Positive Vibration

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For an actress, the audition process is the most grueling and frightening experience in the world. No pill or amount of meditation can calm the nerves that overcome you as you are about to walk into a room of judgement. Strangers will judge your face, your hair, your body, your voice, and sometimes even your talent. It is grim. All actors have to find a way to calm their nerves and enter a zone of natural confidence and strength. For me, it was often listening to Bob Marley before I entered the room. Songs such as “Natty Dread,” “Nice Time” and “Get up, Stand up” would help put my head in the right place as I put myself before the people who had the power to reject everything about me.
I have been listening to Bob Marley and the Wailers since I was a little girl. Their “Live!” album was the first CD I ever purchased. Through the years I’ve had many musical obsessions, but Bob Marley has always been one of my constant favorites. I recently saw the movie “Marley” on the big screen, and another Reggae artist, Jimmy Cliff, performing live in Prospect Park, near my place in Brooklyn. Both of those events have caused me to enter into a pure Reggae period in my musical preference. In the wake of other disappointments in my life, this music has always been there to lift my spirits.

My extensive Bob Marley playlist has been jammin’ in all of my recent yoga classes. Almost all of my students have commented on how the music moved them during their practice. When I practice yoga at home, I always start with “Lively Up Yourself” and then I know I am in for an inspired sequence. Same with running. Lately, I have been running in the park almost every day listening to Bob as I course my way through the woods of Prospect Park. As I push myself to go further each day, I am inspired by the words, “my feet is my only carriage, so I’ve got to push on through…”

When I have to go to my office job in the midst of Babylon (aka NYC), I have started to commute with Bob in the morning and in the evening. When I am at my desk writing and working, feeling stressed and tired, I sneak in my earbuds, start listening to “Mellow Mood” or “Bend Down Low” and suddenly all is well.

When I go out to bars at night with friends, the only time patrons seem to unite and smile, and sometimes sing out loud, is when Bob comes on the stereo.  When my friends and I saw “Marley” in the movie theater, it was too much of a challenge not to sing along with every song, so we did. We were not alone. The girl behind us must have been even more inspired than we were, for she shouted, quite loudly, every lyric to every song.

From childhood to today, Bob Marley’s music never gets old for me. I think I am not alone when I say that his music can make a person feel inspired, positive, lively, defiant, mellow, united, rebellious, romantic, irie, spiritual, sensual, and natural. What’s the point of this post? Listen to Bob Marley. One love.

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Gossip Girl

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My first significant television experience was playing a sixteen year-old prep-school student on Gossip Girl. Apparently I still looked sixteen in my mid-late twenties. I wasn’t going to argue with the director about that. It must be the dimples. Anyway, this was back in the day when Gossip Girl was the biggest thing on television and everybody started dressing in cardigans and knee socks and ending their texts with “xoxo.” 

I was selected by the director to be a “bitchy schoolgirl” who gives Dan Humphrey a death stare after he wrongs Serena van der Woodsen. Sure, my scene only lasts 8 seconds, but I had to wait 18 hours until we could shoot it. The whole day was spent sitting around listlessly with other 25-30 year old schoolgirls. At first getting dressed up in a uniform and having my hair and makeup professionally done was exciting, but once that was over, I just had to sit around the set watching more important people do their scenes. We non-stars were treated like cattle, herded around and instructed not to eat until after the stars had done so. Ugh. Blake Lively only wants two carrot sticks, let me eat! The hours dragged on and on, while my fresh makeup faded and hair wilted. Finally, late at night, it was time for my scene. I was the bitchiest of all the bitchy school girls. If they gave awards for that category, I would have won. The director laughed and loved my death stare, making sure I was the main focus in the shot. Brilliant. Good to have the director notice you.

That director was the reason I got an even bigger part on Gossip Girl a couple of months later. I was cast as Bethany, a teenage escort with a heart of gold. As Bethany, I got treated with a little more respect and actually got to eat with the important people. But I felt bad looking at the hungry cattle behind me. I knew their misery and how their stomachs ached for food from Craft Services. I was set to break down the class walls and let them go ahead of me, but the Production Assistant was a fascist dictator who would not allow any deviations from the system. Oh well. 

After more hours of waiting around, it was time for my scene.  I was dressed to the nines as a glamour-puss escort. I was in the backseat of a limo with another escort and Jack, Chuck’s evil uncle. At our big moment, Serena opened the door and caught Jack in the limo with us. He was prepared, though, and we all greeted her intrusion with more death stares. By that point, the death stare came naturally to me.  

In actuality, the two roles, aside from the clothes, were not that different, but at least Bethany got a name! Despite the long, mind-numbingly boring hours and the unfair caste system of the performers, those two small parts allowed me to join the Screen Actors Guild (SAG). It was an unforgettable experience that I’ll always be able to laugh about. Xoxo.


The Annual Oscar Ritual

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Watching the Oscars through the eyes of a failed actress is a slightly different ritual than it is for the average Oscar viewer. It is at once a sadistic and masochistic experience, enjoying the fashion mistakes, awkward speeches, and technical difficulties, but it also  breaks your heart a little when some average performer gets to strut off the stage holding the golden man that symbolizes true talent. Every year, though, despite my attempts to avoid it, I cannot resist the temptation to be a Hollywood voyeur for those grueling four hours.

A failed actress watches the Oscars with the hope of experiencing a sense  of schadenfreude (delight in the misery of others). Some actors turn up in hideous gowns. We chuckle and think we would know better. We  enjoy watching cocky performers who expect to win get beaten. We like it when the cameras go close-in and linger on the faces of the nominees as they wait to hear who the winner is, and quickly re-adjust their expressions when it is someone else.  Even the winners will sometimes trip and fall on their way to the stage. It’s brilliant.

One of the best parts of the evening is watching the chosen host in action. Sure, everybody loves Billy Crystal, but I think Chris Rock was the best. I like it when the actors get roasted by relentless comedians. They, more than anyone, deserve to be humbled. It’s a small price to pay for being paid outlandish sums to act in movies that go straight to DVD. And despite the scandal at the Golden Globes, I think Ricky Gervais would be great hosting the Oscars and should be given the opportunity to do so. But of all the hosts, good and bad, nothing was more painful than last year’s Anne Hathaway/James Franco duo. Despite their good looks, they were supremely boring and unfunny with no comedic chemistry between them.

I admit, and you can probably sense, that there is a bit of sadness, envy, and resentment I feel when watching the Oscars as a self-proclaimed “failed actress.” I remember the years of performing on the stage, the long hours shooting films and commercials, the chemistry and bond among cast members. I miss all of that. All actors dream of  that day when they might be the one whose name is announced at the end of  “and the winner is…”  Accepting that it is unlikely to happen is not easy.  Nevertheless, I can’t resist finding out whose name will be announced.

The Oscars are a good opportunity for failed actors to get together  with friends, lovers, and/or family members, make a nice dinner, and give Hollywood the middle finger. My favorite part of the Oscars are the constant, cynical texts my sister and I exchange the minute the red carpet becomes cluttered with celebs. It’s part of the annual ritual of loving and hating Hollywood.

Farewell Southpaw, It’s The End Of An Era

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Southpaw, one of the original and best live music venues in Brooklyn, is closing. The news hit me particularly hard. Why? It was my home away from home for the first three years I lived in New York City. They kindly employed a young, wide-eyed, soon-to-be-failed actress, and welcomed her into their family, creating some wonderful friendships that I hope will last a lifetime.

As most aspiring actors know, in order to pursue an acting career it is essential to find a flexible job that allows you to go to auditions, shoots, and meetings during the day. That’s why the city is full of actors who are also bartenders, waiters, and temps. I was one of them.

I thought if I had to waitress or bartend, I also wanted to be exposed to live music, one of my greatest passions. Based on its history in music, I thought I might find such a place on Bleecker Street in the Village. I did find a place, but it was an awful hole-in-the-wall venue where tourists came to watch cheesy AC/DC cover bands. Thankfully, a college friend strolled in one night and asked me what the hell I was doing there. He wrote down an address in Park Slope, Brooklyn and told me to go there immediately.

The next day I made my way to the address. The sign outside was really subtle and the front entrance looked like a closed up metal garage. I thought he had given me the wrong street number but I tried the door anyway.  It slowly opened to a curtain of red velvet, behind which was a huge space dripping with color and creative energy. The walls were lined with old vinyl album covers and the eclectic bar was covered artistically in photos, scraps of metal, flowers, you name it. When I saw the stage, I knew immediately that I wanted to work there.

A handsome, bearded man with a hipster cap sauntered over and asked me what I wanted. I told him I wanted a job. He asked a few questions, gave me a wink and a smile, and said “You’re hired.” I ended up staying for three years, making friends, and watching some of the best musical performances around.

Southpaw’s red velvet curtains opened and launched a number of outstanding performers. Those who booked the bands are still my go-to music gurus. They know more about the scene than anyone else.

But times change. A turbulent economy, rent increases, and bands that became too expensive took their toll on Brooklyn’s gem, so sadly they are closing. This will be their last week in business. It’s officially the end of an era.

Just wanted to say thanks for the good times.

My Billboard in Times Square

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It’s true. I was on a billboard in Times Square. For about two years, I was the face of T-Mobile. I was in every store, on every box, on the website, in magazines, on television and on a billboard in Times Square.

The audition for this fabulous print gig took place in a building on Canal Street in Chinatown. The temperature outside was 100 degrees, but inside, it was even hotter. It was one of those unbearable cattle calls where pretty girls stand in a line that stretches all the way down the hallway, curves down the stairs, and finally reaches all the way out of the entrance of the building.

All of the hours we spent preparing ourselves for this audition were wasted. Sweat smeared our makeup and humidity frazzled our hair. As we inched closer and closer to the casting room, the girls frantically primped their melted faces. At that point I figured I was so sweaty that nothing could be done. I just sat there and remained calm.The casting director came out and asked who was ready to go and the other girls yelped and panicked. I boldly raised my hand and said I was ready, sweat and all. They called me the next day and said the gig was mine.

They cast me for the T-Mobile wireless print commercial. Not only was my face EVERYWHERE, but I also made it on the T-Mobile television commercial, featured on Charles Barkley’s cellphone, (yes, I was one of his “fave fives.” You remember). I ended up scoring MAJOR residual checks for years after that.

But the greatest thrill to come out of this job was looking up to see my face on a billboard in Times Square. There’s something about that moment that makes you want to shout with joy and immediately call your mother.

All of that was lovely. A great high, amongst many lows, in the life of a struggling actress. My advice to all actors: join SAG in whatever way you can, and try to book a print commercial. It pays. Coming face-to-face with yourself on a subway or in a television ad makes you think that maybe, just maybe, this is the start of something big. After all, your face is up there shining in the lights of Times Square!

Top Three New Year’s Resolutions For Aspiring Actresses

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Resolution Number 3:

To finally accept and acknowledge that success usually falls into the laps of those who have a lover or family member with ties to the entertainment industry. What can I say? Life isn’t always fair, no matter how talented you are.

Resolution Number 2:

To never lose your quarters between the cushions of the casting couch. Sure, many women have slept their way to the top, but many MORE have slept their way to the bottom. That pencil-dick playwright isn’t worth it, no matter what he promises you.

And finally, Resolution Number 1:

To recognize, whether it’s to SAG, AEA, AFTRA or yourself, that you will pay dues for the rest of your life if you choose this profession.  It is an exhausting and expensive truism.

Happy New Year! Break a leg.


Stage Fright…And All That Jazz!

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I didn’t understand the concept of stage fright until one fateful night in high school. I was lucky enough to have attended high school in Vienna, Austria, the  city of  music.  I was surrounded by the sounds of Mozart in the streets.  The famous Vienna Opera House was home to the world’s most renowned  singers. After his performance there, Placido Domingo liked to hang out at my favorite Italian restaurant.  Free outdoor concerts were sometimes held outside the city’s Rathaus, with people like Zubin Mehta conducting.

The music teachers in school encouraged us to sing arias from great operas and solos from Handel’s Messiah. They introduced us to the world of  musical theater.   I was one of my high school’s biggest theater dorks. Three times a year I’d perform in a play, a musical, and a cabaret. I was always cast in an excellent role.  By the time I became a senior, I considered myself a seasoned veteran of the theater. I had starred in my final play and musical and now it was time for my high school swan song, singing All That Jazz in my last high school cabaret.

All That Jazz was the perfect song for my voice. I always sang soprano in choir and in shows, but I had recently discovered that I could also rock a deep, soulful alto with a powerful belt. This song was the perfect song to say goodbye to high school and hello to my future as a Broadway star.Our Cabaret had a western theme, and my version ofAll That Jazz was performed as a smoldering saloon girl. I perched on the piano and slammed out each verse like a pro, with the audience smiling, cheering, clapping. I was really into it as we  approached the big finale…”And Allllllll…piano, piano…Thaaaaaaat…piano, piano…Jaaaa…croak! My voice stopped! It just dropped out mid Jazz! I struck a dramatic pose, with a beet-red face, and waited for the pianist to end my torture.


It was then, at that very moment, that my life changed. My blind confidence was immediately struck down, and to this day I have  a fear of public singing. A terror that my powerful voice will crack whenever it chooses. Not that I stopped singing after that. I continued on a path that led me to sing in a band, an a cappella group, and in shows for many years. But that fear has never completely disappeared, despite the thicker skin that I eventually developed.

Just another humbling moment in the life of a failed actress…and all that jazz.