kansas City Lottery 1/07/08 – Joined AFTRA 1/28/08 – Voice-over gig for LifeTime Fitness 2/07/08 - (and onward) Performed in the Twin Cities Chekhov Festival 2/23/08 – Performed “Mrs. Man of God” in Columbus, Ohio 3/01/08 – Performed as the Red Carpet host for the Shack Nasty Costume Ball 3/24/08 – Performed in a round-table reading at The Playwrights’ Center 4/06/08 – Performed via video in Gremlin Theater’s “Everywhere Signs Fall” 4/21/08 – Performed in a round-table reading at The Playwrights’ Center 4/30/08 – Voice-over gig for Landscape Structures Inc’s GlobalReleaf Project 5/07/08 – Voice-over gig for Cellular South 5/10/08 – Performed as a defendant in Faegre + Benson’s mock trials 5/12/08 – Performed in a round-table reading at The Playwrights’ Center 6/11/08 – Voice-over gigs (two) for Target (HP Pavilion and Toshiba Laptops) 7/11/08 – (and onward) Performed in “Slasher,” as part of The Playwrights’ Center’s annual PlayLabs series 8/11/08 – (and onward) Rehearsed for + performed in “Wellstone!” 9/05/08 – Voice-over gig for Kona Grill 10/07/08 – Performed in a round-table reading at The Playwrights’ Center 10/29/08 – Voice-over gigs (seven) for General Mills’ Totino’s Pizza products 11/16/08 – Begin rehearsals for and performance in “A Christmas Story” in St. Croix Falls, WI
Add to that nine other “close calls” and castings that didn’t work out due to schedule conflicts, and that’s not a bad year. Big breath in…..ahhhhhhh, reality. So nice to be home.
A star is born! Today is the very first day of MinnesotaPlaylist, a fantastic web venture by former Minnesota Fringe Festival Executive Director Leah Cooper, playwright Alan Berks, and playwright/web/design guru (and fellow Ministry of Cultural Warfare-ite) Matthew Foster. It’s a gorgeous presence that pulls together written and photographic essays, casting calls, theatrical classified ads, talent profiles, discussion, criticism, and a performance calendar. All created and edited and managed by people I deeply respect, admire, and just plain enjoy as friends. It is, to put it simply, freaking awesome; and I love it. Let’s feed it so it grows up big and strong. As may be apparent from my silence since the last post over 20 days ago, I’ve recently fallen into an artistic Dark Age – sure, as the analogy demands, I have been doing things…they just haven’t been documented. My artistic progress as of late has been at the mercy of our generation’s Economic Armageddon, the struggle to find and land work, and the upcoming (and terrifying, I might add) Presidential election (seriously – the opposition's VP candidate/huntress-of-the-north somehow miraculously makes George W. Bush sound like an informed, oratory genius. Whaaaa?). But the launch of MinnesotaPlaylist was just the glimmer of light I needed. The first issue of their magazine asked of essayists (one is Miss Mo Perry, the best button in all the land) “what is the function of the performing arts?”
Good question. A question that I feel compelled to (at least partially) address. Especially when arts funding is most certainly bound to vaporize in attempt to keep other necessities afloat.
Just last week I ran into a local filmmaker at my favorite coffee shop, and while we were catching up he lamented about the same Dark Age feeling. I remarked that artists are the cockroaches of society - we survive through it all. I had intended it to be funny. And yet many a truth is said in jest - due to the great undervaluing of the arts as a whole, a majority of us live in poverty or near-poverty to begin with, so when crisis hits there’s not much for us to lose. We’re accustomed to living frugally. And frankly, our art often seems more poignant in the face of adversity – economic, political, social, environmental – performing arts give voice to the voiceless. It questions. It provokes. And on the other side of every major low point in history is artistic documentation by way of commentary and entertainment. In our most recent history the intense popularity of the cinema during the Great Depression comes to mind.
And don’t get me started on all the proven benefits of the arts in communities – the tangible, dramatic affect on quality of life and social justice and economic vitality. The Minnesota State Arts Board can enlighten you with all the stats you’d ever want to know on the matter.
To me, personally, the performing arts are an integral part of the world as we know it. A body isn’t much use without a brain. And a brain is certainly of no use without a body. As such – the performing arts, the brain - are certainly of no use without the world to give them a home. I believe it follows that the world is not much use without the performing arts to contextualize it. To offer a beautiful escape, a cunning design, a scathing evaluation. This mystifying world makes sense through the filter of art. This mundane world becomes mystical through the filter of art.
Indeed, we may be poor, but our riches are endless.
Wellstone Wonderbit #1:A certain State Representative, who shall remain unnamed *cough, cough, District 60B, cough, look it up, cough* made it out to the show on opening night. I worked with his spouse seven or eight years ago, and remembered when he was newly elected, so therefore felt the need to approach him and introduce myself. He kindly, in a State Representative sort of way, asked me what I’m doing these days. The conversation unfolded thusly:
Me: oh, just acting my brains out… Him: (hazily) wait – were you IN the show? Me: (laughing) yes – Him: (immediately) oh, yes – you were WONDERFUL as Sheila! Me: Uhhhhh… Editorial aside: Uhhhhh = I am one of two women in the cast; Muriel, an incredible woman 20 years my senior, plays Sheila; I play every. single. other. woman (something like 17 characters) on stage. At that point, Mr. State Representative looked around and was met by a mortified look from a teenage girl I assumed was his daughter. Me: (laughing) sounds like somebody got in a good nap during the show! Him: (silence followed by some incoherent apologetic stammering)
Wellstone Wonderbit #2: While we’ve had wee audiences since opening Wellstone!, they’ve been exceptionally engaged and appreciative - offering up standing ovations every single night. Except for last Wednesday, which was canceled due to no audience. I’m serious. Okay, fine, we had one pre-sale and two walk-ups. Still, canceled. The plus side is that I get to chalk that up as a personal first – I don’t think I’ve ever had a performance canceled before.
Granted, Wednesday was the night that Sarah Palin took the podium at the RNC, and I’m almost positive that Twin Cities audiences were just as curious as I was to get any ounce of information I could about this moderately alarming enigma. When a newbie with destructive views against women’s rights glides on to the scene with the potential to be President after a smudge of bad foie gras, you’d best pay attention. Wellstone Wonderbit #3: Remember when I was led to my performance of Mrs. Man of God in Ohio by Barack Obama? Last week I passed John McCain’s miles-long motorcade on the freeway going the opposite direction. How beautifully symbolic. Thank you, universe.
I decided to start my fringe off on a strong note (pun absolutely intended) by attending The Mistress Cycle, a musical offering at the Bryant Lake Bowl, after seeing a snippet of it at the second Fringe-for-All showcase. That girl could SING. To add to my high hopes and overall Fringe delight, I ran into my two favorite Johns (NO! Mind out of the gutter! Now!), John Trones and John Mikkelsen, and was able to “interview” them in line:
Much to my chagrin, I wasn’t the only one with the identical plan of seeing a promising show first thing, and I hadn’t made reservations. Therefore, I, and 30 of my closest line-standers were turned away after the venue reached capacity. Except the Johns. They got in. Lucky bastards. Stupidly, I neglected to bring my schedule, and decided to walk back home:
I was planning to spend the next 15 blocks wallowing in my dejection, but instead made a sweet little discovery at Bryant Square:
So, tonight was a bust for Fringeing, but a win nonetheless for Minneapolis.
And, my promise to you for future audio ventures: I’ll try to do better with the microphone – tonight provided some pretty obnoxious audio, and even worse external monologue. But, I guess that’s what the Fringe is for – experimentation. I can’t always sound like I’m going to sell the hell out of a computer.
(Did you follow that last link? See what I did there? - it's called "redemption." Shut up. It's my blog.)
I don’t watch TV. This is not a higher-than-thou artiste assertion; actually quite the opposite. I have deep-seeded slovenly tendencies and the pretty shiny light box nurtures my inner mouthbreather; it’s better to just avoid TV all together. I DO, however, have a TV. To which a DVD player is connected. In which I play movies and quality, commercial-free, scripted television shows recommended by people I trust. If I’m going to drool and stop blinking for thirty minutes at a stretch, it better be for something really, really good. Which brings me to the following public love-letter to the creators/writers of Slings & Arrows, a bitingly accurate and stunningly hilarious Canadian television show following a loose-cannon director, the gritty rehearsal process, and the bureaucratic hell of arts administration. It is brilliance. Having worked for fifteen years as a performer, five years in arts administration, and a year in a granting organization, this show slays every single aspect…from the fights with Development over corporate sponsor logo placement to the angst of the performing apprentices in the wake of some diva’s breakdown. And yes, in case anyone was wondering, it appears that being a stage manager really is as thankless as it looks – those people should be sainted.
Written by Mark McKinney of The Kids in the Hall, playwright Susan Coyne (who coincidentally plays here one of the best understated comedic roles of all time), and a comedian named Bob Martin, it served as a perfect peek backstage for my non-theater-person mate...finally something that accurately demonstrates what I experience during rehearsals; because really, there are no words that do rehearsals justice. Granted, there are plenty of over-the-top ridiculous elements in the script, but for the most part this is spot-on honest in its portrayal of life backstage. Paul Gross nails the role of the director – an incredibly nuanced performance that had me awed into silence and energized simultaneously. THIS is really, really good television.
And here, compliments of the series of tubes known as internets, are the first ten minutes. Enjoy.
My first crush was for the Jolly Green Giant. It even preceded the exchange of smiles with Jesse, the cute boy with blonde spiky hair and the earring (I always liked ‘em bad), who let me sit next to him at the top of the jungle gym in the second grade As an adult, I was reminded of this long-forgotten love off-handedly – (the tall green guy, not the short blonde kid) probably during some late-night inane party conversation about hot cartoon characters. The oddity of that particular recollection stayed with me and I began to dissect it. What was the draw? Why did I foster the notion that I would be forever safe in the arms of a cartoon character created to push broccoli? I finally decided that on a subconscious level, I found him strong and handsome; he was an embodiment of all masculinity: husband, teacher, protector.
Around this same time of curiosity and subsequent dissection, I purchased XTC’s stunningly beautiful album, Apple Venus, Vol. 1. In it is a song called Greenman, which is about the pagan mythological being purported to be the male yang to mother nature’s yin. The song is immense in its orchestration, yet simple and pure in lyrics, a fitting musical ode to the essence of the idea. It was then that it hit me: the Greenman was the adult manifestation of my childhood Jolly Green Giant. He was present in my consciousness before I even knew what to make of him…that makes me…a dirty pagan hippy. HELL YES!
None of this should have come as a surprise - I have harbored a long love affair with nature. I have spent countless hours in the wilderness contemplating trees, paddling through still waters, communing with fauna, awed by the richness of this earth and appreciatively breathing clean air. And recently I’ve forged a new relationship with vegetable gardening – I’ve planted tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuces, herbs, and strawberries, and walked away dirty, soaked from rain, grounded, and happy.
So now we get to the point of reference for this here green room – the way this all relates to my life as a performing artist. Yes, yes, I’m big on exposition, whatever, my point is more supported if I take you along on this ride rather than just slap down meaningless truths without background. As I was saying:
The point of reference to my life as a performing artist is twofold, really: one, pushing soil through my fingers gives me a basis for reality, for the tangible. We as actors often get so swept up into our own dramas and the delving into character minutiae that we lose ourselves completely. I do indeed have my head in the clouds, but this makes me stretch my legs extra-long, to keep my feet on the ground at the same time.
Two, this relates to one of my more recent voice-over gigs for a video which highlights the relationship between a decades-old green company called Landscape Structures, Inc., and the American Forests’ Global ReLeaf initiative. That last sentence sounds like a commercial, I know, but bear with me here - before we began recording, the producer/director sat me down and explained to me the history of the organization, and explained, in detail, their participation in Global ReLeaf. It was incredibly fulfilling to not only do the voice-over work in the studio, but to participate in something I support whole-heartedly. Just posting the name of the company and the raw audio, as I did below, without video animation, without music, without context, seemed too cold, too irreverent.
I feel better now. And you have good ammo for the next time you want to embarrass me. “Ho, ho, ho!"
My agent called last month to see if I was available for filming down in Iowa early/mid-May, as a casting director wanted to see me for a Mandate Pictures indi-flick called Peacock, set to star Cillian Murphy (better known as freaky Scarecrow in Batman Begins) and Ellen Page (of Juno fame).
I found myself pained by the dilemma this caused: during the second half of the filming dates I was scheduled to visit my family in
Either the vacation with my far-off folks had to be shelved, or the possibility of filming had to be shelved. There was no room for compromise.
Turns out the braces-in-my-faces ended up making the decision for me. I was told that the movie was set in the mid-60s. I was aware that the casting director was calling me in based on my headshots – both of which feature a closed mouth. On purpose. I hated my teeth when those were taken, and had every intention of getting braces. I now have those braces (just eight more months to go – thank god). I can’t imagine that braces in a movie would be a big deal, except for the fact that the braces I have today were not invented until 1972. NINETEEN SEVENTY-FREAKING-TWO. I would have walked onto the set with a giant anachronism epoxied to my face. I shared that with my agent, who then politely declined with the casting director on my behalf.
Ahhhh, braces – fixing my teeth, and fixing my dilemmas. While I hate dilemmas, I still hate the braces more.
I recently viewed a profoundly moving speech given at this year’s TED Conference in
First, for context, an excerpt of Bolte Taylor's speech detailing the primary functions of the human brain:
Our right hemisphere is all about this present moment. It's all about right here right now. Our right hemisphere, it thinks in pictures and it learns kinesthetically through the movement of our bodies. Information in the form of energy streams in simultaneously through all of our sensory systems. And then it explodes into this enormous collage of what this present moment looks like. What this present moment smells like and tastes like, what it feels like and what it sounds like. I am an energy being connected to the energy all around me through the consciousness of my right hemisphere. We are energy beings connected to one another through the consciousness of our right hemispheres as one human family. And right here, right now, all we are brothers and sisters on this planet, here to make the world a better place. And in this moment we are perfect. We are whole. And we are beautiful.
My left hemisphere is a very different place. Our left hemisphere thinks linearly and methodically. Our left hemisphere is all about the past, and it's all about the future. Our left hemisphere is designed to take that enormous collage of the present moment. And start picking details and more details and more details about those details. It then categorizes and organizes all that information. Associates it with everything in the past we've ever learned and projects into the future all of our possibilities. And our left hemisphere thinks in language. It's that ongoing brain chatter that connects me and my internal world to my external world. It's that little voice that says to me, "Hey, you gotta remember to pick up bananas on your way home, and eat 'em in the morning." It's that calculating intelligence that reminds me when I have to do my laundry. But perhaps most important, it's that little voice that says to me, "I am. I am." And as soon as my left hemisphere says to me "I am," I become separate. I become a single solid individual separate from the energy flow around me and separate from you.
With these brain functions finally delineated in a way I could understand, I’ve been far more cognizant of how I experience the world – my surroundings, my relationships, my interactions. All in all, I tend to embrace and honor my right brain-ness, yet have a constant undercurrent of streaming left-brain narrative and evaluation.
That said, I found myself rather shaken after having what seemed to be a wholly right-brain experience at an audition the week before last. I was in
There was one actor in particular (and thus to the point of my story) with whom I was assigned to read. We worked our scene multiple times, and then got to talking in generalities. The more we talked, the more we realized we had similar experiences with some of the same people, and thus, a connection was formed. Energy was shared. I didn’t realize the benefit of this exchange until we were in the audition room and our scene took on a whole new level of familiarity and spark.
When we were paired again later in the day, without the opportunity to first read over the scenes together, I was not concerned - it was like being at home on stage because I somehow trusted this actor implicitly. And he gave a powerful performance, and with it the finest gift – I felt this rush of strength and wisdom and insouciance being directed at me, and in turn it gave me license to summon up the same in myself and return it to him. He gave me the right to shine unabashedly, without censure. At one point, I had even put down my script because my character was done speaking but still on stage – I used that time to make physical discoveries, and to just live in the space. I did all of this without internal narrative – it just…happened.
Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not like rays of sunlight burst out of my chest and destroyed the onlookers, a la
And I got cast.
A year or two ago I discovered Fox Tax, a young, family-run business specializing in financial services for performing and visual artists and musicians. I made a mental note to call them once I took the plunge into freelance work and needed help with my assumably messy taxes. 2007 was the year of said plunge, and the 2007 messy tax reporting season is upon us. Call made.
Their office was pretty sweet – a re-purposed storefront in North East with hardwood floors, exposed ceilings, white walls, and a visual art gallery for their lobby. Their CPAs know their stuff and are informative to boot; one of the Foxes worked through my Federal and State taxes (including my renter’s return) in under an hour and taught me tidbits about reporting practices and deductions and reasoning along the way. And, while he was at it, recommended a book on creating theater with teens. You read that right.
The downside: I owe The Government money. For the first time. Ever. Hundreds. On the large side of hundreds. For an artist, “hundreds” is code for “a Big Deal.”
In all honesty, it’s not terrible once my renter’s return is factored in, but that won’t come until August – a long, long four months after the April 15 Big Deal due date. I’ll just chalk this up to dirty little life-lesson learned about freelance work and savings and withholdings and all of that. And with that lesson learned, I am now prepared to be a stealthy ninja unto next year’s taxes – I will go in, free my captive money, and silently return from whence I came.
I’m holding off actually filing my Federal Big Deal until the last minute – in the interim I keep randomly shouting a particular Beatles lyric, startling people and making me laugh every time.
This isn’t exactly the newest of news anymore, but it’s still pretty relevant. After roughly twelve years of variations on the same hair-theme, I’ve finally gone and got the hairs cut for real. Take a gander:
Cool thing #1: I didn’t cry at the salon, despite 6+inch locks falling to the floor.
Cool thing #2: I didn’t cry secretly when I got home.
Cool thing #3: I like it. I really like it.
Point of relevance #1: I probably won’t be able to get away with my existing black & white headshot anymore, so will need a new one. Good thing my favorite headshot photographer has a brand-new, killer studio.
Point of relevance #2: It changes how I’ll be considered by casting agents. I went from trying-too-hard-to-be-voluptuous to easygoing-fun-sexy. Pretty sure that’s an upgrade.
Q: How many lighting technicians does it take to screw in a light bulb?
Q: How many Performance Artists does it take to screw in a light bulb? A: I don’t know, either. I left at intermission.
Courtesy of Leah Cooper and Beth Gilleland, respectively.
Well, gosh, since we’re sharing (okay, so it’s just me who’s sharing…there is a comments section and a contact form, you know. Do write. It gives me the warm fuzzies.), today I started the “Greenroom entries 2008” document and put the “Greenroom entries 2007” document to rest. But not before one last read-through, which led to the realization that I was a lazy blogger last year. There were a great many things I planned to share, and perhaps even drafted, but never posted for one reason or another.
But now the issues and any sensitivity surrounding them have passed; so here, for all the world to see, is what I didn’t tell you last year. Keep in mind that Deleted Scenes from movies are usually deleted for a reason. Take that as you will.
What I’ve learned at CTC
Date: February, 2007 Status: draft
1) Don’t compare physical appearance to that of teenagers – they have not been to college, they have not gained the Freshman Fifteen.
2) Rest assured that they will.
3) The costume shop folks are the best. Even when I’m supposed to look awful, it’s a good kind of awful.
4) ten-minute breaks are not enough time to wait in line to microwave food AND eat it.
5) Food microwaved an hour and a half prior is no longer appetizing.
6) I adore the acting company at CTC – so kind, so patient, so funny.
7) watch mouth!
8 ) Jerry’s kid is in The Hold Steady. Jerry is awesome.
9) I’m exhausted when I come home.
Prepping for the Great Unknown
Date: March, 2007 Status: draft
I love to write. Mostly because I take great pleasure in rediscovering old scribblings and their connection to events and memories and feelings I had long since forgotten – the act of writing is a promise of delayed gratification. But sometimes, like the last 19 days, I get so wrapped up in the joy of living that I don’t want to stop and remove myself from the process enough to comment on it. Sometimes the promise of delayed gratitude just needs to go suck on it.
I write now only because I find myself at a strange juncture – one where I still feel the bliss of the last few unscheduled weeks, but where I have also been hit by the need to mentally prepare for Monday and the days thereafter. Monday marks the beginning of a contract position in the Community Relations department at a very, very large corporation (one of many whose headquarters are located here in the Twin Cities).
I’m still honoring the great leap I took last December – I still consider myself an actress first and foremost – this is just a way to keep some cash flowing. It’s temporary and it’s flexible – that’s all that matters.
It’s like the sweet melancholy of the last week of summer vacation. The freedom and ease are still simmering in my bones, but the realization that it must come to an end wins a pause every now and then.
Something to Talk About
Date: July 23, 2007 Status: Draft
I’ve been struggling with this feeling that I’m not working (read: acting) enough, which frankly makes no sense because I just wrapped shooting for an instructional video on how to make preserves (a la Stitch & Bitch and You Grow Girl) called The Fresh Girl’s Guide to Canning, got cast as the voice-over narrator for a national Qwest commercial (which doesn’t seem to be happening now due to a script snafu with their legal department – go figure), did a read-through for a show with Starting Gate in the fall, sang a few songs at my best friend’s perfect wedding, filmed video components for The Ministry of Cultural Warfare’s Fringe show, and started rehearsals today for the gig that will take me to Nashville.
I honestly write this blog as much for you as I do for me…a visual reminder that I am working, that I am succeeding at performing as my primary source of income. But I haven’t felt like writing about what I’m doing, so I have no visual reminder. And I think I know why. I had a nasty little revelation recently that what I’m doing really doesn’t matter.
I base my disenchantment, my unessentiality (I worked at the
Walker Art Centerfor five years, it gives me artistic license to make up words when the ones we have just won’t do, so step off) on the recent awesomeness displayed by my older brother. A couple months ago, he joined AirServ, a non-profit NGO (kind of like the Peace Corps for pilots) and left for the Congo in April to fly humanitarian relief missions around the country – then due to some weird administrative error, got transferred to Afghanistan where he would captain a much larger airplane. And I am so immensely proud of him, and so impressed by his writing, and so envious of his earnest involvement in working toward peace, that I realize that while what I do is fun and has its entertainment value, acting and my ramblings about acting really aren’t that important in the grand scheme of things. In the fight against hunger, in the fight to ease the hardships wrought by retarded wars waged by so-called “leaders,” in the fight to help other people in need, what do I do? I act on stage and on camera. BUZZ. WRONG ANSWER. I LOSE.
Yeah, sure, I’m sure there is some value (way, way, deep, deep down) in what I do – it’s just difficult to quantify it.
Music City Date: August 16, 2007 Status: Draft
It was early afternoon on Thursday when fellow Mrs. Man of God cast-mates and I arrived in
Nashville. As we made our way through the cozy airport toward baggage claim, we passed a live two-piece band playing in a rotunda. Yes, live music in the airport. Really, really good live music in the airport. Thanks, Music City, for a sweet taste of something I would not get a chance to experience while there; you tease.
We walked outside into a special kind of hot. Temperatures ranged in the high-90's with humidity in the 70th percentile. Weeks before my cousin had joked about a bringing a spacesuit. Turns out she wasn't kidding.
Our director brought us over to the dorms at Vanderbilt University...he dropped us off while we made our way up to our suite on the 12th floor. We all remarked on the smell of fresh paint and immediately chose rooms (the boys got the best view of the Parthenon while I got a view of a neighboring apartment building; stupid boys). Shortly thereafter the director joined us with an alarmed look on his face, laughingly telling us that we were in the wrong tower. We inadvertently took the wrong set of unmarked elevators. So, we grabbed our things and headed back down and then back up different, also unmarked, elevators to the correct suite in the correct tower.
Vanderbilt UniversityLesson One: No Students = No Signage.
We then re-chose our rooms, and I was able to snag a better view - this time scoring a quarter-peek of The Parthenon (ha-ha; stupid boys). We unloaded our things, settled in a little, then made our way over to the Couva Calypso Café for some food. There were nine of us, and our food arrived with alarming speed. And I know that I am prone to hyperbole, but this time I was really, actually alarmed - it couldn't have been more than seven minutes from order to arrival - food for nine people. On the other hand, I didn't get the drink that I ordered, or the amendment to the dish that I ordered (no onions), but I picked through it anyway not wanting to be the special-dish-diva.
We then hit the drugstore for two decks of playing cards - turns out that Dennis plays a mean game of Canasta and doesn’t cave under pressure, no matter how much smack I talk.
That night I settled in to my room, lulled to sleep by memories of my college dorm room, despite the prison/cinder-block décor. There is a sweet nostalgia tied to single beds...I slept well.
Friday I slept soundly until 10 am - then popped out of bed to find our suite deserted. People began to trickle back in (they were in the suite next door having coffee), and Dennis and I made our way over to The Parthenon. 40-foot statue of Athena inside. Dane joined us.
Lunch at some bread place - $12. Yikes.
The Stoles - When we walked into the event space where we'd be performing, I was taken by the stoles neatly hung two-high around the periphery of the room, out the door, spilling into the foyer and down the hall. There must have been at least a thousand of them - each with a short bio of the wearer. I perused several before realizing that these were all stoles of clergy who had been stripped of their credentials because of their sexual orientation. I was deeply moved, more so upon discovering that the stoles displayed were a mere quarter of the stoles they had received from clergy around the country.
Nighttime - performance. Lovely elderly lady next to me asked me why I was miked – so much for the surprise. The cast and director were given our very own rainbow stoles post-performance.
Post-show - Light bulb jokes about lighting technicians and performance artists.
Vanderbilt UniversityLesson Number Two: No Students = No Toilet Paper.
Saturday Passing the sign to
Memphisand the Grand Ole Opry that we would not see. Brochure for Dollywood (as in Dolly Parton) that we would not see.
The Payoff Date: November 6, 2007 Status: Draft
I sheepishly asked to see my final Invisalign tray at the orthodontist’s office today, just so I would know what the end result will look like. It’s beautiful! I’m going to have beautiful teeth! There is a wonderful light at the end of this wretchedly painful tunnel! I’ve waited 16 years for this – I’ll finally be able to smile without shame.
I Just Want to Hug Them
Date: November 29, 2007 Status: draft
Denied CTC’s Peter Pan ‘cause there aren’t any bodacious female roles – but it’s okay… what a great audition!
The Ongoing List of Stuff to Write About
Date: 2007 Status: draft
*Centex Homes voice-over gig – FUN!
*Microsoft on-screen industrial gig as an extra – BORING! BUT FUN!
*Qwest voice-over gig – script issue in legal department – pulled spot. SUCKAGE!
*MSAB artist grant reviews – the most complimentary let-down ever.
*callbacks at BNW for their corporate team/wanting me to re-start the class-mill. Don’t wanna.
*60-second audition with John Command – huh?
*Audition monologues – start a monologue group?
*missed Monster of Phantom Lake screening due to trip to Jeffers Petroglyphs and a very bad run-in with a stupid Pheasant or Quail or some other large wild bird of that nature which threw itself in front of my fast car and therefore no longer on this mortal coil.
I’m so accustomed to getting audition calls that it takes a repeat for me to realize that I actually HAVE the gig. “Wha-really?-Sweet!” I’m told that I’ll be recording the next day, and that they’ll get back to me with a confirmation of time. Horton Happy Dance ensues.
Cue sinking gut feeling. Dredge up memories of the Qwest commercial I landed back in June, but lost due to a script issue that went missing in the bowels of their legal department.
I am optimistically cynical – brain abuzz with trust that great things will come, yet tempered by bitter memories of former gigs lost.
Saving money = no job for me, and deeply-Minnesota-accented telephone system for them. Turns out there is lining, however, and it is silver - Marketing Firm is very, very disappointed at Client’s decision, and looks forward to working with me in the future.
I am wary. Yet I love my agent. Pensive Horton Happy Dance ensues. I’ve landed a voiceover for the Kansas Lottery, wherein I get to talk about my boyfriend in
Anton in Show Business closed yesterday to the tune of a great performance and an excellent audience. Because I played the part of a critic, I had a small notepad with me at all times, and through the course of the run had taken some bizarre and hilarious scribblings that often read like the label on a bottle of Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap. Each performance got a fresh page with “JOBY’S BOOK” written in all-caps across the top, the date, the run time for each act, and a page or two of notes.
Sometimes the day’s notes were an inspired, yet often unintelligible, in-character response to a confrontation; sometimes they were the result of the sheer tedium of sitting through the show for the twelfth time. I promised the Anton cast and crew that I would publish the notes at the end of the run – so, in memoriam, here are the highlights:
November 8, 7:30 pm (preview)
- offensive for the sake of being offensive
- really weird stuff going on with the stagehands
November 9, 7:30 pm
- Self-note: revisit overly self-aware/nervousness
- Jane Martin = John Jory <-- a MAN!
- I can’t believe THIS OUTRAGEOUS Horrible “God” Artist!
- Ralph? Boy?
- come up with an answer for “How do you like it so far?”
November 10, 7:30 pm
- ALARM x2
- 2nd time door issue
- broken bike
- I am so pissed right now
November 11, 2 pm
- Story idea: bad attitude – meeting people with bad attitudes – had hoped for better
November 16, 7:30 pm
- this is out
- iron Kate’s pants
- make notes for reserved seats – close call!
- Casey is threatening me
November 17, 7:30 pm
- chairs clanking backstage
- dressing scene – pen light running up ramp
- airplane scene super loud backstage
- flashlights, curtains
- I just can’t even believe this – this is ridiculous – insufferable. GOD?! NO.
- Story v. Interpretation <-- dull, lacking feeling, hateful
- HAMBONE CHEESEBALL
- [doodle: Joby played tic tac toe with herself today. X won.]
November 18, 2 pm
- Door wrong every time this week – redress the former and satirize the latter!
- Director v. The People: When does ART become religion? FORCING people into faith without giving them the substance – the STORY – to go on.
- [doodle: A bit of long division to figure out that the “Theater Tickets All Year” (6 for $99) work out to $16.50 per ticket. Mental note that it’s a good deal for the Guthrie and others, bad deal for Walking Shadow and others.]
November 19, 7:30 pm (pay-what-you-can performance)
- LH: remember to make proper “reserved” signs + LAUNDRY
- I just can’t even believe this absolute nonsense. Zoe Benston is going down. “Challenging” the audience is unforgivable as a performer. (general note to readers – the Zoe comment was Joby’s doing – Leigha likes Zoe, and has no intention of taking her down).
- Is the word “masturbate” really used in Springtime for Hitler? I think I heard it.
November 23, 7:30 pm
- That is not a good answer to the race question.
- Art vs. God – WTF?!! Inappropriate! Tobacco interests right on the heels of religion – that is something…
- Kid: “Excuse me, did he say, ‘I will fuck you with my art?’
Joby: (breathe deeply) ‘yes.’
Kid: ‘Okay. Thank you.’
- Young fellow – it looks like he was looking for a band name.
- Walkout after makeout scene! Ha – prudes.
November 24, 7:30 pm
- THE DIRECTOR IS NOT GOD!!!
- “interpretation” v. “story” STORY OUGHT TO WIN.
November 25, 2 pm
- LH: remember to take home brown pants
- unbelievable – artist pitting art against audience. This is ____.
November 30, 7:30 pm
- Casey Mulgraw is bossy and just plain wrong. And that director – whooaaa boy – what a joke. He’s just a total nutcase. Wrong, wrong, wrong.
- BMSSG = Bargain Mart Suburban Shoppers’ Guide.
- BMSSG is a good start, BMSSG is a good start, BMSSG is a good start.
December 1, 7:30 pm
- I am so engraged. Rage rage rage. Great artist my ass.
- Casey Mulgraw is on the side of the fascist director.
- Okay, I feel better now. I am better than this. I am better than them. (another Joby note, definitely not Leigha)
December 2, 2 pm
- Great Artist?! I think not. I think NOT. I don’t know how it’s possible that these artists are going to manage with this director – he’s crazy and crazy.
And that was all she wrote. Good night, Joby.
Anton in Show Business closes this Sunday, December 2nd, after a four-week run – and while I mean no disrespect to my colleagues, I’m really quite relieved.
In all honesty, I was never able to fully connect with this show. It might be because I sit in the audience the entire time – leaving the dressing room ten minutes before curtain and never joining the cast onstage until the curtain call. But it’s more than a psychological manifestation of a physical disconnect - after a few reads I realized that I didn’t really care for the script. During the rehearsal process there were a few lines in particular I came to regard as particularly grating. Around performance viewing #5 I wanted to throw things, and after #7 I just learned to tune the lines out. Add to that my occasional “phoning it in” (code for performing, but not really, um, present). Yes, I admit (with a wee jigger of shame) that I’ve been phoning it in.
SO – I will say this – I am thrilled that I had this experience and that it was a light return to the stage (three months hiatus is too long for me), and I am even more thrilled to get my mitts on my next projects… Anton in Show Business was my warm-up, my 5 minutes on the treadmill, my quick-stretch before hitting the weight machines. So thank you, Anton, for sparing me a pulled-performance-muscle. And thank you, Director, for not chucking me upside the head with your pencil. I know you know when I’m phoning it in, and I’m sorry.
I should also note that it was an honor working with such incredible women – the production team, the techies, the “rockstar stage hands,” but especially Mo, Muriel, Tamala, Zoe, Emma, and Bethany. And the alarming amount of baked goods in the dressing room. Note to directors – if you’re the hungry sort, cast a bushel of women; the brownies are out of control.
Anton in Show Business – closing weekend – 11/30-12/2
Friday & Saturday, 7:30 pm; Sunday, 2 pm
1029 Hudson Road, St. Paul
Three of us in the cast and the director of Anton in Show Business visited the Jazz88 studios this morning for an on-air interview. I swooped in about 120 seconds before we went on the air and then succeeded in using the word “schmoopy.” Man, I love live interviews.