Nerves

I have an audition for an improv group in an hour.  I’ve had butterflies since I woke up this morning, because, unlike most other types of auditions, I can’t prepare material.  When I can prepare material, I feel confident because I know I put the work in.  With improv?  It’s show up, try to support your partner (who will be a complete stranger) and try to be as loose as possible.  There is no way of knowing if my group will be filled with bad improvisers.  There is no way of knowing if I will be one of those bad improvisers.

I’m also nervous because ever since parting ways with Roadies, my musical improv team, last September, I haven’t improvised.  I have no team, I have no theatre home.  And believe me when I tell you that improvisation needs to be practiced or you will be RUSTY.  I feel like 70 year old galvanized pipe right now.  (In case you don’t get metal references, that would be rusty)

And, honestly, I want to be on stage improvising again.  Not as badly as I want to do a musical, but I like that fear and trepidation that inevitably comes with a blank slate and a suggestion from the audience.  It’s live, it’s changing, and there is a great chance of failure.  Who wouldn’t want to dive in? : )

I’m doing what I can on my end- vocalizing, warming up over the phone with an old teammate, and trying to keep my eyes open to the funny around me- like the plumbing van across the street that says “If your toilet’s acting silly, call Billy”.  Bet he’s regretting that wraparound.  I went to the gym, so my body’s warmed up, so now all I can do is breathe, stay loose and be available to whatever is thrown at me.  Well, that, and always have a secret gun.

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3rd quarter check in 2017

We are in the 3rd quarter of 2017 (ack!) and it’s time to check in with my goals and see where I’m at.  I feel like I’ve done pretty well so far this year, but the knowledge that Halloween decor is already tempting me in the stores lights a fire under my butt to get moving on the rest!

  1. Go into every approach with the mindset “How can I help you?”- So so.  I mostly forget to do this, but it has happened a few times.
  2. costar- Nope. Zero auditions to do so.
  3. agent- Nope, but I did sign with a manager.
  4. play piano– hells yes!  BrittanyPianobw (1 of 1)
  5. musical- sadly, no
  6. train new dog, Scout– yes- even took him through an obedience course.  He’s still not great, but he’s getting there. BrittanyandScoutextreme (1 of 1)
  7. climb mt whitney– What do you think?? : ) BrittanySummit
  8. find another musical improv team- I’ve come up empty poking around for one.
  9. revive my 2 man improv team, Nathan and Brittany- haven’t worked on this at all.
  10. see more of the Meyers (closest cousins in proximity to LA)- Yes!  We’ve camped, swam, hung out and even went on a PACNW adventure together!
  11. give creatively to my church– yes!  I’ve been asked to lead worship (and begrudgingly accepted, done it 2x so far), as well as dramatic readings and performed monologues.
  12. finish Priscilla- I am so freakin’ close.  I am color correcting now, final final final phase!
  13. build the rest of the fence– Yes!
  14. offer a neighborhood woodworking workshop- Nada
  15. new roof- talking with contractors right now- should be done in the next few weeks. (dear Lord, please let money rain down from above to pay for said ridic expensive roof)
  16. write script- I started one, and have the idea for another as well as a novel, but I’m holding off until I finish Priscilla.
  17. kitchen cabinets- Nope.  Not even close.  I’ve built ONE so far this year.

So, my friends, there we are.  9.5/17  Where are you on your goals for the year?  What are you proud of?  What do you really really really want to accomplish before the year is out?

The Tactile and Tangible

I was reading Anna Kendrick’s autobiography “Scrappy Little Nobody” last week at Barnes and Noble, and in one chapter, she detailed that for a time in her career, she got very obsessed with baking.  She’d go over to friends houses and mix and pour and bake for hours.  It became a very soothing hobby for her (and one which her friends could enjoy the benefits of!).  She said that being able to do something with her hands that was tangible and useful was very fulfilling as an artist.

I’ve often said the same of woodworking, my hobby.  Acting is extremely creative.  But it can be quite cerebral and you often have little control over the final product.  What you do with acting is very internal and requires the collaboration of many other people in order to become something visible and consumable.  But with the tactile arts- painting, carpentry, baking, quilting, sewing, etc, the output is immediate, and often individual.

For me, being able to be out in the woodshop for hours at a time for several days and see a project through to completion is the culmination of multiple activities that I love: I find something that’s needed in my home, I brainstorm how to make something beautiful and functional, then I design it to fit my exact space.  Next I cut, sand, nail, screw, assemble and finish my project, with problem solving along the way.  Then, like magic, a beautiful piece of art with my fingerprints all over it appears ready for use.  It’s incredibly fulfilling to my creative spirit, and one that eases the burden of the creative soul that resides within me, attempting to burst free, but is unable when the career is in a drought.  I think all actors should have this opportunity to create with their hands.  Find something you enjoy and pour some of that excess creativity into it.  I assure you, you will find a good deal of fulfillment in doing so.

Here are a few of my favorite pieces I’ve made over the years:

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Altered Dreams

So much has happened.  I nailed my musical audition, and went through a grueling 3 hour callback the next night.  My dancing was ok, not amazing, but good enough, my acting was pretty good, and my singing was right where I hoped it would be.  I know that I gave 200% at that audition and callback, and I didn’t hold anything back.  However, I was not cast.  I made it to the final 2, and, alas, the other gal will be telling Sally Bowles’ story, not I.  For a few minutes I felt rather depressed that even my utmost effort and my highest performance level was not good enough to be cast, but overall, I’m incredibly proud of all I gave.  Usually I hold a little something back at auditions.  Call it a protection mechanism, it’s just what I do.  Not so with this musical.  So even though I’m crestfallen that I still am not in a musical, I am reminding myself that it doesn’t mean I have less talent or I’m wasting my time being an actor because I’m clearly not good enough.  There is so much out of my control in the casting process.  All I can do is give my all.  And I did.  End of story.  So, the journey continues to find one.

After that I went to Portland and discovered the happiest place on Earth, Powell’s Bookstore.  Spent a few hours lovingly looking through every floor and category that tickled my fancy.  Then it was on to a PacNW adventure: Seattle->Squamish, BC->Whistler, BC->Coupeville,WA->Pt Townsend, WA->Seattle.  Lots of hiking and waterfalls and ferry’s and coffee made that trip a delight.  Now that my feet have found their mooring, I’m hard at work trying to get my endless to-do’s to become to-dones.

I also got to film a commercial that was the alternate reality version of a dream come true for me.  My world settles in the realm of Darcy, Dorrit and Dashwood.  That is to say, I have very little interest in TV, film, or books that were written after 1889.  I adore Austen, Dickens, Gaskell and Thackeray.  If it’s on Masterpiece Classic, you better believe I have a large mug of tea and am enthralled with the story that plays out before me.  My utmost goal and dream for my career is to be in period films and movie musicals.  So far, no one has come knocking on my door for a Persuasion remake, but I did book a commercial for Zappos where I played an 18th century primadonna.

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Being called to the Edith Head building at Universal (are you kidding me?  She’s my costume idol!) to try on a bunch of 18th century dresses complete with corset and endless panniers, as well as a fitting for a wig custom made for me was beyond belief.  Sure, it wasn’t a film.  It was almost better- I only had to be in the inordinately heavy costume for one day, AND I got to be comedic and throw a bunch of ridiculous one-liners to a present-day roommate.  How fun is that??

Sometimes the actualization of our dreams don’t look how we thought they would.  Doesn’t mean they’re any less of an experience in the sublime.  I may never get to do a period film.  But I got to wear the dress, get paid for it, and for one day, I was that character.  I may not have been cast as Sally in Cabaret.  But for one day, one callback, I was her.  And I got to tell her story and show those decision makers what I could do.  And that’s pretty amazing.

 

The plays the thing

I auditioned for a play last night.  I haven’t had that experience since my senior year of college, 2005.  That was the last time I did a play.  12 years later I’m a different person, with a lot of acting experience under my belt, but very little stage time.  My naivete was obvious when I overheard the director and producers chatting about my resume, questioning why I would put ‘drive stick shift’ under special skills.  They murmured “I guess that’s important for film projects”.  I sheepishly began the scene, trying to keep the mood as light as possible.  The director stopped me after 2 lines and said “I can’t hear you dear, you’re far too quiet”.  I quickly made a joke out of it, and attempted to act out the scene with more volume, but I can tell you right now- projection?  Not my thing.  I don’t have the training to know how to project without harming my cords.  And with a musical audition coming up this weekend (the one I really want to snag!) I couldn’t risk overusing my voice.

They had me read for another role and do a few scenes, so while I was waiting my turn outside the audition room, I heard another girl who had no problem what-so-ever with projecting.  She sounded like a foghorn and, to my subtle film-acting ears, completely over the top.  No matter how much I want to get on stage, I just can’t bring myself to overact.  I want realism and truth in my performance.  And I am not experienced enough to know how to bring that without overacting.  So I choose subtlety.  This, inevitably, is likely another point against me.

What’s a film actor to do when they are dying to get on stage?  In my case, I’m taking singing lessons.  12 years since I’ve done a play.  It’s been 19 years since I’ve taken voice lessons.  That’s right, the last time I had a voice lesson was in high school, preparing for UIL competition.  Talk about rusty.  As we did vocal warmups I had a real hard time keeping up with the piano.  My support was bad, I was singing from my throat, my jaw was holding tension, all the things you shouldn’t do in singing.  But when I sang my song?  She was speechless.  I can emote the hell out of a song, but will that internal subtlety matter when the decision makers are 20 feet away?  I’m attempting to put more movement and physical expression into my songs, but I’m having a hard time doing anything that doesn’t ring truthful to me.

I have to do this on my terms, in my way.  If I give a performance that I don’t believe, I don’t want to do it.  I’m a story teller.  An interpreter.  And if you don’t believe my story, then it’s all for nothing.  A farce, a sketch, a joke.  I hope after this weekend I’ll be given the opportunity to tell that story.

The Honesty Experiment

If you’ve been following #honestyexperiment as put forward in my last post, you know now that

  1. I have no compassion
  2. My ego is through the roof
  3. I am messy
  4. I compete with every living being
  5. I’ll sacrifice my views in order to obtain success

The responses (Yes, I check them, because I can only stop my need for validation so much) haven’t varied too much- mostly focusing on the other person, or lifting me up to not feel bad about myself.  I began my postings with this-

disclaimer: I am not proudly owning any of the #honestyexperiment These are things I despise/am embarrassed about myself. Point is, I suck.

Perhaps people are taking each post at face value or think I’m in a depression spiral of self loathing.  Or, maybe we’re all pretty awful people so no one is too disgusted with my behavior.  Or, maybe everyone is already too aware of my failings and is far more grace-filled than I am and willing to love me anyways.  To me, the picture I am painting of myself is pitiful.  I wouldn’t touch me with a 10 foot pole.

Last Saturday, I climbed Mt Baldy with some friends.  My ego assumed I was in the same athletic shape as my friend, an IronMan Triathlete.  I was not concerned at all about the difficulty of the hike.  The night before, I began to pray “Please keep us safe on the mountain, free from injury-” and I stopped myself.  We were going on an adventure, taking a risk, pushing ourselves, and I was praying for safety?  Why would safety have anything to do with that?  The familiar words of Mr Beaver rang in my ears:

“Course he isn’t safe.  But he’s good”. -The Chronicles of Narnia

I re-routed my prayer to say “Let this be an adventure with great memories made”.

So, how did it go?  One of the worst hikes I’ve ever done.  My slowness was a burden to the rest of my group, I’ve still got some gnarly blisters, and on the way down I was positive my legs would collapse underneath me.  I barely walked the next day and it wasn’t until Monday, after a steamy epsom salt bath that I could use my muscles semi-regularly.  #egofail

When we only show the positive side of ourselves and never “lead with the worst of me” (Dear Evan Hansen), ego is front and center and the whitewashed tombs we present become more and more dead inside.  It’s not about embracing your flaws.  It’s about recognizing you’re a fuck up.  You take beautiful things or exciting experiences and dump your ego all over it, making it less of what it was.  It’s placing yourself above the thing, the person, the idea, the situation.  You might think you’ve won after all that, because you’ve “maintained control”, but you’ve sacrificed the beauty, the pain, the risk, the honor of truly living.  And I don’t know about you, but that’s what I want.  To truly live.

 

 

The Comparison Game

I’m going to level with you here.  I compare.  Constantly.  My competitive drive hungrily jumps on every setback I experience and starts to decipher why it happened.  This inevitably means comparing myself to whomever succeeded in the midst of my failure.  Comparisons rot your soul, but I do them because they’re an attempt to make things alright.  To find a reason I failed that is outside the territory of my talent.  God forbid I think of my skills as anything less than divinely inspired.

A few weeks ago I had a callback for a film I felt really good about.  I paid for coaching to make sure I did my absolute best, and the director and producers were totally on board in my callback.  I had hoped and somewhat expected to get the call that I booked it within a day or so.  I’ll save you the anxiety: I didn’t.  So I looked it up.  I almost can’t help myself but to go and see who got the part.  I lie that it’s in order to analyze what I could do better, but in reality, it’s to find/fabricate a reason to prop up my ego.  The winner?  A woman 15 years older than me (so it wasn’t even my demographic! nothing I can do about that!) who had been on Baywatch and was clearly selling a very sexual image in her career.  I patted myself on the back that sexuality is something I have never and likely won’t ever sell- I’m more of the funny, weird best friend than the sexy seducer- so not only am I more talented than her (I don’t have to rely on my sexuality to get roles, I’m a gifted actor and funny!) I also didn’t stand a chance because she was older and had way more credits.  Whew.  Off the hook.

It’s almost as if it’s not enough to win or lose.  Everyone else has to lose, too.  When I don’t succeed (which is more often than not) my obsession with fairness and world of scarcity steps in and screams

“But what about me?  Will I never get my piece of the pie??”

When you’re living in an ivory tower of ambition and perfection, you have to work hard to manipulate the losses to become wins.  In the end, though, we’re all losers and that’s why it’s so amazing that we get to win.  Grace can’t set you free if you’ve no idea you’re a prisoner, right?  So, for the record, I’m a loser.  I thought with all my self deprecation and “truthfulness” others would see I’m a complete mess.  But people keep telling me I look like I have it all together, so I must be selling a lie somewhere.  Let’s end the game, shall we?  I’m starting what I will call

#honestyexperiment

wherein I will make it abundantly clear (to the detriment of anyone’s good opinion of me) that I am a loser.  Not in the carefully crafted seemingly negative commentary that is actually said to make me look good- i.e. “I use dry shampoo until I can’t get away with it anymore!” AKA- I don’t give a shit what others think, which is cool- but reality and vulnerability and doubt and anger and whatever else makes me feel like the most pathetic human being on the planet.  No ego props, no justifications, just truth.  (hopefully without hurting anyone I love- that’s not my intention)  If you and I can both be aware of how much I suck (and maybe how much you do too), I think we can make positive headway into humility, shedding our hubris, and ending the comparison game.

Let’s play.

You can follow me on here and @brittanydjoyner

Note: This experiment is inspired in part by a great podcast series I’ve been listening to on Alternative Wisdom, by Rob Bell.  I highly recommend.