LETS’ HEAR IT FOR… um, who?

Last night, I was one of the chosen soloists at work. One thing that I love about my job is how much it’s made me relax as a singer. I’ve mentioned how much more flexible I am with my pre-singing diet, and before this job, the moments before I went onstage to sing were spent pacing, clearing non-existent phlegm out of my throat, and gulping water. But at work, I have too much else to do to freak out like that, and after almost four months of doing this solo, my only prep is to grab the mic and maybe take a sip of water.

So last night, I was told I was going first, which I usually do. When my music started, I noticed that there was kind of an empty space in my brain where the lyrics usually are, but I didn’t think much of it. To be honest, this happens to me a lot. When I was doing my millions of college auditions over four years ago, this would happen all the time: the pianist would start playing the opening chords of my song and my mind would just be blank. But I never actually forgot the words- though my mind was out to lunch, my mouth knew what it was supposed to be doing and I would get through the song no problem. I have moments very often before a show where I think I’ve forgotten my first lines of a scene, but never actually have.

The music kept going and I did my dialogue introduction, all the time trying to recover the first lyrics and hoping to God that my mouth would again save me… and it didn’t. I felt like my mind was actually reaching out for any words I could remember of the song, and there was absolutely nothing there. This has never, ever happened to me before. The only other time I’ve ever forgotten lyrics and was unable to improvise something until I found my way was at an audition this summer, and that was because they asked for 16 bars and let me sing the entire song because they liked what they heard. But I hadn’t sung that song in full for almost a year. I sing Let’s Hear it For the Boy, for an audience, at least once a week. But the words were gone.

“I’m sorry,” I said into the mic. “We’re going to have to start this over, because I’ve completely forgotten the words.” I know I sounded cheerful, and really, I wasn’t freaking out, but when I went back to the DJ booth to ask him to start over, I realized that my brain fart was a little more serious than I’d thought. What I thought was just a weird momentary lapse in memory wasn’t so momentary. When the DJ said, “Are you ready for me to start it over?” I was like, “No. I can’t remember a single word. I can’t remember my song…”

Finally, after what felt like years of me trying to think of the lyrics, this guest that was waiting to make a request starting singing it under his breath. “THANK YOU!” I cried, and had the DJ start the song again. It was still a little rough; I forgot part of the second verse and got confused. I picked it up again and it was fine. It was definitely jarring, though, to have my first moment of dropping lyrics like that. I guess there’s no good way to have it, and still, I wasn’t really shaken by it. Afterwards, my co-workers kept asking if I was okay and, where my customers usually tell me how well I did, last night they didn’t comment at all. But I really was fine, and I think this is another instance of how much I’ve grown as a performer. Where many years ago, something like this would have made me cry, and as recently as this year would have at least made me shake my head angrily at myself for awhile. But last night… yes, it was a little embarrassing, but it’s also live performance. Stuff like this happens, and it didn’t really frazzle me. I think that’s a good sign.


Hey, Mr. Postman

There’s been a problem with my mail since I moved into this new apartment. I’d get e-mails saying that my Netflix had been returned to the post office, and my mom told me that the card she sent me had appeared back at their house. But I didn’t think too much of this; as my mom and I speculated, since I had gotten the address from the apartment complex website, it was probably the office address as opposed to the address for the actual apartments. But then today, when my roommates and I were hanging out in the living room, I found out the real story: our mailman is crazy.

Apparently, our postman does not realize that he delivers to an apartment building, where new people come and go every day. Instead of just delivering the mail and trusting that if someone paired their name with the complex’s address, they probably live there, he gets very angry. While he is more than happy to deliver mail to the people he knows in each apartment (whether they live there at that time or not), he gets very distressed when he sees a new name. According to the roommate who has lived here the longest, if the mailman actually delivers a piece of mail to a person he doesn’t know, he will write all over the envelope, things like “WHO IS THIS?!?!” or just tons of question marks.

Sir. Mr. Mailman. This is an apartment building. One that houses many a college student. And you’re going to demand to know every single person that lives there, or refuse to deliver their mail? Something tells me this is not because you are a lovely and social individual.

Is this real life? Is this what being an adult is like? I deal with enough crazy people at work. I just want my mail…

“I Closed My Door and I Lived There.”

“I was not a student anymore. I marveled at Penn’s frat row, again and again, the size of the houses, the music, the cars. The endless buildings that sprawled all over the neighborhood, all glass and chrome. I had no magic access card that could unlock buildings and gyms and special late night buses and all those classes. I was locked out, and that feeling unlocked something in me. Something like wonder. Something like hard work.”

Back in July, one of my friends posted this article by Emma Eiseneberg on his Facebook. I began reading it before rushing off somewhere, and never finished it. The short snippet I did read stuck with me though, partly because of the beautiful writing, and partly because the article starts off by talking about the Divine Lorraine Hotel on Broad Street, which I drive by every day on my way to work. Finally, today, as a treat to myself for memorizing the first paragraph of my tour (okay… almost…), I finished the article.

This piece, at least to a newbie Philadelphian like myself, gets right to the heart of what it means to live here. While yes, I am a  suburbs-dweller, most of my activities, both work and play, are in the city, so I still consider myself a regular of Philadelphia proper.

You should read the article for yourself, but it’s so fantastic that I want to highlight some of my favorite quotes, and then you should go and find them in the article.

“Passing through a room with salmon pink wallpaper that was peeling in on itself from opposite corners, I saw a small bureau, one of the only pieces of furniture I’d seen so far. I opened the top drawer. Inside was a Bible, and twelve pink cloth napkins. Dusty, but there. Still there, I thought, holding them in my hands. How many people had slept and shot up and photographed and pillaged and walked here, and still. It was so hidden. It was so open.”

“It was beautiful, not despite its dirtiness and graffiti and brokenness, or preciously, delicately, because of them. Sometimes a thing is just beautiful because it is. Because it looks good. Because it feels good on your eyeballs and in your body. Philadelphia is like that, all the time.”

“In the first months I lived [in West Philadelphia], it was winter and our big house was impossible to heat. I lay there, on an air mattress, freezing and listening to the sound of someone crying, a sound that seemed to live in the walls. Sound traveled in that house like you wouldn’t believe. Every footstep. Every clanking of spoon against coffee cup. It was impossible to tell where the crying was coming from.”

“Each morning, a Korean war vet with nothing behind his eyes waited for the trolley with me.”

“For the first time in my life I had all my books in one place. I put them up on bookshelves and took them down when I thought of something. I had a room with a door I could close and not be bothered. I started mapping out my novel on the wall with index cards and pushpins. I read Joan Didion. It’s the difference between writing and not writing. When I thought of things, I actually wrote them down.”

We’re getting there is the motto of SEPTA, the transit authority. It’s so fitting. It’s so Philly. All that money and promise, and no guarantee it’s gonna get you where you need to go.”

“Nothing I’d written or done or achieved in my life up until that point made any difference in the moment of trying to clamber on board. I’d been told, by my parents, by my supportive teachers in high school and college, that I was special, that I could do anything […] Only cities can shoot you down […] without any regard. I was not special, I realized, standing in the dark at the 40th street transit center.”

“In the spring, my housemates sat outside in the backyard with jam jars full of coffee, rubbing away chain kisses from their muscled calves.”

“I was becoming myself. I was becoming a person who wrote things and loved people and felt attached to a place. I was becoming a writer, which is the thing that is making me leave, of course. I’m leaving.”

Interviews Are Not Auditions

I promised a few weeks ago that I would talk about my new (second) job, but never got around to it. But today is the day, my friends! I began writing this post in July, but since I believe talking about a chance thing is bad luck, never posted it, so please forgive any tense issues that might arise.

Back in the beginning of July, I had an interview. Most people get nervous for interviews. Me? No, I am weirdly confident about them until it’s way too late. This is because I go on so many auditions. Auditions and interviews are, like, so totally the same, I think as I don’t bother to prepare. They both involve resumes and talking to people and pretending I think I’m great. I see no difference. And I’m good at auditions, so I must be good at interviews!

Wrong. So, so, so wrong.

First of all, because I’ve gone on probably hundreds of auditions in my life but have been on maybe four interviews, I kind of forget that an acting resume is not a real-world resume. I have a real-world resume, but when I am asked for a CV, my hand automatically goes to the one that lists all the people I’ve pretended to be. This also means that I am constantly shocked when going on job interviews and getting asked for references. The acting world doesn’t use references, not in day-job way, at least. So I’m always left looking surprised and unprepared.

Second, delivering a monologue or reading sides for a director are completely different than doing an actual back-and-forth interview. Monologues are challenging and generally unenjoyable for me, but I know what I’m supposed to do and that I’m fairly good at doing it. And cold readings are my very favorite, so I just get excited when those come around. Even a pseudo-interview at an audition (“Oh you’ve worked with Person- I love them! What did you do with them?” “Tell me about your internship at That Theatre.”) is do-able for me. But a real interview? One that asks me to talk about myself, rather than my experiences? No thanks. I don’t enjoy talking about myself, and especially not reducing myself to Three Qualities That Make Me Fan-freaking-tastic and a Flaw That’s Really a Disguised Attribute.

I think that, besides being uncomfortable talking about myself, the other thing that bothers me about this whole interview thing is that I’m convinced they hear the same things over and over and over. I had three interviews for this job and was proven right at the first two because we were all interviewed together, sitting in a line. The lady would ask us a question and one by one, we’d each answer it. And oh, the b.s. How it made me squirm. And sadly, while I tried to be as genuine as possible, my answers were so like everyone else’s. We all had such similar training and backgrounds that I didn’t sound genuine at all. Plus, since I refuse to be like, “oh my God, I am just the BEST PERSON EVER EVER EVER *huge toothy smile*”, I seemed very low-key and unenthusiastic compared to everyone else. I felt myself being forced to be that annoying peppy person to match everyone else, and I fought it as much I could. I’m fine with being upbeat; I just hate being fake.

The first  interview had about ten attendees, the second hosted about six, and the final interview, two (though I know that there were others who attended the final on another date.) The first two rounds were exactly the same, with all of us trying to top each other but trying to seem like we weren’t for two women. We were told we’d be contacted, but time went on and I wasn’t, I grew sad. The job is tour guiding, which I’ve done for the past two summers. Unlike waitressing, it’s something I’ve done and know I’m good at,  and God knows I need another job. But finally, I got an e-mail inviting me to come on a tour under the pretense of allowing me to see if it was something I’d truly be interested in. It was also a chance for them to watch us and how we conducted ourselves.

I was actually pretty nervous about this second part. I knew I wanted the job, but upon arriving at the third interview/tour, the guide said, “Feel free to interact with the guests,” which I knew was code for “I’m going to watch you and see if you interact with the guests.” As I’ve discussed many a time, I’m an introvert. I can’t go up and talk to people of my own volition. No way.

Unless I want a job apparently. Sometimes I really surprise myself. Instead of hanging back and trying to hide the fact that I wasn’t talking to any of the guests, I was able to make myself chat with them. A large part of the tour (and the appeal of the tour) is trying different kinds of sweets, and at one point, a girl on the tour mentioned her favorite kind of candy. “Wow,” I said. “I’ve never heard of that combination. What do you like about it?” WHO WAS THIS PERSON USING MY MOUTH?! That questioned smacked of someone sociable, which is nowhere in the definition of Rachel.

Apparently, that and a few more successful conversations was enough for the company. Though they took a long time to tell me so (a period of time where I panicked… a lot), I got the job. Since then, I’ve been to a few meetings/rehearsals and got my script last week. It’s 25 pages long, and I really need to get cracking on memorizing it if I want to start working soon. Even as an actor used to memorizing stuff word-perfect, as well as a tour guide of two years, I’m still very nervous about being able to do it. I understudy twice this week, then only get one more training session before they push my little tour guide boat out to sea. Time to start memorizing!

A New Kind of Fall

I’m feeling very strange today. Actually, I’ve been feeling weird for the past few days. And I think I know what it is: after the blisteringly hot summer that all of you no doubt noticed, Philadelphia has suddenly been plunged into comparatively chilly temperatures. Fall is coming. I love fall- it’s my favorite season, partly because of my aforementioned nerdiness. Fall means that start of school and that means new school supplies. Nothing says “possibility” like blank notebook and shiny new pens.

I’ve already posted about feeling strange for not being in school, and that oddity is wearing off a little bit, even when I drive past my alma mater every couple of days. But it’s still a little weird, realizing that my job is not a summer job, but a job job, that will last as long as it needs to. Sometimes when something bad happens at work, I reach for the comfort that it’s only a few more months/weeks/days… only to realize that that comfort isn’t there. Thankfully, though the past few weeks at work have been terrible due to difficult, non-tip-giving guests, things are looking up, if the past few shifts are any indication.

Yesterday was National Suicide Awareness Day, and it hit me harder than I anticipated. While I’ve been aware of To Write Love on Her Arms since college, this is the first year I’ve really paid a lot of attention to their cause. I’m not sure why; perhaps therapy really has opened me up to things more. Before, I never wanted to talk about how I lost someone to suicide, but now, while I definitely don’t parade it, I wrote “Love” on my wrist and went to work  with it in full view. Before, I would have hidden it and kept it for myself, but yesterday, I was prepared to give an explanation, albeit short, of why it was there. It was a gloriously beautiful day yesterday, and while I spent some of my drive to work in tears thinking of those I’ve lost or almost lost to suicide, my walk around the city found me smiling at how beautiful everything looked. All in all, it was an emotional and confusing day.

Also confusing is working a day job with a bunch of fellow performers. It’s the time of year that theatres are casting their seasons and, in general, there are a ton of auditions. Every few days, another of my co-workers will come into a shift and happily announce that they’ve been cast in a show. While I, and every other actor in the world, have had years of experience being the one who wasn’t cast, that doesn’t make it any easier to congratulate someone when all you want is what they have… especially when they part they got was one you auditioned for, too. As always, it’s fruitless and cruel to be mean to them for getting the part- after all, they can’t help being perfect for it- but that doesn’t stop my jealousy. And as more of my co-workers begin rehearsals for their respective shows, the more desperate and hopeless I feel that I’ll ever get a show again. I’ve had this feeling before, especially while in college, and I know that I will be cast someday and as soon as I see my name on that list or get that phone call, I’ll forget all about this misery. But as it is, it’s completely eating away at me and distracting me every hour of the day.

Just as it’s the season of auditions, it’s all the season of play submissions, and this year, I’m taking part. For the last few months, I’ve been submitting both my full-length and one of my shorts to a few festivals. Many of them won’t be notifying me for a few months as to whether I’ve been accepted or not, but a few days ago, I received notification that my full length play, the one that was read in July, is an alternate for a theatre company’s season. While this isn’t as exciting as actually being produced, for an untrained and very new playwright such as myself, I’m still pretty pleased to have earned this spot, especially since part of the reason it was an alternate, as opposed to being produced, is no fault of mine. I’m also hoping that this will allow for another development opportunity far down the road.
It’s very hard for me to decide if I should even be submitting my work. I know many a playwright that does this, but they’re all either award-winning, seasoned playwrights or highly trained, new, and still award-winning playwrights. The only one of those descriptors I fit is “new,” and to think that my flying-by-the-seat-of-my-pants plays are up against, if not those playwrights’ works, then that of their peers. I have confidence in my pieces, but is it just the confidence of my own untrained mind? But if I never submit, I’ll never know if my work is worthy, and one day, I might just get lucky.

As it is, it’s a new kind of fall: not the beginnings I’m used to, but beginnings all the same, and continuations, too. I’m just not yet sure if I like it…

Things My Job Has Taught Me

As of five days ago, I have been working as a server for three whole months. In that time, I have learned a lot from my job. LIST TIME!

I have performed solo many times in my career, whether it be a monologue within a play or a singing solo. But really, I don’t consider myself a solo performer and to be honest, I prefer working with a scene/duet partner than getting the spotlight all to myself. It’s still very strange to me to be given the floor to myself for my solo. This means that I have to employ the lesson I only began to learn this past year- almost exactly a year ago, actually: I am worth watching and need to own the stage when I’m out there on my own.

This was a shocking revelation to me. I’ve always loved singing, even for the years that I convinced myself that I couldn’t sing. But some days, I’m just too tired to perform, which is shocking to me. I spend most of my days pining for solos, and then I don’t feel like doing it?  This leads me to my next lesson:

I’m actually incredibly grateful to my job for teaching me this lesson. I’ve never had a job.been in a show where I didn’t know until I got there whether I’d be performing or not. With shows, it’s not a question: I will be performing, and I have no choice but to energize myself appropriately or risk delivering a substandard performance. But with this job, I don’t know until two hours before whether I’m one of the day’s chosen singers. Sometimes, I just don’t feel like skipping around the dance floor begging to hear it for the boy, but that’s too bad: I’m singing. So now I’ve figured out how to turn on performance mode very quickly, even more so than before.

Since I began to perform as a singer, I have been very, very careful about what I eat and drink before performances. Two days before a singing audition, I would cut out all dairy and, if possible, caffeine, from my diet. This is very difficult for me, as I like to have cereal or yogurt in the morning and drink milk with most meals. But when I started this job, I knew that I couldn’t go without a proper breakfast in case I was singing that day, so I stopped worrying… and you know what? I sing just as well after drinking milk in the morning. So now I don’t have to be so careful all the time! Yay!

I am compiling a list of crazy stories for a future blog post. But just for some teasers, there was the woman whose pen wouldn’t work who then screamed at me, “MAKE IT WRITE!”, another woman who stared at her menu for five minutes, said “Never mind,” but when I turned away to go get every else’s drinks, yelled, “I’M NOT DONE!”, and the man who accused me of stealing his credit card and, upon discovering that he had dropped it under his own chair, refused to give me a tip.

Because while they are willing to take shifts for people who are auditioning/have callbacks, it also means that I get insanely jealous when one of them comes back with news of being cast. I’m almost 30 auditions out with nothing, and it sucks.

That’s all for today!

“F*ck I’m in My Twenties”

As you’ll probably remember, I spent much of this blog in the beginning angsting about how weird I felt all the time. In talking to some people, I have learned that this is normal, but this one of those times where I’d rather not be normal if it means feeling so crappy or strange all the time. My friend Josh claims he was a crazy person for the first six months after graduating. The professor with whom I had dinner the other day said to me, “I just remember my first year out of school being…” and then exhaled loudly. So I’m not alone.

While noodling around on the internet last night, I somehow came across  Tumblr that is my life. It’s called F*ck I’m in my Twenties, and it is a gem of truthfulness and humor. I wish I had found it earlier- it would have made my summer a lot less miserable, someone knowing exactly how I felt the whole time, and still feel a lot of the time. The blog and its pictures are designed by Emma Koenig, a twenty-something who, like me, holds a BFA and is an actor.

Some examples of her work:

The book version of her Tumblr comes out soon, and I’m seriously considering buying it, just to have a bound, document version of my feelings (written by someone else.)

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