Confessions of a Broke-Ass Actor

There was a point last month where I had money. Not a lot, not enough to buy a house or a car or really even an expensive pair of shoes, but I had, in my tiny little corner of the bank, a small stockpile of money that made me happy, because it was mine, and I had earned it and saved responsibly and wisely and now, the fruit of my labors rested comfortably in its little cocoon of safety, and all was right with the world.

Then, predictably, one “shit, I need a dress for a wedding” and one minor car- related disaster later, I am once again relatively broke-ass.

Damn it.

I hate that.

Being broke sucks. I hate the feeling of being nervous about the ability to pay bills (whether on time or not) and the constant thought of “what if something ELSE happens”  nagging at me when I’m trying to sleep.

At the same time, it is a blessing.

Not having money is interesting. I’m not about to start living on the street– but things like “oh, crap, dinner” become interesting. (Please note: I also am not starving to death. Read on). I love cooking, so when money is tight, dinner is way more fun for me– instead of defaulting to “let’s eat out”, I get to go through my beloved process of finding recipes and creating something from scratch. Plus, it’s healthier. Usually.

I also get more “me” time, strangely enough. Since I work a specified number of hours a week, I know how much time I have to do other things during the day. More often than I care to admit, my “outside of work” time is filled with the aforementioned eating out or, more guiltily, – shopping.

Shopping is my dirty habit. I’m sort of a clothes whore, which doesn’t really make sense given my standard uniform of “tank top, jeans and a cardigan”, but the never-ending possibilities of my local thrift stores combined with my love of crafts and DIY projects means that I spend a lot of time bargain hunting for possibilities and projects.

Being broke means that I have to shift my priorities– still on creative things, but things that don’t nessessarily cost money. Writing, art, reading, music– things I often neglect when I’m particularly busy become the simple pleasures of my evening hours.

I also walked to work today since my car was in the shop. It’s not a terrible walk– longish but manageable, and I realized that I enjoyed it. I don’t see it happening on particularly crappy days, but I could see myself walking or biking to work more often– and saving a little money on gas wouldn’t be a terrible thing, either.

Reminding myself that it’s OKAY that I’m broke– that things happen, that life goes on and in 20 years when I’m rich and famous I’ll look back on this and laugh—NOT feeling like a complete failure is difficult, especially because I feel like it’s all my fault. If I were more responsible/smarter/more careful with money, I wouldn’t have this problem.

I’m hoping to find a full-time job pretty soon, and it’s an exciting prospect– having a big kid job with big kid money– but if (when) that happens, the same rules will still apply. What I think I’ve figured out through my many, many periods of being broke is that there are always going to be car emergencies/weddings/doctor’s visits and a million little things that I’ll have to spend money on. I can improve my spending habits and try and be more cognizant of “no, I don’t need another grey sweater”, but the biggest thing is not hating myself. The number in my bank account does not define my worth.

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Sword fights, Sexy Dancing and Me.

This afternoon, I attended the second half of auditions for Prenzie’s latest show, The Rover.

I think they went okay– it’s kind of a weird show–in a good way– one good (and bad) thing is that many of the characters are absolute blank slates, so getting to decide “who” each character is can be fun– and entirely challenging, because I am not so good at that– but being challenged is one of my favorite parts of being an actor.

Speaking of challenging, (SEGUE-WAY!)  this afternoon I was also asked to do something I’ve really never had to do before on stage (or, really, in daily life)– “be sexy”. For my entire life, I have always been the neighbor, or the maid, or the comic relief. I’ve never been asked to be “sexy” before, and even with my role last year, rolling around in stage blood with my hands cut off didn’t facilitate the most sexy of ingenue roles.

Lavinia was an incredibly challenging role because of her vulnerability– something else I’d never had to do before, and here, on the other side of the coin, is a show full of characters with confidence and sexuality– two things I’m also not good at.

It was weird. There was this moment when the choreographer asked us to kind of make up a movement/dance piece. I was terrified. In “real life”, I’m a slightly awkward blue-haired nerd who enjoys crafts and Godzilla movies. Suddenly, I was being asked to be a famous courtesan that –literally– everyone wants to sleep with. I’ve always seen myself as more of a Kristen Wig than a Nicole Kidman, but thanks to the magic of theatre, everything about how I define myself as a person was getting flipped to the exact opposite end of the spectrum.

This......not this.

This……………………………….not this.

I will fully admit that I use sarcasm and jokes as a defense mechanism, and you can bet your ass I was joking my way all the way onto the floor, but as the music started, I thought to myself “alright, Catie, now’s your chance to try this out”…and you know what? I had a great fucking time. It felt…natural. Like, I wasn’t necessarily the best dancing in the world,  but something about embracing the fact that maybe there is something sexy about me was kind of….empowering I guess? I always feel like a tool when I use that word, but it feels appropriate here.

Since there weren’t a lot of people (most people came last night), Aaron (the fight choreographer) and I started messing around with swords. I’d never been coached by Aaron before in this context, and it was….well, I had more fun this afternoon than I have in a long, long time.

Driving home afterwards, I couldn’t figure out what it was about the events of the afternoon that left me feeling both so elated and also, so entirely confused.

What I realized was that I felt sexy today. I genuinely, absolutely, for maybe the third time in my entire life, felt sexy and powerful. Yeah, I was doing some of the most basic fighting stuff there is to do, and yes, my “sexy dancing” involved a lot of hair-flipping and duck-face, but I was doing it—not perfectly, not with great panache, but I was happy. I was excited and powerful and sexy.

And my mind turned off. During both the dance portion and our hour of fighting, my brain shut off and I wasn’t thinking about what I have to do tonight or what to make for dinner or what email I forgot to send. I was focused on what I was doing and how I was connected with it, and nothing else.

I also stopped caring about how I look. And that– well, if sword fighting and sexy dancing can do that, I need to do both more often. I came to auditions dressed to dance, so I was just wearing like a black tank top and leggings, but they were both form fitting. I’m not the sveltest of women, I know this, but both times– during the dancing AND while I was fighting with Aaron, I realized that I didn’t really give a shit what I looked like, goddamn it, I was having fun and I was doing something I’d never done before. It didn’t matter that I was sweaty and smelly and my hips were showing– I learned a pretty decent grand lunge today, and I’m proud of that.

Sure, I might not have been perfect, and yes, I was frustrated with how long it took me to pick up basic things when I was fighting, but it was a frustration built on the desire to get better– not because I wanted to be the best or because I wanted to show off,  but just like the dance portion, I was doing it for me.

There is a connect, I think, between fighting and dance– a very subtle one, but for me, that awareness of my body and what it  was doing allowed me to stop thinking about how awkward I must look or how stank I was getting and it made me want to get better– both at dancing and at fighting.

Regardless of whether or not I get cast (or whether or not I get the part I’d like), this, for some reason, kind of feels like a bit of a game changer. I’m not pretending that this has shattered my world or anything, but today I realized that maybe I am capable of more than I think– maybe I shouldn’t be afraid of the physical side of myself.

Maybe, underneath my silly hair and awkward comic timing and general dorkyness, there is some sort of a sexy woman underneath.

And maybe I should get myself a sword.

Apprehension

Last night, the Shakespeare company I’ve decided to try and audition for posted their sides up on their website, meaning that I have about a week to put together a video and submit it.

On top of that, another company announced auditions for THEIR season, and I really like both the shows and their dedication to education in schools, so I have decided to submit to both and see what happens.

Here’s the kicker: both companies are about, give or take, 20 hours away from here in opposite directions.

It shouldn’t be too hard of a process (the sides for the first company are from Titus–I have them mostly memorized anyway, and the second company’s audition is in a week, giving me more than enough time to prepare a 3-minunte monologue) but for some reason, I have this weird apprehension about it.

20 hours? I’d be a day away, in a different time zone, away from everyone and everything I love. No Whitey’s, no Blue Cat, and no Prenzies.

I know, fully and completely deep down, that if I were to submit my video/rock my audition and either company called me next month, I would pack up everything (with apologies to my Complete Works cast) and head out, hell, I’ve been looking up the closest hotels on Expedia for an hour now, but thinking about leaving everything behind to do something I really, really want to do is so weird.

Part of me feels like a traitor. Part of me feels like everything about the choice is right.

And it’s stupid, really, because this is contingent on about a thousand other things happening, none of them in my control.

One company is hiring 3 females, and that’s it– and while I have complete faith in my ability to rock my audition, there are probably more than 3 qualified females in a 4-state area vying for this job. And let’s face it– I’m not your traditional “ingenue”. My thought process is still tied so heavily to the idea of non-traditional/gender blind casting that it’s weird for me to have to turn that off and realize that I actually might have to look the part. Hell, no matter how awesome my audition is, it could come down to hair length or height (or,yes, weight) or any other combination of factors that have nothing to do with my ability to memorize a 3 minute monologue.

I don’t understand why I’m so freaked out. I lived in England, by myself (well, Abby was there, but I am confident that I could make at least ONE friend at either theatre) and it was an adventure the entire time. New things to do and see and try, and now, I’m basically faced with the same decision–for a much shorter period of time–and I’m still nervous.

Last night, it occured to me that I may have gotten comfortable. Being comfortable is grand and beautiful, but at the same time, I’ve spent the better part of my “grown up” life preaching about adventure and hope and everything exciting and beautiful about life, and here I am stressing because I might not see my friends for four months.

That’s dumb, Catie. That’s dumb.

I think it’s because I know how much I want it, to be able to say “I did this, I succeeded and now I am doing what I want to do”, but there is this huge part of me that knows that means putting everything I’ve worked for on the line, putting it in someone elses hands and saying “Judge me. Pick me. I’ve earned this”.

And in a way, I feel like maybe that’s what’s so hard.

Last night, I was working on one of my monologues in front of a mirror, and I had that dark, dark part of my most ugly and negative soul reared its ugly head and whispered “Wow, that’s what your face looks like when you act, and you’re going to go to a professional audition in Chicago and expect them to want to hire you? What are you, crazy?”

Well, maybe.

But I’m still going to go to the audition. I’m still going to try.

Maybe it will be an absolute disaster. Maybe it will be amazing. I have already accepted that the chances of actually getting a callback are really slim.

That’s okay.

But just going– doing it, showing up at an audition and having the confidence to present my work and myself to strangers who could potentially hire me, is something that I need to do for myself. I’ve spent so long telling myself that I’m not good enough– I don’t think that’s my place anymore. I’m not exactly objective. I have to live with my insecurities every day.

I think it’s time that I at least give myself the chance before I dismiss it.

And that, really, is the least I can do.

Tonight, we dine in hell. Or at least rehearse there.

I just got off the phone with the (so very, very nice and funny) contractor who is in charge of construction at our theatre space, and he has informed me that the air conditioning should be functional by Friday! Hooray! I am very relieved that our patrons will be able to be comfortable while watching our show. Well, as comfortable as they can be, I suppose, granted the show they’re watching.

I stopped down there this morning to do some quick things and it. is. HOT. It’s actually hotter inside than out, which is interesting. It will be something of an acting challenge tonight, I think. Act, sweaty actor! Act!

However, the best part of today is that tonight we’re running in costumes for the first time. Kate, our wonderful costumer, has done an incredible job on a shoe-string budget creating an insane level of detail and authenticity to the world. It’s so strange– when I’ve gone downstairs to look at the costumes, I immediately understand the world that these characters live in, just by color and texture and feel. Jessica, who is playing Tamora, has some incredible custom-built pieces that rock my socks just seeing them on the hanger, so I am very excited to see them under the lights.

I also am running the “gore” for the first time tonight, and I am both nervous and excited. Excited because I think it’s really going to help me in a couple of the scenes that I’ve been struggling with, nervous because holy shit do I have a fast costume change with about 14 things to do. I want to do a behind-the-scenes-video of my costume change, just to see how ridiculous it must look from not my perspective.

I am a list person, so I have been working on the various lists I need hung in my changing area to keep me from going insane, and it seems like every item I come up with presents three more things I need to do before THAT particular thing can get done. This show is a strange beast.

I’m very excited to get an audience. Yesterday I had a group of 70 (SEVENTY) call and confirm, so that was an amazing feeling, and on top of that, there has been a lot of positive buzz about the show in general, so I am hoping it will be well attended.

Tonight, the biggest focus is going to be getting through that damn quick change and seeing how the show feels as a whole. I am so excited– I have four hours before I even need to get ready to go and I keep watching the clock like a kid on Christmas. As the Black Eyed Peas once wrote,  “I just have a really good feeling about tonight”.

Is it weird that I’m this excited to get blood all over me?

 

I have not another tear to shed….

Full disclosure: I’m dwelling. I know I’m dwelling, but I’m the type of person that needs to have something to dwell on during a show, or the overwhelming stage fright I combat will kick in and then, really, you just don’t want to be around me.

And right now, the dwelling flavor of the day is “crying on stage”.

I don’t know what it is. In private, I will cry over the dumbest things. Jake once found me weeping on the floor during an episode of Doctor Who and didn’t blink (ha). But for some reason, I am having absolutely immense difficulty getting tears flowing for this show.

It wouldn’t be a big deal, but let’s take a look at the tape:

This is my first line in the show:

LAVINIA: In peace and honor live Lord Titus long;
            My noble lord and father, live in fame.
            Lo, at this tomb my tributary tears
            I render for my brethren’s obsequies,
            And at thy feet I kneel, with tears of joy
            Shed on the earth for thy return to Rome.
            O, bless me here with thy victorious hand,
            Whose fortunes Rome’s best citizens applaud.

Two mentions of tears right out of the shoot.

But wait, there’s more.

During Act 2 Scene 3, (the “rape” scene), Demetrius says:

 Listen, fair madam: let it be your glory 
To see her tears; but be your heart to them
 As unrelenting flint to drops of rain.

So, textually, there’s tears there.

And then there’s the big one. After I return to Rome with Marcia, she brings me to Titus and he finds out what’s happened. Upon the reveal, Titus says:

Now I behold thy lively body so?
Thou hast no hands, to wipe away thy tears
Nor tongue, to tell me who hath martyred thee.

Over the course of the scene, he tells me that Bassianus is dead and my two brothers have been arrested for it. And Titus says…

Look, Marcia! ah, son Lucius, look on her!
When I did name her brothers, then fresh tears
Stood on her cheeks, as doth the honey-dew
Upon a gather’d lily almost wither’d.

It is just such a frustrating experience to WANT to cry and knowing that textually, it’s such an important part of the story, so important that Shakespeare wrote all of those references into the show, but having this strange mental block about the whole thing is just awful. It’s there, in the text. Lavinia cries– a lot. Last night I spent a great deal of time watching stupid videos on Youtube trying to figure out both what the hell I could do about the situation, which is just pathetic, I think.

At dinner last night, it kind of became a joke as I sat at Village Inn trying to cry at the table, and my friend Andy pointed out that “maybe you shouldn’t worry about using tricks to cry, just focus on the emotion and the tears will come”. That was immensely frustrating– I am so deep into this part I realized that I’ve started dressing like her. I have done mountains and mountains of research and work. I have looked at every single line of text in the show and squeezed every drop of information from it. I know who Lavinia is, I know how I want to play her, every night I live through her pain and sorrow and shame and it’s awful. I leave rehearsal in a foul and terrible mood because I feel it so strongly– and I still can’t cry.

Hell, I’m tearing up right now at the frustration I’m feeling about not being able to cry.

Letting go and not worrying about it has to be the key. There comes a point where the overthinking just makes things worse, but I am so invested in this– I don’t want to suck. I want people to feel what I’m feeling, to experience something visceral and real because of what I’m doing, to be moved and to have an amazing emotional experience– because I think that’s what is so amazing about theatre– you have the opportunity to genuinely affect people and I think Lavinia is such a great vessel for that.

There is a part of me, too, that simply has something to prove. For my entire life, I have wanted to be an actor. I started out interested in musical theatre, but fate and vocal talent conspired to make me less than an ideal candidate for that type of work. Over time, I absoultely fell in love with Shakespeare, and that’s what I would like my focus to be on. However, I know that I am not the world’s greatest actor, and when I decided to be a theatre major, I went into it believing that the experience would be a magical actor’s studio type of thing that forced me to improve lest I be left behind. While I loved my time in school and I did grow both as an artist and an individual, it was noticed early on that I am a good writer, director and designer– and those were areas I was encouraged to explore, and I did very well in them– but even as I was designing costumes or building sets, I wanted to be acting, and that always seemed to be an after-thought to everything else. There was a moment when I was sharing my plans for after college with someone, and when I said that I really wanted to go to grad school for acting, there was a pause and then “You’re such a good writer– have you thought about going to school for that?” . I was devestated. Keep in mind that this was after four and a half years of working towards my major– was this the first time I was going to be told that I wasn’t talented enough to be an actor?

I am full of self-doubt, and I think that’s okay. Any actor who goes into an audition expecting to be cast is probably not someone I’d want to work with, but so much of me wants to succeed in this role, to prove that this is something I CAN do and I CAN be good at it, I think it’s all combining into one giant neuroses-inducing clusterfuck that is impeding my process.

Tonight we’re working on the scene where Lavinia is able to disclose who raped and mutilated her– and I’m making it my personal goal not to worry about whether or not my eyes are tearing up, but focusing on the experience and seeing what happens.

Fucking actors.

I. Hurt. Everywhere.

Rehearsals for Titus Andronicus are going really, really well. I think. It’s hard to tell, honestly. I have been living with this show for nearly a year and a half now, so, as Jake pointed out to me a few days ago “You know, we really haven’t been rehearsing THAT LONG”. It feels like forever, in the best way possible.

Last night we worked out the rape scene, and it was…something. Our absolutely brililant fight master, Denise, was really great and really made sure that everyone understood what was going on and was the most awesome about answering questions and hearing ideas.

It is very interesting being “victimized” by good friends. While in my head, I know that it’s all prentend and at the end of the night I’m going to go have a drink with my “rapists”, there is still something deeply unsettling about being thrown and grabbed and made powerless, especially because there are moments where I really CAN’T fight back, even if I wanted to, and that is such a powerful experience to have happen during this moment of absolute frustration for my character. I’m a strong person– and so much of the fight is being choreographed to make me seem as weak as possible, because having the audience thinking “wow, Lavinia could kick thier asses” isn’t condusive to the scene much, so it’s been awesome having people I can trust being the ones tossing me about.

We also worked “Titus feeding Lavinia” last night, and that was…awful. We’re using oatmeal (because it’s delicious and I don’t understand anyone who say it isn’t), and holy gods did it make a huge mess. I’m a very persnickity eater, and having Aaron physically hold me down and spoon food into my mouth was so humiliating and demoralizing, in a weird way, it was really wonderful to get to experience that, especially because we are using that scene as the basis for how Lavinia survives for so long, and the truth is horrible to witness. Aaron, across the board, has been absolutely incredible to work with. I don’t know many other actors who would think to text me after rehearsal to make sure I was okay, especially, because really, last night I wasn’t.

This show is a weird beast. On one hand, it’s this absolutely fabulous role with all sort of dramatic interest and human emotion, but it’s also so dark and painful and just agonizing– once I’m in a show, I have a hard time separating my character and my personal life, and I think this is a role I need to be able to leave at the door and walk away from, just for the purposes of my own sanity. I’m always a bit shaken up after rehearsal, especially on the “rape scene” nights, because there is just so much to handle, the level of loss and pain and sorrow, but I also don’t want to be the bitchy actress complaining about it the whole time.

We’ve been working blocking for the most part and haven’t really delved too deeply (at least on my stuff) on acting, which I think is okay. It’s much more difficult to act when you’re worried about remembering where to stand, but I think my biggest concern is for the rape scene and the scenes immediately following.

The show is set up terribly– well, at least for poor Titus. My character gets raped, comes back mutilated beyond recognition, is found by her uncle (aunt in our production) and taken to her father. MEANWHILE, while all of this awful stuff is happening to me, Titus witnesses his two sons being accused of murder, his eldest son is banished from Rome and then I show up, so he has to deal with me, and then wait, there’s more! I can’t imagine the acting challenge that Aaron has to deal with.

We’re working that scene on Thursday, so my personal goal is to try and really access the emotion inherent in the scene. We’re re-blocking it (self-admittedly, I have become distracting in my hand-less gorey glory), so more of the focus can be on the action in the scene. However, I begged Jake to keep the part where Titus comes and comforts me– that is such a powerful, special moment. It is not often that anyone treats me like a child, and Aaron, just as a person, is so big and powerful and mighty, but in that moment, he’s so gentle and just so broken at the sight of his daughter, it’s really moving.

I’m also, god damn it, going to fucking cry. I don’t know what it is about crying on stage. I can weep and weep and weep at home on my own, but the minute I step into the space, it’s like my tear ducts shrivel up and die. I’ve been doing some work on how to approach it, and I think, basically, I am just going to sit there until I cry. I don’t know how long it’s going to take, but I think it’s more mental than physical at this point. I’m an ugly crier, too, so poor, poor Lavinia just won’t have anything going for her.

I am already projecting major post-show depression. This is one character that I care so much and so deeply about, I think it’s going to be really strange walking away from Lavinia and living my normal everyday life (without having to search for horrible, awful things on the internet nightly), but I kind of think it’s cathartic to be able to just hit those absolute low points and be there for awhile, and then shake it off and have friends give you hugs and go for french fries.

Because you can’t eat french fries with bloody stumps.