Sweet Relief

Today was a big day: my neurology appointment and my headshots.

I don’t know why I scheduled seeing the neurologist for 9 am. I think I was just so happy to get an appointment sooner than July that I snatched up the first time they offered. So I dragged myself out of bed at 7:15 and was on the subway an hour later. Even after getting lost (why do so few buildings in Philadelphia have numbers on them?!), I was on time. As I was waiting to be seen, I saw I had an email from my headshot photographer. It was supposed to storm around the time of my session, so she was wondering if I could come in earlier. I said that that was no problem; my appointment would probably be over around 11. Perhaps she misread my message, because she wrote back, “Great, see you at 11!” Still- my appointment was only supposed to take an hour, tops. But, you know… doctors. I don’t think I got into her office until 9:30.

She was awesome, though. She was very thorough and nice and made sure I understood what she was saying. I also wasn’t embarrassed/ashamed answering her questions like I am with some doctors. Then again, she’s probably the first doctor I’ve seen in the last year and a half besides my eye doctor who I’m seeing for something besides a stigmatized illness. My migraines are pretty much out of my control. I don’t really do anything to trigger them, since I know what my triggers are and, as the  doctor said, in order to stop those, she’d have to control the weather and the population.

I knew from my reading that if my “only” problem was migraines, there wasn’t much that could be done. Very little is known about migraines even today, but I wanted to make sure that mine weren’t the result of something more serious. It doesn’t seem like they are, which is good, but I’ve still been put on a new prescription medication, which doesn’t make me happy. At least my previous prescriptions have been written by a single doctor; I’m afraid of what mixing them might do. However, my therapist had mentioned that the medication I ended up being prescribed, would probably be the one they chose, which was somewhat reassuring. But it does make me nervous that I’m taking medication for epilepsy that could slow not only my speech, but my thoughts. We’ll see what happens; I’ve been able to deal with side effects in the past, and I don’t get many in general.

There was only one uncomfortable part of my exam (well, besides my reflexes being tested. That will never stop being weird), which was that a medical student was observing the process. She was nice and very professional and just sat in the corner, but I could feel her watching my physical reactions to everything, and it was kind of weird when the doctor completed the final part of my tests and immediately turned to the student and said, “See? A full neurological exam in five minutes. All of that, in five minutes.”

Despite the exam only taking five minutes, the full appointment was long enough that I knew I’d be cutting it close to make it to my shoot on time. As the subway slugged along, I knew I’d definitely be late, which stressed me out. Kim, the photographer, had told me there was almost always parking on her street, so I wasn’t worried about that… until I saw that there was some sort of market going on, which apparently attracted all the car owners in the city. I ended up parking in a paid lot three blocks away from her house and was sweating in the warm weather by the time I knocked on her door. But as the testimonials reported, she put me instantly at ease, assuring me that my being 15 minutes late wasn’t a problem, since she had changed the time so late.

I’d met Kim before when she came to one of my classes my junior year to give us feedback on our musical auditioning. Obviously I couldn’t know everything about her from watching her for two hours and interacting for five minutes of that time, but I did remember she was super nice and made everyone, even the non-singers, feel good about what they had brought to class. I don’t need a photographer to fawn over me while I’m getting my pictures taken (actually… please don’t), but I do want to feel comfortable and supported by that person.

I definitely felt that today. Maybe because she’s an actor, too, she understands why it’s necessary to shoot for “type.” The last headshots I got were done by a guy who, besides making me feel very uncomfortable by shouting “Hot! Oh, that’s sexy!” while he snapped away, insisted on putting me in heavy makeup. Even after I spoke up and told him that he needed to take a lot of it off because I played children, what I ended up with was a glamour shot: I look pretty, but I’ve never ever walked into an audition looking like that, and I’ve never played any one who was supposed to look like that. Kim, though, did very natural make up that looked great in the pictures, and though she said nice, encouraging things to me while she was shooting, they made me feel good and confident as opposed to slimy and creeped-on. The best thing about the shoot was that, probably also because she’s an actor, Kim knew how to help me work the camera. Besides instructing me to do some tricks I already do so I didn’t feel like a Top Model wannabe when I did them, she basically gave me an action to play. “I want you to look down, and on ‘three,’ look at me like you know who the boss is and it’s you,” or “like if I were upset, I could come and talk to you.” It was really great and gave me something to do besides smile stiffly.

We shot outside for about an hour, and as we went back to her studio, she was like, “Now I can show you some of them!” I always hate this part of any photoshoot. I don’t enjoy looking at myself; I don’t spend a long time in front of mirrors, I avert my eyes when I walk past windows, and I never ever take selfies. But I actually didn’t cringe while looking at Kim’s pictures. I still didn’t enjoy looking at ME, but I could see past that and appreciate the quality and ME-ness that could be seen in the picture. I look my age, which is great, since in my glamour shot, I look older, which I rarely play. I’ll get the proofs in a couple of days, and I’m actually excited to see them! I’m sad that I can’t bring them to my audition tomorrow!

This past weekend, August: Osage County closed. I was so, so sad (the cast bet I’d be the first to cry), but it was truly a “don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened” experience. I love this cast so much. We already all liked each other a lot, but dealing with all the stuff that went down during the tech process, we got even closer. Our director left after the first Sunday, and the show got better after he left. We had great audiences every night, and I had friends and family come to see the show on a few different nights.

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Our final Saturday performance, our sound designer decided to change things up. He’d hated the actors as a whole since we unreasonably demanded that he not blast music over our lines whenever he felt like it. So on Saturday, he decided to give us a big middle finger… several times. First, he changed the ringtone of a character’s phone. Then, in the same scene, he turned the music up so loud that only half of the final line could be heard. He also changed some of the transition music. In the green room, we were all fuming. As we found out later, he hadn’t even talked with our stage manager; he was just changing cues on a whim. After the show, he practically ran through the lobby full of actors and audience, out the door. Oh, and did I mention this was the first night that our director came back?

We had a cast party that night, and I just love being with those people. I haven’t laughed that hard in awhile, and it was really hard to say goodbye to the cast the next day. I really hope I’ll be able to work with them again. My parents came to see it that afternoon, and they seemed to enjoy it.

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The day after we closed, I had a day full of theatre. I got up early to go to an Equity call for a big Philadelphia theatre. I had planned to get there super early, but I had a Murphy’s Law morning and ended up getting there on time, which in theatre time means I was about 45 minutes late. I was sooo far down on the list that I didn’t know if I’d get seen before I had to leave for a meeting at 12:30. And I was right- by the time 12:30 rolled around, they were only on #10 and I was 29. But I had to leave, so I did, figuring I might be able to come back.

My meeting was with the head of the Philadelphia Dramatist’s Center. I had submitted to two of their playwriting programs and was rejected from both of them. This was over the summer. So when I saw an email from the head, I thought one of the old ones had somehow found its way to the top of my inbox. But, no, it was new. He said he remembered me and pulled my file when they needed a new Resident Literary Manager and Dramaturg; he respects a few of my professors and my alma mater in general. I also like to think my writing played a part in my selection. He invited me to talk about the position to see if I wanted it.

The  guy is SUPER awesome. I don’t have an easy time making conversation with people I’ve just met, but he had such an easy, friendly air about him that I felt comfortable right away. We talked about August and its playwright, then about the position, which sounds great. Basically, playwrights who are members of the PDC each get a free hour-long session with me. Beforehand, I read their script, prepare feedback, etc. If they want subsequent sessions, I’m allowed to charge. I can meet whenever and wherever I want with them, and the sessions can also be over the phone or email. I’m really excited to give this position a shot, though I’m definitely nervous; I have no official dramaturgy experience beyond what I’ve done for myself.

After that awesome meeting, I went back to the big theatre, hoping I’d run in just in time to make my slot. But apparently, as soon as I left, they called in numbers 11-39, whom they saw in less than half an hour. Welcome to show business. So I signed up again and decided to wait until 4:30, when I’d have to leave to make it to my next audition. I was called in just after four. I actually feel pretty good about how it went. The part is a 21 year-old college student who is making a webseries and is snarky- love it. I will never in my life expect to even be called back by this theatre, but I do feel good about the work I did.

As soon as that audition was over, I hopped on the subway, rode to my car, drove to my house where I changed and grabbed a granola bar for dinner, and drove to a theatre in Delaware. I hadn’t planned to go to this audition until two days beforehand, when I happened to see a casting call for Mr. Marmalade. I studied this play extensively during my second semester at my arts high school, and I loved it, even though I was too naive to really get what it was about. I directed a scene from it for my directing class, but that was as close as I’ve gotten to it since high school. Also, NO ONE DOES IT. EVER. So when I saw this call, I had to go.

The audition was fun. There weren’t many people there, but there had been another set of auditions the night before. I was going for two roles- Lucy, the main character; and Emily, a supporting role. There were four scenes done at auditions, and the director had me read Lucy in all of them. I was feeling really good about the audition, and this morning, I got the call saying I’ve been cast as Emily! I’m so excited to finally be in this play.

And last but not least, I’ve finally decided to get new headshots after hating mine for almost three years.

Countdown

It’s been awhile, and I’ve been super busy. After I last wrote, rehearsals were constant. For the most part, the rehearsals for August have been making me really really happy, to the point where both of my doctors told me that I need as much theatre as I can get, as it elevates my mood so much.

But that doesn’t mean they haven’t been stressful. Johnna is a really hard part, and I still feel boring in the role. I’m hoping that, since Johnna is basically the audience presence in the play, having an actual audience will help me, because even though I’ve been trying out new things, I still feel static.
We’ve also lost about seven days of rehearsals because of snow, and it’s really taking its toll. We open in less than a week and we’re not ready. We have only most of the set, which we just got about a week ago, and because it has three levels, it requires a lot of reworking, if not entirely reblocking. This is causing a lot of distress for some of us. My anxiety was through the roof all through tech today, and the actor playing Barbara burst into tears before we started.

I’m trying to calm myself by remembering that we still have five days before we open, and that I completely believe in this talented cast to put on a good show. But all the talent and skill in the world can’t stop the giant blizzard that’s supposed to roll in while we’re rehearsing tomorrow, continue all through Monday, and into Tuesday. It would be a problem no matter what, but about half of this cast, myself included, live an hour or more away from the theatre. I decided that, if I were going to get snowed in somewhere, it would be better if I were two minutes from the theatre. And if worse comes to worst, the one cast member who lives four blocks away from the playhouse might have actors sleeping all over her floor.

And while all of this is going on, I get dizzy every time I turn my head because I’m being weaned off of my SSRIs. While I’m glad to be taking fewer brain pills, tech for a play in which things are always happening suddenly is not the best place to have vertigo.

As stressed as I am, I am so excited to finally be doing another show where I get to do five shows a week. It’s been years, and it’s the best kind of routine. I can’t wait to get started for real.

My House is Broken and My Car is Gimpy

The house that I live in has both a front door and a back door, and I’m the only one in the house who uses the back door because I park my car back there. On Sunday morning, I went out back to shovel the driveway after the snowstorm, and when I went to go back inside, I noticed that the deadbolt looked a little weird.

ImageI took a picture of it and locked the door behind me because, as much as I didn’t want to think about it, it looked like a break-in attempt. The next day when my roommates came home, I showed them the picture. “I don’t want to be an alarmist,” I said. “But I think someone tried to break into the house.”

My roommates agreed and we were all pretty unnerved. I was very thankful that, due to the snow, my car was parked around the corner instead of next to the door like it usually is. While there’s nothing really worth stealing in it, I don’t know that that would have mattered. Since then, a new deadbolt had been purchased and “Beware of Dog” signs are up on both doors. Sometimes, we get a reminder that we live in a city. I’m just glad it wasn’t a more brutal reminder.

Today, as all of America is aware, was brutally cold. I think it was five degrees or something when I got in my car to pick up produce and then head to work. My car seemed to be driving kind of weird, but besides the fact that my car got inspected a week ago and passed, I also didn’t think much of it because people all over Facebook were complaining about how the extreme cold was affecting their cars. So I ran my errand and drove to WalMart. As I unloaded the groceries, I noticed the my right rear tire looked weird. I looked closer, and what I saw was this:

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Not good. After I let Jackie, with whom I was switching, know what was going on, I called AAA to come and help me change my tire. I’d never had a flat before and I had no idea what to do. They told me that they could certainly help me, but they were running behind and it would probably be about three hours. This made me grateful that I had managed to get to work before noticing the tire; at least I could work while I waited. As it happened, the guy arrived less than an hour later and made quick work of my tire. As he got back in his car, he called, “Have a better day!”

So tomorrow I get to have my tire looked at/repaired before I take my long trek to my first rehearsal for August: Osage County. I am SO excited to get started on this show!

The Next Three Months Will Be August

The theatre where I did Emperor’s New Clothes announced that they were doing August: Osage County (yes, the one that inspired the movie now in theatres) a few months ago and I was really excited. I’ve wanted to be in the show for a very long time. I auditioned in November and was called back for the role of Jean, the main character’s fourteen year-old daughter. FINALLY. Third time’s the charm, I guess. But the day of the callback, there was a huge snowstorm and they were postponed. I was actually okay with this because I felt like I wasn’t prepared.

The callbacks were rescheduled for a week and a half later, and I felt much more ready. After getting the list of everyone called back (and the two women who were already cast), I might have done some Facebook stalking to see how old the women were and if I looked like the woman cast as Barbara.

The callback went really well. At first I was disappointed because the scenes I was given for Jean were the same ones I’d done in the audition, and I felt like I didn’t do very well with one scene in particular either time, though at one point I had to go into the hall and grab my script from my bag because the director wanted to see more of the scene that wasn’t on the photocopies. The director called in one of the men to do the first Jean/Steve scene, where they talk about old movies and smoking pot and fifty year-old Steve flirts creepily with Jean. I was feeling good about that scene, when the director suddenly raised a hand and said, “STOP. Go to Act 3 Scene 2.” I riffled through my script and was shocked to see that this guy I had just met and I were going to do the assault-of-Jean scene together.

The scene actually went really well. It involves Jean and Steve getting very close while they’re very high and ends with another character whacking Steve in the head with a frying pan. I had a lot of fun and I was feeling pretty good when the director dismissed me.

My phone had been slowly dying all day, and I usually keep it switched off to save the battery in those cases. But because I was driving, I turned it on for safety, and when I was about halfway home, my phone rang. It was one of the women who ran the theatre. “Are you in any position to come back and read for Johnna?” she asked. I said yes automatically and turned my car around, but I was pretty confused. Johnna is a great part, but one I’ve never even considered playing. She definitely more age-appropriate for me, since she’s 26, but she’s also Native American, which I am not. My skin tone may be warmer than some white people’s, but there is no doubt that I am white. Because of this, I’ve never looked at her very closely when reading the play. But I was happy to have another opportunity, and after returning to the theatre, I was happy with how I read the Johnna scene. Then I was dismissed again.

On my way to work about a week later, I was at a stop light when my phone told me I had a new e-mail. I looked at it and yelped very loudly when I saw that I was cast as Johnna. It was a strange mix of excitement and disappointment. I really, really wanted to play Jean, and I’m getting too over the hill to play her. But Johnna is a great character and AT LAST I am in a show again. Plus, I love this show in particular. I cannot wait to get started.

Columbus Play Adventures Part 1

This weekend was The Weekend, when my first full-length play, my baby, was put up onstage for the first time.

I headed to my parents’ house on Tuesday and my mom and I left the next morning at nine. We stopped twice to eat/stretch and, after getting lost for awhile upon arriving in Columbus, got to our hotel around 6:30. We decided we wanted to go to Chipotle for dinner, since I love it and Mom had never been there, and Google Maps told me that it was a six minute walk up the road. Long story (and long walk) short, Google Maps lied. We stopped in an ice cream shop for directions and the employees told us that we were very far away from the restaurant. Some locals standing near us heard us talking and gave us amusedly disappointed looks. “There are so many better places to eat here than Chipotle, guys,” the woman told us. Then she and her husband led us to Betty’s, a restaurant/bar a block away. And as much as I love Chipotle, they were so right. We had some amazing hummus and I tried fish tacos (yum!)

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Signs in Betty’s

The next morning, we headed out to explore Columbus before opening night. We went to an area of the city called Short North, which had some really awesome boutiques. I bought way too many things while we were out- a nifty new hat (my ears were cold), some postcards, a notebook (I hadn’t brought mine, figuring I’d just take a pad from the hotel room, but we weren’t given any), some chili chocolate, and a Bell Jar shirt. While I did want all of these things, I also think I was trying to distract myself from my steadily building nerves.

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Legzzzzz

While my mom and I were exploring a great vintage shop (which housed many pairs of amazing shoes), I got a Facebook message on my phone. I didn’t know who it could be, considering that most of the people I talk to aren’t usually online at 12:30 on a weekday. It was the director of my show. “Hey,” she wrote. “I heard you’re in town. I just wanted to let you know that we had an emergency last night and may not be able to put the show up until tomorrow night.”

My heart dropped to my shoes. We had come all the way to Columbus to see my show and now it wasn’t even opening that night? I wasn’t at all mad at the director or cast- an emergency can’t be helped- and I wasn’t feeling badly about myself; I was just disappointed. And at first, that’s all it was, just a slight feeling of being let down. But as the day wore on, I started to get sad. Then I got sadder. I started to say how sad I was out loud to see if it would make me feel better (only a little.) Because while no one had said the run was cancelled, I was afraid that’s what was going to happen. This fear doesn’t come from nowhere; last year, a short play of mine was supposed to be produced and then got cancelled two weeks before opening. This afternoon, my mom remarked how I hadn’t put anything on Facebook about opening night being postponed and I said, “I can’t handle being the girl who cried ‘Production!’ twice. I didn’t even want to get into it.”

Even though I knew I wouldn’t be seeing the show that night, my nerves didn’t go away. I texted my friend and fellow playwright Molly. “I am freaking out,” I wrote. “Is this normal?!” She wrote back, “YES. You will likely be freaking out all night.” And even without actually seeing my play, I was. Mom and I went out for pizza and I fell off my chair at the restaurant, then, a few minutes later, spilled my soda all over the table. The waitress asked me if I was drunk. Nope… just a nervous wreck.

This morning, I woke up in a bit of a doom-and-gloom mood. I was convinced that my play was never going to premiere. When we stopped for a snack his afternoon, I said to my mom, “If it gets cancelled tonight, can we go to the matinee tomorrow? I can’t leave not having seen it. Not after we came all this way.” All day, as we toured the beautiful German Village area of the city, I was praying that my phone didn’t go off with a text or Facebook message, sure it would be from the director, and every time I received a text from anyone at all, I jumped about a foot in the air.

But finally, it was too late in the day for the show to be cancelled for tonight. Instead of going out to dinner, Mom heated up some chicken fingers she had pre-made. I could only eat one and a half, I was so nervous. We got into our theatre-wear and headed for the youth center where the show was being held. Ten minutes before the show, hardly anyone was in the audience and I was really nervous that no one else would show up, but in the end, there were probably about sixty people at the show.

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Posters by the bunch

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Performance venue!

The set was very typical of a community theatre (no frills, simple sets and costumes) and so was the acting (most performances being okay, with some excellent stands outs) but what I cared about was the script and whether it worked. The show began and the first scene- done in complete darkness except for a light in a jar- looked exactly as I had pictured. And while the times the words I wrote were dropped, either because they were too fast, too quiet, or forgotten (which sometimes happened in large chunks) made me sad, I was in general happy with the way the show went. I wasn’t there to review the show; I was there to see how my script worked for timing and story, and I was able to do that. I took a lot of notes on what worked and what didn’t, and the audience was really responsive, which helped, too. One of the best moments happened at the very end of the show during Peter’s last line. The actress fumbled the line, saying the main character Mary’s name instead of her daughter Wendy’s, but it actually made the scene even more poignant and made me catch my breath, and now I want to look at the moment and see if the change will work. I don’t know if it will fit in the long run, but that’s why I, as a playwright, love to see actors actually perform my work- often they do or say things differently than I had in my head and it turns out to be so much better than I imagined.

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Peter and Mary in one of my favorite scenes.

I’m such a control freak that I can’t believe playwriting works for me. Usually I’m the kind of person that wants everything the way I have in my head, but oddly, I completely accept that the world I’ve constructed might be totally different than I think it “should” be. I’m fine with a simplistic set, or few costume changes, or colorblind casting, or what people will think of my words. Somehow, I’m able to accept that in the hands of a few dozen people I’ve never met, my play will become what they make of it.

Interestingly, one part of any kind of backstage work rings true for me as a playwright as well: the complete panic when someone drops a line and I know what it is. I’ve experienced this as a stage manager and assistant stage manager, and now as a playwright, and it’s just the worst thing because I can’t do anything about it. At least as an actor, you can work toward or around the line the actor dropped. I was also surprised that I knew what the lines were tonight; even though I haven’t looked at the script in months, I’ve spent so much time with it over the past three and a half years that it’s imprinted on my brain.

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Peter and Mary

At the end of the show, the director told the two lead actresses that I was there and I got to say hi to them. They were great and wonderful to talk to, and it’s funny to be on the other side of the experience. I kind of wish I had been in this position before I was the actor trying to please the playwright, because then I would have known that it wasn’t really about that! For me, tonight was about the amazing fact that a bunch of people read and memorized my words and put six weeks of rehearsing, set building, composing, and general hard work into something that three and a half years ago was just a few scenes in the “PP Play” folder on my computer, with me dreaming of having it produced one day. It makes me want to cry from happiness just thinking about it. I am so glad to have had this experience, and it felt great at the end to have people who heard I was the playwright come over and tell me how much they enjoyed the play and that they could see a future for it. I am proud of myself and my work on this night.

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I Have a Cast!

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Just a few minutes ago, I was sent the cast list for my play, the one being done in Ohio. I am SO excited. I had some concerns about how it would be cast. The main concern was that at first it seemed like only children would be auditioning. This worried me since my play, though yes, a Peter Pan prequel, is not for children, despite there being children in the show.  But thankfully, all the roles have been cast age-appropriately. I don’t know any of the actors, obviously, but I’ve been assured by the producer that there’s some great talent in the show, so that’s really exciting. I think the hardest part of being a playwright is not being able to control, or even observe in the long term, the rehearsal process.

After receiving the cast list, I Facebook-stalked some of the people on it. The leading girl has the perfect look for the part, and while that doesn’t necessarily mean she’s a fantastic actress, I trust that the director chose her for both reasons. The big shocker for me is that Peter is being played by a young boy. While obviously Peter IS a young boy, he’s so often cast with a young woman that that’s just the picture I have in my head (and how I cast it when I was working on this play in college.) It’ll be really different and awesome to see a young boy actually played by a young boy.

The last time I was produced (about three years ago, at this point), I was surprised upon seeing one of my two plays that three unscripted cast members had been added to the play. The director had her reason for casting them and they really added some nice moments to the show, which is why I’m really interested to see what is done with the “Neverland ensemble” that has been included in the cast. While I do have some control issues as a playwright, I also find it really exciting to see what directors do with my work. Sometimes they come up with stuff that’s better than anything I wrote.

The first read-through is happening in ten days. I wish I could be there, and I’m SO excited that this play is finally getting off the ground.

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