Just A Monster

Sometimes, it just doesn’t work anymore.

One minute it is balanced and handled and happening. And then it isn’t.

Suddenly you are weeping while you are driving, so much that you pull over, to try and stop shaking. And then, out of instinct, you flip on the windshield wipers in perfectly dry weather. You know, to help you see more clearly.

Because you are an idiot.

Not to mention a horrible mother. Although, “I don’t think you’re a bad mother, but…” was the exact quote.

And yes, other people can’t make us feel things. Only ‘we’ can make us feel things. Fine. ‘I’m’ making me feel things, and I’d like very, very much like to stop feeling these things.

So, yeah. Acting this weekend. Which is great. Which means putting my child second, which is apparently what I do. You know, aside from ruining his Halloween and his soul forever and always, till death do us part and should we both rise, ruin it all again.

Awesome.

What are you going as for Halloween?

I’m going as a monster.

God and Monsters and Eyedrops

When someone is sick, my first response is to have them stay home and watch movies. Yeah, that’s my Master’s degree in Science hard at work.

I was in charge of film selection during the recovery period tonight. As usual, my varied choices:

Obviously, don't have any rights to these. Just the DVDs.

Obviously, don’t have any rights to these. Just the DVDs.

I went top right.

In the original Frankenstein, http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0021884/?ref_=fn_al_tt_4

You see that link? Damn, I’m getting fancy. Anyway, it’s the one directed by James Whale, and written by a whole mess o’folks, most notably, the irreplaceable badass Mary Shelley…

Sorry. This is where I break the fourth…wall? estate? pixel? the fourth something here. I was truly in train of thought about Frankenstein, the movie, how Karloff had the weirdest billing…I really had a narrative thread building, I promise. Then, just now, just this second, I got a text from a director from a short film I acted in several weeks ago. A great little project. Female produced and directed. I need to make that known. I’m so glad I did it. But, I was assuming that was a solid past tense, that use of the word “did.” It turned back in to a “doing.” I just found out that I’m needed for pick up shots on Friday night. Initial fret about the pragmatics, but it’s nice to be needed.

Make no mistake, I love to have the work. And this is good work. I’m thankful to have it. Only now, the juggling with chainsaws and eggs begins. To be on set until 1 AM Friday night will mean work shuffling, kid help wrangling, oh, and you wanted to have a romantic life too? That’s adorable. But I’ll do it with a smile. And my kid will get another night with Grandma and all the oreos that those nights entails. Then we’ll all still get up at dawn the next day, because that’s  just how second graders like to  party.

But I’m neglecting Boris. I’m writing this from the living room of my childhood home. I’m pseudo baby-sitting my mother after  her eyeball surgery. I know. Grossest visual in the galaxy.  Ick aside, she needs a friendly through the night, so here we are. Both drinking coffee and watching Frankenstein. My mother is amazing and one of the best people I know. I’m happy to do it. Just like being called to set at the last minute. But, it’s a weird vibe. Being here as a watchdog and imitation nurse. Being a caretaker of a parent in general is a tough gig. All I’m doing tonight is putting in eyedrops and yelling “Don’t bend down!”

 

Like anyone else is claiming a picture of a quilt bag and eyedrops.

Like anyone else is claiming a picture of a quilt bag and eyedrops.

Not to put put the boots to the metaphor too firmly, but it feels I’m the creature coming to care for Dr. Frankenstein. I’m the selfish actor girl, who just asked her mother to hang out with her kid this Friday night, two days after a doctor was just having ocular hockey practice with a fake lens in her eye. Maybe I’m doing it all like the James Whale film. An endearing and captivating central performance, but fast and loose at the edges. I don’t always hold true to the source story, (although come Ms. Shelley, that learning to speak and read by eavesdropping at the cottage door was a bridge too far.) Sometimes, the editing is rough. James Whale, the Jack Smith make-up was incomparable. Those jump cuts though…

I get scared about what I might have to do someday. When it’s not just drops, but large, terrible, unspeakable things. The big bad of watching your mother age.

That’s were I am tonight. Carrying the weights of parts and sickness and guilt. Being here while not being there. Stumbling through sometimes, like a weighty specter, sewn together and leaving some disasters in my wake. For tonight, my mom is fine, and I’m relieved. I don’t know what kind of doctor/nurse/decision maker I can be. I hope there’s enough good stuff stolen from others and stuffed in my corners.  I hope I make the ones in my lab happy. I hope my people find me more creature than monster. And I hope they give me better billing . A question mark. Come on.

Enough typing. Back to Boris. Eyedrops due in an hour.

Coats and Cuts

The world was introduced to Dexter Morgan in 2006. The plucky little serial killer show ran for eight seasons, having it’s last kill in 2013. (We’re doing a carefully negotiated co-watch of the series in these parts. It’s an interesting adventure.) Without besmirching any of the show’s writing or acting or show running in general, what does my brain keep running to with each episode? Those two were married. Then they weren’t. Jennifer Carpenter and Michael C. Hall were married during that run, in 2008. They also divorced during that run, in 2011. Now, you can come at me with as much Stella Adler, Uta Hagen or Lee Strasberg as you want. Forget what they did on camera. What those two actors pulled of with that compartmentalized personal and business juggling was award-worthy.

Copyright:  Entertainment Weekly Because that's what the digital watermark says.

Copyright:
Entertainment Weekly
Because that’s what the digital watermark says.

This is what I was thinking about this morning on the treadmill. While watching episode one of season five. I missed last night’s remote screening because I fell asleep in my son’s bed with a stuffed Chewbacca in my armpit.

I’m awesome at relationships.

But I thought about it again after my day job, waiting to scoop up my son. Sitting in my car, waiting for dismissal from my son’s Catholic school is where I do my best thinking. (Yes. I know. But, he’ll appreciate the jokes so much more someday. Plus, my ex and I actually agreed on it, so we went with it.) But, back to pick up time. It’s good for thinking. Learning lines, like today, when I wasn’t thinking about Jen and Mike, and the light brown ombre hair I want. Then I was watching.  Then judging. So much judging. The other moms are doing it too. It’s cool.

Then the usual flying home and then off to the thousand other errands. Really a thousand? Probably not. If I was better at meditating, I’d know it was only five and that if I focused fully, in the moment, with each task, I’d accomplish them with minimal anxiety and more happiness. But I’m not better at meditating yet. But it’s coming.

One of the tasks today is meeting with my kiddo’s dad. Picking out a winter coat and getting him a haircut. Yes, a haircut. But, in everyone’s defense, getting a kid with alopecia a hair cut requires every one on the team bringing their A game, and cursing genetic autoimmune glitches like they just kicked your dog. A little, sweet, curly haired dog. But that’s another topic for another time, a time that has more wine.

I get it.  You don’t get to play make-believe every night. A new script doesn’t appear in your inbox next to your Honda bill.  A new audition doesn’t schedule itself every week. You don’t get to act all the time.  At least hacks like me don’t. You have to do real life. And real things. With exes. And that’s good. We all tromped out and bought a ski coat and had the your man’s hairs trimmed. It was fine. No drama. Honestly, tonight was not bad. As far as real life can be rated, a solid 7.5, plus or minus one. There were of course, about an hour in, that shining moment where it rings crystal clear, “ oh yes THAT! That’s why this thing with us being in the the house can never happen again.” And that was just a coat and a cut. We make it work for the little dude in the stylist’s chair, who never sits still. Never. But,  I can manage the crazy head bats in a salon and a sporting goods store, but on screen?

How – HOW could a divorced couple stay on the same show, day after day, hour after hour? Incredible. I guess I see the logic. Good work. Anything to keep chasing the dream. We put a lot into doing what we love, and when that is at stake, you’re ready to slay dragons.

To that end, I was happy to come home with just the newly shorn kid last night. Maybe later tonight (provided I don’t crash with the wookie) there will be more writing. Maybe I’ll puzzle over sides for a bit, then give up and then of course  finally get the writer’s intent five minutes after I leave the audition. Maybe I’ll get another long-distance Dexter co-watch tonight. And appreciate everything that comes along with that.

Still Hagged Out

 

A decade ago, I tucked this flyer into a binder with my script.

Photo credit:  my office filing cabinet

Photo credit:
My office filing cabinet

It was my first play with The Rage of the Stage Players.  It was the rare find of good original theater. I had found my people. Offensive, politically incorrect, blasphemous, sexually wanton but ridiculously talented people. I’ve strayed over the years. Been unfaithful to this vicious,  vengeful mistress that is stage work with this crew. But I’ve come back. Again. And again. And again.

I love the pack mentality that accompanies theatre. It hold true with indie film. absolutely. But there is a different energy. Yes, on set, every one bands together because it is three in the morning and you need a battery pack or a lightbulb or a pair of fishnets. On stage, it’s immediate. There is no cut or hold for sound. There is only, oh-sweet-Jesus-the prop-isn’t there-and he’s-up-on-his-lines-and-we-just-might-die. Not that dramatic. But pretty god damn close.

Tonight, I was able to be a part of a seated reading for this company that I adore. These readings are the best. You get a dose of adrenaline that hits as soon as you step on stage, but your lines are right there waiting for you. And you, and I and Richard Marx know what a cozy feeling that is. Plus, I got to do an accent. Love me some accents.

In ten years, the parts for me have changed with this company. I’m not the sexy girl anymore. I’m the mother. But I will give everlasting credit and love to the writer/director/producers that this company in particular makes it a point to showcase women of all ages as all characters. It’s art imitating life. Ain’t the director’s fault your ass isn’t what it was at twenty. Not anyone’s fault. Except maybe pie. Yeah. Definitely pie’s fault. Fuck that pie.

Years pass and we’ve all changed. There have been marriage proposals (on stage, this really happened, I saw it from behind the curtain, and it was awesome.) There have been weddings. And funerals. There have been babies and divorces. The common thread seems to be that as the actors age, and the siren song of real life, with real jobs and families calls,  many step or are pulled clawing and scratching away from this weird little world.  I may have been the latter. I know how my world was shaken. A decade ago, I wouldn’t have blinked at doing four consecutive shows, rehearsing for the next one sometimes before the current one had closed. The energy of the creativity, the velocity of that momentum or work was intoxicating. You do a day job and slug coffee on the way to rehearsal and didn’t blink. Because, really, lots and lots of coffee. And you loved every miserable, wired second of it.

Then, suddenly,  there’s a house with a family, who need you home before midnight. And then there’s half a family but two houses, which makes it harder because no one is pulling for you and holding the net while you search for your dreams among the stars. So, consecutive shows turn into one a year. Maybe. You try to do the best you can at home. And without you at the theatre, the next generation of young ( and my god are they young) actors slide into your space and your roles. Suddenly you’re in the audience and not in the back of the house. And that hurts. Deep and hard.

Ten years ago, I was on a stage in a theater on the south side of Pittsburgh, looking like this.

Photo credit: Joseph A. Roots Probably.

Photo credit:
Joseph A. Roots
Probably.

I didn’t look nearly as hot tonight. But it felt just as fantastic. I got to dance with the audience. Curl your finger and bring them along with you.  Laughs. I found them and shared them. And gods if it doesn’t make you want to do that again every night. I miss those crazy, talented fools. I miss all of it. And I’m so thankful that I’m living in a minute of my life right now that allows be the ability to keep writing and acting because that keeps me whole. With someone to watch and listen, and care, and someone to tuck under an Avengers blanket at night.

Because let’s be honest,  if I even hope to learn how to work this blog, I’ll need that someone under the blanket to show me.  And to be okay if I still need to slip out to play in my other world every now and then. For now, me and all the other restless players, will  pick up our actor’s bindle, with our fancy words and our tantrums, sling it over our shoulders, and hope for one more show.

Speaking of,  the video submission from last time? With the peanut butter and the sticky phone? They want to see me this weekend. Fingers crossed.

 

147 E. 9th Street

 

 

I love scary.

For the story I’m working on, I wanted to stick a shaky finger right into what scares me. Fear changes as we age. Stakes are higher. There really are things that can knife you where it hurts, and not just physically. Being personally helpless is bad enough. But the thought of not being able to keep safe the ones in my charge is heart-stopping. So, it becomes a matter of the ‘where’ and the ‘who’, that build the scaffold so the scary ‘what’ can climb through the window of your worst nightmare.

When I write, I sometimes start with the place. For this one, it’s New York City. Love it. And it scares the shit out of me. Don’t think I’m alone in saying place can be frankly terrifying, but that risk is what makes it singularly spectacular. Nothing to do with vandals and muggers. It’s bigger and less precise. It’s the feeling of being lost and finding yourself just this side of overwhelmed and incapacitated is what makes it magic in its majesty. For this story, it is the perfect place to be in love, or be blissfully personally or professionally fulfilled, or to be scared to the base of your soul.

More specific than place is the people. What about people? Most are just lousy, but not scary. But the thought of being without your people, your circle, losing one of your crew, losing yourself, the ones you love. That’s what scares me.  So in writing about something that shakes you to your core, you also consider what you love the most and would be most lost without.

The piece I’m tossing up here today takes a sweeping glance at those things. Being not only geographically at sea, but being unprepared, ill-equipped, without information and assistance. And because of that, standing to lose someone barely a chance to reach out a hand to pull them back to you. That thought keeps me up at night.

So, pulling back the curtain for a peek, here is a sample of my new short story.   A work in progress, to be sure. But the general scent of the thing.

East Village

East Village, Photo credit: Me, Driving in New York City. Ain’t nothing scarier. 

 

147 E. 9th St.

     She was moving in slow motion, steps and half frames and she watched in fractions of centimeters the door frame scrape the skin from the knuckle of her middle finger and she saw, but didn’t feel, the blood surface above the skin. First in tiny, segmented pixel dots until they multiplied and then assembled into a line of red that crept to her wrist. Every time she turned her cheap key copy in the lock of her boyfriend’s apartment, she banged her knuckles. But she had never been in this much of a hurry. But moving so slowly. The key fell from the lock and crashed on the welcome mat. A drop of blood fell on silver and gold when she scooped them up and jammed the key back into the lock. Through the window she could still see him. Shawn. Slumped in his chair. Wrong. Crooked and stiff. Like he was immovable. Not drunk. Not sleeping. Trapped in his own locked body. Finally the door gave way and she pushed her way inside to him.
     Her mind went blank. They had only been dating a few months. It had come on hard and fast between them. She thought she had played it cool, making him wait until the third date to sleep with him. Only to come flying into his bed not even twelve hours later. By the end of the second month, she’d met his mother and had a key to his place. But right know, she realized knew nothing about this man.
     “Shawn. Shawn!” she yelled. He didn’t flinch. She dropped to her knees in from of him. His neck was extended back, not just looking to the ceiling but past it. HIs arms were fully extended, fingers gripped on the chair. She shook him. HIs body moved in one steel piece, not in any fleshy segments. His phone was on the floor by her knees. The screen was black. Dead. She ran to her bag, searching. She gave up and turned it upside down, crawling into the pile of purse debris.
     “SHIT!” she screamed, skidding change and mints and a tampon across the floor as she flailed her arm. Somehow her arm crashed down to her hip and she felt her own phone, jutting out of her back pocket. It took her four tries with as many deletes, but she finally dialed 911.
     She didn’t remember saying anything. The phone was somewhere near her and she tried to listen. To hear for a heartbeat, to feel for breathing. She left him to run back to the front door. She couldn’t remember his apartment number. No, she didn’t know if her was epileptic. No she didn’t know if he was diabetic. Or allergic to cilantro. No she didn’t think he took drugs. Did she know? No. She just knew it looked like he was dying in front of her.

I’ll let you know what form this takes as more of it unfolds. Until then, happy haunting.

Cider and Coco

Remember FAME ?

IMG_5049

 

Not, actual fame. Because just no. The movie. Debbie Allen ‘Fame.’ Poor exploited-by-that-industrial-douche Coco ‘Fame.’ Loved that movie. Wasn’t allowed to see it and loved it all the more because of that.  You know what stuck for me in movie? The hurt. The real hurt those kids learned. The scene where the acting teacher tells them that they better really like themselves, because no one else is gonna? Woof. Harsh. But so, so , so true.

One of the hardest things about making your way and not drowning as an artist is liking yourself. Which is hilarious, because so few of us do. But, really, you have to like yourself. So much so that you can sell yourself. To total strangers. That hate you. Okay, that’s probably an exaggeration. Probably.

I doubt myself everyday as an actor. And doubt as a  writer? Yeah. Lots more doubt where that came from. So aside from improving my skills/technique/general stuff as a writer and actor, the biggest hurdle is becoming a become salewoman. And sitting here right now, I’m a really lousy saleswoman. I’ve experienced enough of this world of film and stage and show business to really see just how monumentally important the BUSINESS end of it is. Truly. It is so much business compared to the sliver of show. It’s a glitzy, shiny, shimmying teeny  sliver of show. But still. You can have the most amazing, script and eventually film. If ain’t nobody seeing it or buying it, that doesn’t make it any less of an amazing project. But it don’t get the next one made.

Tonight, I went out to take a step to get the next one made. In small markets like this, sometimes filmmakers screen their stuff in bars. Which is okay. Wine and cider with my movies? Yes. Because I’m really into cider right now. It might be a problem. I’ll get back to you. But, being the middle-aged mom I am, and being friends with a cohort that is the same population, means sometimes you go to film things in bars alone. Which takes some moxy. Usually more than I have. But tonight, I gathered up what I had and tried.

IMG_5047

That’s about as far as I got. I sat at the end of the bar with my cider and waited for the films to start. The crowd was small. Tiny even. Not just numbers, I’m talking jean sizes. These boys did not know their way around a box of doughnuts. Especially the cherry glazed. But back to the films. I don’t know much about any films or trailers. I can’t speak to the writers, actors or filmmakers I met  there representing their hard work.  I won’t be sending out a pile of head shots, resumes and reels today. Because I failed.

The purpose of the night was to engage. I did not. The smart, BUSINESS minded actor, would have stayed. Watched every trailer and short. Tracked down every director, scripty and grip. Talked. Bought drinks. Offered space on collective social media dance cards. I was no where in that fray. I was still tucked in a corner at the end of the bar. At least I was. Until I bailed.

Not a total loss. I did see a trailer for an upcoming locally made horror film, Brew House. It was filmed in a crumbling building here on our city’s south side. I acted in a series of stage plays there years ago. A fantastic experience. The site was spot on for the dark theater we were producing. Not to speak ill of the dead, but that pile of bricks and metal was made to double as an abattoir. Such an astute move for these filmmakers to use this location to its fullest. Was anyone there from the film? I have no idea. I didn’t step outside myself long enough to ask. I did, however, send a message to an actor that I had previously worked with who also appeared in this film. I hung on to see that trailer. I’m glad I did. It was good.

I know. Lame. How do I go so far out on the edge of my own comfort zone?  Sit quietly. Then leave. A self-marketing strategy that boggles the mind and slays the competition. And I know.  Still lame. This technique of hiding at the edges does not get the cream in the cupcake or myself first ( or second, or seventh) on the call sheet.

It’s more than that. Ladies like me of a certain age and of a certain situation, we would do well to learn to be in a space alone. Leaning in, boss lady and all the catch phrases aside, I know I need to become okay by myself. Because it is okay. And being out to see and experience in any way, only promotes growth as an actor, a writer, a mom, and oh, yeah, as an actual person.

Outside of the world of make-believe, and maybe inside it as well, does being able to be alone make you better when you are with someone? I suspect. You’ll have to ask the adorable man I left home alone on the couch while I went out to sit and fret and stare for confirmation.

But, for tonight, I tried. I didn’t do well, but I didn’t do too bad for me. I only walked past the joint twice before having the courage of my conviction and getting my ass in the door. Maybe eventually, I’ll be the girl that walks up and says hello. The actor that says with full conviction, “I am the best choice. Hire me.” And almost mean it. Maybe I’m getting there. Maybe I’m building a lovely and elaborate ruse which will find me this Saturday night fully encamped under my blanket with pumpkin pie and episodes of Charmed. Or just maybe, I’ll keep trying to like myself enough to just keep trying.

Trying what? More writing – maybe new fiction here soon. You heard it here first kids, so now I have to do it. More acting work. Please by the blessed boobs of Juno, more acting work. Maybe learn how to use this site/platform/general tech so it looks like something…other than my kid sending me a stream-of-consciousness text that ends with an ask for “choking car mole pop car” or as you know it, chocolate caramel popcorn. I’ll fail. Miserably on all fronts. But I’ll keep trying.

 

IMG_5048

Coco would be proud.